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Leader Basil McCrea
Chairman Olive Buckley
Deputy Leader Johnny McCarthy
Founded 6 June 2013
Headquarters 19 Market Street,
BT21 1AW
Ideology Ulster unionism
Colours Teal, Green, Blue
House of Commons (NI seats)
0 / 18
NI Assembly
1 / 108
NI Local Councils
1 / 462
Politics of United Kingdom
Political parties

NI21 is a political party in Northern Ireland. It was founded in 2013 by ex-Ulster Unionist Party MLAs Basil McCrea and John McCallister and holds one seat in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Although it explicitly supports Northern Ireland staying part of the United Kingdom (i.e. unionism), it plans to designate as "other" rather than "unionist" in future Stormont elections.[1] It presents itself as a "cross-community party" and promotes a "Northern Irish" national identity.



The party was founded by McCrea and McCallister several months after their resignation from the UUP when they left over what they saw as plan towards merging the UUP with the Democratic Unionist Party in the choosing of a joint-unionist candidate (Nigel Lutton) for the Mid Ulster by-election of 2013.[2] The two had been unsuccessfully courted by the NI Conservatives.[3] Also involved in the new party is David Rose, a former Northern Ireland Policing Board member and former deputy leader of the Progressive Unionist Party, who left that party in 2010.[4]

The party was officially founded on 6 June 2013 with a livestreamed press conference in the Metropolitan Arts Centre in Belfast. Its name refers to the 21st century, putting itself forward as a "modern party".[5]

NI21 takes a pro-Union stance on the constitutional issue, although it makes an effort to try to appeal to all sides of the community, the party describing itself as a "confident, generous and progressive pro-UK party".[6] It was claimed that the party represents moderate political views, including left of centre voters.[7] It was stated that NI21 would attempt to form an official opposition in the Northern Ireland Assembly,[8] which would be the first official opposition in the Northern Ireland Assembly.[5]

NI21 is in support of same-sex marriage. The party also attracted criticism in its first week following comments made by Basil McCrea on the topic when an interviewer asked about polygamous marriage.[9]

The party appointed party co-founder[10] Tina McKenzie (daughter of IRA prisoner, Harry Fitzsimons) as chair in 2013.[11] She was then nominated as their candidate in the 2014 European Parliament elections.[12] NI21 has a Pro-European platform[13] and McKenzie would have joined the European People's Party grouping if elected.[14]

The new party came under some criticism for being too centralised around Basil McCrea. The party has received continual positive coverage from commentators such as Bill White and Alex Kane. McCrea appointed himself as leader as soon as party was announced. It was also criticised for going under the designation of "unionist" in the Northern Ireland Assembly rather than "other" despite being a cross-community party.[15] McCrea responded to this criticism in the founding speech of the party, saying that the designations in the Assembly do not matter, and claimed that the constitutional issue in Northern Ireland has been "settled" by the Good Friday Agreement and St. Andrew's Agreement.[5]


In May 2014, two days before the European and local elections, NI21 announced it would changing its designation in the Northern Ireland Assembly from Unionist to Other from the 2016 election onwards. It said this was due to the connotations of the term 'Unionist', and to present itself as a "cross-community party",[1] but that it still supports Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom[1] and described itself as a "pro United Kingdom party".[16] However, NI21's deputy leader, John McCallister, condemned the move, saying the decision was not properly debated and showed how "dysfunctional" NI21 had become.[16] He further alleged that the decision was made at an improperly constituted executive meeting.[17] This sparked a political crisis within the party.[18]

McCrea demanded an explanation from McCallister for describing the party as "dysfunctional [...] in a very public way", and said the party executive would confront him about his comments. However, McCallister was publicly defended by the party's youth wing, which criticised a "lack of respect shown towards our deputy leader".[19] As the crisis developed, McCallister told the public that the internal rift was due to an external investigation into McCrea,[20] as a former party worker had made allegations of sexual misconduct against him.[21] Tina McKenzie, the European parliamentary candidate and former chairperson, resigned from the party executive half an hour before voting ended on election day. She said that the crisis made it "difficult for Basil McCrea and John McCallister to remain as leader and deputy leader of NI21",[22] before resigning from politics altogether.[23]

The party won 1.8% of first preference votes and, in the local elections, saw one councillor, Johnny McCarthy, narrowly elected with reliance on Nationalist transfers.[24]

In July 2014, John McCallister resigned his membership of the party.[25]

The party did not stand any candidates at the 2015 general election.[26]


Leader From To
Basil McCrea 6 June 2013 Incumbent
Deputy Leader From To
John McCallister 6 June 2013 3 July 2014
Vacant 3 July 2014 6 December 2014
Johnny McCarthy[27] 6 December 2014 Incumbent

Electoral performance[edit]

European election (NI) Votes Share of votes Seats Share of seats
2014 10,553 1.6%
0 / 3
Local government (NI) Votes Share of votes Seats Share of seats
2014 11,495 1.8%
1 / 462


  1. ^ a b c "NI21 changes from unionist party to 'other' assembly designation". BBC News. 20 May 2014.
  2. ^ "Basil McCrea 'likely to form new party' to challenge DUP and UUP". BBC News. 15 February 2013. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  3. ^ "NI21: How the Conservatives spent two years trying to woo the disaffected UUP duo". The Belfast Telegraph. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  4. ^ "VIDEO: John McCallister discusses new NI21 party ahead of launch". 6 June 2013. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c Cromie, Claire (6 June 2013). "NI21: Basil McCrea's launch speech in full". The Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Cromie, Claire (6 June 2013). "Launch of Basil McCrea and John McCallister's new political party NI21". The Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  7. ^ "NI21's task is to live up to expectations". The Belfast Telegraph. 8 June 2013. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  8. ^ "Leader of new party NI21 seeks to enthuse non-voters". Irish News. 7 June 2013. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  9. ^ McBride, Sam (8 June 2013). "Hours after launching, NI21 in polygamy row". Belfast Newsletter. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  10. ^ "Tina McKenzie selected as NI21's European election candidate". 2014-04-07. Retrieved 2014-06-05. 
  11. ^ LIAM CLARKE – 06 November 2013 (2013-11-06). "NI21's Tina McKenzie: My politics are very different to my IRA terrorist dad's". Retrieved 2014-06-05. 
  12. ^ Purdy, Martina (2014-04-24). "European election candidates in Northern Ireland revealed". Retrieved 2014-06-05. 
  13. ^ "Tina McKenzie selected as NI21's European election candidate". BBC. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ Wilford, Rick. "New political contenders are already in the rough". The Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  16. ^ a b "NI21 in chaos as deputy leader says party is dysfunctional". Belfast Newsletter. 21 May 2014.
  17. ^ "NI21 in chaos as deputy leader says party is dysfunctional". 21 May 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2014. 
  18. ^ "NI21 row: Political reaction". 23 May 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2014. 
  19. ^ "NI21: Basil McCrea challenges John McCallister on 'dysfunctional' claim". 21 May 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2014. 
  20. ^ "NI21 rift due to internal staff matters, John McCallister says". 22 May 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2014. 
  21. ^ "NI21 row: Woman at centre of sex claims speaks out". 23 May 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2014. 
  22. ^ "NI21 row: Tina McKenzie devastated by party turmoil". 23 May 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2014. 
  23. ^ "NI21 European candidate Tina McKenzie quitting politics". 24 May 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2014. 
  24. ^ "Vote 2014 Election Results for Councils in Northern Ireland". Retrieved 2014-06-05. 
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^

External links[edit]