Northern Ireland European Region

2009 Election
Barbara de Brun (Sinn Fein) 126184 26.0% (-0.3%)
Diane Dodds (DUP) 88346 18.2% (-14%)
Jim Nicholson (UCUNF) 82893 17.1% (+0.5%)
Alban Maginness (SDLP) 78489 16.2% (+0.3%)
Jim Allister (Traditional Unionist) 66197 13.6% (n/a)
Ian Parsley (Alliance) 26699 5.5% (n/a)
Steven Agnew (Green) 15764 3.2% (+2.3%)
Turnout 42.8% (-8.9%)
Barbara de Brun (Sinn Fein) ELECTED
Alban Maginness (SDLP) 94814 +16325
Jim Nicholson (UCUNF) 94285 +11392
Diane Dodds (DUP) 91260 +2914
Jim Allister (Traditional Unionist) 70481 +4284
Barbara de Brun (Sinn Fein) ELECTED
Jim Nicholson (UCUNF) 132227 +37942
Diane Dodds (DUP) 115722 +24462
Alban Maguinness (SLDP) 97428 +2614
Current Sitting MEPs
Martina Anderson (Sinn Fein) Born 1962, Derry. Convicted of conspiring to cause explosions in 1986 and jailed until her release under the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. MLA for Foyle 2007-2012. Contested Foyle 2010. MEP for Northern Ireland since 2012, replacing Bairbre de Brun on her resignation.
Jim Nicholson (Ulster Conservatives and Unionists - New Force) Born 1945, Armagh. Farmer. Armagh councillor 1976-1997. MP for Newry and Armagh 1983-1985, the only MP to lose their seat in the by-elections following the mass resignation of Unionist MPs in protest over the Anglo-Irish agreement. Contested Newry and Armagh 1987. MEP for Northern Ireland since 1989.
Diane Dodds (DUP) Born 1958, County Down. Educated at Banbridge Academy and Queens University. Former teacher. Belfast councillor since 2005. MLA for West Belfast 2003-2007. Married to North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds. MEP for Northern Ireland since 2009.
Comments - 259 Responses on “Europe Northern Ireland”
  1. I read the comments above with interest and I think that is a shame the Northern Ireland elections will be overshadowed by events in Scotland as there will be one or two exciting contests.

    Nationalist Seats –

    Although there are many safe seats particularly on the Nationalist side, some MPs are relatively vulnerable although I anticipate no changes in the 8 seats currently held by Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

    West Belfast, Mid Ulster and West Tyrone are all safe for SF with no real challenge. The SF majority will likely be cut in Newry and Armagh due to the single UUP candidate. However the UUP will do no better than the combined 2010 vote ~30% cutting the SF majority from 8000 to ~5000. In Fermanagh and South Tyrone SF will increase their majority to between 500-1500. I think the Unionist vote will remain at a relatively similar level to 2010, but the SF will continue to degrade the SDLP vote share. After the 2011 Locals I was of the opinion that the Unionists might be able to take this seat given the SF vote share (33%), but then the SF vote share was solid at 40% in the Assembly Elections, with 9% SDLP share to squeeze.

    The SDLP should retain all 3 seats although all on reduced majorities. South Belfast will remain safe for the SDLP, although likely on a reduced majority as I believe more Unionists will plump for the DUP. The SDLP majorities in Foyle and South Down will continue to decline. As soon as Mark Durkan and Margaret Ritchie retire the SF will fancy their chances, with Foyle looking the most likely to fall to the SF in 2020. Interestingly I anticipate a reduced Unionist vote in Foyle as some vote tactically for Durkan.

    Gains? North Belfast is the only seat that might realistically fall to SF based on demographic trends. However in all elections since 2010 (local, assembly and European) the Unionist vote has been larger than the Nationalist vote, and with no UUP (who took 7% in 2010) Nigel Dodds should be safe.

    Alliance –

    Although I see the Alliance vote remaining steady across Northern Ireland, I cannot see how they can retain East Belfast. There is minimal Nationalist vote for them to squeeze (a total of 3.5% in 2010), the UUP have officially swing behind the DUP and dissident Unionists who backed the Alliance are unlikely to back the Alliance this time round. However, despite all that it is probable that Naomi Long will increase her share of the vote (moderate UUP voters) but not by enough and Gavin Robinson will take this seat back for the DUP although with a majority of below 5000. Long term demographics mean that the Nationalists will never challenge for this seat and it will become a Unionist/Alliance marginal seat for the future.

