Northern Ireland 1974

14 Jan

The two Elections of 1974 saw the establishment of a pattern within Northern Irleand that was to dominate for the next 20 years. It was clear as Britain went to the polls in 1974 that Northern Ireland elections were now to be considered an anomaly, something different. Unionism the creed from the 19th century was dead and gone as a unifying party policy. There was a willingness from the Conserrvatives to put a clear line between them and the Unionists.

Feb 74 saw Harry Wests UUP stand in 7 seats and win them all. The dominant force in Unionism. However Mr Paisley and his DUP stood in 2 seats and won 1. Vanguard, a new Unionist grouping stood in 3 seats and won them all. The SDLP the only main voice for Nationalism ( not Republicanism !) won 1 seat, a gain. Faulkners pro assembly Unionists were routed.
In terms of the vote Unionist won 11 of the 12 seats or 91 % of the seats on 365,000 votes out of 525,000 cast or 69% of the votes cast. And there rests a great problem brewing in the wings. The SDLP needed 160,000 votes to get 1 MP the UUP got 1 MP for every 33,000 votes !

October 74 it all got very strange in Northern Ireland . Enoch Powell came and marginally delivered, he brought nothing like the personal support his party had hoped for ( see Heffer ) . On the back of the Ulster Workers strike , a kind of Edwardian reposnse to Westminster moves,the UUP lost a seat to an Independent Republican. Harry West who 8 months earlier was offered a deal to support Heaths defeated Government was now out of Parliament. The UUP increased its vote share mainly at Vanguards expense who oddly were the main winners of the count retaining their 3 seats but dropping to just 62,000 votes.

Within 3 years Vanguard had gone , its MPs all became UUP.2 were re-elected in 1979, though one was killed by the IRA in 1981 ( Robert Bradford )

Election night coverage is worth watching here because Enoch clearly fumbles his words and says Arse when supposedly talking about his Arsenal. The two ronnies do Enoch Powell. Its at about 6 minutes 20 seconds …

By 1979 Vanguard had gone and the DUP moved firmly into the harder Unionist position. The UUP vote stayed similar but again they lost a seat , then down to 5. The DUP picked up 2 to sit at 3 and increased the vote from 59,000 to 70,000. A range of independent more unionist than a unionist unionist party(parties ) picked up 2 seats. Again Nationalist/Republicans held 2 of the 12 seats  whilst securing 27% of the vote. Republicans weren’t turning up to vote ..interestingly in the 2015 election Nationalist/Republicans secured 48% of the vote and 38% of the seats.

A lot has happened since then.



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