2011 Northern Ireland Assembly election
The 2011 election to the Northern Ireland Assembly took place on Thursday, 5 May, following the dissolution of the Northern Ireland Assembly at midnight on 24 March 2011. It was the fourth election to take place since the devolved assembly was established in 1998.
All 108 seats to the Northern Ireland Assembly
55 seats were needed for a majority
Seats won by each party per constituency. Voters elect 6 assembly members from the 18 constituencies.
It was held on the same day as elections for Northern Ireland's 26 local councils, the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly elections, a number of local elections in England and the United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum. As in the past, the 2011 election to the Assembly was conducted using the single transferable vote (STV) system of proportional representation. The 108 seats were contested in 18 constituencies by 218 candidates, including 15 independents and the nominees of 14 separate political parties.
1,210,009 individuals were registered to vote in the 2011 Assembly election (representing an increase of 9.2% compared to the 2007 Assembly election). Turnout in the 2011 Assembly election was 55.7%, a decline of almost seven percentage points from the previous Assembly election and down over 14 percentage points from the first election to the Assembly in 1998.
As in the 2007 election, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin (SF) remained the two largest parties in the Assembly, with the DUP winning 38 and Sinn Féin winning 29 of the Assembly's 108 seats. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) won 16 seats, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) 14 and the Alliance 8, while one seat each was won by the Green Party, Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) and an independent candidate.
Following the results of the election, Peter Robinson of the DUP and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin were nominated and subsequently re-elected as First Minister and deputy First Minister on 12 May 2011. The sole change to the Northern Ireland Executive was that the UUP lost a ministerial post to the Alliance.
The election was the first since the devolution of policing and justice powers to the assembly. In contrast to previous elections, it was relatively uncontroversial. The turnout was one of the lowest ever in a Northern Ireland election. Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party both continued to make gains, although the DUP vote share was slightly down. The election was a disaster for the Ulster Unionist Party, which came behind the Social Democratic and Labour Party in terms of first preference vote, although the UUP won more seats. The Ulster Unionist vote collapsed in Belfast, where it was eclipsed by the Alliance Party's, and in a number of other constituencies considered safe such as North Down. The election was also poor for the SDLP, which lost two seats.
The Alliance Party performed well, gaining a second seat in East Belfast (which a former Progressive Unionist Party member lost and the PUP failed to regain), while increasing the Alliance vote share significantly. Traditional Unionist Voice secured a single seat in North Antrim; its vote share was down from the May 2010 elections to the UK Parliament. Despite their first preference vote halving, the Green Party held their sole seat in North Down while the People before Profit Alliance narrowly failed to take the final seat in the Foyle constituency. The only member elected as an independent in 2007 (in West Tyrone) retired, leaving a single independent in the new Assembly (after three independents first elected on other tickets had retired or lost re-election), compared to five at the end of the previous one.
As in the previous Assembly, the DUP's voting strength was reduced by one with the re-election on 12 May of Willie Hay (DUP, Foyle) to the non-partisan office of Speaker.
In addition, in separate votes on 12 and 16 May, the Assembly as a whole re-elected party leaders David Ford (Alliance), Peter Robinson (DUP) and Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin) to their seats on the Executive as, respectively, Minister of Justice and First Minister and deputy First Minister. Thus the Executive's total membership, as in the past, is 13.
- "N/A" below means "not applicable" or "not available". (UKIP is the United Kingdom Independence Party and BNP is the British National Party.)
|DUP||Peter Robinson||44||38 (37)||+2||198,436||29.99%||–0.1%||27.2%||4 (5)||—|
|Sinn Féin||Gerry Adams||40||29||+1||178,222||26.93%||+0.7%||24.8%||3 (4)||—|
|SDLP||Margaret Ritchie||28||14||–2||94,286||14.25%||–1.0%||15.0%||1 (1)||—|
|UUP||Tom Elliott||29||16||–2||87,531||13.23%||–1.7%||15.2%||1 (1)||–1|
|Alliance||David Ford||22||8||+1||50,875||7.69%||+2.5%||7.4%||1 (2)||+1|
|Green (NI)||Steven Agnew||6||1||—||6,031||0.91%||–0.8%||1.0%||-||—|
|People Before Profit||N/A||4||-||5,438||0.82%||+0.7%||0.3%|
|Workers' Party||Mick Finnegan||4||-||1,155||0.17%||+0.1%||0.1%|
Distribution of seats by constituency
Party affiliation of the six Assembly members returned by each constituency. The first column indicates the party of the Member of the House of Commons (MP) returned by the corresponding parliamentary constituency in the general election of 6 May 2010 (under the "first past the post" method).
