- North Down (UK Parliament constituency)
North Down shown within Northern Ireland Created: 1885, 1950 MP: Sylvia Hermon Party: Independent Type: House of Commons Districts: North Down, Ards EP constituency: Northern Ireland North Down Former County constituency for the House of Commons 1885–1922 Replaced by Down Created from Down
North Down is a Parliamentary Constituency in the United Kingdom House of Commons. The current MP is Sylvia Hermon, elected as an Independent in the 2010 General Election. (Hermon had previously represented the constituency on behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party.)
The county constituency was first created in 1885 from the northern part of Down. From the dissolution of Parliament in 1922, it was merged back into that constituency.
The seat was re-created in 1950 when the old Down two MP constituency was abolished as part of the final move to single member seats. Originally the seat consisted of most of the northern parts of County Down, with the south included in South Down. In January 1980, the Boundary Commission's original proposals suggested significantly reducing the size of the constituency and renaming it 'Loughside' on the grounds that this would avoid confusion in the event of borough council elections being held on the same day. As a result, in 1983 the seat was radically cut down as part of an expansion of Northern Ireland's constituencies from 12 to 17, although the name remained unaltered. Significant parts of the constituency were transferred to the new Strangford constituency. In boundary changes proposed by a review in 1995, the seat exchanged territory with Strangford, losing the Dundonald area from Castlereagh and gaining a part of Ards.
In 2005, the Boundary Commission published provisional recommendations for modifying the boundaries of constituencies in Northern Ireland. No changes were proposed for North Down. This proved acceptable at the public enquiries and the Assistant Commissioner also recommended no change to the constituency meaning that the constituency is to remain unchanged.
1885 to 1922
The First Dáil
Sinn Féin contested the general election of 1918 on the platform that instead of taking up any seats they won in the United Kingdom Parliament, they would establish a revolutionary assembly in Dublin. In republican theory every MP elected in Ireland was a potential Deputy to this assembly. In practice only the Sinn Féin members accepted the offer.
The revolutionary First Dáil assembled on 21 January 1919 and last met on 10 May 1921. The First Dáil, according to a resolution passed on 10 May 1921, was formally dissolved on the assembling of the Second Dáil. This took place on 16 August 1921.
In 1921 Sinn Féin decided to use the UK authorised elections for the Northern Ireland House of Commons and the House of Commons of Southern Ireland as a poll for the Irish Republic's Second Dáil. The constituency was incorporated into the eight-member constituency of Down, and saw President of Dáil Éireann, Éamon de Valera, elected there. The constituency also elected the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, James Craig, to the Parliament of Northern Ireland.
1950 to present
North Down is one of the most overwhelmingly unionist parts of Northern Ireland, with nationalist parties routinely getting no more than 6% of the vote, if that. In the 1955 election George Currie, the Ulster Unionist, candidate gained 96.8% of the popular vote, which he "bettered" in 1959 with some 98%. These shares of the popular votes are the highest ever achieved in a United Kingdom general election (post 1832 Reform). However it has arguably the most volatile and unpredictable politics of the entire province. Whereas elsewhere there are effectively three fundamental battles fought in elections - between the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party to be the leading unionist party, between the Social Democratic and Labour Party and Sinn Féin to be the leading nationalist party, and between unionism and nationalism as a whole, North Down is different. The lack of any substantial nationalist vote renders the last two battles immaterial. Of Northern Ireland's five main parties, only the Ulster Unionist Party and the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland have historically had a significant organisation and support in the constituency, though the Democratic Unionist Party has recently started to gain a foothold where it hitherto was near non-existent.
In addition the constituency has seen many substantial votes for smaller party groupings and individuals. The Ulster Popular Unionist Party, the Conservative Party, the UK Unionist Party and the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition have all polled substantially in the last fifteen years, whilst in local council elections many independent candidates gain sufficient votes to be elected. The area is the heartland of numerous "one-man parties", of which the Ulster Popular Unionist Party and the UK Unionist Party are the best known but far from the only ones. There have been many examples of elected individuals changing party allegiance and often successfully defending their seats for the new party.
