Belfast East (UK Parliament constituency)

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For other constituencies of the same name, see Belfast East (disambiguation).
Belfast East
Borough constituency
for the House of Commons
Outline map
Boundary of Belfast East in Northern Ireland.
Districts of Northern Ireland Belfast, Castlereagh
Electorate 60,516 (March 2011)
Current constituency
Created 1922
Member of Parliament Naomi Long (Alliance)
Number of members One
18851918
Number of members One
Type of constituency Borough constituency
Replaced by Belfast Pottinger, Belfast Victoria
Created from Belfast
Overlaps
European Parliament constituency Northern Ireland

Belfast East is a parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom House of Commons. The current MP is Naomi Long of the Alliance Party, elected in 2010. Before 2010 the constituency had always elected various brands of Unionist MPs.

Boundaries[edit]

The seat was created in 1922 when, as part of the establishment of the devolved Stormont Parliament for Northern Ireland, the number of MPs in the Westminster Parliament was drastically cut. The seat is centred on the east section of Belfast and also contains part of the district of Castlereagh.

Prior to the 2010 general election the Northern Ireland Boundary Commission proposed expanding Belfast East further into Castlereagh, taking in areas currently contained in Strangford, however almost all of these areas were part of Belfast East until 1983. A small part of the constituency was proposed for transfer to Belfast South.

Following a public meeting and revised recommendations, the new boundaries of Belfast East were confirmed by the Commission and passed through Parliament through the use of the Northern Ireland Parliamentary Constituencies Order[1] as follows:

  • From the Belfast council area, Ballyhackamore, Ballymacarrett, Belmont, Bloomfield, Cherryvalley, Island, Knock, Orangefield, Stormont, Sydenham, and The Mount
  • From the Castlereagh council area, Ballyhanwood, Carrowreagh, Cregagh, Downshire, Dundonald, Enler, Gilnahirk, Graham’s Bridge, Lisnasharragh, Lower Braniel, Tullycarnet, and Upper Braniel

History[edit]

Belfast East is an overwhelmingly unionist constituency with nationalist parties routinely failing to get more than 10% of the vote combined. The main interest has been the contest between unionist parties and the fortunes of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland.

Dominated by the giant Samson and Goliath cranes of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, the constituency is socially mixed. There are large expanses of small Victorian terraced housing near Belfast City Centre and around the shipyard in Ballymacarrett. These areas have seen significant refurbishment, and in some places demolition and redevelopment, in recent years sparking a sharp rise in house prices. This is contrasted by a large amount of solidly lower-middle class housing and some exclusive residential districts such as the much mocked Cherryvalley. This social polarisation is to a large degree reflected by the political polarisation, at least within the broader unionist family, in the seat. The small Catholic population is split between the largely working class Short Strand enclave and minorities in the more middle-class parts of the seat.

The seat was consistently held by the Ulster Unionist Party until the 1974 general election when the sitting MP, Stanley McMaster, defended it as a Pro-Assembly Unionist against a united anti-Sunningdale Agreement coalition which nominated William Craig of the Vanguard Progressive Unionist Party. Craig won the seat and held it for five years, moving to the UUP in February 1978.

In the 1979 general election the constituency witnessed a very close three way fight between Peter Robinson of the Democratic Unionist Party, William Craig for the UUP and Oliver Napier for the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland. Less than 1000 votes separated the three candidates. Robinson beat Craig by the narrow margin of 64 votes. Also of note was that over 90% of the votes cast went to parties that had not contested the seat at the previous election – in part due to realignments of the parties.

Robinson continued to hold the seat but the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland continued to poll well thereafter, and in 1987 John Alderdice polled 32.1% of the vote – the highest ever for the Alliance in a Westminster election before 2010. However their vote declined until 2010 and in 2005 they finished a distant third.

In the 2001 general election, Alliance proposed a pro-Good Friday Agreement pact with the Ulster Unionist Party in the hopes of getting UUP support in Belfast East. However the UUP did not agree and so both parties stood. Robinson was re-elected with 42.5% of the vote, with the UUP, Alliance and Progressive Unionist Party carving up the pro-Agreement pro-union vote between them, but it is doubtful that an unopposed Alliance candidate could have consolidated all of that vote to beat Robinson.

