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Northern Ireland Euros

Northern Ireland is doubly unique in European elections. Not only does it differ from the rest of the United Kingdom through having it’s own party system, but it also uses its own electoral system. While Great Britain elected its MEPs by First Past the Post until 1994, then switching to a closed list system, Northern Ireland’s MEPs have always been elected using the Single Transferable Vote.

This has in practice lead to a very static result. From 1979 until 1999 Northern Ireland returned one MEP each for the DUP, SDLP and Ulster Unionists. After 1979 when the Ulster Unionists ran two candidates, these three parties only put up a single candidate each, so there was not even a question of which candidate would represent each party – Ian Paisley and John Hume represented the DUP and SDLP throughout this period, with John Taylor then Jim Nicholson winning for the Ulster Unionists.

In 2004 the pattern was broken. Paisley and Hume both retired, and Sinn Fein replaced the SDLP to take the nationalist seat. Paisley’s successor Jim Allister subsequently resigned from the DUP to found his own party, Traditional Ulster Voice, in protest at the DUP’s entry into a powersharing agreement with Sinn Fein. Jim Nicholson will also be fighting under different colours at the European election, being the first candidate of the Conservative and Ulster Unionists new electoral alliance.

Sitting MEPs and 2004 Results

First Count Second Count Third Count
1. portrait Jim Allister (DUP) 175,761 (32.0%)
2. portrait Bairbre De Brun (Sinn Fein) 144,541 (26.3%)
3. portrait Jim Nicholson (UUP) 91,164 (16.6%) 124,646 147,058
-. Martin Morgan (SDLP) 87,559 (15.9%) 88,010 108,531
-. John Gilliland (Ind) 36,270 (6.6%) 39,390 eliminated
-. Eamonn McCann (SEA) 9,172 (1.6%) 9,268 eliminated
-. Lindsay Whitcroft (Green) 4,810 (0.9%) 5,134 eliminated

2009 Candidates

portraitDiane Dodds (DUP) Born 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.
portraitBairbre de Brun (Sinn Fein) Born 1954, Dublin. Educated at University College Dublin. Former teacher. MLA for West Belfast 1998-2004. MEP for Northern Ireland since 2004.
portraitJim Nicholson (Conservative/Ulster Unionist) Born 1945, Armagh. Armagh councillor 1977-1997. MP for Newry and Armagh 1983 until 1985, when he was the one of the Unionist MPs who resigned their seats en block to fight by-elections on the Anglo-Irish Agreement who failed to win. Contested Newry and Armagh 1987. Ulster Unionist MEP for Northern Ireland since 1989.
portraitAlban Maguinness (SDLP) Born 1950, Holywood. Educated at St Malachy’s College and New University of Ulster. Barrister. Belfast councillor since 1985. MLA for North Belfast since 1998.
portraitIan Parsley (Alliance) Born 1977. Educated at Merchant Taylor School, Northwood and Newcastle University. North Down councillor since 2005.
portraitSteven Agnew (Green) Research officer for Brian Wilson MLA. Contested East Belfast 2007 NI elections.
portraitJim Allister (Traditional Unionist Voice) Born 1953, Crossgar. Educated at Regent House Grammar and Queens University. Barrister. Newtownabbey councillor 1985-1987. Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for North Antrim 1982-1986. Contested East Antrim 1983. Elected as an MEP for Northern Ireland representing the DUP, he resigned from the party in 2007 following the DUP’s agreement to enter into a powersharing agreement with Sinn Fein, in 2007 he founded Traditional Unionist Voice.

NB - The constituency guide is now archived and is no longer being updated. The new guide is at

43 Responses to “Northern Ireland European”

  1. Its possible that the SDLP could gain the Con/ UU seat here, with the composition changing from DUP, SF, Con/UU to DUP, SF, SDLP.

    This association between the Conservatives and the UU’s could be to the UU’s benefit here.

