1921 Northern Ireland general election

The 1921 Northern Ireland general election was held on Tuesday, 24 May 1921. It was the first election to the Parliament of Northern Ireland. Ulster Unionist Party members won a two-thirds majority of votes cast and more than three-quarters of the seats in the assembly. Sinn Féin in particular was shocked at the scale of the Unionist victory, having spent considerable resources on the campaign, and had expected to win between 1/3 and 1/2 of the seats. The election was conducted using the single transferable vote system.

1921 Northern Ireland general election
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24 May 1921 1925 →

All 52 seats to the House of Commons of Northern Ireland
27 seats were needed for a majority
  First party Second party Third party
  James Craig, 1st Viscount Craigavon.jpg Eamon de Valera c 1922-30.jpg Joe Devlin.JPG
Leader James Craig Éamon de Valera Joe Devlin
Party UUP Sinn Féin Nationalist
Leader since 1921 1917 1918
Leader's seat Down Down Belfast West
Seats won 40 6 6
Popular vote 343,347 104,917 60,577
Percentage 66.9% 20.5% 11.8%

1921 Northern Ireland General Election Results Map.png
Results of the 1921 Northern Ireland General Election.

Prime Minister before election


Prime Minister after election

James Craig

The election took place during the Irish War of Independence, on the same day as the election to the parliament of Southern Ireland. As the election in Southern Ireland was merely a formality, with all candidates being returned unopposed (and therefore guaranteeing Sinn Féin complete dominance), Sinn Féin was able to focus its resources entirely on the election in Northern Ireland. The Sinn Féin campaign focused on the issue of partition implemented by the Government of Ireland Act 1920, with Sinn Féin and the Nationalist party running on a combined anti-partition ticket.[1]

Sinn Féin campaignEdit

Sinn Féin invested considerable resources in their campaign, placing advertisements in almost 50 northern newspapers making a range of arguments against partition. Sinn Féin also published its own newspaper, The Unionist, of which 50,000 copies were sent to prominent Protestants in East Ulster, particularly County Antrim. In particular, Sinn Féin claimed there was widespread ignorance over the situation in Ulster and warned against the economic dangers of partition, particularly in relation to threats of a renewed boycott against northern goods in a manner similar to the "Belfast Boycott". Sinn Féin also attempted to attract Ulster's rural and agricultural workers, arguing partition would put them at the mercy of eastern Ulster's urban elites.[1]

Despite the scale and organisation of the campaign, its arguments failed to resonate with voters, with the party's chief organiser Eamon Donnelly claiming on the day of the election that all Sinn Féin's efforts had achieved was assuring a high Unionist turnout.[1]


40 6 6
UUP Sinn Fein Nationalist
1921 Northern Ireland general election
Party Candidates Votes
Stood Elected Gained Unseated Net % of total % No. Net %
  UUP 40 40 N/A N/A N/A 76.92 66.9 343,347 N/A
  Sinn Féin 20 6 N/A N/A N/A 11.54 20.5 104,917 N/A
  Nationalist 12 6 N/A N/A N/A 11.54 11.8 60,577 N/A
  Belfast Labour 4 0 N/A N/A N/A 0.00 0.6 3,075 N/A
  Independent 1 0 N/A N/A N/A 0.00 0.2 926 N/A

Total electorate: 582,464; turnout: 88.0% (512,842).

Votes summaryEdit

Popular vote
Ulster Unionist
Sinn Féin
Belfast Labour

Seats summaryEdit

Parliamentary seats
Ulster Unionist
Sinn Féin

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Lynch, Robert (2015). Revolutionary Ireland, 1912–25. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 96–97. ISBN 9781441186898.