The constituency is the most prosperous in Northern Ireland and is widely considered to be the most similar to an English constituency. In part because of this the seat was the heartland of the Equal Citizenship campaign in the late 1980s which argued that political parties in Britain should organise and contest elections in Northern Ireland, in the hope that this would "normalise" the politics of the province. The Conservative Party established itself (having in earlier years been in alliance with the Ulster Unionist Party until a breakdown in relations in the 1970s) and to date has been relatively strongest in North Down though in recent years its vote has declined heavily from the brief surge in the elections held between 1989 and 1992.
Traditionally levels of turnout in elections are very low by Northern Ireland standards, possibly because the lack of a serious threat of a nationalist victory removes the impetus to vote common among unionists elsewhere in the province. The one significant exception to the levels of turnout was the 1998 referendum on the Good Friday Agreement where turnout reached 80%, a total not come close to since 1921.
The parliamentary constituency was original held by the Ulster Unionist Party with no serious opposition. In 1970 James Kilfedder was first elected and he proceeded to accumulate a high level of personal popularity in the constituency. In 1977 he left the Ulster Unionists in protest over their increasing support for Enoch Powell's proposed policy of integration for Northern Ireland, rather than the restoration of devolved government. Standing as an independent Unionist, Kilfedder successfully defended his seat against a UUP challenge in the 1979 general election. The following year he formed the Ulster Popular Unionist Party, with a few local councillors being elected on the label.
Kilfedder continued to hold his seat. Then in the 1987 general election he agreed an electoral pact with the Ulster Unionists and the Democratic Unionist Party to form a united opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. However the local UUP candidate, Robert McCartney, was opposed to this pact and refused to withdraw. He was expelled from the UUP and so stood as a "Real Unionist" on a platform of complete integration for the province. Kilfedder retained the seat but with a reduced majority. As part of his platform for integration, McCartney had called for the major UK parties to organise and stand in the province and his result gave impetus to this campaign.
The Conservative Party did very well in the 1989 local elections for North Down Borough Council when they became the largest party. They stood candidates in several Northern Ireland constituencies in the 1992 general election, but their strongest prospect was expected to be North Down. Kilfedder by this stage was taking the Conservative whip at Westminster and so was aggrieved by this (and subsequently given a knighthood). In the event the result was similar to 1987, with the Conservatives getting a similar vote to McCartney.
Kilfedder died in 1995 and his loose Ulster Popular Unionist Party faded away even before the resulting by-election. By this time the Northern Ireland Conservatives had collapsed heavily and so there was much speculation about how the by-election would go. The Ulster Unionist Party were hopeful that they could retake the seat, but McCartney also stood, this time as a "UK Unionist" with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party. No candidate stood for the Popular Unionists or any nationalist party. There was a poor turnout in which McCartney won, with the Conservative vote collapsing from 32% to a humiliating 2.1%.
McCartney further established his UK Unionist Party and sought to challenge the existing unionist parties by offering a less sectarian alternative. He held his seat in the 1997 election and was also elected to both the Northern Ireland Peace Forum in 1996 and the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998, though on each occasion he was the only UK Unionist elected from North Down. In the 1998 election the Ulster Unionists had their strongest result in the province and there was much speculation that they could unseat McCartney at the next general election.
A rather public row erupted over the selection of the UUP's candidate. Initially the local assembly member Peter Weir was selected, but his opposition to the Good Friday Agreement and David Trimble's leadership became very prominent and a running source of embarrassment to the party. Then Weir was deselected and the new candidate selected, Sylvia Hermon, was supportive of both Trimble and the Agreement. In the 2001 general election campaign the local branch of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland decided to withdraw their candidate when they felt that it would achieve their objectives better to support Hermon, who defeated McCartney overwhelmingly.
Weir remained as an Assembly member but subsequently defected to the Democratic Unionist Party. In the 2003 Assembly election Weir successfully defended his seat for the DUP, who also gained another MLA from the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition. In the 2005 general election the party battle was altered somewhat by the DUP running Weir, the Alliance putting up a candidate and McCartney, after some speculation, deciding not to stand but to instead endorse Weir. In a strong contest Hermon retained the seat, to become the only Ulster Unionist MP at the time, though she later left that party.