In 2009 and 2010, Robinson became mired in a number of political scandals. In the 2010 general election, however, the Alliance Party candidate and sitting Lord Mayor of Belfast Naomi Long defeated Robinson, in a shock result, more than tripling the Alliance vote and giving the Alliance their first ever seat in Westminster. Predictably, this was also the seat in which the Alliance gained the highest share of the vote, at 37.2%, more than double their best efforts elsewhere.

Of all eighteen constituencies in Northern Ireland, East Belfast has the highest percentage of Methodists.

Members of Parliament[edit]

The Member of Parliament since the 2010 general election is Naomi Long, who defeated Peter Robinson, MP for Belfast East since the 1979 general election.

Monument to Robert James McMordie, MP & Lord Mayor of Belfast, grounds of Belfast City Hall
Election Member Party
1885 Edward de Cobain Conservative
1892 by-election Gustav Wilhelm Wolff Conservative
1910 Robert McMordie Ulster Unionist
1914 by-election Robert Sharman-Crawford Ulster Unionist
1918 constituency abolished
1922 constituency recreated
1922 Herbert Dixon Ulster Unionist
1940 by-election Henry Peirson Harland Ulster Unionist
1945 Thomas Loftus Cole Ulster Unionist
1950 Alan McKibbin Ulster Unionist
1959 by-election Stanley McMaster Ulster Unionist
Feb 1974 William Craig Vanguard
1978 Ulster Unionist
1979 Peter Robinson Democratic Unionist
2010 Naomi Long Alliance

Elections[edit]

Elections in the 2010s[edit]

General Election 2010: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Alliance Naomi Long 12,839 37.2 +26.2
DUP Peter Robinson 11,306 32.8 -19.6
UCU-NF Trevor Ringland 7,305 21.2 -8.3
TUV David Vance 1,856 5.4 N/A
Sinn Féin Niall Ó Donnghaile 817 2.4 -0.1
SDLP Mary Muldoon 365 1.1 -1.1
Majority 1,533 4.4
Turnout 34,488 58.4 +0.4
Alliance gain from DUP Swing +22.9

Elections in the 2000s[edit]

General Election 2005: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
DUP Peter Robinson 15,152 49.1 +6.6
UUP Reg Empey 9,275 30.1 +6.9
Alliance Naomi Long 3,746 12.2 -3.6
Sinn Féin Deborah Devenny 1,029 3.3 -0.1
SDLP Mary Muldoon 844 2.7 +0.3
Conservative Alan Greer 434 1.4 -0.8
Workers' Party Joe Bell 179 0.6 +0.3
Rainbow Dream Ticket Lynda Gilby 172 0.6 +0.4
Majority 5,877 19.1
Turnout 30,831 58.0 -5.0
DUP hold Swing
General Election 2001: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
DUP Peter Robinson 15,667 42.5 -0.1
UUP Tim Lemon 8,550 23.2 -2.1
Alliance David Alderdice 5,832 15.8 -8.0
PUP David Ervine 3,669 10.0 N/A
Sinn Féin Joe O'Donnell 1,237 3.4 +1.3
SDLP Ciara Farren 880 2.4 +0.8
Conservative Terry Dick 800 2.2 -0.2
Workers' Party Joe Bell 123 0.3 N/A
Rainbow Dream Ticket Rainbow George Weiss 71 0.2 N/A
Majority 7,117 19.3
Turnout 36,829 63.0 -0.2
DUP hold Swing

Elections in the 1990s[edit]