  2. How is it benefitting them if they lose their seat to the SDLP?
    I dont see that happening actually – the SDLP are in long term decline and there is still enough of a Unionist majority overall to just about guarantee two Unionist seats. There may be some problem with JIm allister splitting the first preferences, but follwing transfers two Unionists should be returned

  3. Pete is probably right this time – SF might just top the poll – although I expect a fairly high nationalist absention rate this time – but 1 SF, 1 DUP 1 UCUNF,
    As always the extent of the unionist plurarility will be the fascinating issue.

  4. I was really saying that although the OUP have been in decline for some time they may now be revitalised as UCUNF and retain their seat.

  5. For techies, it is interesting to note that in 2004 two MEPs were elected on the first vote, having each secured the 25%+1 vote required. under STV in a 3-seat constituency.

    I imagine that, notwitshstanding Jim McAllister having set up his own party, Diane Dodds and Bairbre De Brun may pull it off again. The challenge for Jim Nicholson is primarily to hang on to third place.

    Are the Alliance hoping that voters read the candidate name rather than the party affiliation and mistakenly think they are voting for the grand old man of Ulster ?

  6. Thank goodness there are not 4 MEPs in Northern Ireland. If there were the election would be the most boring occasion since the 4 main parties would almost certainly always win a seat each. With 3 seats there’s a bit of competition for the final seat.

  7. “Pete is probably right this time”

    What do you mean ‘this time’ ?

  8. It’s interesting that the Alliance are standing Ian Parsley. I’m sure that the similarity of that name to that of the former leader of the DUP was far from their minds. I’m expecting to see them gain some extra votes from confused DUP supporters who don’t read the ballot properly. But with only 2.1% of the vote in 1999, when they last stood, they’re not going to come close to taking a seat.

    My prediction: DUP and SF on the first count, followed by UUP/Con, then SDLP, Alliance, TUV and Green, in that order.

    Is there any indication as to whether the SWP will stand a candidate, either McCann as SEA, or someone as People Before Profit?

  9. I wonder if the SDLP have any chance of winning a seat from the UUP. If they did it would be a bit like their unexpected gain of Belfast South in the 2005 general election.

  10. What are the chances of UKIP putting up a candidate?

  11. One wonders if TUV could gain a seat here due to Jim Allister’s name recognition and incumbancy as a sitting MEP?

  12. Joseph,

    If it were a Westminster election, then incumbency and name recognition might count for a few thousand votes – assuming the incumbent had a long and favourable track record.

    Since most people could not name a single MEP in their region (indeed, I suspect a fair number would not even be able to name their Euro-Constituency if not prompted with a list), plus the ballot paper shows party first, then candidates listed in smaller type, I doubt that being an incumbent MEP is worth more than half a percent.

    All that will happen is that a number of Unionists – say 5-10% at most – will give TUV their first prefernce, then DUP and C/UUP their second and third. Since DUP will get elected on first preferences, TUV votes with DUP second will get reallocated direct to their third choice – i.e. C/UU.

    Final result should still be DUP 1; SF 1; C/UU 1, in that order – though it may well be close as between DUP and SF, with the C/UU seat allocated on the third count.

  13. “What are the chances of UKIP putting up a candidate?”

    I’d have thought very slim. The only plausible candidate is Henry Reilly, the Newry and Mourne councillor, and as he didn’t even come close to election in the South Down seat last year, the likely result would be embarrassment at how few votes they would receive.

  14. Speaking as someone who lives in Newry and Mourne I have to say that if Reilly is your most plausible candidate then you’ve big problems!

  15. Whats wrong with Reilly, I live in Banbridge and I think that he is probably the best Councillor I have witnessed yet, he seems to have got close to Jim Allister though, I think that he would definately have gained an Assembly seat if he joined the DUP

  16. I could say but I would get this site and myself in some bother! In general Newry and Mourne Council is not blessed with political talent!

