The 1935 Westminster Elections in Northern Ireland

The Elections

The 1935 UK general election was held on 14 November 1935. Earlier in June, the Prime Minister and leader of the National Labour Party, Ramsay MacDonald, had resigned and was replaced by coalition partner and Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin. The election was fought on both domestic and foreign policy topics, including the National Government’s economic record, unemployment, rearmament, and support of the League of Nations.

The result was a reduced majority for the National Government coalition, with Baldwin’s Conservatives remaining the largest party with 386 seats; a loss of 83. The National Liberal vote held-up with the loss of just two seats but National Labour lost five of their 13 seats, including that of their leader Ramsay MacDonald. The Labour Party under Clement Atlee was able to repair some of the damage of the 1931 election by regaining 102 seats for a total of 254.

The election in Northern Ireland was fought against a background of rising concern over unemployment and housing. This had also contributed to intensive sectarian rioting in Belfast following Orange Order parades in July. Rioting had continued through August by which time nine people had been killed, hundreds injured, and over 2,000 homes destroyed. The government and police had not been prepared for the riots, and the situation required army intervention to fully restore order.

Only four of the 11 out-going Unionist MPs faced opposition but all were returned comfortably. The Unionist candidates saw off Republican challenges in Armagh, Down, and West Belfast. The Nationalist Party, fielding new candidates in the two-seat Fermanagh and Tyrone, managed to successfully defend their seats in the face of strong opposition from the Unionist Party. The net result was the same as it had been for the last two elections: Unionist Party 11 seats, Nationalist Party 2 seats.

Westminster Election Map 1935
This map by Conal Kelly shows the winner in each constituency in 1935.

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 292,840 64.9% 11 MPs (Antrim (2 seats), Armagh, East Belfast, North Belfast, South Belfast, West Belfast, Down (2 Seats), Londonderry and Queens University.
Nationalist 101,494 22.5% 2 MPs (Fermanagh & Tyrone (2 seats))
Republican 56,833 12.6%

Previous Contests

This graph contrasts the 1935 election result with the Westminster elections of 1931, 1929, 1924, 1923, 1922 and 1918. 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 ten seats in 1922, nine in 1923, three in 1924, four in 1929 and nine in 1931. The Unionist share of the poll would have been considerably higher had all seats been contested.



In Antrim (2 seats), East Belfast, North Belfast, South Belfast, Londonderry and Queens University Unionist candidates were returned unopposed.
William Stewart, the successful Unionist candidate for South Belfast, would go on to found the Ulster Progressive Unionist Association in 1938. The group fielded ten candidates in the 1938 Northern Ireland general election with Stewart himself standing in Belfast Cromac. Stewart would continue as MP for South Belfast, taking the Unionist Party whip at Westminster, until his retirement in 1945.
Thomas Sinclair, the successful Unionist candidate for Queens University would go on to resign his seat in 1940, having represented the constituency for almost 17 years without ever facing an actual electoral contest.
Only two of the MPs elected in 1931 were not returned to Westminster in this election.

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