Northern Ireland Political Parties

For general information about political parties in Northern Ireland since 1922, the whole of Ireland 1801-1922, England, Scotland, and Wales, I urge you to get hold of Politico's Guide to the History of British Political Parties by David Boothroyd available from Politico's. I had some input into the Irish entries.

56 political parties are registered to contest elections in Northern Ireland. 18 seem certain or likely to contest the 2005 elections. (3 parties which have a recent electoral record are no longer on the register.) Another 8 are on the register with a genuine Northern Ireland presence but are unlikely to formally contest in 2005. The remaining 30 are parties on the Great Britain electoral register which have simply taken advantage of the fact that it costs nothing more to register for Northern Ireland.

Registered and fighting in 2005

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)

Now the largest Unionist party, led since its foundation in 1970 by Rev Ian Paisley MLA MP MEP. The largest party opposed to the Agreement. Has always topped the poll at European elections, and gained most votes in 2003 Assembly election. Recent election results range from 14% to 28%. Web-site at
Sinn Féin (SF)
Since 2001 the larger Nationalist party, led since mid-1980s by Gerry Adams MLA MP. Often linked with IRA. Recent election results range from 16% to 24%. Web-site at
Ulster Unionist Party (UUP)
Until 2003 the largest Unionist party, led since 2005 by Sir Reg Empey MLA. Recent election results range from 18% to 33%. Web-site at
Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP)
Before 2001, the largest Nationalist party, led since November 2001 by Mark Durkan MLA, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. Recent election results range from 19% to 28%. Web-site at
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
Largest "cross-community" party in Northern Ireland. Led since October 2001 by David Ford MLA. Recent election results range from 2% to 8%. Web-site at
Progressive Unionist Party (PUP)
Smaller Unionist party founded in 1970s. Often linked with UVF and other Loyalist groups. Recent election results range from 0.6% to 3%. Web-site at
United Kingdom Unionist Party (UKUP)
Smaller Unionist party led by Robert McCartney MLA since he founded it in 1995. Also opposed to the Agreement. Recent election results range from 0.5% to 5%. Web-site now at
Northern Ireland Women's Coalition (NIWC)
Cross-community grouping founded in 1996. Only runs women candidates (as you would guess from the name). Recent election results range from 0.4% to 2%. Web-site at
Socialist Environmental Alliance
Coalition led by the Socialist Workers Party, which supported four unsuccessful candidates (three in Derry, one in Belfast) in the 2001 local elections, ran two unsuccessful candidate for the 2003 Assembly elections and one for the 2004 European election. Recent election results range from 0.35% to 1.6%. Web-site now at
Green Party
Environmental politics, linked closely with the Green Party/Comhaontas Glas in the Republic who have 2 MEPs and 6 TDs, and also less closely with the Green Parties in Scotland, England and Wales. Recent election results range from 0.1% to 0.9%. Web-site at http// Formerly (long time ago) the Ecology Party.
Workers Party
Had its roots in the old IRA but is now avowedly non-sectarian and socialist; formerly known as "Republican Clubs". Recent election results range from 0.2% to 0.5%. Web-site at
Conservative Party
NI branch of party led by Michael Howard MP. Local activists opposed the Agreement though the national party was in favour. Recent election results (in Northern Ireland) range from 0.2% to 1%. Northern Ireland branch website at; national party web-site at at The Ulster Unionist Party functioned in all respects as the Northern Ireland wing of the Conservatives until 1972.
United Unionist Coalition
Founded September 1998 as the United Unionist Assembly Party, included the three members of the Assembly elected as Independent Unionists in 1998 on an anti-Agreement ticket. The party got 0.3% of the votes in Northern Ireland in the 2001 local government election, and 0.4% in the 2003 Assembly elections in which all three lost their seats. No web-site.
Newtownabbey Ratepayers Association
have one councillor in Newtownabbey, got 0.1% in 2001 local elections.
Socialist Party (Northern Ireland)
Formerly Militant, with a web-site at; linked to the Socialist Party which has one member of the Dáil. Got 0.05% in the 2003 Assembly election.
Ulster Third Way
pro independence for Northern Ireland; stood in West Belfast in 2001 and 2003, and got very little. Website at
Vote for Yourself Rainbow Dream Ticket
stood as the Vote for Yourself Party in all four Belfast constituencies in the 2001 Westminster election. Came last in all four. Website at
Official Anti-Trimble Unionist
standing one candidate in Castlereagh; appears to oppose any proposed water tax.

Gone but not forgotten

The following parties have stood in recent Northern Ireland elections but are no longer registered:

Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) (dissolved 2001)

Smaller Unionist party founded in early 1980s. Often linked with UDA and other Loyalist groups. Recent election results range from 1% to 2%. Announced that it was dissolving on 28 November 2001.
Natural Law Party (no longer contesting elections)
Linked with the transcendental meditation movement. Recent election results range from 0.01% to 0.3%. Have announced that they will not contest elections in future.
Community Candidates
fought the 2001 local government elections in Antrim, got 0.2% and nobody elected.

