Northern Ireland

Assembly election: Will voter turnout improve in 2017?

Farmers at livestock market
Image caption Only half the electorate voted in the East Londonderry constituency in the last assembly elections

As polls go it was not the most scientific, but it was very telling.

When the auctioneer at Kilrea Livestock Mart asked the farmers around the busy sales ring who would be voting in the 2017 assembly election - no hands went up.

That was not very surprising in a constituency which had one of the lowest turnouts in the last assembly election just eight months ago.

Only half the electorate voted in East Londonderry.

"I voted last time, but I won't be this time, enough is enough," said one farmer who didn't want to give his name because he has a biomass boiler at home.

Image caption Sean McCauley, from Farmers for Action, said morale in the industry was very low

He wasn't alone.

"I think we are all wasting our time to be honest, how far are we on from the last elections?" said another farmer in the makeshift shed which doubles as a cafe.

"Our politicians spend their time fighting with one another, what have they done for us? Nothing."

Sean McCauley, from Farmers for Action, said morale in the industry was very low.

"Everywhere we look we have problems," he said.

Image caption Turnout in assembly elections has dropped by 15% in the past 19 years

"Education, health, infrastructure and farming are all in a crisis.

"With Brexit and all the uncertainty it brings, the last thing we need now is to be without a government."

Turnout in assembly elections has been on the slide - it dropped by 15% in the past 19 years.

In the poll last May, 54% of the electorate turned out to vote. North Down had the lowest turnout at 49%.

"The question is, will the non-voters be galvanised? Or will the trend of a decreasing turnout continue?" asked commentator Gerry Murray.

Image caption Commentator Gerry Murray said the centre-ground voters had 'faded away'

"The people who have been voting are the hard core in each party, the centre ground has just faded away.

"The other big factor is the drop in seats from 108 down to 90. With one seat less in each constituency, a number of big names could fall and it's very much a question of fighting within parties, rather than between parties, for seats."

In Sion Mills, County Tyrone, pensioner Georgina McClintock has voted in every election in Northern Ireland for 50 years.

Image copyright Election Office

But she says many of her friends are disillusioned with politics and won't be voting.

"I think it's awful as there is nothing to say. When this election is over we will get things sorted out and we may have to go for another election. It's disgusting what is happening," she said.

"People are sick and fed up with our politicians fighting and squabbling, and it's no wonder people don't want to vote."

Watch BBC One Northern Ireland's The View, broadcast at 22:40 GMT on Thursday 26 January