West Belfast

map East
                Antrim East Antrim East Belfast East Belfast East Londonderry Foyle Foyle Fermanagh & South Tyrone Lagan
                Valley Mid-Ulster North Antrim North Antrim Newry & Armagh North Belfast North Belfast North
                Down North Down South Antrim South Belfast South Belfast South Down Strangford Upper Bann West Belfast West Belfast West Tyrone results graph
Maps and diagram by Conal Kelly

detailed map

This constituency takes in the western quarter of Belfast City Council and the Twinbrook and Poleglass estates in Lisburn District Council. The member of Parliament, since June 2011, has been Paul Maskey (SF); his predecessor was Gerry Adams (the SF leader), who was first elected in 1983, defeating the previous incumbent (Gerry Fitt, former SDLP leader but by then an Independent Socialist). Adams retained the seat in 1987 but lost it narrowly to Joe Hendron (SDLP) in 1992. However he regained it convincingly in 1997, and his successful defence of the seat in 2001, 2005 and 2010 came as little surprise. He resigned in early 2011 in order to contest a seat in the Dáil. Sinn Fein also hold five of the six Assembly seats, with the SDLP holding the last (SF gained a seat from the DUP in 2007, which the DUP had themselves gained from the SDLP in 2003). See the 1983-1992 West Belfast results and the 1973-82 West Belfast results

See spreadsheets from the 2011 Assembly election, the 2010 Westminster election, the 2007 Assembly election, the 2005 Westminster election, the 2003 Assembly election, the 2001 Westminster election, the 1998 Assembly election, the 1997 Westminster election and the 1996 Forum/talks election. See also the detailed guide from 2007 by "Sammy Morse".

The constituency was slightly expanded in 1983 and rather more in 1995, and again in 2010 when it gained the Dunmurry ward and the northern part of the Derryaghy ward from Lagan Valley. This made the new constituency 0.1% more Catholic, and 0.2% less Protestant, than the old.

West Belfast's population (on the old boundaries) in the 2001 census was 87,610 (12th of the 18 constituencies).

Results of recent elections using new boundaries


DUP UUP Oth U Alliance Oth SDLP SF
2011wb
6.1% 1.7%
0.5% 7.6% 13.5% 70.6%
2011a
7.5% 4.2%
1.1% 8.0% 13.2% 66.1%
2011lg 8.6% 0.9% 1.1% 0.2% 11.0% 14.2% 65.1%
2010w 7.6% 3.1%   1.9%   16.4% 71.1%
2007a
10.8% 1.8%
0.3% 4.6% 13.8% 68.6%
2005w 10.8% 2.5%
0.1% 2.0% 16.0% 68.6%
2005lg 8.4% 1.4% 2.5%
0.9% 19.4% 67.8%

NB that the figures for elections before 2010 are projections onto the new boundaries. Figures for the old boundaries are at the bottom of this page.

2011 Westminster by-election (1 seat, 9 June)

@Paul Maskey (SF) 16,211 (70.6%, -0.5%)
@Alex Attwood (SDLP) 3088 (13.5%, -2.9%)
Gerry Carroll (People Before Profit) 1751 (7.6%)
Brian Kingston (DUP) 1393 (6.1%, -1.5%)
Bill Manwaring (UUP) 386 (1.7%, -1.4%)
Aaron McIntyre (Alliance) 122 (0.5%, -1.4%)

@ member of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Electorate 61,768; Total poll 23,057 (turnout 37.53%); spoilt votes 97 (0.4%); Valid votes 22,951.

This was the first Westminster by-election in Northern Ireland since 2000 (South Antrim), the first caused by a resignation since the mass by-elections of 1986, and the first caused by a voluntary resignation where the incumbent did not seek re-election since the Armagh by-election of 1954, when Major Richard Harden decided to spend more time on his Welsh family estate.

Not a big surprise in SF's strongest constituency (where Adams had the fourth highest majority in the UK). Interesting to note Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit posting an increase both in percentage and in votes in a greatly reduced turnout, the lowest ever seen in a Northern Ireland parliamentary election.

One small point - the number of spoilt votes was very low by any standards, particularly in the constituency which normally posts the highest percentage of spoilt votes in each election.