  17. I dont know of any Councils in Northern Ireland that are blessed with political talent but i would agree that Reilly does have a good profile and seems to get his point accross in an articulate fashion, i think that the UKIP would not poll well especially given Allisters EU scepticism, if its true that Colin Duffy the Republican remand prisioner is running this will eat into the SF vote, my prediction Dodds-De Bruin-Allister, Jim Nicholson is seen as an invisable man and the Conservative connection will allieniate a large section of traditional Unionists who wii switch to Allister

  18. Pingback: Talking to politicians - Pt1 | Above the Internet

  19. Just for the record it’s Traditional Unionist Voice, not Traditional Ulster Voice. And Allister was a member of Newtonabbey Borough Council, not Newtonards.

    All other facts seem in order. De Brun (irish for Brown) was Health Minister in the first Northern Ireland Assembley Executive,

    Dodds became an MLA in 2003 and a councillor in 2005, and went on to lose her Assembley seat two years later.

  20. SF and DUP (probably in that order), will easily win the first two seats. The last seat is more interesting.

    I had assumed that Nicholson couldn’t lose his seat because of his position on the political spectrum. Although I always expected a poor first preference vote from him, I expected his ability to attract transfers from Alliance, the SDLP and even Sinn Féin in the closing stages of a close race with Allister to keep him safe. A number of factors make me question this now.

    Firstly, the UCUNF marriage is a fiasco. Barely a day passes without some new cock up. The only good thing it has brought to the UUP is David Cameron on their election broadcasts. But the idea of ‘national politics’ is simply not registering with the electorate and Nicholson is a very weak candidate. Tory leaning DUP voters do not seem to be coming over (Tory leaning SDLP and Alliance voters coming over were always a self-deluding myth), but centre-left UUP voters are confused and sometimes angry. I’m not just getting that on the doorstep, but at church, in the choir I sing in, and in another little hobby club I’m chairman of. I’d say the UCUNF marriage was a classic case of enthusiasts’ groupthink and no-one pointing out the potential downside.

    Secondly, while I have no handle on just how well Allister is going to do, as I haven’t spent any time canvassing in places like rural County Antrim or Portadown, there are enough Chinese whispers on the doors in Belfast, which was never going to be an Allister heartland, to make me think he is not going to do as badly as many hope. Unfortunately. I know the DUP say their canvassing is solid, but they never had a sniff of the TUV result in the Dromore by-election either. I just don’t know.

    Finally, we had our record low turnout here in the 2004 Euros, and it is quite obvious from the doorsteps that this will be worse. However, having done a number of nights in predominantly Protestant middle-class areas followed by predominantly Catholic ones, the contrast is quite startling. There is no doubt in my mind that the actively anti-political sentiment, while present across the board, is much stronger in more unionist areas. I suppose Nationalist voters are less inclined to see the expenses row on GB as having any relevance to them and the people they might vote for, while at the same time they consume little media from the Republic, at least here on the east coast, and aren’t picking up on similar “plague on all your houses” sentiments from the South.

    I’d still give Nicholson better than 50:50 odds of holding his seat. But I wouldn’t rule out Allister. And if there’s differential turnout in Nationalism’s favout, Maginness can hope for a large SF surplus to transfer and as a moderate and staunchly pro-European SDLP politician, a better than average transfer from Alliance. And if there are a couple of locally relevant scandals in the next few weeks, there’s enough softness in everybody’s vote for Alliance to benefit, although I wouldn’t bet the house on us winning a seat.

    Maginness depends on how effectively SF’s superb polling day operation functions. SF are distracted by a difficult defence of the Dublin Euro seat thanks to reduction in seats, especially as Fianna Fáil’s implosion has turned that task from impossible to merely very tough. Their organisation also seems to be patchy – excellent as always where their local campaigning skills are at their best (N & W Belfast, Newry and Armagh), patchy in other places (non-existent in places like South Antrim and Lagan Valley, from what I’ve heard).

