Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention

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Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention
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← 1973 1 May 1975 1982 →

All 78 seats to the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention
40 seats were needed for a majority
  First party Second party Third party
  Gerry Fitt, Lord Fitt.jpg William Craig.jpg
Leader Harry West Gerry Fitt William Craig
Party UUP SDLP Vanguard
Leader since 22 January 1974 21 August 1970 9 February 1972
Leader's seat Fermanagh & South Tyrone Belfast North Belfast East
Last election 7 seats, 10.5%[1] 19 seats, 22.1% 7 seats, 11.5%
Seats won 19 17 14
Seat change Increase12 Decrease2 Increase7
Popular vote 167,214 156,049 83,507
Percentage 25.4% 23.7% 12.7%
Swing Increase14.9%[2] Increase1.6% Increase1.2%

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
  Ian Paisley - (cropped).png Oliver Napier.jpg No image.png
Leader Ian Paisley Oliver Napier Brian Faulkner
Party DUP Alliance Unionist Party NI
Leader since 30 September 1971 1972 4 September 1974
Leader's seat North Antrim Belfast East South Down
Last election 8 seats, 10.8% 8 seats, 9.2% 19, 25.3%[3]
Seats won 12 8 5
Seat change Increase4 Steady0 Decrease19
Popular vote 97,073 64,657 50,891
Percentage 14.8% 9.8% 7.7%
Swing Increase4.0% Increase0.6% Decrease17.6%[4]

Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention 1975.png
Percentage of seats gained by each of the party.

Chief Executive before election

Brian Faulkner

Elected Chief Executive


This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Northern Ireland
Interim bodies
See also

The Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention (NICC) was an elected body set up in 1975 by the United Kingdom Labour government of Harold Wilson as an attempt to deal with constitutional issues surrounding the status of Northern Ireland.

Formation of the Constitutional Convention[edit]

The idea for a constitutional convention was first mooted by the Northern Ireland Office in its white paper The Northern Ireland Constitution, published on 4 July 1974.[5] The paper laid out plans for elections to a body which would seek agreement on a political settlement for Northern Ireland. The proposals became law with the enactment of the Northern Ireland Act 1974 later that month. With Lord Chief Justice Robert Lowry appointed to chair the new body, elections were announced for 1 May 1975.

The elections were held for the 78-member body using the single transferable vote system of proportional representation in each of Northern Ireland's twelve Westminster constituencies. Initially the body was intended to be purely consultative, although it was hoped that executive and legislative functions could be devolved to the NICC once a cross-community agreement had been reached.


Unionists opposed to the NICC once again banded together under the umbrella of the United Ulster Unionist Council (UUUC) and this coalition proved the most successful, taking 46 seats.

Party % Votes +/- Seats +/-
United Ulster Unionist Council (UUUC)
UUP (UUUC) 167,214 25.4% Increase14.9% 19 Increase12
DUP (UUUC) 97,073 14.8% Increase4.0% 12 Increase4
Vanguard (UUUC) 83,507 12.7% Increase1.2% 14 Increase7
Independent Loyalist (UUUC) 5,687 0.9% N/A 1 Increase1
Total UUUC 353,481 53.8% Increase21.0% 46 Increase23
SDLP 156,049 23.7% Increase1.6% 17 Decrease2
Alliance 64,657 9.8% Increase0.6% 8 Steady
Unionist Party NI 50,891 7.7% Decrease17.6% 5 Decrease19
Republican Clubs 14,515 2.2% Increase0.4% 0 Steady
NI Labour 9,102 1.4% Decrease1.2% 1 Steady
Independent Unionist 4,453 0.6% Decrease1.3% 1 Steady
Ulster Unionist Party (non-UUUC) 2,583 0.4% N/A 0 Steady
Independent 2,052 0.3% Decrease0.3% 0 Steady
Communist Party 378 0.1% Increase0.1% 0 Steady

Source: Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention Elections 1975

Note: UUP-UUUC votes and seats in 1975 are compared with anti-White Paper UUP votes and seats in 1973; UPNI votes and seats in 1975 are compared with pro-White Paper UUP candidates.

Votes summary[edit]

Popular vote
Total UUUC
Ulster Unionist (UUUC)*
Vanguard (UUUC)*
Republican Clubs
Ind. Loyalist (UUUC)*

Seats summary[edit]

Parliamentary seats
Total UUUC
Ulster Unionist (UUUC)*
Vanguard (UUUC)*
Ind. Loyalist (UUUC)*

Leading members[edit]

A number of leading Northern Ireland politicians were elected to the NICC, increasing hope that the body might achieve some of its aims. Also elected were some younger figures who went on to become leading figures in the future of Northern Ireland politics. These included:

Progress of the NICC[edit]

The elections left the body fundamentally weakened from its inception as an overall majority had been obtained by those Unionists who opposed power sharing as a concept. As a result, the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention Report published on 20 November 1975[6] recommended only a return to majority rule as had previously existed under the old Parliament of Northern Ireland government. As such a solution was completely unacceptable to the nationalist parties, the NICC was placed on hiatus.

Hoping to gain something from the exercise, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Merlyn Rees announced that the NICC would be reconvened on 3 February 1976.[citation needed] However, a series of meetings held between the UUUC and the SDLP failed to reach any agreement about SDLP participation in government, and so the reconvened NICC once again failed to achieve a solution with cross-community support. As a result, Rees announced the dissolution of the body on 4 March 1976 and Northern Ireland remained under direct rule.[citation needed]

Significance of the NICC[edit]

On the face of it, the NICC was a total failure as it did not achieve its aims of agreement between the two sides or of introducing 'rolling devolution' (gradual introduction of devolution as and when the parties involved saw fit to accept it). Nevertheless, coming as it did not long after the Conservative-sponsored Sunningdale Agreement, the NICC indicated that no British government would be prepared to re-introduce majority rule in Northern Ireland. During the debates William Craig accepted the possibility of power-sharing with the SDLP, a move that split the UUUC and precipitated the eventual collapse of Vanguard.

The idea of electing a consultative body to thrash out a deal for devolution was also retained and in 1996 it was revived when the Northern Ireland Forum was elected on largely the same lines and with the same overall purpose. The Forum formed part of a process that led to the Belfast Agreement and the Northern Ireland Assembly.


  1. ^ As anti-White Paper UUP
  2. ^ Compared to anti-White Paper UUP vote in 1973
  3. ^ As pro-White Paper UUP
  4. ^ Compared to pro-White Paper UUP vote in 1973
  5. ^ "The Northern Ireland Constitution (1974)". 1 January 1974. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  6. ^ Dr Martin Melaugh. "Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention Report, 20 November 1975". Retrieved 7 August 2013. 

External links[edit]