    Unionists –

    Plenty of safe seats. As has been discussed Upper Bann and North Belfast are supposedly the next to go “Green” demographically, but I can’t see them falling to the Nationalists for another decade, except on a very even split of the vote.

    North Down is safe for Sylvia Hermon until she retires. East Londonderry, North and East Antrim, Lagen Valley and Srangford are all safe DUP. North Belfast will remain DUP and East Belfast will be gained by the DUP for reasons outlined above.

    That leaves South Antrim and Upper Bann, both reasonably marginal UUP/DUP. I think the DUP will retain them both, for the following reasons. South Antrim had the leader of the UUP (Reg Empey) contest the seat last time round. If Mike Nesbitt had stood their this time round perhaps the UUP could have won it narrowly, but I can’t see their candidate winning through this time with less of the political weight that was thrown at the seat in 2010. In Upper Bann Derek Simpson faces a strong challenge from UUP Jo-Anne Dobson. She is refreshing, a female Unionist candidate and I believe has made quite an impact in the Assembly, and she should take the seat. However, with SF narrowly becoming the largest party in the 2011 assembly vote (by 0.1% with 27.2% of the vote), I think enough Unionists will tactically vote DUP to keep SF out.

    Conclusion –

    So after all that there is really only one likely change in Northern Ireland, East Belfast, given totals of 9 DUP, 1 Ind Unionist, 5 SF and 3 SDLP. However, there are interesting contests in North Belfast, South Antrim, Upper Bann and Fermanagh and South Tyrone, which on an interesting night could all change hands.

    I do find the SF MPs rather depressing. I saw one SF poster which said “fight Tory cuts” which seemed a bit redundant from a party that refuses to take it seats, lowering the total with which a Tory government would need to govern. I consider it to be the ultimate wasted vote, actually voting for someone who will win but whom has already stated they wont actually do anything. Crazy.

  2. Labour are to begin standing candidates in Northern Ireland “at the earliest date at which it is appropriate to do so”.

    “The motion instructs the regional executive committee to “prepare and train” members who would be suitable candidates; establish a fighting fund to pay for offices and staff; and prepare “a political programme to put to the electorate”.”

  3. The other interesting development in NI is that Arlene Foster is almost certain to be the new DUP Leader and First Minister after Nigel Dodds opted to remain Deputy/Westminster Leader rather than stand.

    Labour running may or may not turn out to be interesting. I think NI will eventually need to move away from the sectarian parties but they have shown few signs so far, and the Tory effort in recent elections (including the period jointly running candidates with the UUP) has not been a great success. I guess LAB will be looking to reach out to left-leaning unionists – who as things stand have little choice. But hard to say if they’ll have much success.

  4. I suppose they can present it as being for people who are fed up with constitutional stuff predominating all the time, and maybe give a secular and more progressive approach to social issues. Whether there’s a market for that is an open question though.

  5. Northern Irish people I’ve spoken to are very much in the mood for a secular, centre-left party to vote for. They’re sick of the SDLP’s anemic results and Sinn Fein’s grandstanding, but hate the protestant right wingery of the DUP.

    But then perhaps Northern Irish young people who go to study at English universities aren’t a representative sample.

  6. Mr Nameless,

    The phenomenon of disillusion with the Northern Irish party set-up (especially among middle-class Protestants and Catholics, and most atheists too) is very old indeed.

  7. As is the persistent habit of still voting for such parties.

  8. There aren’t really any others, though. There’s the Greens (and they’re the Greens) and the Alliance (and they’re Lib Dems) but they don’t fit the UK power dynamic the same way.

    The Tories don’t really campaign, but I’m curious where Labour would get started. Must be the first time a major party has started completely from scratch in quite a while – even the Tories were allied with the UUP. Time to fire up Mosaic, I imagine.

  9. The Tories weren’t allied with the UUP when they first started organising as a separate party in NI. Not sure when that was though. They definitely ran candidates in NI in the ’92 GE, with the guy standing in North Down doing pretty well.