Maintaining a ghostly presence

The following parties are also officially registered with the Electoral Commission but seem unlikely to run candidates in 2005:

Labour - Federation of Labour Groups

Unrelated to the parties led by Tony Blair MP or Ruari Quinn TD. Recent election results range from 0.3% to 1%. Web-site (I think these are the same people) at
Labour Party of Northern Ireland
Not sure about their relationship with the above; led by one of the two Labour representatives elected to the Forum/Talks in 1996.
Northern Ireland Unionist Party (NIUP)
Formed by defectors from the UKUP in 1999. The party got 0.2% across Northern Ireland in both legs of the 2001 election, and a similar vote share in the 2003 Assembly election (in which all members lost their seats). Website dead.

Europe First

was set up as a potential flag of convenience for independent European candidate in 2004; in the end he stood as an independent candidate
Ulster Protestant League
registered leader is Newtownabbey councillor Tommy Kirkham, but he is standing as for re-election as an independent candidate.
The Renaissance Independent Party of Europe
has a mailing address in County Down.
Community Awareness Party/ Protecting Children
advocates an extension of "Megan's Law" to Northern Ireland.
Workers Union of Ireland
presumably a fan club of legendary socialist Jim Larkin.

Invisible except to the trained eye

The following parties are also officially registered with the Electoral Commission for Northern Ireland elections, but as of April 2005 have no contact address or recent electoral record in Northern Ireland:

See the official register for further details.

1996 Forum elections

The following parties were all entitled to stand in the 1996 Forum elections, the first time that any system of party registration was used in Northern Ireland, and in most cases have not been heard from since.
Ulster Independence Movement (UIM): Also stood in the 1990 Upper Bann by-election and the 1994 European Parliament election.
Democratic Left (DL): Split from the Workers Party in 1992, and fought that year's general election as "New Agenda". Was an all-Ireland party with four members of the Dáil elected in 1997. In the 1998 Assembly elections they supported the Labour candidates. Later in 1998 they merged with the Irish Labour Party led by Ruari Quinn.
Democratic Partnership: A well-intentioned movement founded by former Peace People and NI Labour personalities (specifically David Bleakley), now defunct.
Independent McMullan Led by a Moyle councillor but merged with the New Ireland Group which is vaguely nationalist in a liberal sort of way. McMullan stood unsuccessfully for the Assembly in 1998 as an independent.
Independent Chambers Led by a North Down councillor, definitely Unionist in ethos. Chambers also stood unsuccessfully in 1998.
Independent DUP: Another small North Down based grouping, now defunct.
Arthur Templeton: Veteran South Antrim independent Unionist.
Ulster's Independent Voice (UIV): Yet another small North Down grouping, also stood unsuccessfully in 1998.
Communist Party (CP): Old revolutionaries never die, they simply fade away.
Ulster Christian Democrats (UCD): Possibly more eccentric than the Natural Law Party, wanted all churches to recognise the Northern Irish state (a reference to the fact that the main churches are all organised on an all-Ireland basis) and a Chief Rabbi for Northern Ireland to be employed by the state to teach the Old Testament (to whom he would teach was never made clear). Still have a website at
The Northern Ireland Party: run by Robert Mooney, yet another North Down eccentric; disqualified from standing in 1996.
Independent Patrick McCaffrey: Fermanagh councillor; disqualified from standing in 1996.
The British Ulster Unionist Party: run by former Vanguard man Professor Kennedy Lindsay; did not put candidates forward in 1996.
Independent Seamus Kerr: Omagh councillor; did not put candidates forward in 1996.
Independent Brian McGrath: another Omagh councillor; did not put candidates forward in 1996.
Independent Ian Sinclair: yet another North Down figure, a councillor and former member of James Kilfedder's UPUP; did not put candidates forward in 1996.
No Going Back: a Trotskyite front which eventually backed the Labour candidates in 1996.


