2010 United Kingdom general election in Northern Ireland

The 2010 United Kingdom general election in Northern Ireland occurred on 6 May 2010 and all 18 seats in Northern Ireland were contested. 1,169,184 people were eligible to vote, up 29,191 from the 2005 general election. 57.99% of eligible voters turned out, down 5.5 percentage points from the last general election.[1]

United Kingdom general election, 2010 (Northern Ireland)
 2005 6 May 2010 2015 

All 18 Northern Irish seats to the House of Commons
Turnout58.0% ()
  First party Second party
Leader Peter Robinson Gerry Adams
Party DUP Sinn Féin
Leader since 31 May 2008 13 November 1983
Leader's seat Belfast East
Belfast West
Last election 9 seats, 33.7% 5 seats, 24.3%
Seats won 8 5
Seat change 1
Popular vote 168,216 171,942
Percentage 25.0% 25.5%
Swing 8.7% 1.2%

  Third party Fourth party
Leader Margaret Ritchie David Ford
Party SDLP Alliance
Leader since 7 February 2010 6 October 2001
Leader's seat South Down Did not stand[nb 1]
Last election 3 seats, 17.5% 0 seats, 3.9%
Seats won 3 1
Seat change 1
Popular vote 110,970 42,762
Percentage 16.5% 6.3%
Swing 1.0% 2.4%

Colours on map indicate winning party for each constituency

The election saw Sinn Féin win the most votes at a Westminster election for the first time and saw the Democratic Unionist Party win the most seats. The Ulster Unionist Party fought the election as allies of the UK Conservative Party, under the banner of Ulster Conservatives and Unionists - New Force. The UUP failed to win any seats for the first time in over 100 years.

The election also resulted in the cross community Alliance Party of Northern Ireland gaining its first elected Member of Parliament at the expense of DUP leader, Peter Robinson. The election also marked the first time since the Troubles that the counts in the eighteen constituencies were held overnight, at the same time as in the rest of the United Kingdom instead of the Friday afternoon.


Northern Ireland have a distinct regional political scene compared to the rest of the United Kingdom. The major mainland UK political entities maintain a nominal presence in the country and local parties campaign to represent Northern Irish issues. Politics is mainly split on unionist and nationalist divides, with those wanting to remain part of the United Kingdom on one side and those wanting to unite with the Republic of Ireland on the other. Cross community parties do exist, but have not gained as much political support.[2]

In May 2007, the major political parties agreed to the St Andrews Agreement allowing the reformation of a devolved government at Stormont. The DUP's Ian Paisley became First Minister, sharing power with Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness, in a move Paisley had previously stated would never happen.[3] A year later, Paisley stood down as DUP leader and was replaced by his deputy, Peter Robinson.[4]

In the run up to the 2010 elections, Robinson suffered a series of personal setbacks. Prior to and during the MP expenses scandal in 2009, questions were asked about his family's remunerations and expenses.[5][6][7] The following year, his wife and Strangford MP, Iris was involved in a political scandal.[8] This led to her resignation as MP and Strangford MLA, and eventual political retirement. Robinson himself temporarily stood down as First Minister to deal with the personal and legal implications.[9]

Following the general election in 2005, the UUP elected Reg Empey to replace David Trimble as leader. Trimble himself was appointed as a member of the House of Lords and would eventually defect to the Conservatives in 2007.[10] In 2009, the UUP formed an alliance with the Conservatives to contest the 2009 European elections and maintained that pact for the 2010 elections. The UUP's sole MP, Sylvia Hermon chose not to enter under that grouping and instead stood in the election as an independent for North Down.[11]

In September 2009, SDLP leader, Mark Durkan decided to stand down to focus on his parliamentary duties.[12] The proceeding leadership contest saw South Down MLA, Margaret Ritchie emerge as leader.[13] In February 2010, Eddie McGrady announced that he would not stand for another term as MP for South Down.[14]

The devolution of policing and justice powers to Northern Ireland culminated in the acceptance of the Police Service of Northern Ireland by Sinn Féin and Alliance leader, David Ford being proposed as Minister of Justice. Ford was named as Justice Minister, the first since 1972, shortly before the 2010 election after receiving cross–party support.[15]

Sinn Féin maintained its policy of abstentionism at Westminister in 2010; refusing to recognise the legitimacy of British government in Ireland.[16]

Election constituencies

Northern Ireland returned eighteen members of parliament to House of Commons, one for each of its 18 parliamentary constituencies.[17]


Party seats remained the same as the previous Westminister election in Northern Ireland, with the exception of East Belfast and North Down. The Alliance caused a surprise upset by taking East Belfast from the DUP. The UUP lost its only MP in North Down.[17]


The DUP retained all but one of its seats. Ian Paisley Jr regained his father's seat in North Antrim and Jim Shannon kept the party's Strangford seat.[18][19] Sammy Wilson retained his seat in East Antrim, William McCrea maintained his seat in South Antrim and Jeffrey Donaldson kept his seat in Lagan Valley. Both Nigel Dodds and Gregory Campbell retained their seats in North Belfast and East Londonderry respectively.[17]

The UCU-NF did not make any gains. Sylvia Hermon managed to retain her seat in North Down as an independent, meaning that the UUP had no parliamentary representation for the first time in more than 100 years. UUP leader, Reg Empey was unsuccessful in his attempt at the seat for South Antrim and his party's electoral performance led to his resignation announcement as leader.[20][21]

The newly founded Traditional Unionist Voice stood 10 candidates and polled 26,300 votes among them. Leader Jim Allister stood in North Antrim and came second despite predictions that he would gain the seat.