General Election 1997: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
DUP Peter Robinson 16,640 42.6
UUP Reg Empey 9,886 25.3
Alliance Jim Hendron 9,288 23.8
Conservative Sarah Dines 928 2.4
Sinn Féin Dominic Corr 810 2.1
SDLP Patricia Lewsley 629 1.6
Former Captain NI Football Team Derek Dougan 541 1.4
Workers' Party Joe Bell 237 0.6
Natural Law David Collins 70 0.2
Majority 6,754
Turnout 63.2
DUP hold Swing
Notional 1992 UK General Election Result : Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
DUP N/A 22,635 54.5 N/A
Alliance N/A 11,337 27.3 N/A
Conservative N/A 4,170 10.0 N/A
Others N/A 2,723 6.6 N/A
Sinn Féin N/A 686 1.7 N/A
Majority 11,298 27.2 N/A
General Election 1992: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
DUP Peter Robinson 18,437 51.5
Alliance John Alderdice 10,650 29.8
Conservative David Greene 3,314 9.3
Independent Unionist Dorothy Dunlop 2,256 6.3 N/A
Sinn Féin Joe O'Donnell 679 1.9
Workers' Party Joe Bell 327 0.9
Natural Law Guy Redden 128 0.4
Majority 7,787
Turnout 67.7
DUP hold Swing

Elections in the 1980s[edit]

General Election 1987: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
DUP Peter Robinson 20,372 61.9
Alliance John Alderdice 10,574 32.1
Workers' Party Frank Cullen 1,314 4.0
Sinn Féin Joe O'Donnell 649 2.0
Majority 9,798 29.8
Turnout 60.2
DUP hold Swing
Belfast East by-election, 1986
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
DUP Peter Robinson 27,607
Alliance Oliver Napier 5,917
Workers' Party Frank Cullen 578
Majority 21,690
Turnout 60.2
DUP hold Swing

Note: The by-election was caused by the decision of all Unionist MPs to resign their seats and seek re-election on a platform of opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

General Election 1983: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
DUP Peter Robinson 17,631 45.3
UUP Jeremy Burchill 9,642 24.8
Alliance Oliver Napier 9,373 24.1
Sinn Féin Denis Donaldson 682 1.8
Labour and Trade Union Muriel Tang 584 1.5
SDLP Peter Prendiville 519 1.3
Workers' Party Frank Cullen 421 1.1
New Agenda Herbert Boyd 59 0.2
Majority 7,989 20.5
Turnout 70.0
DUP hold Swing

Elections in the 1970s[edit]

General Election 1979: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
DUP Peter Robinson 15,994 31.4
UUP William Craig 15,930 31.2
Alliance Oliver Napier 15,066 29.6
Unionist Party NI Norman Agnew 2,017 4.0
Labour (NI) George Chambers 1,982 3.9
Majority 64 0.1
Turnout 67.6
DUP gain from Vanguard Swing
General Election October 1974: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Vanguard William Craig 31,594 59.1
Unionist Party NI Peter McLachlan 14,417 27.0
Labour (NI) David Bleakley 7,415 13.9
Majority 17,177 32.2
Turnout 67.1
Vanguard hold Swing
General Election February 1974: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Vanguard William Craig 27,817 48.4
Pro-Assembly Unionist Stanley McMaster 20,077 34.9
Labour (NI) David Bleakley 8,122 14.1
SDLP Desmond Gillespie 1,502 2.6
Majority 7,740 13.5
Turnout 71.9
Vanguard gain from UUP Swing
General Election 1970: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UUP Stanley McMaster 26,778 59.5
Labour (NI) David Bleakley 18,259 40.5
Majority 8,519 18.9
Turnout 75.6
UUP hold Swing

Elections in the 1960s[edit]

General Election 1966: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UUP Stanley McMaster 21,283 54.7
Labour (NI) Robert McBirney 17,650 45.3
Majority 3,633 9.3
Turnout 68.2
UUP hold Swing
General Election 1964: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UUP Stanley McMaster 24,804 58.8
Labour (NI) Samuel Watt 15,555 36.9
Independent Republican David McConnell 1,827 4.3
Majority 9,249 21.9
Turnout 72.5
UUP hold Swing

Elections in the 1950s[edit]

