Northern Ireland general election, 1925

1925 saw Northern Ireland's first election since it opted out of the new Irish Free State and remained within the United Kingdom. The previous election, which had been a part of a nationwide (albeit mostly uncontested) poll, resulted in a huge majority for the Ulster Unionist Party, with Sinn Féin and the Nationalist Party distant joint seconds. It took three years for the latter to agree to take its seats in the new Northern Ireland House of Commons at Stormont, while the former refused to take their seats at all as they did not recognise the new parliament. The political culture which was fast emerging in Northern Ireland would become a staple for the next four decades: Unionist dominance by numbers and nationalist marginalisation.

This election, therefore, was not going to be an easy one for the nationalist parties. The group which had been Anti-Treaty Sinn Féin ran under a Republican ticket, again promising abstentionism. Their vote declined by an surprising 15.2% and they lost four seats, returning only two: Armagh MP Eamon Donnelly and Down MP Éamon de Valera, who was also serving (as an abstentionist) as TD for Clare in the Free State. A year later he would found the Fianna Fáil party and enter Dáil Éireann, though their policy on Stormont remained unchanged. The Nationalist Party gained at Sinn Féin's expense, picking up four seats to a total of 10 - still a far second, but putting the party in a better position than before, especially now that they were active in parliament. Their vote increased by 3.3%.

The Northern Ireland Labour Party, which sought to be independent of the border issue, won 3 seats (4.7%), while the Unbought Tenants Association, representing tenant farmers, won a single seat in Antrim (1.3%)

Of the unionist side, the UUP suffered a decline much as Sinn Féin did - they lost 11.9% of the vote and 8 seats, returning a reduced party of 32 MPs. This was still more than enough to give them a majority, however, which ultimately rendered the political situation unchanged. Much of their share went to Indepdent Unionist candidates, one of whom - Colonel Philip James Woods - won two seats: Belfast West and Belfast South. He opted to sit for the former. Two other MPs sat as independent unionists, some acting as a form of unionist opposition to the UUP.

The lack of any big change in the politics of Stormont after this election was clear: the UUP still dominated, the Nationalists were still a minority, and the Republicans refused to even recognise the parliament. Though parties who were neither unionist nor nationalist ran, their success was limited. It seemed likely that this pattern would continue, until in 1929 the electoral system was reverted from Proportional Representation back to First Past the Post with single-seat constituencies. As was (and is) the case in the UK, this would make it very difficult for small parties and independents to win seats. Therefore it seemed that the patterns which had emerged since 1921 would only become more pronounced from now on, with little scope for change without a fundamental shift of opinion in Northern Ireland. The next general election 1929 would show exactly how pronounced it would be.

The full results:
Ulster Unionist Party - 32 (-8)
Nationalist Party - 10 (+4)
Indepdendent Unionists - 4 (+4)
Republican (prev. Sinn Féin) - 2 (-4)
NI Labour Party - 3 (+3)
Unbought Tenants Assoc. - 1 (+1)

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A greyscale version is available here.