Northern Ireland and the European Parliament

Members of the European Parliament have been directly elected since 1979. The whole of Northern Ireland forms a three-member constituency, and elections take place every five years by proportional representation (using the Single Transferable Vote) as for local councils and most regional-level elections. The first five elections produced very similar results, with the DUP (Ian Paisley Sr), SDLP (John Hume) and UUP (John Taylor, now Lord Kilclooney, in 1979 and 1984, Jim Nicholson in 1989, 1994 and 1999) taking one seat each at every election. In 2004, Paisley was replaced on the DUP ticket by Jim Allister, and Hume was replaced on the SDLP ticket by Martin Morgan; the seat, however, was lost to Bairbre de Brún of Sinn Féin. Allister left the DUP in 2007, and lost his seat to Diane Dodds of his former party in what was probably the most interesting European election in Northern Ireland since 1979 (though that is not saying much).

The 2009 European elections took place on 4 June 2004, and the votes were counted on Monday 8 June. (See spreadsheet.) I decided not to hold a predictions contest this year because of technical difficulties.

The 2009 European Elections

Incumbent MEP Jim Allister stood as the candidate of Traditional Unionist Voice, a new political party which he founded after leaving the DUP in 2007. He was elected to the European Parliament as a DUP candidate in 2004, having previously represented the party in the 1982-86 Assembly for North Antrim. He came close to winning the new East Antrim seat for the DUP in the 1983 Westminster election, and was a DUP councillor in Newtownabbey from 1985 to 1989. Website:

The Sinn Féin candidate was Bairbre de Brún, who had been an MEP since 2004. She was previously elected in West Belfast in both the 1998 and 2003 Assembly elections, and a candidate on SF's regional list in 1996. Long before that, she taught me French at Rathmore Grammar School. Website:

The Conservative and Unionist candidate was Jim Nicholson, who has been an MEP since 1989 and was previously MP for Newry and Armagh from 1983-1986, a member of the 1982-86 Assembly for Armagh, and a councillor in Armagh from 1977 to 1997. Website:

The DUP candidate was Diane Dodds, who was elected to the 2003-2007 Assembly for West Belfast, and had been a Belfast City Councillor since 2005. She is married to Nigel Dodds, the DUP MP for North Belfast. Website:

The SDLP candidate was Alban Maginness, a member of Belfast City Council since 1985 (and the first nationalist Lord Mayor in 1997-98), who was elected for Belfast North in the 1996 forum/talks election and the 1998, 2003 and 2007 Assembly elections. Website:

The Alliance Party candidate was Ian James Parsley, who had been a North Down councillor since 2005. Website at

The Green Party candidate was Steven Agnew, who was also the Green Party candidate in 2007 in East Belfast. Website:


First count

Bairbre De Brún, Sinn Fein - 126,184 (26%)
Diane Dodds, DUP - 88,346 (18.2%)
Jim Nicholson, Ulster Conservative and Unionist - 82,893 (17.1%)
Alban Maginness, SDLP - 78,489 (16.2%)
Jim Allister, Traditional Unionist Voice - 66,197 (13.7%)
Ian Parsley, Alliance - 26,699 (5.5%)
Steven Agnew, Green Party - 15,764 (3.3%)

Electorate 1,141,979; total vote 488,891; spoilt 4,319 (0.9%);
valid votes 484,572; Quota: 121,144

De Brún had 5,040 more votes than the quota, and was deemed elected. Her 5,040, however, was less than the gap between Agnew and Parsley, and also less than the difference between their combined votes and Allister's, so they were elimninated and their votes transferred.

Second Count

Alban Maginness (SDLP) +16,325 = 94,814
Jim Nicholson (UCUNF) +11,392 = 94,285
Diane Dodds (DUP) +2,914 = 91,260
Jim Allister (TUV) +4,284 = 70,481
Non-transferable: 7,548 

The vote from the centre parties split fairly evenly, 37% to the remaining Nationalist candidate, 42% to the three Unionists (and 17% to nobody). This was not enough to get anyone over the quota; Allister was eliminated and his votes redistributed.

Third Count

Jim Nicholson (UCUNF) + 37,942 = 132,227
Diane Dodds (DUP) + 24,462 = 115,722
Alban Maginness (SDLP) + 2,614 = 97,428
5,463 non-transferable 

53% of Allister's transfers went to Nicholson and only 37% to his former colleague Dodds. (5% went nowhere and 3% to the SDLP). This was enough to get Nicholson over the quota; his 11,113 surplus and De Brún's 5,040, even had they all gone to Maginness, could not have closed the gap between him and Dodds, so she was declared elected without having met the quota.

Graphic presentation of results, as ever, by Conal Kelly.

Parliamentary Groups

The group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats is at present the largest in the European Parliament and includes Nicholson, the British Conservatives and Fine Gael's MEPs. The Conservatives, including Nicholson if he is elected, are likely to leave this grouping and form a new right-wing group in the 2009-2014 parliament.

The sixth largest group, the United European Left/Nordic Green Left, includes Sinn Fein's Bairbre de Brún.

Diane Dodds will presumably be anon-inscrite, one of the members not attached to any group, and Jim Allister and Ian Paisley were before her.

Past elections


This graph shows the performances of the main parties in the nine direct elections to the European Parliament (fuller details in table below). You can find a summary of the results of the most recent NI elections elsewhere and on a different page is a summary of NI election results since 1973.

2009 2004 1999 1994 1989 1984 1979
SF 22.2%
26.0% 26.3% 17.3% 9.9% 9.1% 13.3%  
DUP 21.8%
18.2% 32.0% 28.4% 29.2% 29.9% 33.6% 29.8%
Alliance 18.5%
5.5% (6.6%) 2.1% 4.1% 5.2% 5.0% 6.8%
SDLP 13.7%
16.2% 15.9% 28.1% 28.9% 25.5% 22.1% 24.6%
TUV 10.8%
UUP 9.3%
17.1% 16.6% 17.6% 23.8% 22.2% 21.5% 21.9%
Green 2.2%
3.3% 0.9%

1.2% 0.3%

Jane Morrice

Neil McCann

Conservative 0.1%

1.0% 4.8%

Bernadette McAliskey

James Kilfedder


2.9% 6.7%








David Bleakley


Ulster Independence (various)



Workers Party


0.3% 1.0% 1.3% 0.8%


Labour (various)


0.3% 0.9% 
Natural Law

  0.1% 0.3%



Peace Coalition




See also:

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, 30 May 2009; modified 9 June

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Disclaimer:© Nicholas Whyte 1998-2004 Last Updated on Wednesday, 13-Apr-2022 18:16