2011 Assembly Election (six seats)

@Paul Maskey (SF) 5,343 (15.4%)
@Jennifer McCann (SF) 5,239 (15.1%)
@Fra McCann (SF) 4,481 (12.9%)
@Sue Ramsey (SF) 4,116 (11.9%)
@Alex Attwood (SDLP) 3,765 (10.9%)
@Pat Sheehan (SF) 3,723 (10.7%)
Brian Kingston (DUP) 2,587 (7.5%)
Gerry Carroll (PBP) 1,661 (4.8%)
Bill Manwaring (UUP) 1,471 (4.2%)
Colin Keenan (SDLP) 802 (2.3%)
John Lowry (WP) 586 (1.7%)
Pat Lawlor (Socialist) 384 (1.1%)
Dan McGuinness (Alliance) 365 (1.1%)
Brian Pelan (Independent) 122 (0.4%)

@ member of the Assembly when it was dissolved.

SF 22,902 (66.1%, -3.8%) 5 seats
SDLP 4,567 (13.2%, +1.0%) 1 seat
DUP 2,587 (7.5%, -3.3%)
PBP 1,661 (4.8%)
UUP 1,471 (4.2%, +2.5%)
WP 586 (1.7%, +0.4%)
Socialist 384 (1.1%)
Alliance 365 (1.1%, +0.7%)
Independent 122 (0.4%)

Electorate 61,520
Votes cast 35,618 (57.9%); spoilt 970 (2.7%)
Valid votes: 34,648; quota 4,951

Looking at the first preferences, I had the idea that the 11.7% total Unionist vote might float ahead of the SF candidates, especially given the relative difficulty of ensuring that Gerry Carroll's voters would be sufficiently disciplined for the convenience of the Shinners' battle plan. But in the end, if you have enough votes, balancing doesn't matter, and SF had enough votes to keep all five seats, the SDLP retaining the sixth, Pat Sheehan of SF finishing 460 votes ahead of the DUP.

2011 local government election

My projection of the votes cast in Upper Falls, Lower Falls, three wards of Court and five and a half wards of Dunmurry Cross:

SF 22,413 (65.1%)
SDLP 4,886 (14.2%)
DUP 2,968 (8.6%)
Eirigi 2,062 (6.0%)
WP 398 (1.2%)
PUP 382 (1.1%)
UUP 312 (0.9%)
Alliance 53 (0.2%)
IRSP 209 (0.6%)
Socialist 148 (0.4%)
Inds 574 (1.7%)

In a six-seat STV election, these votes would have secured SF four seats and the SDLP one, the last being between the fifth Shinner, the DUP and Eirigi.

2010 Westminster election (one seat)

*@Gerry Adams (Sinn Féin) 22,840 (71.1%, +3.5%)
@Alex Attwood (SDLP) 5,261 (16.4%, +0.4%)
William Humphrey (DUP) 2,436 (7.6%, -3.2%)
Bill Manwaring (UCUNF) 1,000 (3.1% +0.6%)
Maire Hendron (Alliance) 596 (1.9% , +1.8%)
Electorate: 59,522; Total Poll: 32,682 (54.9%); Invalid Votes: 549 (1.7%); Valid Votes: 32,133

* incumbent
@ elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly from this constituency

A solid performance from SF in their strongest seat. If those votes were cast in a six-seat Assembly election, SF would probably keep their five seats and the SDLP would retain their seat also.

2007 Assembly Election (7 March, six seats)

Full details of each count are available here.
*Gerry Adams MP (SF) 6029 (17.8%)
+Sue Ramsey (SF) 4715 (14.0%)
Paul Maskey (SF) 4368 (12.9%)
Jennifer McCann (SF) 4265 (12.6%)
*Fra McCann (SF) 4254 (12.6%)
*Diane Dodds (DUP) 3661 (10.8%)
*Alex Attwood (SDLP) 3036 (9.0%)
Margaret Walsh (SDLP) 1074 (3.2%)
Seán Mitchell (People Before Profit Alliance) 774 (2.3%)
Louis West (UUP) 558 (1.7%)
John Lowry (WP) 434 (1.3%)
Geraldine Taylor (RSF) 427 (1.3%)
Daniel McGuinness (Alliance) 127 (0.4%)
Rainbow George (Make Politicians History) 68 (0.2%)

*Elected in 2003 from West Belfast
+Appointed to 2003-07 Assembly to fill a vacancy
SF 23,631 (69.9%, +4.9%) 5 seats (+1)
SDLP 4,110 (12.2%, -6.9%) 1 seat
DUP 3,661 (10.8%, +3.1%) (-1)
People Before Profit 774 (2.3%)
UUP 558 (1.7%, -1.9%)
WP 434 (1.3%, +0.05%)
RSF 427 (1.3%)
Alliance 127 (0.4%, +0.1%)
Rainbow George 68 (0.2%)

