Northern Ireland Conservatives

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NI Conservatives
President Baroness Pidding
Chairman Harry Cullen
Founded 1989
Headquarters Andras House,
60 Great Victoria Street
Youth wing Conservative Future
Membership  (2012) 450[1]
Ideology Conservatism
British unionism
Political position Centre-right
National affiliation Conservative Party
Colours Blue, Green
NI Assembly
0 / 108
NI Local Councils
1 / 462
NI Conservatives
Politics of Northern Ireland
Political parties

The Northern Ireland Conservatives is the section of the Conservative and Unionist Party of the United Kingdom that operates in Northern Ireland[citation needed]. The party has a small support base, attracting 1.3% of the vote in Northern Ireland at the 2015 general election.

In 2009 the party agreed to an electoral alliance with the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), whereby the two parties fielded joint candidates for elections to the House of Commons and the European Parliament under the banner of "Ulster Conservatives and Unionists – New Force".[2] Literature and the web site for the 2009 European Parliament election used "Conservatives and Unionists" as the short name.[3] The alliance ended after the 2010 UK General Election. In the 2014 European elections, the party failed to retain its deposit, and in the Local Government elections the same year, the party lost its only council seat in Northern Ireland.


Before 1922

The Conservative Party was first represented in Ireland in the form of the Irish Conservative Party, which operated across the island. The Irish Conservatives became part of the Irish Unionist Alliance (IUA) in 1891. By this stage, the Conservative's electoral base was largely restricted to Ulster and Dublin. The IUA's Members of Parliament took the Conservative Party whip at Westminster, but the organisation retained a level of independence. Following the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, the IUA dissolved.[4] Its successor in Northern Ireland was the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP).


From 1922, the Conservative Party maintained formal links with the UUP, its members taking the Conservative whip in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, much like the then-independent Unionist Party of Scotland, which integrated into the party in England and Wales in the 1960s. This relationship broke down in 1972, following Unionist opposition to the proposed Sunningdale Agreement, when all but one of the UUP MPs resigned the Conservative whip. The sole exception, Stratton Mills, left the UUP and continued to take the whip for a further year, before joining the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland. Another UUP MP, Robin Chichester-Clark, became Minister of State for Employment in the Conservative government from April 1972 to February 1974, the only Northern Ireland MP to be a UK minister after partition in 1922.

Entry into Northern Ireland

The Conservative Party did not organise in Northern Ireland until the late 1980s, when three Unionist members of North Down Borough Council, including George Green, defected to the party. The party doubled its representation there in the local government elections of 1989, becoming the largest party on the council. An Independent Conservative also won a seat on Lisburn Borough council,[5][6] although he joined the UUP before the 1993 local elections. In the 1989 European Elections the Conservative candidate polled 4.8% and was just 2,000 first preference votes behind the Alliance Party candidate.

Subsequently, the Conservatives were boosted by a number of other defectors. Former UUP Assembly members Dorothy Dunlop and Billy Bleakes defected in Belfast and Lisburn respectively, while Robert Mitchell, a former Stormont MP, defected in Coleraine. Mary Ardill, wife of prominent former Stormont MP Austin Ardill, joined in Carrick; Gary Haggan defected from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Larne, and Billy Dickson from the DUP in Belfast. Lloyd Hall-Thompson, another retired former UUP Stormont politician, became chair of the local Lagan Valley branch.[7]

Relationship with the Ulster Unionist Party

The Conservatives have for some time maintained a close relationship with the UUP. The former UUP leader and First Minister, David Trimble was elevated to the House of Lords on losing his Commons seat. Shortly after standing down from the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2007, he took the Conservative whip. On doing so he made it clear that he would not be campaigning on behalf of the Northern Ireland Conservatives in opposition to his former party.[8]

In July 2008 David Cameron and Sir Reg Empey announced a working group to develop a partnership with the UUP.[9] This was implemented in 2009, forming the "Ulster Conservatives and Unionists" for certain electoral purposes, though the Vice Chairman of Conservatives NI, Jeffrey Peel, resigned from the Joint Committee created by both parties.[10]

The two parties stood as the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists - New Force at the 2009 European Parliament election and 2010 UK General Election.

Relaunch as NI Conservatives

File:Northern Ireland Conservatives logo.png
Former branding prior to adoption of the national brand[11]

On 14 June 2012 the Conservatives in Northern Ireland were relaunched as 'NI Conservatives'.[12] The party is now autonomous on devolved matters, although it remains a full part of the national Conservative and Unionist Party. The party had a councillor on Larne Council, Dr Brian Dunn.[13] Dunn was first elected as a UUP candidate in 2001, and was last elected as an independent before joining the Conservatives.[14] He did not stand for re-election in 2014 due to health reasons. The party nominated Mark Brotherston as their candidate in the European Parliament elections in 2014,[15] but he failed to be elected, coming last with 0.7% of first preference votes.

The party stood in 16 out of the 18 Northern Ireland constituencies at the 2015 general election,[16] although most of their candidates were from outside Northern Ireland.[17] Although the Conservative Party won a majority of seats UK-wide, in Northern Ireland the party received only 1.3% of the vote and failed to win any seats.

The party regained a council seat when former UUP Coleraine ex Mayor and Causeway Coast and Glens councillor David Harding joined the party.[18]

They stood 12 candidates in 11 of the 18 constituencies in the 2016 Assembly elections. They won no seats, with candidates obtaining between 0.1% and 2.1% of the first preference votes.



