South Down (constituency)
South Down is a Parliamentary Constituency in the House of Commons and also an Assembly constituency in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The seat was created in 1950 when the old Down two MP constituency was abolished as part of the final move to single member seats. Originally the seat consisted of most of the mid and southern parts of County Down, with the north included in North Down. Of the post 1973 districts, it contained all of Down and parts of Banbridge and Newry and Mourne.
In 1983 the seat was radically cut down as part of an expansion of Northern Ireland's constituencies from 12 to 17. Significant parts of the constituency were transferred to either Upper Bann or Newry & Armagh.
In boundary changes proposed by a review in 1995, the seat lost one small section to Lagan Valley and another to Strangford. It still consists of parts of Down, Banbridge and Newry and Mourne districts.
Proposed Boundary changes
At the time of writing the Boundary Commission has published provisional recommendations for modifying the boundaries of constituencies in Northern Ireland. For South Down, it proposes to add part of Newry from Newry & Armagh and part of Banbridge from Upper Bann. It is possible that either of these will be challenged in a round of public consultations.
The Member of Parliament since the 1987 general election is Eddie McGrady of the Social Democratic and Labour Party. He defeated Enoch Powell of the Ulster Unionist Party who had represented the seat since 1974.
MPs since 1950
Assemblies and Forum elections
The six MLAs for the constituency 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 South Down. 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 Down elected 7 members 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 seven members elected from South Down were:
In 1973 elections were held to the Assembly set up under the Sunningdale Agreement. The seven members elected from South Down were:
Politics and History of the constituency
For the history of the constituency prior to 1950, see Down (constituency).
When initially created this seat had a clear unionist majority, albeit with a strong nationalist minority. However the passage of time and subsequent by-elections have reversed this.
The Westminster seat was constistently held by the Ulster Unionist Party from its creation until 1987. In the October 1974 general election the former Conservative MP Enoch Powell defended the seat for the UUP, representing a coup for them as they gained the support of a high profile UK politician, offering them a spokesperson to the country as a whole.
Powell advocated a policy of integration for Northern Ireland whereby all forms of devolution would be wound up and the province governed as an integral part of the United Kingdom. As part of this he campaigned for the province to have the same ratio of MPs to population as in the rest of the United Kingdom, rather than fewer, which had previously been justified due to the existence of the devolved Stormont Parliament. Powell was successful in this but a side effect was that in his own constituency a significant block of unionist voters were removed, resulting in there being a nationalist majority. Powell managed to survive due to a combination of a split nationalist vote and personal popularity in the Catholic community, but in 1987 he narrowly lost to Eddie McGrady of the Social Democratic and Labour Party who has held the seat to date. Since then the unionist vote has declined further.
Although the Sinn Fein vote in the constituency has been rising in the constituency, the SDLP is currently significantly ahead and look likely to retain the seat for the foreseeable future.
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