Members of Parliament
The Member of Parliament since the 2001 general election is Sylvia Hermon, initially of the Ulster Unionist Party; she defeated Robert McCartney of the UK Unionist Party who had represented the seat since a by-election in 1995. She was the only UUP MP elected in 2005. She became an independent in March 2010, objecting to the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists electoral alliance.
Election Member Party 1885 Thomas Waring Conservative 1886 Irish Unionist 1898 John Blakiston-Houston Irish Unionist 1900 Thomas Lorimer Corbett Irish Unionist 1910 William Mitchell-Thomson Irish Unionist 1918 Thomas Watters Brown Irish Unionist Feb 1922 Henry Hughes Wilson Irish Unionist Jul 1922 John Morrow Simms Irish Unionist 1922 constituency abolished 1950 constituency recreated 1950 Walter Smiles Ulster Unionist 1953 Patricia Ford Ulster Unionist 1955 George Currie Ulster Unionist 1970 James Kilfedder Ulster Unionist 1977 Independent Unionist 1980 Ulster Popular Unionist 1995 Robert McCartney UK Unionist 2001 Sylvia Hermon Ulster Unionist 2010 Independent
Elections in the 2010s
General Election 2010: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Independent Sylvia Hermon 21,181 63.3 N/A Conservatives and Unionists Ian Parsley 6,817 20.4 -30.0 Alliance Stephen Farry 1,876 5.6 -2.0 Traditional Unionist Voice Kaye Kilpatrick 1,634 4.9 N/A Green (NI) Steven Agnew 1,043 3.1 N/A SDLP Liam Logan 680 2.0 -1.1 Sinn Féin Vincent Parker 250 0.7 +0.1 Majority 14.364 42.9 Turnout 33.481 55.2 -1.1 Independent gain from Ulster Unionist Swing
Elections in the 2000s
General Election 2005: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Ulster Unionist Sylvia Hermon 16,268 50.4 -5.6 Democratic Unionist Peter Weir 11,324 35.1 N/A Alliance David Alderdice 2,451 7.6 N/A SDLP Liam Logan 1,009 3.1 -0.3 Conservative Julian Robertson 822 2.5 +0.3 Independent Chris Carter 211 0.7 -0.5 Sinn Féin Janet McCrory 205 0.6 -0.2 Majority 4,944 15.3 Turnout 32,290 54.0 -4.8 Ulster Unionist hold Swing General Election 2001: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Ulster Unionist Sylvia Hermon 20,833 56.0 +24.9 UK Unionist Bob McCartney 13,509 36.3 +1.3 SDLP Marietta Farrell 1,275 3.4 -1.0 Conservative Julian Robertson 815 2.2 -2.8 Independent Chris Carter 444 1.2 N/A Sinn Féin Eamonn McConvey 313 0.8 N/A Majority 7,324 19.7 Turnout 37,189 58.8 +0.8 Ulster Unionist gain from UK Unionist Swing
Elections in the 1990s
General Election 1997: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% UK Unionist Bob McCartney 12,817 35.1 N/A Ulster Unionist Alan McFarland 11,368 31.1 N/A Alliance Oliver Napier 7,554 20.7 + 6.0 Conservative Leonard Fee 1,810 5.0 - 27.0 SDLP Marietta Farrell 1,602 4.4 N/A NI Women's Coalition Jane Morrice 1,240 3.4 N/A Natural Law Tom Mullins 108 0.3 - 0.3 Independent Robert Mooney 57 0.2 N/A Majority 1,449 4.0 Turnout 36,556 57.9 UK Unionist gain from Ulster Popular Unionist Swing
As is standard the figures and result are compared to the 1992 general election, not the 1995 by-election.