(The constituencies are arranged here in rough geographical order around Lough Neagh from Antrim to Londonderry. To see them in alphabetical order, click the small square icon after "Constituency"; to restore this geographical order, click the icon after "No." at the left.)
|Newry and Armagh||11||6||-||3||1||-||1||1||-||-||-||-|
|Fermanagh & South Tyrone||11||6||-||3||-||-||1||2||-||-||SF||SDLP|
|Change since dissolution||-||-||-||+2||–2||+1||-||+2||+1||–4|
|Assembly at dissolution||-||108||1||27||16||7||16||36||-||5||-|
|Change during Assembly term||-||-||-||–1||-||-||–2||-||-||+4||–1 Prog. U.|
|Elected on 7 March 2007||256||108||1||28||16||7||18||36||-||1||1 Prog. U.|
|Elected on 23 November 2003||108||-||24||18||6||27||30||-||1||1 Prog. U.||1 UKUP|
|Elected on 25 June 1998||108||-||18||24||6||28||20||-||4||2 Prog. U.||5 UKUP, 2 NIWC|
- Three of the four independents elected in 1998 ran as Independent Unionists
- NIWC = Northern Ireland Women's Coalition; Prog. U. = Progressive Unionist Party; TUV = Traditional Unionist Voice; UKUP = United Kingdom Unionist Party
Share of first-preference votes
Percentage of each constituency's first-preference votes. Four highest percentages in each constituency shaded; absolute majorities underlined. The constituencies are arranged in the geographic order described for the table above; click the icon next to "Constituency" to see them in alphabetical order.
- [The totals given here are the sum of all valid ballots cast in each constituency, and the percentages are based on such totals. The turnout percentages in the last column, however, are based upon all ballots cast, which also include anything from twenty to a thousand invalid ballots in each constituency. The total valid ballots' percentage of the eligible electorate can correspondingly differ by 0.1% to 2% from the turnout percentage.]
|13||SF||42.0%||Newry & Armagh||40.8||23.5||1.6||18.7||13.1||1.8||0.2||0.2||46,514||77,544||61.3%|
|14||SF||45.5%||Fermanagh & S. Tyrone||40.3||9.6||1.8||19.3||24.4||2.6||2.1||47,999||70,985||69.0%|
|Change since 2007||–0.8||+0.8||–1.0||+2.5||–1.7||–0.1||+2.5||–1.6||–0.5||–28,577||+102,105||–7.2%|
|Election of March 2007||1.7||26.2||15.2||5.2||14.9||30.1||—||3.8||2.8||690,313||1,107,904||62.9%|
|Election of Nov. 2003||0.4||23.5||17.0||3.7||22.7||25.7||—||5.6||2.8||692,026||1,097,526||63.1%|
|Election of June 1998||0.1||17.6||22.0||6.5||21.3||18.1||—||10.9||3.5||823,565||1,178,556||69.9%|
- Independent Unionist vote in 1998 (2.8%) included in the Independent column (not "others"). TUV = Traditional Unionist Voice.
Votes cast for minor parties and independents
Out of the 22 candidates from the seven parties which won no seats in 2011, the four candidates who won more than 1,000 first-preference votes (and more than 4% of the total first preferences) in their respective constituencies were:
- Eamonn McCann of the People Before Profit Alliance in Foyle: 3,120 (8.0%),
- Henry Reilly of the UK Independence Party in South Down: 2,332 (5.6%),
- Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit in Belfast West: 1,661 (4.8%), and
- Brian Ervine of the Progressive Unionist Party in Belfast East: 1,493 (4.6%)
Three fifths, or 8,606 (60%), of the 14,338 first preferences cast for the seven minor parties went to these four candidates.
Of the 15 independent candidates, running in 9 separate constituencies, the 8 who won more than 1,000 first-preference votes (and over 2.5% of the first-preference total) were:
- David McClarty, MLA, formerly Ulster Unionist, re-elected in East Londonderry: 3,003 (8.6%),
- Alan McFarland, MLA, formerly Ulster Unionist, defeated in North Down: 1,879 (6.7%),
- Alan Chambers, also losing in North Down: 1,765 (6.3%),
- Dawn Purvis, MLA, formerly Progressive Unionist, defeated in Belfast East (see above): 1,702 (5.3%),
- Paul McFadden in Foyle: 1,280 (3.3%),
- Raymond McCord in Belfast North: 1,176 (3.5%),
- Paddy McGowan in West Tyrone: 1,145 (2.9%), and
- Eugene McMenamin, also in West Tyrone: 1,096 (2.8%)
A majority (8,395 or 54%) of the 15,535 first-preference votes cast for independents went to the first four of these candidates, three of whom had been elected by other parties in 2007. David McClarty was the only successful independent candidate.