General Election 1959: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UUP Stanley McMaster 26,510 60.1
Labour (NI) James Gardner 16,412 37.2
Sinn Féin Barney Boswell 1,204 2.7
Majority 9,249 21.9
Turnout 90.7
UUP hold Swing
Belfast East by-election, 1959
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UUP Stanley McMaster 19,524 57.8
Labour (NI) James Gardner 14,264 42.2
Majority 5,260
Turnout 57.9
UUP hold Swing
General Election 1955: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UUP Alan McKibbin 26,938 62.5
Labour (NI) Tom Boyd 13,041 30.2
Sinn Féin Liam Mulcahy 3,156 7.3
Majority 13,897 32.2
Turnout 70.4
UUP hold Swing
General Election 1951: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UUP Alan McKibbin 28,881 61.7
Labour (NI) Tom Boyd 17,910 38.3
Majority 10,971 23.5
Turnout 74.5
UUP hold Swing
General Election 1950: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UUP Alan McKibbin 29,844 63.3
Labour (NI) Tom Boyd 17,338 36.7
Majority 12,506 26.6
Turnout 76.6
UUP hold Swing

Elections in the 1940s[edit]

General Election 1945: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UUP Thomas Loftus Cole 21,443 56.4 N/A
Labour (NI) Tom Boyd 17,338 43.6 N/A
Majority 4,869 12.8 N/A
Turnout 38,017 63.2 N/A
UUP hold Swing N/A
Belfast East by-election, 1940: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UUP Henry Peirson Harland Unopposed N/A N/A
UUP hold Swing N/A

Elections in the 1930s[edit]

General Election 1935: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UUP Herbert Dixon Unopposed N/A N/A
UUP hold Swing N/A
General Election 1931: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UUP Herbert Dixon 28,431 75.1 0.0
Labour (NI) John Campbell 9,410 24.9 N/A
Majority 19,021 50.3 + 0.1
Turnout 37,841 66.2 + 0.5
UUP hold Swing

Elections in the 1920s[edit]

General Election 1929: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UUP Herbert Dixon 27,855 75.1 N/A
Liberal Denis Ireland 9,230 24.9 N/A
Majority 18,625 50.2 N/A
Turnout 37,085 65.7 N/A
UUP hold Swing N/A
General Election 1924: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UUP Herbert Dixon Unopposed N/A N/A
UUP hold Swing N/A
General Election 1923: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UUP Herbert Dixon Unopposed N/A N/A
UUP hold Swing N/A
General Election 1922: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UUP Herbert Dixon Unopposed N/A N/A
UUP hold Swing N/A

Elections in the 1910s[edit]

Belfast East by-election, 1914
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UUP Robert Sharman-Crawford Unopposed N/A N/A
UUP hold Swing N/A
General Election Dec 1910: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UUP Robert McMordie Unopposed N/A N/A
UUP hold Swing N/A
General Election Jan 1910: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Gustav Wilhelm Wolff Unopposed N/A N/A
Conservative hold Swing N/A

Elections in the 1900s[edit]

General Election 1906: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Gustav Wilhelm Wolff Unopposed N/A N/A
Conservative hold Swing N/A
General Election 1900: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Gustav Wilhelm Wolff Unopposed N/A N/A
Conservative hold Swing N/A

Elections in the 1890s[edit]

General Election 1895: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Gustav Wilhelm Wolff Unopposed N/A N/A
Conservative hold Swing N/A
General Election 1892: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Gustav Wilhelm Wolff Unopposed N/A N/A
Conservative hold Swing N/A
Belfast East by-election, 1892
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Gustav Wilhelm Wolff 4,748
Independent Conservative W. T. Charley 2,607
Majority
Turnout
Conservative hold Swing

Elections in the 1880s[edit]

General Election 1886: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Edward de Cobain 5,068 80.4
Irish Nationalist Robert McCalmont 1,239 19.6
Majority 3,829 60.7
Turnout 6,307
Conservative hold Swing
General Election 1885: Belfast East
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Edward de Cobain 3,033 44.6 N/A
Conservative J. P. Corry 2,900 42.6 N/A
Liberal R. W. Murray 875 12.9 N/A
Majority 133 1.9 N/A
Turnout 6,808 N/A
Conservative hold Swing N/A

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]