North Down by-election, 1995 Party Candidate Votes % ±% UK Unionist Bob McCartney 10,124 37.0 N/A Ulster Unionist Alan McFarland 7,232 26.4 N/A Alliance Oliver Napier 6,970 25.4 +10.7 Independent Unionist Alan Chambers 2,170 7.9 N/A Conservative Stuart Sexton 583 2.1 -29.9 Free Para Lee Clegg Now Michael Brooks 108 0.4 N/A Independent Voice Christopher Carter 101 0.4 N/A Natural Law James Anderson 100 0.4 -0.2 Majority 2,892 Turnout 38.6 UK Unionist gain from Ulster Popular Unionist Swing General Election 1992: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Ulster Popular Unionist James Kilfedder 19,305 42.9 - 2.2 Conservative Laurence Kennedy 14,371 32.0 N/A Alliance Addie Morrow 6,611 14.7 - 4.7 Democratic Unionist Denny Vitty 4,414 9.8 N/A Natural Law Andrew Wilmot 255 0.6 N/A Majority 4,934 Turnout 65.5 Ulster Popular Unionist hold Swing
Elections in the 1980s
General Election 1987: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Ulster Popular Unionist James Kilfedder 18,420 45.1 - 11.0 Real Unionist Bob McCartney 14,467 35.4 N/A Alliance John Cushnahan 7,932 19.4 - 2.6 Majority 3,953 9.7 Turnout 62.8 Ulster Popular Unionist hold Swing North Down by-election, 1986 Party Candidate Votes % ±% Ulster Popular Unionist James Kilfedder 30,793 Alliance John Cushnahan 8,066 Majority 22,727 Turnout 62.8 Ulster Popular Unionist hold Swing General Election 1983: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Ulster Popular Unionist James Kilfedder 22,861 56.1 - 3.5 Alliance John Cushnahan 9,015 22.1 + 0.5 Ulster Unionist Bob McCartney 8,261 20.3 + 1.4 SDLP Cathal O'Baioll 645 1.6 N/A Majority 13,846 34.0 Turnout 66.2 Ulster Popular Unionist hold Swing
In 1980 Kilfedder formed the small Ulster Popular Unionist Party and contested all subsequent elections under this label.
Elections in the 1970s
General Election 1979: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Independent Ulster Unionist James Kilfedder 36,989 59.6 N/A Alliance Keith Jones 13,364 21.6 + 3.1 Ulster Unionist Clifford Smyth 11,728 18.9 - 53.1 Majority 23,625 38.1 Turnout 62.2 Independent gain from Ulster Unionist Swing
Kilfedder left the Ulster Unionists in 1977, in opposition to Enoch Powell's proposals for integration instead of devolution for Northern Ireland, and defended his seat as an Independent Ulster Unionist. The new Ulster Unionist candidate was Clifford Smyth, who had previously been a Democratic Unionist Party assembly member in North Antrim.
General Election October 1974: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Ulster Unionist James Kilfedder 40,996 72.0 + 11.9 Alliance Keith Jones 9,973 17.5 N/A Unionist Party NI William Brownlow 6,037 10.6 N/A Majority 31,023 54.4 Turnout 60.9 Ulster Unionist hold Swing General Election February 1974: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Ulster Unionist James Kilfedder 38,169 61.1 - 7.9 Pro-Assembly Unionist Roy Bradford 21,943 35.1 N/A SDLP Dermot Curran 2,376 3.8 N/A Majority 16,226 26.0 Turnout 66.4 Ulster Unionist hold Swing General Election February 1970: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Ulster Unionist James Kilfedder 55,679 69.0 - 9.5 Labour (NI) Kenneth Young 14,246 17.7 N/A Independent Unionist Robert Samuel Nixon 6,408 7.9 N/A Independent Ritchie McGladdery 3,321 4.1 N/A Liberal Hamilton Simmons-Gooding 1,076 1.3 - 20.2 Majority 41,433 51.3 - 5.8 Turnout 66.8 + 11.9 Ulster Unionist hold Swing
Elections in the 1960s
General Election February 1966: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Ulster Unionist George Currie 38,706 78.5 + 5.0 Liberal Sheelagh Murnaghan 10,582 21.5 + 15.3 Majority 28,124 57.1 + 2.4 Turnout 48.9 - 14.2 Ulster Unionist hold Swing General Election February 1964: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Ulster Unionist George Currie 45,091 73.5 - 24.5 Labour (NI) Edward Bell 11,571 18.9 N/A Liberal Albert McElroy 3,797 6.2 N/A Independent Republican Paddy McGrattan 855 1.4 N/A Majority 33,520 54.7 - 41.4 Turnout 63.1 + 4.2 Ulster Unionist hold Swing
Elections in the 1950s
