1979 United Kingdom general election in Northern Ireland

The 1979 United Kingdom general election in Northern Ireland was held on 3 May with 12 MPs elected in single-seat constituencies using first-past-the-post as part of the wider general election in the United Kingdom.

1979 United Kingdom general election in Northern Ireland

← Oct. 1974 3 May 1979 1983 →

12 seats in Northern Ireland of the 635 seats in the House of Commons
  First party Second party
Leader Harry West Ian Paisley
Leader since Jan. 1974 1971
Leader's seat Fermanagh and South Tyrone
Antrim North
Seats won 5 3
Seat change Decrease 1 Increase 2
Popular vote 254,578 70,795
Percentage 36.6% 10.2%

  Third party Fourth party
Leader Gerry Fitt Ernest Baird
Party Social Democratic and Labour Party UUUP
Leader since 1970 1975
Leader's seat Belfast West Fermanagh and South Tyrone
Seats won 1 1
Seat change Steady New
Popular vote 126,235 39,856
Percentage 18.2% 5.7%


The election was after Labour Party prime minister James Callaghan lost a vote of confidence by 311 votes to 310. The election was won by the Conservative Party led by Margaret Thatcher, and began a period of 18-year government by the party.

Ulster Unionist leader Harry West failed to win a seat for the second time, and would resign later that year after failing to win a seat at the first European Parliament election. The Democratic Unionist Party increased its representation, and the Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party had disbanded.

Frank Maguire was re-elected as an Independent Nationalist, beating the leaders of both the UUP and the new United Ulster Unionist Party, as well as Austin Currie, a member of the SDLP standing without the support of the party. Maguire's death on 5 March 1981 led by a by-election won by Bobby Sands, an IRA prisoner who died later that year as a result of a hunger strike. The Representation of the People Act 1981 disqualified prisoners detained for more than a year from membership of the House of Commons, so the resulting by-election was contested by Sands's election agent Owen Carron, rather than by another prison on hunger strike.

Party MPs Votes
No. Change No. % Change
UUP 5   1 254,578 36.6%   0.1
DUP 3   2 70,795 10.2%   1.7
SDLP 1   1 126,235 18.2%   4.2
UUUP 1 New 39,856 5.7%   5.7
Ind U 1   1 36,989 5.3%   4.6
Independent Nationalist 1   22,398 3.2%   1.5
Alliance 0   82,892 11.9%   5.5
Irish Independence 0 New 23,086 3.3%   3.3
Republican Clubs 0   12,098 1.7%   1.3
Independent SDLP 0   10,795 1.6%   1.6
Unionist Party NI 0   8,021 1.2%   1.9
NI Labour 0   4,411 0.6%   1.0
United Labour 0   1,895 0.3%   0.3
Independent or other 0   1,578 0.2%   0.3
Total 12   695,627 100  

MPs electedEdit

Constituency Party MP
Antrim North DUP Ian Paisley
Antrim South UUP James Molyneaux
Armagh UUP Harold McCusker
Belfast East DUP Peter Robinson
Belfast North DUP John McQuade
Belfast South UUP Robert Bradford
Belfast West SDLP Gerry Fitt
Down North Ind U Jim Kilfedder
Down South UUP Enoch Powell
Fermanagh and South Tyrone Independent Nationalist Frank Maguire
Londonderry UUP William Ross
Mid Ulster UUUP John Dunlop


Constituency Date Incumbent Party Winner Party Cause
Fermanagh and South Tyrone 9 April 1981 Frank Maguire Independent Nationalist Bobby Sands Anti H-Block Death
Fermanagh and South Tyrone 20 August 1981 Bobby Sands Anti H-Block Owen Carron Anti H-Block Death from hunger strike
Belfast South 4 March 1982 Robert Bradford UUP Martin Smyth UUP Killed by the IRA


  1. ^ "Elections to the United Kingdom Parliament held in Northern Ireland: General Election 3 May 1979". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Westminster election, 3 May 1979". ARK: Northern Ireland Elections. Retrieved 9 March 2019.