Seats changing hands
- The Alliance gained a seat in Belfast East (from Dawn Purvis, an independent elected as a Progressive Unionist). Net gain +1.
- The Democratic Unionist Party gained seats from the UUP in Belfast North and North Down, but lost one to the UUP in Strangford. The DUP also gained seats in the Lagan Valley (from SF) and South Antrim (from SDLP), but lost a seat in West Tyrone (to UUP or SDLP). Net gain +2.
- An independent elected in 2007 from West Tyrone did not run again in 2011 (seat won by SDLP or DUP). An Ulster Unionist elected in 2007 from East Londonderry, who was not re-nominated by his party, won election in 2011 as an independent. (After his re-election, he decided to remain an independent outside the UUP.) Three other independents elected in 2007 by different parties were not returned in 2011: a former Ulster Unionist in North Down (to DUP), a former Progressive Unionist in Belfast East (to Alliance), and a former Sinn Féin member in Fermanagh & South Tyrone (regained by SF). No net change from 2007; net change from the outgoing Assembly: –4.
- The Progressive Unionist Party elected a single member in 2007 from East Belfast who resigned from the party in 2010 (and whose seat was gained by the Alliance in 2011). The PUP failed to elect its only candidate in 2011. Net change from 2007 –1; no net change from the outgoing Assembly.
- Sinn Féin gained seats in East Antrim (from UUP) and Fermanagh & South Tyrone (from SDLP), but lost one in the Lagan Valley (to DUP). It also regained a second seat in Fermanagh & South Tyrone that had been held by an independent originally elected as Sinn Féin. Net gain +2 from the outgoing Assembly and +1 from 2007.
- The Social Democratic & Labour Party gained a seat from West Tyrone (from Ind. or DUP) but lost seats in Fermanagh & South Tyrone (to SF), North Antrim (to Traditional Unionist Voice) and South Antrim (to DUP). Net loss –2.
- Traditional Unionist Voice won its first and only seat, in North Antrim (from the SDLP). Net gain +1.
- The Ulster Unionist Party gained seats in Strangford (from DUP) and West Tyrone (from DUP or Ind.), but lost seats in Belfast North (to DUP) and East Antrim (to SF). Another two members elected as Ulster Unionists in North Down and East Londonderry left the UUP before the 2011 election. Net loss from 2007: –2. (No net change from the outgoing Assembly.)
Turnover in members since 2007
Thirty-one members of the previous Assembly during all of part of its term (2007-2011) did not offer themselves for re-election in May 2011. Another eight who did seek re-election were unsuccessful.
Members who left during the previous Assembly's term
Several of the 14 members who retired early from the Northern Ireland Assembly did so either after being elected or re-elected to the British House of Commons on 6 May 2010 (as MPs), or else in anticipation of being elected to the Dáil Éireann (lower house of the Irish parliament) on 25 February 2011 (as a TD). [Three retired or retiring members are Privy Counsellors of the United Kingdom (PC).]
Changes in membership at the election
These are the 25 changes in membership that occurred between the third Assembly's dissolution in March 2011 and the fourth Assembly's election in May. Seventeen sitting members did not present themselves for re-election and another eight were defeated at the polls. One re-elected member had been elected with a different affiliation in 2007.
The numbers indicate the percentage of votes each member received in the first round of counting under the Single Transferable Vote in the 2011 election, and the round which decided his or her election or defeat.
In some constituencies (Foyle, West Tyrone and Fermanagh & South Tyrone), it is not possible to couple a single outgoing member by party with a single successor. The pairs of outgoing and incoming members in those seats are presented in arbitrary order.