General Election February 1959: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Ulster Unionist George Currie 51,773 98.0 + 1.1 Sinn Féin Joseph Campbell 1,039 2.0 - 1.2 Majority 50,734 96.1 + 2.4 Turnout 58.9 - 2.2 Ulster Unionist hold Swing General Election February 1955: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Ulster Unionist George Currie 50,315 96.9 + 15.5 Sinn Féin Joseph Campbell 1,637 3.2 N/A Majority 48,678 93.7 + 31.0 Turnout 61.1 - 4.6 Ulster Unionist hold Swing North Down by-election, 1953 Party Candidate Votes % ±% Ulster Unionist Patricia Ford Unopposed N/A N/A Ulster Unionist hold Swing N/A General Election February 1951: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Ulster Unionist Walter Smiles 43,285 81.4 + 2.0 Labour (NI) Albert McElroy 9,914 18.6 - 2.0 Majority 33,371 62.7 + 3.9 Turnout 65.7 - 2.4 Ulster Unionist hold Swing General Election February 1950: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Ulster Unionist Walter Smiles 41,810 79.4 N/A Labour (NI) Albert McElroy 10,836 20.6 N/A Majority 30,974 58.8 N/A Turnout 68.1 N/A Ulster Unionist hold Swing N/A
Elections in the 1920s
North Down by-election, July 1922 Party Candidate Votes % ±% Irish Unionist John Morrow Simms Unopposed N/A N/A Irish Unionist hold Swing N/A North Down by-election, February 1922 Party Candidate Votes % ±% Irish Unionist Henry Hughes Wilson Unopposed N/A N/A Irish Unionist hold Swing N/A North Down by-election, 1921 Party Candidate Votes % ±% Irish Unionist Thomas Watters Brown Unopposed N/A N/A Irish Unionist hold Swing N/A
Elections in the 1910s
General Election 14 December 1918: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Irish Unionist Thomas Watters Brown 9,200 N/A Independent Unionist John Alexander Davidson 2,153 N/A Majority N/A Turnout 18,399 N/A Irish Unionist hold Swing N/A General Election January 1910: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Irish Unionist Thomas Corbett Unopposed N/A N/A Irish Unionist hold Swing N/A
Elections in the 1900s
General Election 1906: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Irish Unionist Thomas Corbett 4,878 Independent Unionist A. A. Adams 2,603 Majority Turnout Irish Unionist hold Swing
Elections in the 1890s
North Down by-election, 1898 Party Candidate Votes % ±% Irish Unionist John Blakiston-Houston 3,381 Irish Unionist Thomas Corbett 3,107 Majority Turnout Irish Unionist hold Swing General Election 1892: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Irish Unionist Thomas Waring Unopposed N/A N/A Irish Unionist hold Swing N/A
Elections in the 1880s
General Election 1886: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Conservative Thomas Waring 4,959 83.7 +23.4 Irish Parliamentary R. M. McNabb 964 16.3 N/A Majority 3,995 67.4 +46.8 Turnout 5,923 63.8 -13.3 Irish Unionist hold Swing N/A General Election 1885: North Down Party Candidate Votes % ±% Conservative Thomas Waring 4,315 60.3 N/A Liberal J. S. Brown 2,841 39.7 N/A Majority 1,474 20.6 N/A Turnout 7,156 77.1 N/A Irish Unionist hold Swing N/A
- Guardian Unlimited Politics (Election results from 1992 to the present)
- http://www.psr.keele.ac.uk/ (Election results from 1951 to the present)
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "D" (part 3)
- Parliamentary Election Results in Ireland, 1801-1922, edited by B.M. Walker (Royal Irish Academy 1978)
- Who's Who of British Members of Parliament: Volume II 1886-1918, edited by M. Stenton and S. Lees (The Harvester Press 1978)
- Who's Who of British Members of Parliament: Volume III 1919-1945, edited by M. Stenton and S. Lees (The Harvester Press 1979)
- F. W. S. Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1950 - 1970
- The Liberal Year Book For 1917, Liberal Publication Department
- The Constitutional Year Book For 1912, Conservative Central Office
- The Constitutional Year Book For 1894, Conservative Central Office
- UK Constituency Maps
- BBC Vote 2001
- BBC Election 2005
Constituencies in Northern Ireland (18) DUP (8) Sinn Féin (5) SDLP (3) Alliance (1) Independent (1)
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