List of political parties in Northern Ireland

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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[edit]

Party details[edit]

Party Current Leader English translation
/ Name in Irish
Founded Inaugural Leader Ideology Position Designation EP Group
Democratic Unionist Party Arlene Foster Páirtí Aontachtach Daonlathach 1971 Ian Paisley National conservatism,[1]
Social conservatism,[1][2]
British unionism,[1]
Right-wing populism[4]
Centre-right to
Unionist Non-Inscrits
Sinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald "We Ourselves"[nb 1] 1905 / 1970[nb 2] Arthur Griffith / Ruairí Ó Brádaigh Irish republicanism,
Left-wing nationalism,
Democratic socialism[1]
Centre-left[7] to left-wing Nationalist GUE/NGL
Social Democratic and
Labour Party
Colum Eastwood Páirtí Sóisialta Daonlathach
an Lucht Oibre
1970 Gerry Fitt Social democracy,[1]
Irish nationalism,[8]
United Ireland[1]
Centre-left[9] Nationalist S&D[1]
Ulster Unionist Party Robin Swann Páirtí Aontachtach Uladh 1905 Edward Saunderson Conservatism,[1]
British unionism,[1]
Centre-right[7] Unionist ECR[1]
Alliance Party of
Northern Ireland
Naomi Long Páirtí Comhghuaillíochta Thuaisceart Éireann 1970 Bob Cooper
Oliver Napier
Centre Other none
Green Party in Northern Ireland Clare Bailey Comhaontas Glas i dTuaisceart Éireann 1983 none[nb 3] Green politics,[1]
Centre-left Other Greens/EFA[1]
Traditional Unionist Voice Jim Allister Glór Traidisúnta Aontachtach 2007 Jim Allister British unionism,[1]
Hard Euroscepticism,
Social conservatism,[1]
National conservatism[1]
Right-wing Unionist none
Northern Ireland Conservatives Boris Johnson Páirtí Coiméadach Thuaisceart Éireann 1989 none Conservatism
British unionism
Centre-right[7] Unionist ECR[1]
Progressive Unionist Party Billy Hutchinson An Páirtí Aontachtach Forásach 1979 Hugh Smyth British unionism,
Democratic socialism,
Social democracy
Left-wing Unionist none
People Before Profit Alliance None - collective leadership Comhghuaillíocht an Phobail roimh Bhrabús 2005 none Democratic socialism,
Trotskyism,[1] Socialism[1]
Left-wing to far-left Other none
Aontú Peadar Tóibín "Unity" 2019 Peadar Tóibín Irish republicanism,
Social conservatism
Nationalist none
  1. ^ Another common translation, though not literal, is Ourselves Alone.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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[edit]

Party Representation (as of May 2019)
UK Parliament Assembly European Parliament Local councils
House of Commons House of Lords
Democratic Unionist Party 10 4 28 1 122
Sinn Féin 7 0 27 1 105
Social Democratic and Labour Party 0 0 12 0 59
Ulster Unionist Party 0 2 10 0 75
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland 0 0 [nb 1] 8 1 53
Green Party in Northern Ireland 0 0 2 0 8
People Before Profit 0 0 1 0 5
Traditional Unionist Voice 0 0 1 0 6
Progressive Unionist Party 0 0 0 0 3
Aontú 0 0 0 0 1
Cross-Community Labour Alternative 0 0 0 0 1
  1. ^ Lord Alderdice, leader of the Alliance 1987–98, sits in the Lord since 1996, taking the Liberal Democrats whip.

Other registered parties[edit]

Unionist and loyalist[edit]

Nationalist and republican[edit]


Unregistered parties[edit]

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[edit]

Unionist and loyalist[edit]

Nationalist and Republican[edit]



Party leaders[edit]

Party leaders serving 10 years or more are

Leader Years Party/Period Constituency
Ian Paisley 42y Protestant Unionist Party 1966–1971
Democratic Unionist Party 1971–2008
Bannside, North Antrim
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh 36y Sinn Féin 1970–1983
Republican Sinn Féin 1986–2009
Gerry Adams 35y Sinn Féin 1983–2018 West Belfast, Louth
William Norton 28y Irish Labour 1932–1960
Tomás Mac Giolla 26y Sinn Féin 1962–1970
Official Sinn Féin 1970–1977
Sinn Féin The Workers Party 1977–1982
Workers' Party 1982–1988
Hugh Smyth 23y Progressive Unionist Party 1979–2002
John Hume 22y Social Democratic and Labour Party 1979–2001 Foyle
Albert McElroy 19y Ulster Liberal Party 1956–1975 (?)
Lord Craigavon 19y Ulster Unionist Party 1921–1940 Down, North Down
John Redmond 18y Irish Parliamentary Party 1900–1918 Waterford City
Lord Brookeborough 17y Ulster Unionist Party 1946–1963 Lisnaskea
James Molyneaux 16y Ulster Unionist Party 1979–1995 South Antrim, Lagan Valley
Joseph Devlin 16y Nationalist Party 1918–1934 Belfast Falls, Fermanagh and Tyrone, Belfast Central
Gerry Fitt 15y Republican Labour Party 1964–1970
Social Democratic and Labour Party 1970–1979
Belfast West, Belfast Dock
James Kilfedder 15y Ulster Popular Unionist Party 1980–1995 North Down
Margaret Buckley 13y Sinn Féin 1937–1950
Robert McCartney 13y UK Unionist Party 1995–2008 North Down
James McSparran 13y Nationalist Party 1945–1958 Mourne
Oliver Napier 12y Alliance Party 1972–1984
Thomas Joseph Campbell 11y Nationalist Party 1934–1945 Belfast Central
Sir Edward Carson 11y Ulster Unionist Party 1910–1921 Dublin University, Belfast Duncairn
John Alderdice 11y Alliance Party 1987–1998
David Trimble 10y Ulster Unionist Party 1995–2005 Upper Bann

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s 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.
  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. ^ a b c 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".