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South Antrim (constituency)
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South Antrim (constituency)

South 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 Assemblies and Forum elections
4 Politics and History of the constituency

Boundaries

The seat was created in 1950 when the old Antrim two MP constituency was abolished as part of the final move to single member seats. The seat became one of the largest in the entire United Kingdom until 1983 when Northern Ireland received new seats. South Antrim was cut down heavily, losing a lot of territory to the new seats of East Antrim and Lagan Valley. In 1995 there were minor changes around the borders with North Belfast and West Belfast. The seat currently encompasses the entirity of the district of Antrim and part of the district of Newtownabbey.

Proposed Boundary changes

At the time of writing the Boundary Commission has proposed alterations for the boundaries of constituencies in Northern Ireland. It is proposed to transfer part of Newtownabbey from South Antrim to the North Belfast constituency. The changes will be subject to a series of consultations and it remains to be seen whether these proposals will be upheld.

Westminster elections

The Member of Parliament since the 2001 general election is David Burnside of the Ulster Unionist Party, In that election he defeated William McCrea of the Democratic Unionist Party who had sat for the constituency for barely nine months since a by-election in 2000.

MPs since 1950

Assemblies and Forum elections

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

In the 1998 election the six MLAs elected were:

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

In 1982 elections were held for an Assembly for Northern Ireland to hold the Secretary of State to account, in the hope that this would be the first step towards restoring devolution. South Antrim elected 10 members (an exceptionally high number which some commentators believe to be impractical) as follows:

In 1975 elections were held to a Constitutional Convention which sought (unsuccessfully) to generate a consensus on the future of the province. The eight members elected from South Antrim were:

In 1973 elections were held to the Assembly set up under the Sunningdale Agreement. The eight members elected from South Antrim were:

Politics and History of the constituency

For the history of the constituency prior to 1950, see Antrim (constituency).

South Antrim is an overwhelmingly Unionist seat which once had the strongest vote for the Ulster Unionist Party anywhere in the province. In the 1979 general election James Molyneaux had the largest majority of any MP in the entire of the United Kingdom, helped also by having one of the largest electorates.

The boundary changes in 1983 reduced the Ulster Unionist vote somewhat, with a significant portion now contained by the new Lagan Valley (which Molyneaux now contested) but the constituency still gave strong results.

However on April 27 2000 the incumbant MP, Clifford Forsythe died. The ensuing by-election took place amidst a fierce political struggle between the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party over the Good Friday Agreement, an agreement that the UUP were themselves split over. The DUP had not contested the seat at the previous general election but on this ocassion stood William McCrea, the former MP for Mid Ulster, who campaigned strongly on the DUP's refusal to co-operate with Sinn Fein in the absence of progress on arms decommissioning. The local UUP branch selected David Burnside to contest the seat who declared that he had supported the Good Friday Agreement at the time that it was signed but had since become disillusioned with its implementation. As a result many commentators predicted that whatever the outcome of the election it was a severe blow for the UUP's leader David Trimble. On a low turnout amidst a fierce contest McCrea narrowly won the seat.

Burnside was nominated again to contest the seat in the 2001 general election in which he overturned McCrea's majority. However the DUP are currently talking up their chances of retaking the seat in the next general election and in the 2003 Assmbly election they outpolled the UUP by 298 votes. In other seats where the UUP has a precarious majority there is speculation that they may gain votes that previously went to the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, but given Burnside's position on the Good Friday Agreement this looks less likely in South Antrim than elsewhere.