# Leader Term start Term end
1 Irwin Armstrong 2012 2014
2 Harry Cullen 2014 Incumbent


As of the June 2014 NI Conservatives AGM the members of the Party Board are as follows:

  • Chairman - Harry Cullen
  • Vice Chairman (Political) - Neil Johnston
  • Vice Chairman (Membership) - Roger Gilpin
  • President - Emma Pidding
  • Honorary Vice President - Terry Dick
  • Honorary Vice President - Matthew Robinson

Association Chairmen, and a representative from the Northern Ireland Conservative Future Regional Executive[19] also sit on the Party Board.

Assembly candidates 2016

Northern Ireland Conservative Future

Northern Ireland Conservative Future (NICF) is the official youth movement of the NI Conservatives. It seeks to provide a platform for all centre-right minded young people in Northern Ireland, at the heart of both student politics across Northern Ireland, and the national Conservative Future organisation throughout the United Kingdom.

NICF was re-launched in February 2011, after the election of Matthew Robinson as Regional Chairman. In May 2013, Matthew stood down after serving two terms in the position, and was succeeded by a defector from the Young Unionists, Stephen Goss.

Goss did not seek re-election and Ben Manton was elected unopposed in August 2014 as Regional Chairman. [20]


The party in Northern Ireland was largely opposed to the Good Friday Agreement, in contrast to the national leadership who were in favour.[21] The revamped organisation is a pro-Agreement party. Further details of party policies can be found on the Ni Conservative website

Election results and governments

Northern Ireland Council Seats
Antrim and Newtownabbey
0 / 40
Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon
0 / 41
Belfast City
0 / 60
Causeway Coast and Glens
1 / 40
Derry and Strabane
0 / 40
Fermanagh and Omagh
0 / 40
Lisburn and Castlereagh
0 / 40
Mid and East Antrim
0 / 40
0 / 40
Newry, Mourne and Down
0 / 41
North Down and Ards
0 / 40

The Conservatives in Northern Ireland have a low support base, attracting 0.5% of the poll (3,500 votes) in the 2007 Assembly election. As of 2011, they have no elected representatives in the Northern Ireland Assembly or Parliament.

The party's best performance came in the 1992 general election, when party candidates polled 44,608 votes across Northern Ireland: 5.7% of the total. Their best performance came in the North Down constituency, where the local party chairman, Laurence Kennedy, came second, 5,000 votes behind the sitting MP James Kilfedder.

Subsequently, the party declined rapidly. In the 1993 council elections, the party lost five council seats, being reduced to six councillors across Northern Ireland. In North Down, the party's support more than halved, from 25% in 1989 to 11% in 1993, although they narrowly managed to win a seat in all four North Down electoral areas. Laurence Kennedy quit Northern Irish politics a few months later, while the party's councillors in Lisburn and Carrick left the party to sit as Independent Unionists. In 1997 they were reduced to two council seats in North Down. Both councillors retired before the 2001 council elections and the party failed to defend one of their seats in 2001 with the other lost, leaving them without elected representation in Northern Ireland.

Westminster elections

Election House of Commons Votes Vote % Seats Government
1992 51st 44,608 5.7% (in NI)
41.9% (in UK)
0 / 17
Conservative Party
1997 52nd 9,858 1.2% (in NI)
30.7% (in UK)
0 / 18
Labour Party
2001 53rd 2,422 0.3% (in NI)
31.7% (in UK)
0 / 18
Labour Party
2005 54th 2,718 0.4% (in NI)
32.4% (in UK)
0 / 18
Labour Party
2010 55th 11,451 1.7% (in NI)
36.1% (in UK)
0 / 18
Conservative-Liberal coalition
2015 56th 9,055 1.3% (in NI)
36.9% (in UK)
0 / 18
Conservative Party

Devolved Legislature elections

Election Legisture Votes Share of votes Seats Note(s)
1996 Northern Ireland Forum 3,595 0.48
0 / 110
1998 Northern Ireland Assembly 1,835 0.23
0 / 108
2003 Northern Ireland Assembly 1,604 0.20
0 / 108
2007 Northern Ireland Assembly 3,457 0.50
0 / 108
2016 Northern Ireland Assembly 2,554 0.40
0 / 108

Local Government elections

Election First Preference Vote Vote % Seats
1989 5,204 0.8%
6 / 565
1993 9,438 1.0%
6 / 582
1997 2,634 0.4%
3 / 575
2001 1,985 0.3%
0 / 582
2005 1,164 0.2%
0 / 582
2011 1,321 0.2%
0 / 583
2014 2,527 0.4%
0 / 462

European elections

Election First Preference Vote Vote % Seats
1989 25,789 4.8%
0 / 3
1994 5,583 1.0%
0 / 3
2014 4,144 0.7%
0 / 3

See also


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  4. Pádraig Yeates, Dublin: A City in Turmoil: Dublin 1919 - 1921 (Gill & Macmillan Ltd, 28 Sep 2012)
  5. Local Government Elections 1985–1989: Lisburn
  6. Gordon Lucy, Northern Ireland Local Government Election Results, Ulster Society Press, 1993
  7. Northern Ireland Parliamentary Elections Results: Biographies
  8. Announcement "I will no longer be campaigning in Northern Ireland for Ulster Unionists, but, having got through the Assembly election in good shape, I am confident for their future. I want to thank all those in Ulster Unionism for their help and friendship over the years, to assure them that I will continue to be committed to Ulster’s place within the Union and that I will never campaign against them."
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  16. Election 2015: 138 candidates vying for 18 NI seats, BBC News (April 9, 2015).
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  21. Northern Ireland Political Parties

External links