The Northern Irish electorate cast the most votes for Sinn Féin, which managed to hold its five seats but did not see any additional seat gains. Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams successfully defended his seat in West Belfast, as did deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness in Mid Ulster. Both Pat Doherty and Conor Murphy retained their seats in West Tyrone and Newry and Armagh respectively.[17] Michelle Gildernew narrowly saved her seat in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. After a third recount she won by just 4 votes, following a strong showing by independent unionist Rodney Connor, making the seat the most marginal in the UK.[22][23]

The SDLP maintained three seats at Westminister. SDLP leader, Margaret Ritchie regained her party's seat in South Down.[22] Both Mark Durkan and Alasdair McDonnell kept their seats in Foyle and South Belfast respectively.[17]


The Alliance gained its first elected MP by taking East Belfast. Alliance deputy leader, Naomi Long defeated the incumbent MP, DUP leader Peter Robinson.[22]

Full results

e  d Summary of the May 2010 House of Commons of the United Kingdom election results
Political party
Number of votes
Seats gained
Seats lost
Net change
in seats
% of seats
% of votes
Change in %
of vote
Sinn Féin 17171,942500027.825.5+1.2
DUP 16168,216801−144.425.0−8.7
SDLP 18110,970300016.716.5−1.0
UCU-NF 17102,361001−1015.2−2.6
Alliance 1842,762110+15.66.3+2.4
TUV 1026,300000003.9N/A
Green (NI) 43,542000000.5N/A
Others 847,778110+15.67.1+4.7

    MPs elected

    Naomi LongBelfast EastAlliance Party of Northern Ireland
    Nigel DoddsBelfast NorthDemocratic Unionist Party
    Alasdair McDonnellBelfast SouthSocial Democratic and Labour Party
    Gerry Adams[nb 2]Belfast WestSinn Féin
    Sammy WilsonEast AntrimDemocratic Unionist Party
    Gregory CampbellEast LondonderryDemocratic Unionist Party
    Michelle GildernewFermanagh and South TyroneSinn Féin
    Mark DurkanFoyleSocial Democratic and Labour Party
    Jeffrey DonaldsonLagan ValleyDemocratic Unionist Party
    Martin McGuinnessMid UlsterSinn Féin
    Conor MurphyNewry and ArmaghSinn Féin
    Ian Paisley JrNorth AntrimDemocratic Unionist Party
    Sylvia HermonNorth DownIndependent Unionist[nb 3]
    William McCreaSouth AntrimDemocratic Unionist Party
    Margaret RitchieSouth DownSocial Democratic and Labour Party
    Jim ShannonStrangfordDemocratic Unionist Party
    David SimpsonUpper BannDemocratic Unionist Party
    Pat DohertyWest TyroneSinn Féin

    Italics indicates a new member and/or party representing the seat. Bold indicates an MP who did not complete a full term.


    1. David Ford sat as an MLA in the Northern Ireland Assembly for South Antrim. The party's only MP in the Commons was Naomi Long, the MP for Belfast East
    2. Adams resigned his seat after being elected to the Dáil Éireann in the 2011 election.
    3. Hermon had previously held the seat for the Ulster Unionist Party


    1. "UK Parliamentary Election 2010 - Turnout". EONI. Retrieved 15 December 2019.
    2. Whyte, Nicholas (3 July 2005). "Northern Ireland Political Parties". Northern Ireland Social and Political Archive. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
    3. "Ian Paisley: Why 'Dr No' finally said yes to peace". Irish Examiner. 13 September 2014. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    4. Balakrishnan, Angela (14 April 2008). "Robinson succeeds Paisley as DUP leader". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    5. "Northern Ireland first minister claims Tories and UUP colluding over expenses stories". The Guardian. 6 April 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    6. Gordon, David (8 May 2009). "Peter Robinson: expenses row". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    7. Rayner, Gordon (15 May 2009). "Peter and Iris Robinson: DUP couple tried to claim twice for same bill: MPs expenses". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    8. "Timeline: Peter and Iris Robinson affair allegations". BBC News. 11 January 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    9. McDonald, Henry (11 January 2010). "Northern Ireland power sharing at risk as Peter Robinson quits". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    10. "Lord Trimble bows out to join Conservatives". The News Letter. 16 April 2007. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    11. "MP Lady Sylvia Hermon quits Ulster Unionists". BBC News. 25 March 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    12. "SDLP leader Durkan to step down". The Irish Times. 20 September 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    13. "New SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie aims to be Northern Ireland's First Minister Minister". Belfast Telegraph. 8 February 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    14. "SDLP's Eddie McGrady to stand down at election". RTÉ. 26 February 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    15. "New Northern Ireland justice minister set to be named". BBC News. 12 April 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    16. Minihan, Mary (7 May 2015). "Sinn Féin abstention policy means party will stand but never sit in Westminster". The Irish Times. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    17. "Election 2010 | Results | Northern Ireland". BBC News. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    18. "Antrim North: Paisley Jnr sees off Jim Allister". BBC News. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    19. "Strangford: Jim Shannon keeps Iris seat for the DUP". BBC News. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    20. Spackman, Conor (7 May 2010). "What now for unionism?". BBC News. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    21. "Sir Reg Empey to stand down as UUP leader in autumn". BBC News. 15 May 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    22. "Peter Robinson loses East Belfast to Long in election". BBC News. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
    23. McDonald, Henry (6 May 2015). "Divisions run deep on Lough Erne's banks, in the UK's most marginal seat". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 May 2015.