Mid-Ulster (Westminster) by-election, 2013

Mid-Ulster shown in blue.
The dual mandate, or "double-jobbing", has been a familiar feature of Northern Irish politics for
many years. Some of the most prominent Stormont MLAs simultaneously serve as MPs in the House of Commons, or as local councillors. In late 2012, the deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who for years sat as both an MLA and an (abstentionist) MP for Mid-Ulster, announced that he would resign from the latter post as part of the Sinn Féin party's policy of ending double-jobbing amongst its members.

While McGuinness and Sinn Féin wished that the newly vacant seat be filled by co-option, the rules of Westminster required a by-election. McGuinness was formally appointed Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead (the only means through which a Westminster MP can resign their seat) on 2 January 2013, with the by-election scheduled for 7 March.

Traditionally a safe Sinn Féin seat, Mid-Ulster was held by McGuinness in the 2010 Westminster election with a comfortable 52% of the vote. None of the other parties, nationalist or unionist, came anywhere close to unseating him.

Vote shares won by each candidate in 2010. Click to enlarge.
The seat was expected to be held by the party's candidate Francie Molloy, who has also been an MLA for that constituency since 1998 but has not held any other office as McGuinness has. Aware that their chances of taking the seat were slim, the main unionist parties - the Democratic Unionist Party, Conservatives and Unionists (UUP) and Traditional Unionist Voice - joined together to nominate a single independent unionist candidate, Nigel Lutton. Though not a natural campaigner, Lutton won enough support in the constituency to secure 12,781 votes, just over 4,600 less than was won by Molloy, who held the seat for Sinn Féin on a slightly reduced majority (-5%).

Vote shares won by each candidate in 2013. Click to enlarge.
The SDLP and the Alliance Party each experienced minor gains in their vote shares, but as in 2010 neither were anywhere close to being serious contenders for the seat. As a Sinn Féin MP, Molloy practices abstention from the House of Commons.