The 1922 Westminster Elections in Northern Ireland

The Elections

Following the collapse of the Liberal-Conservative coalition government, a general election was called for 15 November 1922. The Conservatives, under the leadership of Austen Chamberlain, were the larger partner in the coalition that had been first established during the First World War. However, under Liberal Prime Minister Lloyd George, many back-bench Conservatives became restless and wanted a return to single-party government. This discontent was also fueled by a slump in the economy and a wave of strikes in the coal and railway industries, as well as a scandal involving the sale of honours.

It was, however, Lloyd George's strident handling of the Chanak Affair, whereby war was threatened with Turkey without proper consultation with his government that would seal the fate of the coalition. Backbench Conservative MPs withdrew from the coalition leading to the resignation of both the prime minister and their party leader. In the election that followed the Conservatives managed to achieve a comfortable majority, despite division between supporters of their new leader Andrew Bonar Law and ousted leader Chamberlain. The equally divided Liberal Party, split between Lloyd George and Asquith factions, came a poor third. The Labour Party, challenging on a national level for the first time, came in second becomming the offical opposition for the first time.

From an Irish perspective, this was a landmark election and for the first time since 1801 most of Ireland did not participate in the UK parliamentary election. The independent Irish Free State (SaorstŠt …ireann), consisting of 26 of the 32 counties, had been established by the Anglo-IrishTreaty signed on 6 December 1921. As a result most of Ireland would no longer be represented at Westminster, with the key exception of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland had been established under the Government of Ireland Act 1920 and through the provisions of the Anglo-Irish Treaty had opted out of the new Irish Free State.

The number of MPs to be elected in Northern Ireland was reduced from 30 to 13. The new electoral geography of Northern Ireland was divided into six single-seat constituencies using the first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system, three two-seat constituencies using the plurality-at-large (Block) voting system, and one non-geographical Universtity constituency using the single transferable vote (STV) system. Unionists candidates faced no opposition for ten seats and only in the Londonderry and Fermanagh and Tyrone constituencies were contests actually held. The Unionists were successful in Londonderry, bringing their tally to 11, but lost to Nationalists in the two-seat Fermanagh and Tyrone.

Westminster Election Map 1922
This map by Conal Kelly shows the winner in each constituency in 1922.

The Results

The details of each seat are on the relevant constituency page; the totals for the whole of Northern Ireland were as follows:
 
Party Votes % Share Seats Won
Unionist 107,972 51.9% 11 MPs (Antrim (2 seats), Armagh, East Belfast, North Belfast, South Belfast, West Belfast, Down (2 Seats), Londonderry and Queens University.
Nationalist 90,053 43.3% 2 MPs (Fermanagh & Tyrone (2 seats))
Independent Nationalist 9,861 4.7%

Previous Contests

This graph contrasts the 1922 election result with the Westminster elections of 1918, 1910 (Dec), 1910 (Jan), 1906, 1900 and 1895. It is important to note that the comparison chart below can be somewhat misleading given the high number of seats that went uncontested during this period. The Unionist Party was unopposed in 12 seats in 1895, nine seats in 1900, six in 1906, eight in January 1910 and nine in December 1910. Liberal Unionists went unchallenged in one seat in 1895 and two seats in 1900. Nationalists were unopposed in three seats in 1900, three in 1906, one in January 1910 and two in December 1910.

graph

Notes

In Antrim (2 seats), Armagh, East Belfast, North Belfast, South Belfast, West Belfast, Down (2 Seats) and Queens University Unionist candidates were returned unopposed.
Maj. Hon. Robert William Hugh O'Neill, the successful Unionist candidate for Antrim, had unsuccessfully contested the Stockport constituency, as a Conservative candidate in the 1906 Westiminster election.
Capt. Herbert Dixon, the successful Unionist candidate for Armagh, had been previously elected to represent North Armagh in a 1917 by-election and again at the 1918 general election.
Lt-Col. Sir William James Allen, the successful Unionist candidate for East Belfast, had been previously elected to represent Belfast Pottinger at the 1918 general election.
Thomas McConnell, the successful Unionist candidate for North Belfast, had been previously elected to represent Belfast Duncairn in the 1921 by-election.
Thomas Moles, the successful Unionist candidate for South Belfast, had been previously elected to represent Belfast Ormeau at the 1918 general election.
Robert Lynn, the successful Unionist candidate for West Belfast, had been previously elected to represent Belfast Woodvale at the 1918 general election.
David Reid, the successful Unionist candidate for Down, had been previously elected to represent East Down at the 1918 general election.
John Simms, the successful Unionist candidate for Down, had been previously elected to represent North Down in the 1922 by-election.
Edmund MacNaghten, the successful Unionist candidate for Down, had unsuccessfully contested the English seat of Henley as a Liberal candidate in the 1918 general election.
Thomas Harbison, the successful Nationalist candidate for Fermanagh and Tyrone, had been previously elected to represent East Tyrone in the 1918 by-election.

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.

Conal Kelly, 10 October 2007.



Disclaimer:© Nicholas Whyte 2005 Last Updated on Saturday, May 07, 2005 09:42:49