    Definitely the most interesting Euro-election in 30 years, though!

  21. The problem Allister will have is that if he doesn’t make the quota on first preference votes and DUP transfers – and it seems highly unlikely that he will – he’s barely going to get a vote off anyone else. Meanwhile, many of the Green, SDLP and Alliance votes will transfer to Nicholson at some point, and a few of the SF votes, too. I suppose if the UUP really did terribly badly they might end up being eliminated while TUV and the SDLP remain to contest the last seat, and that would be interesting, but it seems a very long shot.

    I can’t see Parsley coming anywhere near election – most voters will rank him somewhere, but behind either the UUP or SDLP, and he’s bound to have his votes redistributed before the candidates of either of those parties.

    Finally, I also don’t give Maginness a chance – it would require a massive differential turnout, as he’d be relying on being comfortably ahead of the UUP after DUP and SF transfers – there won’t be many Green votes to transfer, and even thought Green and Alliance votes are likely to favour the SDLP, it won’t be by a huge margin, while TUV transfers are bound to favour the UUP. (Incidentally, I’m aware the transfers won’t necessarily happen in this order, but that doesn’t change the substance of the argument).

  22. The problem Allister will have is that if he doesn’t make the quota on first preference votes and DUP transfers – and it seems highly unlikely that he will – he’s barely going to get a vote off anyone else. Meanwhile, many of the Green, SDLP and Alliance votes will transfer to Nicholson at some point, and a few of the SF votes, too.

    Surely it’s highly likely that Alban Maginnis will still be in contention until the end – thereby ensuring that Nicholson will have no SDLP transfers to avail of and that Green and Alliance voters will have a “moderate” alternative to transfer to.

    I think the interesting question would be whether the third unionist candidate (most likely Allister but possibly Nicholson if the UCUNF car crash proceeds on its current trajectory) would transfer in sufficient numbers to the second-placed unionist.

    It may also be that Allister pulls Dodds far enough down that she doesn’t clear the quota on the first stage and so is still in the hunt for transfers against Nicholson when/if Allister is eliminated.

    Any thoughts from Sammy?

  23. Before the election I would have agreed entirely with Warofdreams, and the left side of my brain still does, but its pretty obvious Nicholson is going down the plug hole big time. If he ends up behind both Allister and Maginness on the first count, anything is possible. If Nicholson is last eliminated and his transfers decide it between Allister and Maginness, I would guess they’ll go something like Allister 45%, Maginness 20%, dead 35%. If Allister is last eliminated, something like 70% Nicholson, 30% dead, if it’s Maginness something like 25-30% Nichlson, the rest dead. I would still give Nicholson a good 75% chance of holding on, but six weeks ago, I would have given him a 95% chance.

    I was out again in what should be one of the few UUP heartlands in North Belfast and they just weren’t registering – Dodds, yes; Maginness and de Brún, yes, in the small numbers I would expect in that patch; us, in better numbers than for a decade (not that that would be hard). Nicholson, no, and I’m hearing the same from colleagues across NI. Also the UU vote seems particularly disaffected and demotivated. They have real problems.

  24. sammy – what on earth was that about?

  25. What will be the effect of the Robinsons expenses relevations on Unionist voters?

  26. I think that Sinn Féin will just clinch top position, possibly they will be slightly behind Dodds. But undoubtedly, at this late stage, its obvious that Allister is winning the battle against Dodds. Although Allister will be way behind Dodds, ideologically if he takes a sizeable vote he is still the winner because the DUP’s credibility will be in shreds.
    The third seat is a tough one to call. I do think that Nicholson is in real danger and his vote of 91000 could haemorrhage because of the UCUNF disaster that is currently unfolding. To be honest I have to say “BRAVO!” to Lady Hermon for her excellent timing and bravery to say what she did, she stuck up for her beliefs and voters respect that…but unfortunately for poor old Nicholson he is going to have a really tough battle on his hands.
    The SDLP could take the third seat, but only in theory. Their vote will probably continue to fall leaving them further on the margins…it all depends on how big a train wreck the Unionist vote turns out to be.

