State of the Parties: Northern Ireland Assembly

Last Change: 1 November 2013 (page created)

Unlike Dáil Éireann or the UK House of Commons, the Northern Ireland Assembly does not use by-elections to fill vacant seats during a term. If an MLA's seat becomes vacant for any reason, they are replaced by another member of their party, ensuring continuity in the Assembly. MLAs are, however, free to change their party affiliation during the lifetime of the Assembly, and since the 2011 elections three MLAs have done so.


Democratic Unionist Party

2011 Assembly election: 38 seats
November 2013: 38 seats

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The DUP has avoided the infighting and splits that have bothered the Ulster Unionist Party since 2011 and look set to remain the strongest unionist party in Northern Ireland for some time to come. There have been no changes at all to its complement of MLAs since the election.

Sinn Féin

2011 Assembly election: 29 seats
November 2013: 29 seats

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With Gerry Adams now involved in politics across the border, the leadership of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland has gone to deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. Upper Bann MLA John O'Down stood in for McGuinness as deputy First Minister during September and October 2011 while McGuinness focused on his bid for the Irish presidency. Like the DUP, Sinn Féin has not suffered from any defections, although the party's drive to eliminate double-jobbing amongst its members has seen it replace a small number of MLAs who chose to remain as abstentionist MPs, along with one who became an MEP and one who retired.

Black - Replacement, Blue - Gain, Red - Loss

1 April 2012
South Down - Chris Hazzard is co-opted to replace Willie Clarke, who retires.
14 June 2012

Foyle - Maeve McLaughlin is co-opted to replace Martina Anderson, who became an MEP.
2 July 2012
Newry & Armagh - Megan Fearon is co-opted to replace Conor Murphy, an abstentionist MP.
West Tyrone - Declan McAteer is co-opted to replace Pat Doherty, an abstentionist MP.
West Belfast - Rosie McCorley is co-opted to replace Paul Maskey, an abstentionist MP.
Fermanagh & South Tyrone - Bronwyn McGahan is co-opted to replace Michelle Gildernew, an abstentionist MP.
8 April 2013
Mid Ulster - Ian Milne is co-opted to replace Francie Molloy, who was elected as an abstentionist MP in that year's Westminster by-election.




Ulster Unionist Party

2011 Assembly election: 16 seats
November 2013: 13 seats
 

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The 2010s have so far not been a good decade for the UUP. Fresh from failing to win any seat in the UK general election in 2010, the party lost two MLAs in the Assembly election the next year, and has since lost three of those who were elected. John McCallister and Basil McCrea both left the party in protest of its electoral pact with the DUP in the 2013 Mid-Ulster by-election, while David McNarry left the party in 2012 and subsequently joined UKIP.

Black - Replacement, Blue - Gain, Red - Loss

27 January 2012
Strangford - David Narry resigned from the Ulster Unionist Party, later joins UKIP.
14 February 2013
South Down - John McAllister resigned from the Ulster Unionist Party, later set up NI21.
Lagan Valley - Basil McCrea resigned from the Ulster Unionist Party, later set up NI21.


Social Democratic and Labour Party

2011 Assembly election: 14 seats
November 2013: 14 seats
 

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Although suffering the same fate as the UUP in that its glory days appear to be behind it following the advancement of an alternative party, the SDLP continues to hold strong. Its strong support base in Foyle ensured the return of three MLAs in that constituency in 2011. The SDLP has suffered no seat losses, and only one membership change when party leader Margaret Ritche stepped down in April 2012.

Black - Replacement, Blue - Gain, Red - Loss

1 April 2012
South Down - Seán Rogers is co-opted to replace Margaret Ritchie, who resigns from the Assembly.
 

Alliance Party of Northern Ireland

2011 Assembly election: 8 seats
November 2013: 8 seats
 

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The Alliance Party has experienced no changes since the 2011 election.


Traditional Unionist Voice

2011 Assembly election: 1 seat
November 2013: 1 seat

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The fractures in the UUP have produced no benefit for the TUV, with ex-DUP member Jim Allister still being that party's only MLA, in North Antrim.


Green Party of Northern Ireland

2011 Assembly election: 1 seat
November 2013: 1 seat

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In the same year that the Green Party lost all of their seats in Dáil Éireann, they won their first in the Assembly. As of 2013, Stephen Agnew is still the party's only MLA.

Independent Unionist

2011 Assembly election: 1 seat
November 2013: 1 seat

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The UUP's problems began right away when long-serving East Londonderry MLA David McClarty announced he was leaving the party and running as an independent unionist candidate. He was duly elected and remains independent today.


NI21

2011 Assembly election: 0 seats (party did not exist)
November 2013: 2 seats

When John McCallister and Basil McCrea left the UUP in February 2013, they formed the new NI21 party, a new unionist group which is attempting to establish a progressive, non-sectarian character.

Black - Replacement, Blue - Gain, Red - Loss

6 June 2013
South Down/Lagan Valley - John McCallister and Basil McCrea set up NI21.


UK Independence Party

2011 Assembly election: 0 seats
November 2013: 1 seat

Nigel Farage's Eurosceptic party has enjoyed increasing gains in the UK at the expense of the Conservative Party. Their seat in the NI Assembly was an unexpected boost provided when former UUP MLA David McNarry joined them in October 2012.

Black - Replacement, Blue - Gain, Red - Loss

4 October 2012
Strangford - David McNarry MLA joins UKIP.