Electorate 50,792 
Votes cast 34,238 (67.4%); spoilt votes 448 (1.3%) 
Valid votes 33,790; quota 4,828 

The DUP's loss of a seat, despite a big increase in their vote, was the only defeat they suffered in the entire election. SF's success in retaining most of Adams' vote from the Westminster election, and then ensuring that their five candidates were sufficiently well balanced to each get a seat, was remarkable. McCann (SF) was 481 votes ahead of Dodds (DUP) in on the last count, with 266 undistributed SF transfers which would have widened the margin.

2005 Westminster results (5 May)

*@ Gerry Adams (Sinn Fein) 24,348 (70.5%, +4.4%)
@Alex Attwood (SDLP) 5,033 (14.6%, -4.3%)
@Diane Dodds (DUP) 3,652 (10.6%, +4.2%)
@Chris McGimpsey (UUP) 779 (2.3% -3.9%)
John Lowry (WP) 432 (1.3% -0.5%)
Lynda Gilby (Vote for Yourself Rainbow Dream Ticket) 154 (0.4%, +0.2%)
Liam Kennedy (Independent) 147 (0.4%)
Valid Turnout 34,545 (64.2%)

* outgoing MP
@ member of the Assembly

If cast in a six-seat STV election, these votes would put SF within spitting distance of five seats with the SDLP picking up the last. Any vote leakage from SF would increase the chances of the DUP winning a seat.

2005 Local Government Election (5 May)

The constituency comprises 13 of the 51 wards in Belfast (all 5 wards in the Lower Falls DEA, all 5 wards in the Upper Falls DEA, and 3 of the 5 wards in the Court DEA [Glencairn, Highfield and Shankill]) and 4 of the 30 wards in Lisburn (4 of the 7 wards in the Dunmurry Cross DEA [Collin Glen, Kilwee, Poleglass and Twinbrook]))

Sinn Fein 22,659.8 (66.1%) - Best SF equivalent result in Northern Ireland
SDLP 5,751.9 (16.8%)
DUP 3,841.6 (11.2%)
UUP 739.9 (2.2%)
PUP 479.4 (1.4%)
WP 314 (0.9%)
Independents 476.4 (1.4%)

Extrapolating from the local government elections is tricky because the West Belfast constituency breaches two local electoral area boundaries. If we make some reasonable adjustments, we get these figures for the whole West Belfast constituency. Sinn Fein would certainly have won four seats, the SDLP one, and the DUP one. However I have divided the votes from the Dunmurry Cross DEA as if they were homogenously spread, when in fact it is likely that the SF vote is concentrated in the part of Dunmurry Cross inside West Belfast, so they are probably closer to the fifth seat (at the expense of the DUP) than these figures would suggest.

2003 Assembly election (26 November; six seats)

Also available: details of each count with analysis of surplus transfers.
*Gerry Adams (SF) 6199 (18.9%)
Fra McCann (SF) 4263 (13.0%)
*Bairbre De Brun (SF) 4069 (12.4%)
Michael Ferguson (SF) 3849 (11.7%)
*Alex Attwood (SDLP) 3667 (11.2%)
*Sue Ramsey (SF) 2988 (9.1%)
*Joe Hendron (SDLP) 2583 (7.9%)
Diane Dodds (DUP) 2544 (7.7%)
Chris McGimpsey (UUP) 1170 (3.6%)
Hugh Smyth (PUP) 813 (2.5%)
John Lowry (WP) 407 (1.2%)
John MacVicar (Ind) 211 (0.6%)
Kathryn Ayers (Alliance) 75 (0.2%)
David Kerr (Ulster Third Way) 16 (0.0%)
SF 21,368 (65.0%, +6.0%) 4 seats Best result for SF in Northern Ireland
SDLP 6,250 (19.0%, -5.9%) 1 seat
DUP 2,544 (7.7%, +4.5) 1 seat
UUP 1,170 (3.6%, -0.3%) 
PUP 813 (2.5%, -2.7%)
WP 407 (1.2%, -0.3%) Best result for WP in Northern Ireland
Ind 211 (0.6%)
Alliance 75 (0.2%, -0.10)
UTW 16 (0.0%)

Electorate 50,861 
Votes cast 33,527 (65.9%); spoilt votes 673 (2.0%) 
Valid votes 32,854; quota 4,694 

Reaction:Vote management is difficult when you have a lot of candidates. A more even split between McCann and Ramsey would have seen both elected, and SF taking five out of six. As it was Dodds sneaked in by 87 votes, the closest inter-party race of the election. De Brun resigned from the Assembly after her election to the European Parliament in 2004, and was replaced by Ramsay who had lost out so narrowly. Ferguson died in September 2006; as of the last update to this page, his seat was still vacant.

