Northern Ireland Assembly Elections 1973

The old Stormont House of Commons and Senate were prorogued in March 1972. A referendum on the future status of Northern Ireland was held on 8 March 1973, which produced a huge majority (of those who voted) in favour of staying within the United Kingdom. The 1973 Assembly was elected on the basis of the British government's White Paper on the future of Northern Ireland, the basic concept being that the government could "no longer be solely based upon any single party, if that party draws its support and its elected representation virtually entirely from only one section of a divided community." The 78 members of the Assembly were the sum of the 52 members of the old Stormont House of Commons and the 26 members of the Senate; they were elected by proportional respresentation from the existing Westminster seats, or rather from the new boundaries that had been approved shortly after the 1970 Westminster election.

The results gave former Northern Ireland Prime Minister Brian Faulkner's pro-White Paper wing of the UUP 24 seats, not quite a majority within Unionism whose other branches combined had 26 seats. Faulkner formed a coalition with the SDLP and Alliance Party which took office on 1 January 1974 and was overthrown by the Ulster Workers Council's general strike on 28 May. Direct rule from London then resumed for 26 years.

Results summary

See spreadsheet archive.
UUP, pro-White Paper 182,696 votes 25.3% 24 seats
SDLP 159,773 votes
19 seats
DUP 78,228 votes 10.8% 8 seats
UUP, anti-White Paper 76,094 votes 10.5% 7 seats
Vanguard 75,709 votes 11.5% 7 seats
Alliance 66,541 votes 9.2% 8 seats
NILP 18,675 votes 2.6% 1 seat
West Belfast Loyalist Coalition 16,869 votes 2.3% 3 seats
Ind U's 13,755 votes 1.9% 1 seat
Republican Clubs 13,064 votes 1.8%
Nationalist 6,270 votes 0.9%
Independents 4,091 votes 0.6%
Loyalists 2,752 votes 0.4%
Ind pro-White Paper 2,008 votes 0.3%
Ind Nationalist 2,000 votes 0.3%
Republican Labour 1,750 votes 0.2%
Liberal 811 votes 0.1%
National Front 591 votes 0.1%
Ulster Constitutional Loyalist 202 votes 0.03%
Ind Loyalist 189 votes 0.03%
Communists 123 votes 0.02%

This was a confused election, and assigning definite positions to all the candidates almost thirty years on has been a difficult task. My three authorites are Brian Walker's guide to parliamentary election results in Ireland, 1918-1992; Flackes and Elliott's indispensable Directory; and James Knight's guide to the elections published by the Arthur McDougall Fund for the Electoral Reform Society. Mostly they agree. However the following discrepancies should be noted:
Leslie Morrell, elected for the UUP in Londonderry, was a political ally of Brian Faulkner's who, however, refused to sign the pledge required by Faulkner of pro-White Paper candidates. He is listed by both Walker and Knight as pro-White Paper, but (with inaccurate shorthand) by Flackes and Elliott as anti. Bew and Gillespie's chronology states, not completely accurately, that he alone "changed sides" after the election from anti to pro. I have tallied him as pro. (Note added November 2005: I am very grateful to Mr Morrell for clarification on this point.)
In the other direction, Austin Ardill (South Antrim) and Jim Kilfedder (North Down) are listed by both Walker and Knight as anti-White Paper; they had however signed Faulkner's pledge and so are listed by Flackes and Elliott as pro, with again a mention by Bew and Gillespie that they changed sides after the election from pro to anti. I have tallied them as anti's.
Samuel Steele, an unsuccessful UUP candidate in North Antrim, is listed as pro-White Paper by Knight and anti by Walker. Here I have followed Knight who was closer to the events.


The closest results were:

  1. John Ferguson (Alliance) defeated Cecil Walker (UUP, pro-White Paper) by 88 votes in North Belfast; Ferguson was to be less lucky in 1975, and Alliance scraped in again for the last seat in North Belfast in 1982. Walker meanwhile served as Westminster MP for the seat from 1983 to 2001.
  2. Bertie McConnell (Alliance) defeated Andrew Donaldson (UUP, pro-White Paper) by 233 votes in North Down
  3. David Bleakley (NILP) defeated Walter McFarland (UUP, pro-White Paper) by 255 votes in East Belfast

No other inter-party contest was closer than 1300 votes.

The spirit of '69...

Women in the Assembly election

Only four women (5.1% of the total membership) were elected to the Assembly, Anne Dickson (Ind U, South Antrim), Eileen Paisley (DUP, East Belfast), Jean Coulter (WBLC, West Belfast) and Shena Conn (UUP (anti), Londonderry). Sixteen of the 210 candidates (6.7%) were women; the twelve unsuccessful female candidates were Joan Tomlin (Alliance, South Antrim), Deirdre Byrne (NILP, South Antrim), Kate Condy (Alliance, East Belfast), Elsie Logan (UUP (pro), East Belfast), Sarah Hughes (Ind, East Belfast), Grace Bannister (Ind U, South Belfast), Jean Graham (Alliance, South Belfast), Sheelagh Munaghan (Liberal, South Belfast), Maureen Smyth (Alliance, West Belfast), Kathleen McClure (UUP (pro), North Down), Cecilia Linehan (Alliance, North Down), and Grace Delap Stevenson (NILP, Londonderry). East Belfast had four women candidates who got a total of 7,187 first preferences (12.6%) but they were collectively beaten by the three women candidates in South Antrim who polled 11,164 firrst preferences (14.9%). The percentage of women candidates by party is as follows: Liberals 50%, WBLC 33.3%, Alliance 11.4%, NILP 11.1%, UUP (anti) 7.7%, DUP 5.9%, UUP (pro) 5.1%, and SDLP and Vanguard zero.

Constituency List

East Belfast (6 seats): 3 UUP (pro), 1 Alliance, 1 DUP, 1 NILP
North Belfast (6 seats): 2 UUP (pro), 1 SDLP, 1 DUP, 1 UUP (anti), 1 Alliance
South Belfast (6 seats): 4 UUP (pro), 1 Alliance, 1 DUP
West Belfast (6 seats): 3 WBLC, 2 SDLP, 1 Alliance
North Antrim (7 seats): 2 UUP (pro), 2 DUP, 1 SDLP, 1 Vanguard, 1 Alliance
South Antrim (8 seats): 2 UUP (pro), 1 DUP, 1 UUP (anti), 1 Alliance, 1 Ind U, 1 Vanguard, 1 SDLP
Armagh (7 seats): 3 SDLP, 2 UUP (pro), 1 Vanguard, 1 DUP
North Down (7 seats): 3 UUP (pro), 2 Alliance, 1 UUP (anti), 1 DUP
South Down (7 seats): 3 SDLP, 2 UUP (pro), 1 Vanguard, 1 UUP (anti)
Fermanagh & South Tyrone (5 seats): 2 SDLP, 2 UUP (pro), 1 Vanguard
Londonderry (7 seats): 3 SDLP, 2 UUP (anti), 1 UUP (pro), 1 DUP
Mid-Ulster (6 seats): 3 SDLP, 1 UUP (pro), 1 Vanguard, 1 UUP (anti)

See also:

Results from 1973 to 1982 for each seat: East Belfast | North Belfast | South Belfast | West Belfast | North Antrim | South Antrim | Armagh | North Down | South Down | Fermanagh and South Tyrone | Londonderry | Mid Ulster

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, 25 March 2003.

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Disclaimer: Nicholas Whyte 1998-2004 Last Updated on Tuesday, November 08, 2005 22:35:15