    Currently I don’t think there is room for either Labour or the Tories to successfully organise in NI, and that’s particularly the case for a Corbyn led Labour Party. His past conduct re NI make it unlikely they would be able to appeal to left of centre unionist (as the old NI Labour Party in the Stormont days attempted to do), while left of centre nationalists already have the SDLP.

  10. “The Tories don’t really campaign”

    Well, they kind of do. At the GE a manifesto was released ( and they ran more candidates than ever before. Cameron even made a fleeting visit. I guess they have three problems. One is that the UUP and to some extent the DUP offer a similar platform. Two is that even if unionists wanted to vote for a non-sectarian party they would likely be persuaded out of it because they wouldn’t want to help let a nationalist party in by further splitting the unionist vote. Three is that since 1998 the role of the UK govt. (and to some extent the oppo) has been as a neutral broker between the sectarian parties – it is hard to tally that role with campaigning at an election (LAB may face this problem too).

    LAB may do somewhat better as they are perhaps better placed to appeal to both sides of the divide than the Tories are (who I doubt get many unionist votes!), and there is the lack of left-wing unionist options issue.

  11. In the last paragraph I of course meant that I doubt the Tories get many nationalist votes!

  12. I think many unionists would not see the UK government’s role as having been ‘neutral’ either.

  13. In Belfast South, Alasdair McDonnell was elected with under a quarter of the vote (24.5%) of the vote.

    The previous smallest share was Sir Russell Johnston in Inverness, Nairn & Lochaber (26.0%).

    Alasdair McDonnell has stood in this constituency since 1979. Its incredible that in 1983 he polled just 8.6% and Sinn Fein just 3.0%.

    Last May, Sinn Fein outpolled the UUP by nearly 2000.

    Belfast South was once had a large majority of Protestant electors. According to Wikepedia “There has been particularly rapid demographic change in Belfast South over the past 20 years, change which seems to be continuing. Since the 2011 census, Belfast South consists of a slightly larger Catholic population than Protestant. Belfast South traditionally had a unionist majority, but the nationalist vote has now surpassed this in more recent elections.”

  14. It’s unlikely that there will be official (British) Labour candidates in Northern Ireland, as it’s subject to the decision of the UK-wide party. If some members do stand, it will be as independents, or possibly under a new party description – and they wouldn’t be able to choose anything too similar to the Labour Party. And if they do stand, they are likely to be expelled, and also to pick up very few votes.

    There is some demand for a non-partisan centre-left party in Northern Ireland, and that’s not really filled by the SDLP, Alliance or Greens. But it’s unlikely that even official (British) Labour Party candidates would get many votes, as the terrible performance of Conservative candidates suggests.

    I think this is a move by Boyd Black, secretary of the NI branch of Labour, who has been campaigning for many years for the party to stand in Northern Ireland with limited support. He is a staunch unionist with little sympathy with Corbyn. There’s some useful discussion on Slugger O’Toole at

  15. But I think the UK Labour Party are moving towards supporting this, no? Old argument based on co-operation with SDLP now less relevant as the latter now work more closely with the SNP/Plaid than with LAB in parliament.

  16. Kieran W – it’s quite famous as it was a victory for democracy, as Tory members in 1989 outvoted the Leadership at Conference to organise in NI.

    You’re right in that Laurence Kennedy almost won North Down in 1992. But he was a hardline Unionist, whereas Tory Central Office has always been Wet. The Tories had around a dozen Cllrs into the late ’90s here and a couple a couple of years ago (defections) but I don’t think they have anyone elected here now at any level.

    Amazingly, they spent over £100k on an HQ, Director, Asst etc and the same again on leaflets but to no avail. Their PPCs were largely parachuted in from England at the last minute ie in January 2015 and I think all lost their Deposits again.

  17. Moving towards it probably yes – notably, Andy Burnham is in favour – but I don’t think there would be a majority on the NEC at present. And co-operation with the SDLP I think is still a consideration, not least because the SDLP is a member of the Socialist International and British Labour is a closely involved observer, so it would cause an annoying international row.

    The Conservatives did quite well in Northern Ireland in 1992, but Kennedy in North Down was still 10% off victory, so not all that close. I think North Down was their best effort in 2015, too, Brotherston taking 4.4%. This looks like a largely personal vote; Brotherston was the only Conservative candidate for the North Down and Ards Council the previous year to perform half-decently, taking 4.7%.

