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It is most popularly associated with candidates in elections for the Parliament of Northern Ireland. Such candidates supported the positions of Unionism in Northern Ireland but, for various reasons, could not reconcile to themselves to the Ulster Unionist Party or other groups. It was also used by Unionists in what became the Irish Free State, as they were unionists, but not in Ulster. The label was also used in Scotland, demonstrating an association with ideology of the Unionist Party, the predecessor to the modern Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party.
Notable users of the title
- George Hanna was an early independent Unionist, representing East Antrim in the British House of Commons from 1919.
- Tommy Henderson represented Belfast Shankill from 1929 to 1953 as an independent Unionist.
- James Woods Gyle, a member of both houses of the Parliament of Northern Ireland and a contemporary of Henderson, was an independent Unionist throughout his political career.
- James Brown contested the Northern Ireland general election, 1945 under this label.
- Norman Porter was elected for Belfast Clifton in the 1953 election on this ticket.
- Lloyd Hall-Thompson would later hold the same seat as an independent Unionist.
- George Forrest won the Mid Ulster by-election, 1956 as an independent Unionist before switching to the Ulster Unionist Party.
- Ian Smith stood unsuccessfully as an Independent Unionist candidate in the 1963 Kinross and West Perthshire by-election in Scotland, which was won by the then Conservative and Unionist Party leader and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Alec Douglas-Home.
- Bertie McConnell was elected to the NI Parliament under this banner in 1969.
- Hugh Smyth served in both the Northern Ireland Assembly (1973) and the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention as an independent unionist.
- Frank Millar was elected to both the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention and the Northern Ireland Assembly (1982) as an independent Unionist.
- Dorothy Dunlop campaigned under this label before joining the Conservative Party.
- William Bleakes used the term following his departure from the Conservatives.
- Fraser Agnew, Boyd Douglas and Denis Watson used the title before forming the United Unionist Coalition.
- Pauline Armitage briefly used the designation before joining the UK Unionist Party.
- Roger Hutchinson sat as an Independent Unionist following his expulsion from the Northern Ireland Unionist Party.
- Ivan Davis ran as independent Unionist after failing to secure selection as UUP candidature for the 2003 Assembly election. He has subsequently returned to the UUP.
- David McClarty ran as an independent unionist after being de-selected by the UUP for the Northern Ireland Assembly election in 2011 in the East Londonderry constituency. He was re-elected to the Assembly under this designation and held the seat until his death in 2014.
- Basil McCrea and John McCallister took on the label after leaving the UUP in 2013.
- Claire Sugden has represented East Londonderry in the Northern Ireland Assembly since her 2014 Co-Option, after the death of David McClarty. She has sat as an Independent since her selection. She has served as the Minister for Justice on the Northern Ireland Executive since May 2016.
- Belfast City Councillor Ruth Patterson has described herself as an Independent Unionist since her expulsion from the Democratic Unionist Party.
- Biographies of Members of the Northern Ireland House of Commons
- Mid-Ulster 1950-1970
- W.D. Flackes & Sydney Elliott, Northern Ireland: A Political Directory 1968-1993, Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1994, p. 305
- North Belfast 1973-1982
- Local Government Elections 1985 - 1989: Belfast
- Newtownabbey Borough Council Elections 1993-2011
- East Londonderry
- Upper Bann
- Lagan Valley
- John McCallister resigns from the UUP
- Magee, Kevin (23 November 2015). "Ruth Patterson: Belfast councillor will not appeal DUP expulsion". BBC News NI. Retrieved 11 December 2015.