The 1924 Westminster Elections in Northern Ireland

The Elections

A general election was called for 29th October 1924 and so for the third year in succession the electorate returned to the polls. The minority Labour government under Ramsay MacDonald had been formed less than ten months earlier with Liberal support. With only 191 seats it was widely anticipated that it would not run a full term. Ultimately the Labour government resigned in protest following the establishment of a committee of enquiry into what became known as the Campbell Case. Campbell, the editor of the Communist Workers Weekly, had published an article calling on troops not to attack fellow workers "either in the class war or a military war". He was subsequently charged with sedition but the Labour government had the case withdrawn which led to the enquiry.

In the campaign that followed Labour championed its modest achievements but four days before the election it fell victim to dirty tricks. The Daily Mail published a (forged) letter from Grigori Zinoviev, President of the Presidium of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (Comintern), calling for intensified communist agitation in Britain. The effect of the letter, while difficult to gauge, seemed to shake the public confidence in Labour. When the results came in, Labour had dropped 40 seats to 151, while the Conservatives under Stanley Baldwin were returned with 412 seats and a massive majority of 209. Asquith’s Liberals suffered a huge loss of 118 seats, a setback from which they never fully recovered.

In Northern Ireland one of the more significant issues during the election was the forward progress of the Boundary Commission. Following the Labour victory in 1923, the government moved forward with the establishment of the Boundary Commission provided for within the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty. Northern Ireland Prime Minister, William Craig, had refused to nominate a representative to the Commission but the government had introduced new legislation to allow them to appoint a Commissioner on their behalf just before the election.

Unlike the previous two elections, only three constituencies went uncontested: East Belfast, South Belfast, and Queens University. However, all out-going Unionist MPs were returned successfully and they also picked-up the remaining two seats from the Nationalist Party in Fermanagh and Tyrone. The Nationalist Party did not contest any seats in 1924, deferring to Sinn Fein who ran eight candidates but none were successful. One interesting event during the election was the arrest of Eamon de Valera at Newry Town Hall after defying an order preventing him from speaking in Northern Ireland in support of Sinn Fein election candidates. He was subsequently held in solitary confinement for a month in the Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast.

Westminster Election Map 1924
This map by Conal Kelly shows the winner in each constituency in 1924.

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 451,278 86.9% 13 MPs (Antrim (2 seats), Armagh, East Belfast, North Belfast, South Belfast, West Belfast, Down (2 Seats),
Fermanagh & Tyrone (2 seats), Londonderry and Queens University.
Sinn Fein 46,457 8.9%
NILP 21,122 4.1%
Independent Unionist 517 0.1%

Previous Contests

This graph contrasts the 1924 election result with the Westminster elections of 1923, 1922, 1918, 1910 (Dec), 1910 (Jan) and 1906. 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 six seats in 1906, eight in January 1910, nine in December 1910, ten in 1922 and nine in 1923. In addition, Nationalists were unopposed in three seats in 1906, one in January 1910 and two in December 1910.



In East Belfast, South Belfast, and Queens University Unionist candidates were returned unopposed.
Sinn Fein contested their first Westminster election since the establishment of Northern Ireland, fielding a total of eight candidates across seven constituencies.
The Nationalist Party did not contest the election, including Thomas Harbison and Cahir Healy, their two MPs who had held Fermanagh & Tyrone since 1922.

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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Conal Kelly, 10 October 2007.

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