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UK general election: the main battlegrounds in Northern Ireland

Screenshot, Some constituencies will be more competitive than others.

  • Author, Brendan Hughes
  • Role, BBC News NI political reporter

The UK’s summer general election may have come as a surprise, but Northern Ireland’s political parties have been preparing for this campaign for a long time.

All 18 seats will be up for grabs when Election Day arrives on July 4.

In the 2019 Westminster election, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) won the most seats in Northern Ireland with eight, but now has seven after the party’s former leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, was suspended from the party.

Sinn Féin came second with seven, while the Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP) got two and the Alliance Party one.

Some constituencies will be more competitive than others.

Elections taking place during the school summer holidays and parade season in Northern Ireland could affect turnout.

Changes to electoral district boundaries can also have an impact.

BBC News NI has been looking at some of Northern Ireland’s key battlegrounds for the 2024 election.

Lagan Valley

Screenshot, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson had been MP for Lagan Valley since 1997.

The constituency will be a major focus following Sir Jeffrey’s surprise departure in March.

He has been an MP for 27 years but will not stand again after facing historic sex allegations which he has said he is vigorously contesting.

This leaves his former party with a dilemma over who should be its candidate.

Emma Little-Pengelly and Paul Givan are DUP assembly members for the constituency.

And success is not guaranteed, with people like Alliance Party assemblywoman Sorcha Eastwood fighting hard for the seat.

East Belfast

Incumbent Gavin Robinson is perhaps the most pressured politician in this campaign.

Just weeks after becoming interim leader of the DUP following the Sir Jeffrey riots, he faces defending his Belfast East seat.

The leader of the Alliance Party, Naomi Long, was 2,000 votes away from unseating him in the last general election in 2019.

But since Stormont’s return she has been undecided about whether to stand, as an election victory would mean giving up her assembly seat and her role as justice minister.

Last time there were only three candidates in the race. If there is a wider field in this survey, the result could be more unpredictable.

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North down

Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry was the surprise winner in 2019.

Many thought the seat would be lost to the DUP after independent unionist Sylvia Hermon resigned.

The DUP’s candidate last time, assemblyman Alex Easton, has left the party and is now standing as an independent.

There has been speculation that the DUP and another unionist party, TUV, could step aside to give Easton a clear run against the Alliance.

But the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) is contesting the seat with its candidate Tim Collins, a retired British Army colonel known for his role in the 2003 Iraq war.

Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Green Party stepped aside last time, but could re-enter the fray.

South Antrim

Paul Girvan has held South Antrim for the DUP since 2017 after unseating the UUP’s Danny Kinahan.

But the UUP has made regaining the seat its key objective in these elections.

Robin Swann, an assembly member from neighboring North Antrim, has switched constituencies to run for Westminster.

And he will step down as Stormont Health Minister to focus on the campaign, putting pressure on other parties to follow suit.

However, the bold strategy has caused some internal party divisions.

Foyle

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood won the seat in 2019 with a landslide majority of more than 17,000 votes.

The result unseated Sinn Féin’s Elisha McCallion, who narrowly won in 2017 at the expense of the SDLP’s Mark Durkan.

But since becoming the largest party in the recent Stormont and council elections, Sinn Féin may hope to contest the seat once again.

It beat the SDLP in Foyle in the 2022 assembly election, although the constituency boundaries have since changed slightly.

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Belfast South and Middle Bottom

It has been expanded to include areas previously part of Lagan Valley and Strangford.

The SDLP’s Claire Hanna won Belfast South in 2019 with a 57% majority.

His campaign, which unseated the DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly, was boosted by the backing of the Green Party and the resignation of Sinn Féin.

But with Brexit no longer the main electoral issue, those parties are expected to return to the ballot this time.

With the Alliance campaigning and the dynamics of an absolute majority election, the race could be more open than the statistics suggest.

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