List of political parties in Northern Ireland

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Political parties in Northern Ireland lists political parties in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Assembly uses the D'Hondt system, with numerous parties in which no one party often has a chance of gaining power alone, and parties must work with each other to form coalition governments. Party affiliation is generally based on religious and ethnic background.

Although Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, it has a quite distinct political scene from the rest of the country, as the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats do not contest elections there (though the Liberal Democrats have links with the Alliance Party), and the Conservative Party has received only limited support in recent elections.

Some parties, such as Sinn Féin and the Workers' Party, are organised on an all-Ireland basis. Others such as the Conservative Party are organised on an all-United Kingdom basis. There are many Northern Ireland-specific parties and these, on the whole, predominate.

The distinction between "unionist/loyalist", "nationalist/republican" and "other" is not always easy with some parties and individuals. Some have defined themselves less by their position on the "Border Question" than on other political issues.

For example the former Republican Labour Party/Social Democratic and Labour Party MP Gerry Fitt's career suggests he was first and foremost a socialist rather than a nationalist and he eventually left the SDLP claiming it had drifted from its founding intentions. Similarly the Workers' Party has its roots in the republican Official IRA but nowadays is considered to be a non-violent socialist and nationalist party. Several parties strive to be avowedly non-sectarian and would not consider themselves to be either unionist or nationalist. The Northern Ireland Assembly requires MLAs to designate themselves either "Unionist", "Nationalist" or "Other." This is a designation that is particularly resented by those who designate as "Other", as they have no input on who becomes First or Deputy First Minister.

There are some who see the terms "Unionist" and "Nationalist"/"Republican" as being of more relevance to the community that the party seeks to represent rather than the position on the border question. Several of the "Other" parties strive to be non-sectarian but have a clear position on the border.

Active parties[edit]

Unionist and loyalist[edit]

Nationalist and republican[edit]

Others[edit]

  • The Liberal Democrats currently have a policy not to stand in Northern Ireland but to support their sister party, the Alliance, with many holding membership of both, and Alliance peers take the Liberal Democrat whip. The Liberal Democrats have a local party in the region, the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats.
  • The British Labour Party have a policy not to stand in Northern Ireland. Until recently it was not possible for residents to even join the party; however this was changed on legal advice. The Labour Party has also recently set up an officially recognised branch party in the region. (See Labour - Federation of Labour Groups). The SDLP MPs unofficially take the Labour whip.

Inactive parties[edit]

Unionist and loyalist[edit]

Nationalist and Republican[edit]

Communist[edit]

Others[edit]

Party leaders[edit]

Party leaders serving 10 years or more are

Leader Years Party/Period Constituency
Ian Paisley 42y Protestant Unionist Party 1966–1971
Democratic Unionist Party 1971–2008
Bannside, North Antrim
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh 36y Sinn Féin 1970–1983
Republican Sinn Féin 1986–present
Gerry Adams 31y Sinn Féin 1983–present West Belfast, Louth
William Norton 28y Irish Labour 1932–1960
Tomás Mac Giolla 26y Sinn Féin 1962–1970
Official Sinn Féin 1970–1977
Sinn Féin The Workers Party 1977–1982
Workers' Party 1982–1988
Hugh Smyth 23y Progressive Unionist Party 1979–2002
John Hume 22y Social Democratic and Labour Party 1979–2001 Foyle
Albert McElroy 19y Ulster Liberal Party 1956–1975 (?)
Lord Craigavon 19y Ulster Unionist Party 1921–1940 Down, North Down
John Redmond 18y Irish Parliamentary Party 1900–1918 Waterford City
Lord Brookeborough 17y Ulster Unionist Party 1946–1963 Lisnaskea
James Molyneaux 16y Ulster Unionist Party 1979–1995 South Antrim, Lagan Valley
Joseph Devlin 16y Nationalist Party 1918–1934 Belfast Falls, Fermanagh and Tyrone, Belfast Central
Gerry Fitt 15y Republican Labour Party 1964–1970
Social Democratic and Labour Party 1970–1979
Belfast West, Belfast Dock
James Kilfedder 15y Ulster Popular Unionist Party 1980–1995 North Down
Margaret Buckley 13y Sinn Féin 1937–1950
Robert McCartney 13y UK Unionist Party 1995–2008 North Down
James McSparran 13y Nationalist Party 1945–1958 Mourne
Oliver Napier 12y Alliance Party 1972–1984
Thomas Joseph Campbell 11y Nationalist Party 1934–1945 Belfast Central
Sir Edward Carson 11y Ulster Unionist Party 1910–1921 Dublin University, Belfast Duncairn
John Alderdice 11y Alliance Party 1987–1998
David Trimble 10y Ulster Unionist Party 1995–2005 Upper Bann

See also[edit]