  27. Mick Fealty’s analysis on Slugger O’Toole is based on conversations with hacks in all the parties (yours’ truly included), and contains more sense than anything I’ve read in the MSM.

    Read it at:

  28. The news from Union street suggests that Jim Allister is going to win a seat, he is picking up a clear majority of rural Unionist votes but more importantly he is making inroads into the DUP urban vote and taking traditional working class UUPsupporters who cannot stomach the thought of voting tory, this is going to be one of the biggest upsets for many years

  29. Allister getting elected would certainly be the biggest earthquake in NI politics probably since Paisley won the Bannside by-election. I still think that the DUP, SF and CU will take one seat each but there is certainly a real chance now of Bairbre De Bruin topping the poll. I’ve no time at all for Allister and his brand of politics but I am looking forward to seeing the DUP get a dose of it’s own medicine!

  30. As we get closer to polling day I’m left with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that TRUTHSEEKER and THE IMPARTIAL OBSERVER are correct that Allister could take a seat. To be honest for the majority of us who supports our present Stormont set-up this is unfathomable. If Allister is elected the chances are the DUP will make the “working relationship” unbearable for the other parties. They’ll be scared that they may be further humiliated electorally…the usurper(the DUP) could be usurped(the TUV). The strain on the Executive could lead to the collapse of Stormont…after that its too difficult to predict the outcome.
    I still like to think that the result could be so close between the TUV and UUP that Nicholson could make it. Also I think its getting harder to tell how the result is going to go for the SDLP and whether they will get a substantial enough surplus.

  31. “I still think that the DUP, SF and CU will take one seat each but there is certainly a real chance now of Bairbre De Bruin topping the poll. I’ve no time at all for Allister and his brand of politics but I am looking forward to seeing the DUP get a dose of it’s own medicine!”

    This would be the result of SF squeezing the SDLP and the CU regaining lost ground from the DUP.

  32. Slugger O’toole are reporting a lot on the Politics Show today which had a panel debate with all seven candidates. Mrs Dodds came off very poorly indeed.

    I’m not inclined to shout Allister victory just yet, but I’m starting to think it will be no change, with the DUP scraping the last seat (even if they outpoll the other two unionist parties.)

    I think that De Brun will be elected above quota. Whether it is big enough to distribute immediately (where it will go to the SDLP) or the smaller parties will be eliminated first I’m not sure. Either way I’d expect Nicholson to do well enough from the Alliance transfers to be ahead of Allister who would then be eliminated. I suspect his vote will favour Nicholson over Dodds by around 2:1, and he would be next elected. The last seat would then depend on the DUP being ahead of the SDLP which I’m sure would happen.

  33. Most likely…..

    ….SF, Con, DUP

  34. It certainly won’t be in that order, Peter. Nicholson has not been having an impressive campagin; Allister has, and I reckon there’s a big enough core DUP vote to ensure that Dodds does best of the unionist candidates even after a poor performance on TV. I’d say SF, DUP, UCUNF in that order.

    Also, a lot will depend on who is over quota on the first round. I think de Brun will be; ordinarily I’d say that Dodds would be, but with Allister polling well it’s much harder to call. If de Brun is the only candidate over quota then the Green and Alliance transfers will come into play first, and will benefit Nicholson (and Maginess), which would probably mean the DUP gets the final seat through TUV transfers (I really can’t see Dodds ending up behind Allister).

    But if Nicholson’s vote collapses and he’s third among the unionist candidates then things could get a lot more interesting. Imagine, for instance if de Brun and Dodds were elected and the final spot came down to a battle between Allister and Maginess, dependent on Nicholson’s transfers. Obviously Allister would be the net beneficiary, but by how much?

