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East Antrim (constituency)
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East Antrim (constituency)

East Antrim is a Parliamentary Constituency in the House of Commons and also an Assembly constituency in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Table of contents
1 Boundaries
2 Westminster elections
3 Assembly and Forum elections
4 Politics and History of the constituency

Boundaries

The seat was created in boundary changes in 1983, as part of an expansion of Northern Ireland's constituencies from 12 to 17, and was predominantly made up from parts of North Antrim and South Antrim. Since further revisions in 1995 (when it lost part of the district of Newtownabbey to the North Belfast constituency) it now covers the entirity of the districts of Larne and Carrickfergus, as well as party of Newtownabbey.

Proposed Boundary changes

At the time of writing the Boundary Commission has published provisional recommendations for modifying the boundaries of constituencies in Northern Ireland. Two significant changes have been proposed for East Antrim. In the south of the constituency it is proposed to transfer a further part of Newtownabbey to the North Belfast constituency whilst in the north the seat would gain the Glens in Moyle district from North Antrim. East Antrim would be renamed Antrim Coast & Glens. However this latter part of the proposal has raised many questions, with some already arguing that the Glens have no natural ties to Jordanstown (and in 1995 the previous Boundary Commission cited this very reason when rejecting such a proposal). Furthermore some commentators feel that such a long coastal seat is too sprawling and lacking in natural ties. The changes will be subject to a series of consultations and it remains to be seen whether these proposals will be upheld. If not then it is likely that some other changes will be performed.

Westminster elections

The Member of Parliament since the 1983 general election is Roy Beggs of the Ulster Unionist Party.

Assembly and Forum elections

The six MLAs for the consituency elected in the 2003 election are:

In the 1998 election the six MLAs elected were:

Changes 1998-2003

In the 1996 election to the Northern Ireland Peace Forum, 5 Forum members were elected from East Antrim. They were as follows:

Politics and History of the constituency

For the history of the equivalent constituencies prior to 1950 please see Antrim (constituency) and from 1950 until 1983, please see North Antrim (constituency) and South Antrim (constituency).

The constituency is overwhelming unionist, with the combined votes for nationalist parties rarely exceeding 10%. However there have been above average votes for parties outside the traditional unionist block, such as the Alliance and the Conservatives. In the local government elections for the equivalent area many votes often go to independent candidates or groups such as the Newtownabbey Ratepayers Association.

The main interest in elections has been the contest between the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party. In 1983 the UUP were only 367 votes ahead of the DUP. As part of a pact to oppose the Anglo Irish Agreement the DUP did not contest the seat until 1992 but they still failed to come close, though in the 1996 elections to the Northern Ireland Forum they were only slightly behind the UUP. But in the 2001 general election they achieved an astonishing result when they came with 128 votes of winning the Westminster seat, despite not having targetted it. In the 2003 Assembly election they followed this up by gaining two additional MLAs and outpolling the UUP for the first time.

There is much hope amongst the DUP that they can win the Westminster seat at the next UK general election. Factors that could prove decisive include the 4483 voters who in 2001 voted for the Alliance, the 807 who voted for the Conservatives or the 1092 who voted for an independent pro Good Friday Agreement unionist.