West Belfast had lost 18.56% of its electorate, more than any other constituency, in the great electoral register shake-out, varying from 25.14% in the Falls ward of Belfast to 11.87% in Highfield, also in Belfast.

2001 Westminster Election (7 June; 1 seat)

*@Gerry Adams (Sinn Fein) 27,096 (66.1%) Best result in Northern Ireland
@Alex Attwood (SDLP) 7,754 (18.9%)
Eric Smyth (DUP) 2,641 (6.4%)
Chris McGimpsey (UUP) 2,541 (6.2%)
John Lowry (WP) 736 (1.8%) Best result in Northern Ireland
David Kerr (Ulster Third Way) 116 (0.3%)
Rainbow George Weiss (Vote for Yourself Party) 98 (0.2%)

Electorate: 59,617; votes cast: 41,698 (69.9%); spoilt votes: 716 (1.7%)
Valid votes: 40,982; SF majority 19,342; turnout 40,982 (69%)

* outgoing MP
@ member of the Assembly

A good result for SF; Adams got the highest vote in both absolute and percentage terms of any candidate in Northern Ireland. If this vote was repeated in a six-seat Assembly election, Sinn Fein would probably win five seats, and the SDLP would get the other one.

2001 Local Government Election (7 June)

The constituency comprises 13 of the 51 wards in Belfast (all 5 wards in the Lower Falls DEA, all 5 wards in the Upper Falls DEA, and 3 of the 5 wards in the Court DEA) and 4 of 30 wards in Lisburn (4 of the 7 wards in the Dunmurry Cross DEA)

SF 24358.4 (60%) Best equivalent result in Northern Ireland
SDLP 7913.1 (20%)
DUP 2515 (6%)
UUP 2235.1 (6%)
PUP 1289.4 (3%)
WP 488 (1%) Best equivalent result in Northern Ireland
NIWC 365 (1%)
Alliance 136 (0.3%)
Ulster Third Way 16.8 (0.04%) Best equivalent result in Northern Ireland
Independents 1163.8 (3%)

Extrapolating from the local government elections is tricky because the West Belfast constituency breaches two local electoral area boundaries. If we make some reasonable adjustments, we get these figures for the whole West Belfast constituency. Sinn Fein would certainly have won four seats, and the SDLP one. There would have been one Unionist seat, with the DUP best placed to win it. However I have divided the votes from the Dunmurry Cross DEA as if they were homogenously spread, when in fact it is likely that the SF vote is concentrated in the part of Dunmurry Cross inside West Belfast.

1998 Assembly Election (25 June; six seats)

Also available: details of each count with analysis of surplus transfers.
 
*Gerry Adams (SF) 9,078 
*Joe Hendron (SDLP) 6,140 
Bairbre De Brun (SF) 4,711 
*Alex Maskey (SF) 4,330 
Alex Attwood (SDLP) 4,280 
Sue Ramsey (SF) 3,946 
Michael Ferguson (SF) 2,585 
#Hugh Smyth (PUP) 2,180 
Chris McGimpsey (UUP) 1,640 
Margaret Ferris (DUP) 1,345 
Thomas Dalzell-Sheridan (UKUP) 666 
John Lowry (WP) 607 
Dan McGuinness (All) 129 
Mary Cahillane (Pro-Agreement Socialist) 128 
Michael Kennedy (NLP) 29 
SF 24,650 (58.98%) 4 seats
        Best result for SF in Northern Ireland
SDLP 10,420 (24.93%) 2 seats
PUP 2,180 (5.22%) 
UUP 1,640 (3.92%) 
DUP 1,345 (3.22%) 
UKU 666 (1.59%) 
WP 607 (1.45%) 
Alliance 129 (0.31%) 
Soc 128 (0.31%) 
NLP 29 (0.07%) 

Electorate: 60,669 
Votes cast: 42,754 (70.5%); spoilt votes 960 (2.2%) 
Valid votes: 41,794; quota: 5,971 

* elected in 1996 Forum/talks election from West Belfast
# elected in 1996 Forum/talks election as a 'top-up' candidate.