  35. Sorry: first sentence of previous post should begin ‘It probably won’t be in that order’; I realize that having said it certainly wouldn’t be SF-UCUNF-DUP I’ve then given a scenario in which it could be. And ‘campaign’, obviously, not ‘campagin’.

  36. If Nicholson’s vote really did collapse then an almost certain, but overlooked, benefactor could be Parsley of the Alliance Party. Alliance would need an absolute minimum of 9 to10 per cent on the first count to be in with any chance and at more than in any previous Euro poll this is asking a lot. But it is not outside the range of their better performances at Westminster or Stormont. Were Parsley to stay in the contest longer than Nicholson then a knuckle baring fight involving Parsley, Allister and Maginnis could ensue with Parsley just taking the seat. Remember that neither side of the divide in NI is likely to score an outright two quotas. In fact this time both could fail to better 45%. At the very least Parsley’s transfers will be very influential on who takes that final seat. This time that might just favour Maginnis.

  37. Its definately Allister the DUP vote is collapseing in many of thier heartlands the unionist fight is between nicholson and dodds for the second unionist seat, maginess is clawing back votes from sf in significant numbers, this is going to be the most interesting count for years

  38. The votes were verified at the Kings Hall in Belfast yesterday ahead of Monday’s count. What impressions are entirely anecdotal but there is near unanimity that Bairbre De Brun will top the poll with something like 28% of the first preference votes. The reports are that the 3 Unionist candidates are in the words of BBC NI’s political editor Mark Devenport “quite closely packed,” this would suggest that the DUP vote has collapsed with Jim Allister polling very strongly in the rural areas as Truthseeker mentioned above. The CU’s vote appears to have held up quite well and there’s evidence that they’ve pulled back small amounts of the vote that they’ve lost to the DUP over the last 10 years. If true that suggests that if they’d put up a better and more articulate candidate than Nicholson then they may have done extremely well indeed.

    Apologies for the lack of links as I can’t seem to post any here! but check out Mark Devenport’s blog and Slugger O’Toole. De Bruin to come in first, with Nicholson sure to get in on transfers at some point, the big question is how will the transfers break between Dodds and Allister. Even if she still gets in, the recriminations within the DUP will make the events of the last 36 hours in Labour look like a Sunday School picnic!!

  39. Gutted that Barbara Brown came in first but pleased Jim Nicholson got second seat – link up with the Tories can’t have done too much harm ! Speak as an Irish Catholic Tory who couldn’t envisage voting for the hillbillies in the DUP.

  40. So the headlines here are the DUP dropping large numbers of votes to TUV, but still holding their seat; SF actually falling back very slightly, but heading the poll easily, by default. The UUP didn’t fall back, as many were predicting, instead gaining vote share, coming close behind the DUP, and ultimately taking the second seat, ahead of them.

    Among the parties who didn’t take seats, the SDLP picked up a little, but were unsurprisingly still some way off taking a seat. The TUV vote was strong, but they were far enough behind the other two unionist parties that it was clear where the seats were going from the start. Alliance took their best percentage since 1979, but predictions they might come through the middle were well off the mark.

    Finally, the Greens took 3.2%, almost double their 2007 Assembly share (when, admittedly, they weren’t on the ballot everywhere), and easily their best ever result in a Northern Ireland-wide election.

  41. Is there a constituency level breakdown available for NI as it would be interesting to see how well UCUNF did on a constituency basis?

  42. There aren’t any official constituency results for NI. Head to slugger for some tallies.

    Rumour had it that the TUV ‘won’ north Antrim and took more votes than other unionists in Mid Ulster, while the DUP only ‘won’ North Belfast and East Londonderry (although I’m not sure how much I believe this).

  43. It seems that both Peter Crerar and myself were right about seat order. The rather confident Aidan Thompson was not