Next Northern Ireland Assembly election

The next Northern Ireland Assembly election is expected to elect 90 members to the Northern Ireland Assembly. It will be the seventh assembly election since the assembly was established in 1998.

Next Northern Ireland Assembly election
 2017 On or before 5 May 2022

All 90 seats to the Northern Ireland Assembly
46 seats needed for a majority
Leader Jeffrey Donaldson Michelle O'Neill[n 1] Colum Eastwood
Party DUP Sinn Féin SDLP
Last election 28 seats, 28.1% 27 seats, 27.9% 12 seats, 11.9%

Leader Doug Beattie Naomi Long Clare Bailey
Party UUP Alliance Green (NI)
Last election 10 seats, 12.9% 8 seats, 9.1% 2 seats, 2.3%

Leader Jim Allister Eamonn McCann[1]
Party TUV People Before Profit
Last election 1 seat, 2.6% 1 seat, 1.8%

Incumbent First Minister and
deputy First Minister

Paul Givan (DUP) &
Michelle O'Neill (SF)

Eight parties had MLAs in the sixth assembly: the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), latterly led by Jeffrey Donaldson; Sinn Féin, led by Michelle O'Neill; the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), latterly led by Doug Beattie; the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), led by Colum Eastwood; Alliance, led by Naomi Long; the Greens, led by Clare Bailey; People Before Profit (PBP), who have a collective leadership; and Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV), led by Jim Allister.


In May 2013, Theresa Villiers, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced the next Assembly election would be postponed to May 2016, and would be held at fixed intervals of five years thereafter.[2] Section 7 of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 specifies that elections will be held on the first Thursday in May on the fifth calendar year following that in which its predecessor was elected,[3] which would be 5 May 2022. However, there are several circumstances in which the Assembly can be dissolved before the date scheduled by virtue of section 31(1) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

After the 2017 Assembly election, Sinn Féin stated that it would not return to a power-sharing arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party without significant changes in the party's approach, including Foster not becoming First Minister until an investigation into the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal was complete.[4] A deadline of 27 March was set for the parties to form an executive. The deadline passed and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire gave the political parties more time to reach a coalition agreement.[5] Negotiations were paused over Easter.[6]

On 18 April 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May called for a general election to be held on the 8 June 2017. A new deadline to form an executive was set for 29 June.[7] The Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority and sought a confidence and supply agreement with the DUP to remain in government. The DUP and the Conservatives reached an agreement on 26 June.[8]

The deadline to form an executive passed with no resolution. Brokenshire then extended the negotiation time.[9] Brokenshire resigned as Northern Ireland secretary in January 2018 on medical grounds, and was succeeded by Karen Bradley.[10]

The European Parliament election in May 2019 saw the Alliance Party take the third MEP place from the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP).

Julian Smith succeeded Bradley on 24 July 2019. The law required an election to be called in August 2019 if no resolution was found. None was found, but the UK government created a new deadline of 13 January 2020.[11]

DUP support for the Conservative government broke down with disagreements over the government's Brexit plans. The Conservative government sought a new election, held in December 2019, which they won with a large majority. In Northern Ireland, for the first time, traditional Irish nationalist parties won more seats than traditional unionist parties. Both the SDLP and Alliance returned to the House of Commons, while both the DUP and Sinn Féin saw vote share declines of more than 5%.

A DUP/Sinn Féin executive was re-established on 10 January 2020, forestalling an immediate new election.

On 28 April 2021, Arlene Foster announced that she would be resigning as both DUP leader on 28 May and First Minister in June 2021 after more than 20 DUP MLAs and four DUP MPs signed a letter "...voicing no confidence in her leadership".[12] Edwin Poots narrowly won the subsequent May 2021 DUP leadership election, but announced his resignation 21 days later.[13] The runner-up in the election, Jeffrey Donaldson, stood unopposed in the subsequent June 2021 DUP leadership election and with no other candidates the party chose not to hold a ballot (some parties still do a leadership vote or ballot with one candidate with the other option to re-open nominations). Jeffrey Donaldson was ratified as the party's leader on 30 June 2021.[14]

On 8 May 2021, Steve Aiken announced his resignation as leader of the UUP.[15] On 17 May, Doug Beattie was elected as UUP leader after standing unopposed.[16]

Members not seeking re-election

MLA Constituency/Region First elected Party Date announced
Trevor Lunn Lagan Valley 2007 Independent[n 2] 22 February 2021[17]
Martina Anderson Foyle 2020 Sinn Féin 4 May 2021[18]
Karen Mullan Foyle 2017 Sinn Féin 4 May 2021[18]
Emma Rogan South Down 2017 Sinn Féin 19 May 2021[19]
Sinéad Bradley South Down 2016 SDLP 24 May 2021[20]

