NI moderates hope for June poll boost

24 May 01
Northern Ireland's pro-Good Friday Agreement parties are predicting that June 7's general election will provide a significant boost at the simultaneous local polls.

25 May 2001

The Ulster Unionists and the SDLP have welcomed the decision to call the elections for the same day in the belief that the larger turnout will see the centrists claw back ground. The 1997 council elections did not coincide with that year's general election and saw a turnout of only 53.6%. Sinn Fein and loyalist fringe groups such as the Progressive Unionist Party made gains.

Steven King, adviser to UUP leader David Trimble, told Public Finance: 'We expect the local election turnout to be significantly higher than it would be normally – around 65% – and that should mean we do well.

'It's generally accepted that Sinn Fein and Democratic Unionist Party voters are more committed to voting, but we expect that the unionist voters who turn out at this local government election will be disproportionately moderate.'

Rev Ian Paisley, the DUP leader, has recognised that the dual contest could give his Ulster Unionist counterpart a boost. He recently damned the holding of local and general elections on the same day as 'yet another sop to David Trimble'.

But Stephen Farry, a former general election candidate for the non-sectarian Alliance Party, warned that the double election could benefit 'extremists'.

He said that more voters did not necessarily mean more votes for the centrists: 'It's a huge gamble. A bigger turnout could bring out a lot of extremists and if they come out to vote against the Good Friday agreement, they are also voting against local government.'


Did you enjoy this article?