Changes in membership without a change in party
Most of these changes occurred due to a member's retirement, although one defeated member of the SDLP, in Foyle, was succeeded by another member of the SDLP.
|Billy Armstrong (retiring)||Ulster Unionist||—||—||Mid Ulster||Sandra Overend||UUP||10.3%||6|
|P. J. Bradley (retiring)||SDLP||—||—||South Down||Karen McKevitt||SDLP||9.0%||9|
[replaced Mark Durkan, MP]
Mary Bradley (retiring)
|Foyle||Mark H. Durkan|
|Wallace Browne (retiring)|
Baron Browne of Belmont
|Democratic Unionist||—||—||Belfast East||Sammy Douglas||DUP||8.3%||11|
|Robert Coulter (retiring)||Ulster Unionist||—||—||North Antrim||Robin Swann||UUP||6.2%||9|
|Reg Empey (retiring)|
|Ulster Unionist||—||—||Belfast East||Michael Copeland||UUP||6.8%||11|
|Billy Leonard (retiring)|
[replaced Francie Brolly]
|Sinn Féin (suspended)||—||—||East Londonderry||Cathal Ó hOisín||Sinn Féin||13.5%||6|
|Claire McGill (retiring)||Sinn Féin||—||—||West Tyrone||Michaela Boyle||Sinn Féin||12.9%||4|
|Seán Neeson (retiring)||Alliance||—||—||East Antrim||Stewart Dickson||Alliance||10.0%||9|
|Ian Paisley, PC (retiring)|
|Democratic Unionist||—||—||North Antrim||David McIlveen||DUP||8.1%||8|
|George Savage (retiring)||Ulster Unionist||—||—||Upper Bann||Jo-Anne Dobson||UUP||7.9%||7|
|Brian Wilson (retiring)||Green Party in Northern Ireland||—||—||North Down||Steven Agnew||Green||7.9%||11|
Seats changing hands between the parties
Note that the party changes in Lagan Valley, Strangford and East Antrim cancelled each other out.
Kieran Deeny (retiring)
|West Tyrone||Ross Hussey|
|Thomas Burns||SDLP||10.6%||0||South Antrim||Pam Lewis||DUP||8.9%||4|
|Fred Cobain||Ulster Unionist||8.2%||7||Belfast North||Paula Bradley||DUP||10.4%||6|
Gerry McHugh (retiring)
Ind. (elected as SF)
|Fermanagh & |
|David McClarty||Ind. (elected as UUP)||8.6%||7||East Londonderry||David McClarty||Independent||8.6%||7|
|Alan McFarland||Ind. (elected as UUP)||6.7%||9||North Down||Gordon Dunne||DUP||13.3%||2|
|Declan O'Loan||SDLP||9.1%||9||North Antrim||Jim Allister||Trad. U. Voice||10.1%||9|
|Dawn Purvis||Ind. (elected as Prog. U.)||5.3%||11||Belfast East||Judith Cochrane||Alliance||13.4%||7|
|Paul Butler (retiring)||Sinn Féin||—||—||Lagan Valley||Brenda Hale||DUP||8.2%||7|
|Simpson Gibson (retiring)|
[replaced Jim Shannon]
|Democratic Unionist||—||—||Strangford||Mike Nesbitt||UUP||11.0%||6|
|Ken Robinson (retiring)||Ulster Unionist||—||—||East Antrim||Oliver McMullan||Sinn Féin||8.2%||10|
Member returning with a different affiliation
David McClarty, originally elected from East Londonderry as an Ulster Unionist, although not re-nominated by the UUP in 2011, stood successfully for re-election as an independent. This reduced the UUP's strength from 2007, while keeping independent strength in the Assembly at one (as Kieran Deeny, the retiring independent member, was not succeeded in West Tyrone by another independent). McClarty decided not to re-join the UUP after his re-election.
The presiding officer of the Northern Ireland's Assembly (like those for Scotland and Wales, but unlike those for the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland) does not remain impartial during the election period. The sitting Speaker, in this instance William Hay (DUP, Foyle), must revert to his or her party colours and campaign for a seat on its manifesto. Once re-elected as an MLA (as Hay was), he or she becomes eligible for re-election as Speaker to resume unbiased authority over the Assembly. The regional media reported that Sinn Féin's Francie Molloy, an outgoing Deputy Speaker, had hoped to win election as Speaker when the 2011 Assembly first met; in the event, following inter-party negotiations, Hay was re-elected and Molloy was nominated by his party for, and elected to, a newly created position of Principal Deputy Speaker with a presumed right of succession.
Party leaders in the Assembly
Eligibility and proof of identity
European Union (EU) and Commonwealth citizens aged 18 or over on election day were entitled to vote. The deadline for voters to register to vote in the 5 May elections was midnight on 14 April 2011. All voters had to present one piece of photographic identification in order to cast a vote at the polling station: accepted forms of ID were an Electoral Identity Card, a photographic Northern Ireland or Great Britain driving licence, a European Union member state passport, a Translink 60+ SmartPass, a Translink Senior SmartPass, a Translink Blind Person’s SmartPass or a Translink War Disabled SmartPass. Voters who didn't have an accepted type of photographic ID had until 22 April 2011 to apply for an Electoral Identity Card from the Electoral Office. A judicial review brought by candidates in the simultaneous local government elections, challenging the non-acceptance of EU national identity cards as a proof of identity, failed on 4 May 2011.
