The 1999 European Elections

For more information about the European Parliament and European elections see the 2009 European elections page.

The first preference votes cast in the European election in Northern Ireland on 10 June 1999 (see spreadsheet):
Democratic Unionist Party (Rev Ian Paisley MP MEP MLA)
192,762 (28.4%)
Social Democratic and Labour Party (John Hume MP MEP MLA)
190,731 (28.1%)
Ulster Unionist Party (Jim Nicholson MEP)
119,507 (17.6%)
Sinn Féin (Mitchell McLaughlin MLA)
117,643 (17.3%)
Progressive Unionist Party (David Ervine MLA)
22,494 (3.31%)
United Kingdom Unionist Party (Bob McCartney MP MLA)
20,283 (2.98%)
Alliance Party (Sean Neeson MLA)
14,391 (2.12%)
Natural Law Party (James Anderson)
998 (0.15%)
Turnout was 687,573 of the 1,191,307 electorate. 8,764 votes were invalid; 678,809 votes were valid. The quota was 169,703.
Candidates' previous electoral records
It is difficult to know what to make of this election result, marking as it did a period of uncertainty in the peace process. Both McLaughlin and McCartney before the election were talking up their chances of displacing Nicholson; in the event, despite the UUP's historically low vote, McCartney was beaten by Nicholson, McLaughlin and Ervine, and McLaughlin would have needed another 50,000 votes to chalenge Nicholson seriously. Even the record slump in the Alliance vote may not indicate much more than the party's difficulty in persuading even normally loyal supporters to vote for it in a contest which Alliance was unlikely to win and where moderates would be very tempted to strengthen Nicholson, Ervine and Hume against Paisley, McCartney and McLaughlin. The strength of the Nationalist vote compared with other elections of the last few years reflects more a differential turnout than a real demographic shift. However the real demographic shift is visible in the difference between this election and 1994.
The SDLP and DUP candidates (Hume and Paisley) were both declared elected on the first count as their votes exceeded the quota (169,703).

The bottom four candidates (Nat Law, Alliance, UKUP and PUP) were eliminated and their votes redistributed to the only two contenders remaining, Nicholson (UUP) and McLaughlin (SF). Of the 58,166 votes available, Nicholson received 43,120 and McLaughlin 1,709, leaving them with totals of 162,627 and 119,352 respectively after the second count.

Nicholson was still short of the quota, so Paisley's surplus of 22,969 votes was redistributed between the two remaining candidates. Not very surprisingly Nicholson received the vast majority of these - 22,162 - but McLaughlin still managed to pick up 32 of them. Nicholson was now well ahead of McLaughlin, by 184,739 votes to 119,384, and also clear of the quota. He was therefore declared elected, completing the process (Hume's surplus of 21,028 votes could not have made a difference to the outcome at this stage).

Some people express incredulity that any first preference vote for Paisley could end up with Sinn Féin, as 32 did in 1999 (and 59 in 1994). Of course because these are fractions the true number may be six or seven times as many. My attitude has always been that one should not underestimate the intelligence of the voter. Paisley's reputation for constituency work is well known; I don't find it outside the realms of credibility that there are a few hundred voters in the Glens who give him a first preference on his local record rather than his policies, and then transfer to Hume (who has already been elected) and SF before considering anyone else.

Past elections


This graph shows the performances of the main parties in the five direct elections to the European parliament held so far (NB that the 2004 result in yellow is that of independent candidate John Gilliland, not the Alliance Party). You can find a summary of the results of the five most recent NI elections elsewhere and on a different page is a summary of NI election results since 1973; see also the 1994 European election page.

See also:

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

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Nicholas Whyte, 18 May 1999

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