A strong result for Sinn Féin in their strongest constituency. The failure of even one Unionist candidate to win a seat is not all that surprising given recent voting patterns. Attwood finished with 5,350 votes and 350 surplus votes from Sinn Féin yet to be transferred, while McGimsey on 4,838 was still some way behind.

West Belfast had the highest percentage of spoilt votes in Northern Ireland at this election.

1997 Local Government Election

Sinn Féin 21,544.5 (59%) Best equivalent result for SF in Northern Ireland
Social Democratic and Labour Party 6,241.5 (17%)
Ulster Unionist Party 2,442.3 (7%)
Progressive Unionist Party 1,842 (5%)
Democratic Unionist Party 1,387.6 (4%)
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland 889.4 (2%)
Ulster Democratic Party 720 (2%)
Workers Party 674 (2%)
Independent 251 (1%)
Independent Unionist 244.2 (1%)
Women's Coalition 90 (0.25%)
Total valid 36,326.5 (58.82%)

1997 Westminster Election

ƒGerry Adams (Sinn Féin) 25,662 (56%) Best result for SF in Northern Ireland
*ƒJoe Hendron (Social Democratic and Labour Party) 17,753 (39%)
Frederick Parkinson (Ulster Unionist Party) 1,556 (3%)
John Lowry (Workers' Party) 721 (2%)
Liam Kennedy (Human Rights) 102 (0.22%)
Mary Daly (Natural Law Party) 91 (0.20%)
Turnout 45,885 (74.27%)

* Outgoing MP
ƒ Member of the Forum

1996 Forum Election

Also available: full list of 1996 candidates

Sinn Féin (SF) 22,355 (53%); 4 seats (Gerry Adams, Dodie McGuinness, Alex Maskey, Annie Armstrong) Best result for SF in Northern Ireland
Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) 11,087 (26%); 1 seat (Joe Hendron)
Progressive Unionist Party 1,982 (5%)
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) 1,769 (4%)
Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) 1,489 (4%)
Workers Party (WP) 984 (2%)
Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) 848 (2%)
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI) 340 (1%)
Labour (Lab) 319 (1%)
Northern Ireland Women's Coalition (NIWC) 252 (1%)
Green Party 156 (0.37%)
Conservative Party (Con) 60 (0.14%)
Ulster Independence Movement (UIM) 43 (0.10%)
Democratic Left (DL) 37 (0.09%)
Independent Democratic Unionist Party 36 (0.09%)
Natural Law Party (NLP) 30 (0.07%)
Communist Party of Ireland (CP) 28 (0.07%)
Ulster's Independent Voice (UIV) 26 (0.06%)
Independent Chambers 12 (0.03%)

Electorate: 61,344; votes cast: 42,026 (68.5%); spoilt votes: 173 (0.4%); valid votes: 41,853

Hendron had been elected to the 1975 Convention, and both Hendron and Adams to the 1982 Assembly, from West Belfast.

Results 1996-2007


DUP UUP PUP Oth U Alliance Oth SDLP SF
2007a
11% 2%

0% 5% 12% 70%
2005w 11% 2%


2% 15% 70%
2005lg 11% 2% 1%

2% 17% 66%
2003a 8% 4% 2% 1% 0% 1% 19% 65%
2001w 6% 6%


2% 19% 66%
2001lg 6% 6% 3%
0% 5% 20% 60%
1998a 3% 4% 5% 2% 0% 2% 25% 59%
1997lg 4% 7% 5% 3% 2% 3% 17% 59%
1997w
3%


2% 39% 56%
1996f 4% 4% 4% 2% 1% 4% 26% 53%

See also: Full 1998 results from West Belfast | The Boundary Commission's Provisional Recommendations | Boundary Commission 2003 | Jim Riley's analysis of votes and seats in the 1998 Assembly election | The constituencies

Other sites based at ARK: ORB (Online Research Bank) | CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet) | Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey

Your comments, please! Send an email to me at nicholas.whyte@gmail.com.
 
This page has been developed with the support of a project grant from the New Initiatives Fund of the Electoral Commission. However, any views expressed on this page or, in particular, other pages of this website are those of the author and not necessarily shared by The Electoral Commission.

Nicholas Whyte, 3 June 1998; last updated 8 May 2010.



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