List of political parties in Northern Ireland

Political parties in Northern Ireland lists political parties in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Assembly is elected by single transferable vote and the composition of the Northern Ireland Executive is by power sharing determined by the D'Hondt system, among the members elected to the Assembly. Party affiliation is generally based on religious and ethnic background.

Although Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, it has a quite distinct party system from the rest of the country, as the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats do not contest elections there (though the Liberal Democrats have links with the Alliance Party), and the Conservative Party has received only limited support in recent elections.

Some parties, such as Sinn Féin and the Workers' Party, are organised on an all-Ireland basis. Others such as the Conservative Party are organised on an all-United Kingdom basis. There are many Northern Ireland-specific parties and these, on the whole, predominate.

The distinction between "unionist/loyalist", "nationalist/republican" and "other" is not always easy with some parties and individuals. Some have defined themselves less by their position on the "Border Question" than on other political issues.

For example, the former Republican Labour Party/Social Democratic and Labour Party MP Gerry Fitt's career suggests he was first and foremost a socialist rather than a nationalist and he eventually left the SDLP claiming it had drifted from its founding intentions. Similarly the Workers' Party has its roots in the republican Official IRA but nowadays is considered to be a non-violent socialist and nationalist party. Several parties strive to be avowedly non-sectarian and would not consider themselves to be either unionist or nationalist. The Northern Ireland Assembly requires MLAs to designate themselves either "Unionist", "Nationalist" or "Other." This is a designation that is particularly resented by those who designate as "Other", as they have no input on who becomes First or Deputy First Minister.

There are some who see the terms "Unionist" and "Nationalist"/"Republican" as being of more relevance to the community that the party seeks to represent rather than the position on the border question. Several of the "Other" parties strive to be non-sectarian but have a clear position on the border.

Political parties with elected representation at a local, national, UK or European level

Party details

Party Current leader Founded Inaugural leader Ideology Position Designation
Democratic Unionist Party Arlene Foster 1971 Ian Paisley National conservatism,[1]
Social conservatism,[1][2]
British unionism,[1]
Right-wing populism[4]
Right-wing[5][6] Unionist
Sinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald 1905 / 1970[nb 1] Arthur Griffith / Ruairí Ó Brádaigh Irish republicanism,
Left-wing nationalism,
Democratic socialism[1]
Centre-left[7] to left-wing Nationalist
Social Democratic and Labour Party Colum Eastwood 1970 Gerry Fitt Social democracy,[1]
Irish nationalism,[8]
United Ireland[1]
Centre-left[9] Nationalist
Ulster Unionist Party Robin Swann 1905 Edward Saunderson Conservatism,[1]
British unionism,[1]
Centre-right[7] Unionist
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland Naomi Long 1970 Bob Cooper
Oliver Napier
Centre Other
Green Party in Northern Ireland Clare Bailey 1983 none[nb 2] Green politics,[1]
Centre-left Other
Traditional Unionist Voice Jim Allister 2007 Jim Allister British unionism,[1]
Hard Euroscepticism,
Social conservatism,[1]
National conservatism[1]
Right-wing Unionist
Northern Ireland Conservatives Boris Johnson 1989 none Conservatism
British unionism
Centre-right[7] Unionist
Progressive Unionist Party Billy Hutchinson 1979 Hugh Smyth British unionism,
Democratic socialism,
Social democracy
Left-wing Unionist
People Before Profit None - collective leadership 2005 none Socialism[1] Left-wing Other
Aontú Peadar Tóibín 2019 Peadar Tóibín Anti-abortion
Irish republicanism,
Social conservatism,
Soft Eurosceptism
Centre Nationalist
  1. The current party known as Sinn Féin broke from the party then known as Sinn Féin in 1970 and was initially commonly referred to as Provisional Sinn Féin.
  2. For the first twenty eight years of its existence, the Green Party did not have a national leader. Steven Agnew was elected as the first national leader in 2011.