Opinion polls

Graphical summary

Pollster Client Date(s)
DUP (U) SF (N) UUP (U) SDLP (N) Alliance (O) TUV (U) Green (O) PBP (O) Con (U) Other Lead
30 Jun 2021 Jeffrey Donaldson becomes leader of the Democratic Unionist Party[21]
17 May 2021 Doug Beattie is elected leader of the Ulster Unionist Party[22]
LucidTalk Belfast Telegraph 14–17 May 2021 3,072 16% 25% 14% 12% 16% 11% 2% 2% 2% 9%
14 May 2021 Edwin Poots is elected leader of the Democratic Unionist Party[23]
LucidTalk Belfast Telegraph 22–25 Jan 2021 2,295 19% 24% 12% 13% 18% 10% 2% 1% 4% 5%
LucidTalk Belfast Telegraph 2–5 Oct 2020 1,961 23% 24% 12% 13% 16% 6% 3% 2% 1% 1%
31 Jan 2020 The United Kingdom leaves the European Union
11 Jan 2020 Northern Ireland Executive re-established
12 Dec 2019 2019 United Kingdom general election
9 Nov 2019 Steve Aiken becomes leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
23 May 2019 2019 European Parliament election
2 May 2019 2019 Northern Ireland local elections
LucidTalk Northern Slant 23–26 Feb 2018 2,079 33.6% 32.4% 10.3% 8.6% 8.0% 2.3% 1.9% 1.7% 0.2% 1.5% 1.2%
LucidTalk GUE/NGL 1–4 Dec 2017 2,079 33.7% 32.8% 8.9% 8.6% 7.9% 1.1% 2.2% 1.1% 0.2% 3.5% 0.9%
LucidTalk N/A 8–11 Sep 2017 2,080 35.5% 31.2% 9.6% 9.4% 8.6% 1.3% 1.7% 1.5% 0.2% 1.1% 4.3%
2017 Assembly election 2 Mar 2017 28.1% 27.9% 12.9% 11.9% 9.1% 2.6% 2.3% 1.8% 0.3% 3.3% 0.2%

* (U): Unionist, (N): Nationalist, (O): Other

See also


  1. Sinn Féin's president is Mary Lou McDonald but she is not a member of the Assembly. O'Neill is the party's vice president and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.
  2. Originally elected as Alliance


  1. "Registration Summary". The Electoral Commission.
  2. "Northern Ireland Assembly elections put back to 2016". BBC News Online. 10 May 2013. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
  3. "Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014". Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  4. "'No revolt within DUP,' says Foster". BBC News. 6 March 2017. Archived from the original on 6 March 2017.
  5. Kroet, Cynthia (27 March 2017). "No Snap Election in Northern Ireland After Talks Collapse". Politico. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
  6. "Stormont talks: Direct rule or election 'if no deal'". BBC News. 12 April 2017.
  7. "Stormont power-sharing talks deadline set for 29 June". BBC News. 21 April 2017. Archived from the original on 21 April 2017.
  8. "Conservatives agree pact with DUP to support May government". BBC News. 26 June 2017. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  9. "Stormont talks: Brokenshire to 'reflect' amid ongoing deadlock". BBC News. 4 July 2017. Archived from the original on 4 July 2017.
  10. "NI Secretary James Brokenshire resigns". BBC News. 8 January 2018.
  11. "Talks to end NI devolution deadlock resume". BBC News. 2 January 2020.
  12. "Arlene Foster announces resignation as DUP leader and NI first minister". BBC News. 28 April 2021. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  13. "Poots announces resignation as DUP leader". Reuters. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  14. "DUP leadership: Sir Jeffrey Donaldson ratified as party leader". BBC News. 30 June 2021. Retrieved 23 July 2021.
  15. Smith, Ryan (8 May 2021). "Steve Aiken to resign as UUP leader". BelfastLive. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  16. "Doug Beattie: Who is the new leader of the UUP?". BBC News. 17 May 2021. Retrieved 9 June 2021.
  17. Hughes, Brendan (22 February 2021). "Trevor Lunn MLA: I quit Alliance due to internal tensions – but I still fully support them". Belfast Live.
  18. "Sinn Féin's Martina Anderson and Karen Mullan stepping down". BBC News. 4 May 2021.
  19. Simpson, Claire (19 May 2021). "South Down MLA Emma Rogan not chosen as Sinn Féin election candidate". The Irish News.
  20. Manley, John (25 May 2021). "SDLP's Sinéad Bradley announces that she won't contest the next assembly election candidate". The Irish News.
  21. "DUP leadership: Sir Jeffrey Donaldson ratified as party leader". BBC News. 30 June 2021. Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  22. "Doug Beattie is elected new leader of Ulster Unionist Party". BBC News. 17 May 2021.
  23. "Edwin Poots is elected DUP leader". BBC News. 14 May 2021.