People across Lagan Valley will go to the polls today (Thursday, June 8) to choose who’ll represent them at Westminster during the next parliament.
A total of seven candidates are vying to be the constituency’s next MP, although the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson is odds-on favourite to retain the seat he’s held for the past 20 years.
Traditionally one of the DUP’s safest seats, Lagan Valley will not be on the radar of anyone in search of a political upset.
Mr Donaldson has retained most of the personal votes he brought with him when he defected from the Ulster Unionists (UUP) in 2003 – resulting in a 41 per cent swing from the UUP to the DUP at the 2005 general election and a current majority of 13,000.
The UUP has selected local MLA and former firefighter Robbie Butler as its candidate in a constituency where it once dominated. Having been unassailable under the steady hand of Jim Molyneaux for years, when Basil McCrea jumped ship to form NI21 he left the Ulster Unionists with no MLAs – and therefore no constituency office – in Lagan Valley.
At the last Assembly election, Mr Butler’s share of the first preference votes rose to 6,846 (15.2 per cent share) from 4,376 (11.3 per cent share) in 2016 and could well rise again.
Another candidate likely to poll well is the popular SDLP representative Pat Catney, who pulled off a shock by winning a Stormont seat in March.
There are no Ukip or TUV candidates (who polled 2,200 and 1,887 votes respectively in 2015) this time around.
Veteran Alliance candidate Trevor Lunn will not be on the ballot paper on June 8 as the party has nominated Downshire East councillor Aaron McIntyre.
The full list of candidates is:
• Robbie Butler, UUP
• Pat Catney, SDLP
• Jeffrey Donaldson, DUP
• Aaron McIntyre, Alliance
• Ian Nickels, Conservative
• Jonny Orr, Independent
• Jacqui Russell, Sinn Fein.
• Polling stations will be open from 7am - 10pm, with the first results expected in the early hours of Friday morning.