  18. All things being relative, they had a decent result in Strangford comfortably holding their deposit

  19. There’s probably more of a space for Labour in NI than there is for the Tories, given that the Tories are going to be right-wing and unionist. There’s not really a gap in the market there. Labour have more potential for cross-community appeal. They can offer a secular, left of centre option for those who are fed up of constitutional bickering on either side.

  20. Totally disagree. With Corbyn & McDonnell in charge Labour will have zero appeal to unionists. The people who agree with them will mostly sympathise with Sinn Fein so why would they vote Labour?

  21. Right now, I agree with Hemmelig. Under any other leader though (and Labour won’t be Corbynite forever) there would be an opportunity. You’ve got to start somewhere.

  22. A rare NI poll for the Assembly election on Thurs has been carried out by LucidTalk:

    DUP 27
    SF 26
    UUP 16
    SDLP 12
    ALL 8
    TUV 4
    GRN 3

    Very little change from the GE on those figures. Still an outside possibility of SF getting most seats and thus the First Minister position – symbolically that would be a significant change, though in practice it is not especially important as the FM and DFM are constitutionally co-equal.

  23. Lucid Talk’s latest report gives the following seat projection on the basis of the latest polling (unusually done to one decimal place):

    DUP 33.6 (38 won in 2011)
    SF 27.4 (29)
    SDLP 14.2 (14)
    UUP 17.3 (16)
    Alliance 8.9 (8)
    TUV 1.9 (1)
    Green 1.9 (1)
    PUP 0.9 (0)

    Minimal change then, but the DUP and SF possibly falling back a touch with the UUP, Alliance, TUV, Greens and PUP all in with a chance of gaining a seat.

    Seams little chance on those figures of SF securing the First Minister spot. Jack Sheldon is absolutely right in that it would make absolutely no practical difference in any case. It would be better if the First and Deputy First Minister spots were redesignated as co-First Ministers so that their titles reflected the constitutional reality.

  24. I thought UKIP are predicting seats in Wales and Stormont?

    What about the Tories in North Down?

  25. I can’t see any with Ladbrokes, but I see both Paddy Power and A McLean bookies have odds on the NI Assembly elections:

  26. Despite the NI Assembly election producing virtually no change from 2011 govt. formation is proving somewhat problematic.

    The UUP and the SDLP are fed up of being junior partners and so are going into opposition (an interesting development that may allow the next election to be a genuine choice btwn. the status quo and change).

    Meanwhile, Alliance, whose leader had been expected to carry on as Justice Minister (the sensitivity of this role makes it difficult for anyone else to perform it) have also announced that at this stage they aren’t satisfied with the DUP/SF programme for government and so are in no position to take the job.

    I expect some sort of accommodation will be reached but the deadline by which a govt. has to be formed is fast approaching. If the deadline can’t be met a new election is possible (which I doubt would solve much).

  27. I think it would be a better model to have opposition parties in both communities. At least it would allow the voters to get rid of underperforming or corrupt parties.

  28. Simon – that’s what we now have.

    Although I can’t see either the UUP or SDLP reviving anytime soon.

  29. Fermanagh UUP Cllr Raymond Farrell has defected to the DUP.

  30. Jeffrey Donaldson MP has received a Knighthood in HM Queen’s Birthday Honours.

  31. Each round the MPs chosen to be made Knights/Dames seem to become more obscure. Obvious choices would have been Ken Clarke and Harriet Harman. Maybe they have declined. I’ve nothing against Donaldson and Swayne but it is hard to see what they’ve done that isn’t just doing their job as an MP.

  32. Couldn’t imagine Ken Clarke declining or even Harriet really.

  33. In fact talking about Ken Clarke he has been very quiet in the debate. I would have thought he have been more high profile considering he has a positive reputation still and is clearly passionately Pro EU.

  34. Clarke & Harman would go to the Lords next I imagine. I don’t know if KC is in good health and he’s certainly too old to be playing an active part on battle buses or whatever.

    Jeffrey D’s actually been a politician longer than any other current N Ireland MP.

