2003 Northern Ireland Assembly election



The 2003 Northern Ireland Assembly election was held on Wednesday, 26 November 2003, after being suspended for just over a year. It was the second election to take place since the devolved assembly was established in 1998. Each of Northern Ireland's eighteen Westminster Parliamentary constituencies elected six members by single transferable vote, giving a total of 108 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). The election was contested by 18 parties and many independent candidates. The election was originally planned for May 2003, but was delayed by the
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland A secretary, administrative professional, administrative assistant, executive assistant, administrative officer, administrative support specialist, clerk, military assistant, management assistant, office secretary, or personal assistant is a wh ...

Political parties

On the unionist side, the
Democratic Unionist Party The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is a unionist, loyalist, and national conservative political party in Northern Ireland. It was founded in 1971 during the Troubles by Ian Paisley, who led the party for the next 37 years. Currently led by ...
gained ten seats, primarily at the expense of smaller unionist parties, to become the largest party both in seats and votes, with thirty seats. The
Ulster Unionist Party The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) is a unionist political party in Northern Ireland. The party was founded in 1905, emerging from the Irish Unionist Alliance in Ulster. Under Edward Carson, it led unionist opposition to the Irish Home Rule mo ...
increased their vote slightly, despite slipping to third place in first preference votes, and won 27 seats, a net loss of one. Shortly after the election three Ulster Unionist MLAs,
Jeffrey Donaldson Sir Jeffrey Mark Donaldson (born 7 December 1962) is a Northern Irish politician who has served as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) since June 2021. He has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Lagan Valley since 1997, and lead ...
, Norah Beare and
Arlene Foster Arlene Isobel Foster, Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee (née Kelly; born 17 July 1970), is a British broadcaster and politician from Northern Ireland who served as First Minister of Northern Ireland from 2016 to 2017 and from 2020 to 2021 and ...
, defected to the Democratic Unionists. On the
nationalist Nationalism is an idea and movement that holds that the nation should be congruent with the State (polity), state. As a movement, nationalism tends to promote the interests of a particular nation (as in a in-group and out-group, group of peo ...
Sinn Féin Sinn Féin ( , ; en, " eOurselves") is an Irish republican and democratic socialist political party active throughout both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The original Sinn Féin organisation was founded in 1905 by Arthur ...
saw a big increase in their vote, gaining six seats at the net expense of the
Social Democratic and Labour Party The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) ( ga, Páirtí Sóisialta Daonlathach an Lucht Oibre) is a social-democratic and Irish nationalist political party in Northern Ireland. The SDLP currently has eight members in the Northern Irelan ...
, for a total of 24 seats. The minor parties all saw a significant fall in their support. The Alliance Party managed to hold all six of its seats despite their vote falling by a third, the Women's Coalition,
United Unionist Coalition The United Unionist Coalition (UUC), formerly known as the United Unionist Assembly Party, was a minor unionist political formation in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland Assembly The UUC was formed by three members of the Northern Ireland As ...
Northern Ireland Unionist Party The Northern Ireland Unionist Party (NIUP) was a small unionist political party in Northern Ireland. It was formed in January 1999 as a splinter party from the UK Unionist Party (UKUP). This split was caused by disagreement between the five UK ...
were all wiped out, and the
Progressive Unionist Party The Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) is a minor unionist political party in Northern Ireland. It was formed from the Independent Unionist Group operating in the Shankill area of Belfast, becoming the PUP in 1979. Linked to the Ulster Volunte ...
UK Unionist Party The UK Unionist Party (UKUP) was a small unionist political party in Northern Ireland from 1995 to 2008 that opposed the Good Friday Agreement. It was nominally formed by Robert McCartney, formerly of the Ulster Unionist Party, to contest the ...
won just one seat each. The biggest surprise of the election came in West Tyrone with the election of the independent Kieran Deeny, a doctor campaigning on the single issue of hospital provision in
Omagh Omagh (; from ga, An Ómaigh , meaning 'the virgin plain') is the county town of County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. It is situated where the rivers Drumragh and Camowen meet to form the Strule. Northern Ireland's capital city Belfast is 68 ...
. Several sitting MLAs stood under a different label to the one they had used in the 1998 election. Some had failed to be selected by their parties to stand and so stood as independents, whilst others had changed parties during the course of the assembly. Most of these realignments occurred within the unionist parties, with several defections between existing parties, and two new parties being formed – the United Unionist Coalition (formed by the three MLAs elected as independent unionists, though one later joined the Democratic Unionist Party) and the Northern Ireland Unionist Party (formed by four of the five MLAs elected as the UK Unionist Party, though one later left them, joined the Democratic Unionists for a period, then contested the election as an independent unionist). Neither the United Unionist Assembly Party nor the Northern Ireland Unionists won any seats in 2003.




''Alliance Works''
''Fair Deal Manifesto 2003
Democratic Unionist Party
''Meeting the Challenges - Seizing the Opportunities''
Green Party Northern Ireland
''Assembly Election 2003''
Northern Ireland Conservatives
''Change the Face of Politics''
Northern Ireland Women's Coalition
''2003 Election Manifesto''
Progressive Unionist Party
''Agenda for Government''
Sinn Féin
''Reshaping Government, Rebuilding Public Services''
Social Democratic and Labour Party
''Turn the Tide''
Socialist Environmental Alliance
''Manifesto 2003''
Ulster Unionist Party
''It Wont Work... Without the Workers' Party''
Workers' Party of Ireland {{United Kingdom local elections, 2003 2003 2003 elections in the United Kingdom 2003 in Northern Ireland November 2003 events in the United Kingdom 2003 elections in Northern Ireland