Party representation

Party Representation (as of December 2019)
UK Parliament Assembly Local councils
House of Commons House of Lords
Democratic Unionist Party 8 4 28 122
Sinn Féin 7 0 27 105
Social Democratic and Labour Party 2 0[nb 1] 12 59
Ulster Unionist Party 0 2 10 75
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland 1 0[nb 2] 8 53
Green Party in Northern Ireland 0 0 2 8
People Before Profit 0 0 1 5
Traditional Unionist Voice 0 0 1 6
Progressive Unionist Party 0 0 0 3
Aontú 0 0 0 2
Cross-Community Labour Alternative 0 0 0 1
    1. Margaret Ritchie, leader of the SDLP from 2010–11, has sat in the Lords since 2019, resigning from the party to do so.
    2. Lord Alderdice, leader of the Alliance from 1987–98, has sat in the Lords since 1996, taking the Lib Dem whip.

    Other registered parties

    Unionist and loyalist

    Nationalist and republican


    Unregistered parties

    Candidates for unregistered parties may choose either to be listed as "Non-Party", or to leave the section blank on the ballot paper, in the same manner as independent candidates.

    Inactive parties

    Unionist and loyalist

    Nationalist and Republican



    Flowchart of all political parties in Northern Ireland

    A flowchart illustrating all the political parties that have existed throughout the history of Northern Ireland and leading up to its formation.

    Party leaders

    Party leaders serving 10 years or more are

    Leader Years Party/Period Constituency
    Ian Paisley42yProtestant Unionist Party 19661971
    Democratic Unionist Party 19712008
    Bannside, North Antrim
    Ruairí Ó Brádaigh36ySinn Féin 19701983
    Republican Sinn Féin 19862009
    Gerry Adams35ySinn Féin 19832018West Belfast, Louth
    William Norton28yIrish Labour 19321960
    Tomás Mac Giolla26ySinn Féin 19621970
    Official Sinn Féin 19701977
    Sinn Féin The Workers Party 19771982
    Workers' Party 19821988
    Hugh Smyth23yProgressive Unionist Party 19792002
    John Hume22ySocial Democratic and Labour Party 19792001Foyle
    Albert McElroy19yUlster Liberal Party 19561975 (?)
    Lord Craigavon19yUlster Unionist Party 19211940Down, North Down
    John Redmond18yIrish Parliamentary Party 19001918Waterford City
    Lord Brookeborough17yUlster Unionist Party 19461963Lisnaskea
    James Molyneaux16yUlster Unionist Party 19791995South Antrim, Lagan Valley
    Joseph Devlin16yNationalist Party 19181934Belfast Falls, Fermanagh and Tyrone, Belfast Central
    Gerry Fitt15yRepublican Labour Party 19641970
    Social Democratic and Labour Party 19701979
    Belfast West, Belfast Dock
    James Kilfedder15yUlster Popular Unionist Party 19801995North Down
    Margaret Buckley13ySinn Féin 19371950
    Robert McCartney13yUK Unionist Party 19952008North Down
    James McSparran13yNationalist Party 19451958Mourne
    Oliver Napier12yAlliance Party 19721984
    Thomas Joseph Campbell11yNationalist Party 19341945Belfast Central
    Sir Edward Carson11yUlster Unionist Party 19101921Dublin University, Belfast Duncairn
    John Alderdice11yAlliance Party 19871998
    David Trimble10yUlster Unionist Party 19952005Upper Bann

    See also


    1. Nordsieck, Wolfram. "Parties and Elections in Europe". Retrieved 11 July 2015.
    2. Marcus, Ruth. "Gender aside, the fall of Irish politician Iris Robinson is the same old sex scandal", Washington Post, 14 January 2010
    3. Taggart, Paul; Szczerbiak, Aleks. "The Party Politics of Euroscepticism in EU Member and Candidate States" (PDF). SEI Working Paper. 51. Sussex European Institute: 11. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 December 2009. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
    4. Ingle, Stephen (2008). The British Party System: An Introduction. Routledge. p. 156.
    5. "It will be ‘difficult’ for May to survive, says N Ireland’s DUP", By Vincent Boland & Robert Wright. Financial Times. 9 June 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
    6. "Who Are The DUP? The Democratic Unionist Party Explained", LBC. 9 June 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
    7. Anttiroiko, Ari-Veikko; Mälkiä, Matti (2007). Encyclopedia of Digital Government. Idea Group Inc (IGI). p. 394. ISBN 978-1-59140-790-4.
    8. "The Good Friday Agreement". SDLP. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
    9. Stephen Driver (2011). Understanding British Party Politics. Polity. p. 188. ISBN 978-0-7456-4078-5.
    10. Nordsieck, Wolfram. "Parties and Elections in Europe".