    He was after all Enoch’s agent at a very young age and is very popular here. He’s also active on Facebook – including replying to constituents -which is a rarity amongst politicians here.

  35. ‘Clarke & Harman would go to the Lords next I imagine’

    That’s a good point. Clarke has already said he’s standing down in 2020, and Harman probably will too. Peerages in the dissolution honours will then be fairly inevitable. Though there is plenty of precedent for people being made Knights/Dames whilst still MPs, then peers after standing down: Alan Beith, Malcolm Bruce, Menzies Campbell, Andrew Stunnell, Tessa Jowell and Dawn Primarolo in the last dissolution honours, for example.

    I didn’t know Jeffrey Donaldson was once Enoch Powell’s agent. He must have been very young!

  36. Ken Clarke’s 76 and his wife died not long ago. His views on Europe are already well known and I suspect he feels he wouldn’t add much to the debate.

  37. Jack S – yes, Jeffrey Donaldson was only aged 21 when he was Enoch Powell MP’s Agent in South Down and aged 24 when Agent again in the 1986 By-election.

    On both occasions Powell won, unexpectedly.

    Jeffrey Donaldson was also only aged 23 when he was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in a By-election.

    His two cousins were murdered by the IRA and I think he’s quite high up in the Orange Order as he often parades and speaks in Liverpool as well as NI.

    He also took a lot of support with him to the DUP from the UUP when he was one of the first to defect over the Belfast Agreement. The UUP has never recovered from being eclipsed by the DUP as the majority voice of Unionism in NI.

    The DUP seems to have an impressive electoral machine on the ground (80% claimed to have been ‘knocked up’ by the Party on Polling Day in a poll in 2015), rivalled only by the SNP.

  38. Tom Elliot MP (UUP) says he’ll probably vote Leave.

    I think that leaves just 18 undeclared MPs now.

  39. Lord Trimble and 2 other ex UUP MPs who are also now n the Lords have urged UUP members and voters to vote Leave. I think that makes it 60:40 amongst their Parliamentarians now.

    A very slight majority (9) of the NI MPs now support Leave.

  40. The DUP seem to have managed to maintain a united front behind their pro-Brexit position, at least among MPs (not sure about MLAs or peers). As LO says the two UUP MPs are divided – Kinahan is Remain, Elliott is Leave.

  41. Yes from the data I’ve seen it’s UKIP, DUP, Con, Plaid voters (in that order) who support Leave. Although Plaid are split almost 50:50 in all of the ones I’ve seen.

    Green, LD, SF, SDLP, Labour voters favour Remain (in that order).

    Some of the BMG data is fascinating, ie how the economy is the issue in the South East, but immigration is the main issue of concern in all other Regions of England and parts of the UK. Council & housing assoc tenants favour Leave and so on. [I particularly enjoyed how cuts to welfare benefits weren’t an issue for a single unemployed respondent, but was a concern of some of the ABCs]

  42. New LucidTalk poll:

    Remain: 58%
    Leave: 42%

  43. Is that a NI poll?

    If so it’s pretty much spot on for what I was thinking here.

  44. Yeah that’s right. It’s a little less Remain than I expected.

  45. The Turnout in the DUP’s seat of Lagan Valley was 10% higher than in Nationalist Foyle.

  46. Over 62% voted Leave in North Antrim.

  47. NI only voted 55% Remain.

  48. Sinn Fein just called for a referendum for Irish reunification.

    In some ways I’m spiteful and want the worst for my country in voting out, but really I want the best for my country and union. At the end of the day, I really hope we can address the uncertainty of Brexit and that this result is the best one for our country.

  49. They probably should have tried harder at getting their voters to turnout then.

    Only 48.9% voted in West Belfast!

  50. Unionists knew the likely consequences of voting Leave yet still overwhelmingly did so. So my sympathy with them on this amounts to diddly squat. Presuming the government south of the border would accept reunification (not assured by any means), let Sinn Fein have their referendum and I hope they win it.

Leave a Reply

NB: Before commenting please make sure you are familiar with the Comments Policy. UKPollingReport is a site for non-partisan discussion of polls.

You are not currently logged into UKPollingReport. Registration is not compulsory, but is strongly encouraged. Either login here, or register here (commenters who have previously registered on the Constituency Guide section of the site *should* be able to use their existing login)