The following parties additional to those listed above have won at least two seats at regional level or at least one Westminster seat in Northern Ireland since 1921:
Anti-H-Block: Won Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election caused by death of MP Frank Maguire in 1981. The winning candidate was IRA hunger-striker Bobby Sands, who died 25 days later. This gave him the grim record as the MP with the briefest tenure since the new MP for Smethwick was killed the day after the 1945 election. New legislation barred convicted felons from standing in elections, so the ensuing by-election was won by Sands' election agent, Owen Carron. He lost the seat in 1983, standing as a Sinn Féin candidate.
Irish Labour Party: Won the Dock seat twice in 1953 and 1962, and held West Belfast at Westminster 1951-55. Still thriving in the Republic but does not seem to have fought an election in the North since Gerry Fitt left it for the Republican Labour Party in 1964.
Nationalist Party: won an average of eight seats at each Northern Ireland House of Commons election, peaking at 11 in 1929 due to the abolition of proportional representation; tended to win the two Fermanagh and Tyrone seats at Westminster. Wiped out in 1973 Assembly election.
Northern Ireland Labour Party: peaked at 4 seats in the 1958 and 1962 Stormont elections; held one seat in East Belfast in 1973 Assembly and 1975 Convention; fought but did not win East Belfast in 1982 Assembly election. Former NILP figures are still active in a variety of groups.
Republican Labour Party: Founded by Harry Diamond and Gerry Fitt in 1964; both were already Stormont MPs. Fitt won the West Belfast Westminster seat in 1966. Diamond lost his Stormont seat in 1968 but the party gained a seat elsewhere. Fitt also held West Belfast in the 1970 general election. Shortly afterwards he co-founded the SDLP and became its first leader, bringing most for the Republican Labour Party with him. Diamond struggled on but the party was wiped out in the 1973 elections.
Socialist Republican Party: One-man party of Harry Diamond, until he formed the Republican Labour Party with Gerry Fitt in 1964 (and as someone quipped, two one-man parties became one two-man party)
Ulster Liberal Party: Sheelagh Murnaghan won a seat in the Queen's University constituency in 1961, and held it until the QUB seats were abolished in 1968. The Liberals fought and did badly in the 1973 Assembly and 1979 European elections. They remain active as the NI branch of the Liberal Democrats but have a policy of not contesting elections as long as Alliance remains a more credible liberal force.
Ulster Popular Unionist Party: Founded in 1980 by dissident UUP MP James Kilfedder in North Down. Managed a handful of councillors in his area but the party died with him in 1995. See the North Down 1995 page for more details.
Unionist Party of Northern Ireland: Founded by Brian Faulkner after the collapse of the power-sharing executive in 1974. Won five seats in 1975 Convention election. Faulkner resigned in 1976 and the party was then led by Anne Dickson, first woman to lead a political party in either part of Ireland. Subsequent election results were not good and the party was wound up in 1981.
United Ulster Unionist Party: A party whose name was somewhat inappropriate, founded as it was in 1975 as a splinter group from Vanguard, itself a splinter group from the UUP. Leader was Ernest Baird. Mid-Ulster MP John Dunlop, who had won as Vanguard in the 1974 elections, held the seat as UUUP in 1979 thanks to a Unionist pact. The party was wiped out in the 1982 Assembly election and Dunlop did not stand again.
Unity: Not so much a party as a label for Nationalist Westminster candidates in border areas, most famously adopted by Bernadette Devlin when she won the 1968 Mid-Ulster by-election. She was re-elected in 1970 and a colleague won the Fermanagh and South Tyrone seat. Both seats were lost to Unionists in the first 1974 election due to a split nationalist vote with the SDLP, though Frank Maguire, who held Fermanagh and South Tyrone as an independent from the second 1974 election until his death in 1981, could be seen as part of that tradition.
Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party: founded by dissident UUP leading figure Bill Craig; won 7 seats in 1973 Assembly, 3 seats in both 1974 Westminster elections, and 14 seats in 1975 Constitutional Convention making it the third largest party. The party then split over Craig's support for "voluntary coalition" with the SDLP; the majority faction including David Trimble and Reg Empey) merged with the UUP and the minority struggled on as the UUUP.

See also: The Boundary Commission's Provisional Recommendations | Boundary Commission 2003 | Jim Riley's analysis of votes and seats in the 1998 Assembly election | Gerrymandering | The constituencies | The political parties | The NI Executive | Useful books and links

Results from 1996 to 2001 for each seat: East Belfast | North Belfast | South Belfast | West Belfast | East Antrim | North Antrim | South Antrim | North Down | South Down | Fermanagh and South Tyrone | Foyle | Lagan Valley | East Londonderry | Mid Ulster | Newry and Armagh | Strangford | West Tyrone | Upper Bann

Surveys of each recent election: 2004 European | 2003 Assembly | 2001 Westminster | 2001 local govt | 2000 S Antrim | 1999 European | 1998 Assembly | 1997 local govt | 1997 Westminster | 1996 Forum | 1995 N Down | 1994 European | 1993 local govt | 1992 Westminster | 1989 European | 1989 local govt | 1987 Westminster | 1986 by-elections | 1985 local govt | 1984 European | 1983 Westminster | 1982 Assembly | 1981 local govt | 1979 European | 1979 Westminster | 1977 local govt | 1975 Convention | Oct 1974 Westminster | Feb 1974 Westminster | 1973 Assembly | 1973 local govt | Summary of all Northern Ireland elections since 1973 | Brief summary of election results 1997-2003

Historical pieces:Westminster elections 1885-1910 | The 1918 election | Dáil elections since 1918 | Westminster elections since 1920 | Senate of Southern Ireland 1921 | Irish Senate elections in 1925 | Northern Ireland House of Commons | Northern Ireland Senate

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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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 December 2000; last updated Sunday, July 03, 2005.

Disclaimer:© Nicholas Whyte 1998-2005 Last Updated on Sunday, July 03, 2005 12:45:04