Speed of counting of votes
In the days following the 2011 Assembly election concerns were raised by politicians and others about the time it took for ballots to be verified and counted. The first result came in at 7:00 p.m. on Friday 6 May, nine hours after counting began and 21 hours after polls closed. The announcement of the final results for some constituencies came two days after the polls closed. In contrast, the first result for elections held in Scotland on the same day as the Assembly election came in at 12:54 a.m., just under three hours after counting began, and the final result came in at 5:21 p.m. on the same day (Friday 6 May). In response to the criticisms about the speed of counting, Northern Ireland's Chief Electoral Officer, Graham Shields, defended the process, saying that it was "about accuracy, not about speed", adding that "This is a complicated process and people have to accept that. We will take as long as it takes to get it right."
- Candidates nominated to run for the Northern Ireland Assembly election, 2011
- List of members of the 4th Northern Ireland Assembly
- 2011 Irish general election
- 2011 Northern Ireland local elections
- 2011 National Assembly for Wales election
- 2011 Scottish Parliament general election
- 2011 United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum
- "Electoral Office for Northern Ireland: Eligible Electorate Statistics" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
- "Electoral Office for Northern Ireland: Registered Voter Statistics" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
- Henry McDonald (6 May 2011). "Ulster Unionists head for fourth place". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
- "Allister outraged as Speaker retakes post with help of Sinn Fein", by Noel McAdam, The Belfast Telegraph, 13 May 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2011
- "Sinn Fein's Francie Molloy likely to be Stormont Speaker in 2014", by Noel McAdam, The Belfast Telegraph, 13 May 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2011
- "New Executive ministers to be appointed on Monday", BBC News, 16 May 2011
- "Stormont Assembly votes in new team of Ministers", by Dan Keenan, The Irish Times, 17 May 2011. Retrieved 16 May 2011
- "NI Assembly Elections 2011 - First Preference Votes Per Party". Electoral Office for Northern Ireland. 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
- Northern Ireland Council results, BBC, 11 May 2011. Retrieved 13 May 2011
- "Latest 2011 Election results". UTV. Archived from the original on 19 April 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
- "Election 2011 - Northern Ireland - Constituencies". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
- NI Assembly Election 2011 Results Archived 11 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine, The Electoral Office for Northern Ireland, retrieved Monday 9 May 2011
- Westminster General Election (NI) Thursday 6 May 2010, compiled by Martin Melaugh, CAIN Web Service. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
- Compiled by looking up each constituency at this site: "Full Northern Ireland Results", BBC News, 11 May 2011. Retrieved 11 May 2011
- Four weeks after the election, in which he was the Progressive Unionists' only candidate, Brian Ervine announced that he would resign as party leader. "PUP leader Brian Ervine to stand down", BBC News, 2 June 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2011
- "McClarty: withdraw Sinn Fein ‘scum’ remark or it’s no deal, Tom", by Liam Clarke, The Belfast Telegraph, published and retrieved on Wednesday 11 May 2011.
- "David McClarty says he will remain an independent MLA", BBC, 11 May 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2011
- "Lord Alderdice calls for Stormont Speaker rules change". Bbc.co.uk. 25 January 2010. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
- "First day of new assembly term". Bbc.co.uk. 12 May 2011. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
- "Electoral Office for Northern Ireland: Electoral Identity Card" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 5 January 2011.
- "UTV news report". Archived from the original on 28 September 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
- "NI Stormont Assembly election results: day two as it happened". BBC News. 7 May 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
- "Electoral chief defends staff over results delays". Bbc.co.uk. 6 May 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
- Summary and comparison of the principal parties' views on the main issues at the BBC and Ulster TV
- "A view from around the 18 Assembly constituencies", The Belfast Telegraph, Saturday, 7 May 2011 (retrieved 11 May 2011)
Party web sites, manifestoes and election broadcasts
The party election broadcasts (PEBs) in this table are at the BBC News site. Almost every individual party web site below also shows a copy of or a link to at least one of the party's own election broadcasts.
Party leaders' debates
- Televised debate between the leaders of the Alliance, DUP, Sinn Féin, SDLP and UUP on BBC Northern Ireland for 90 minutes on Tuesday 3 May (this link includes a written synopsis)