Open main menu

Jim Nicholson (Northern Ireland politician)

James Frederick Nicholson MEP (born 29 January 1945) is a Northern Irish Ulster Unionist Party politician, who served as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Northern Ireland from 1989 to 2019.

Jim Nicholson
Nicholson, James-2641.jpg
Member of the European Parliament
for Northern Ireland
In office
15 June 1989 – 1 July 2019[1][2]
Preceded byJohn Taylor
Succeeded byNaomi Long
Member of Parliament
for Newry and Armagh
In office
9 June 1983 – 17 December 1985
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded bySeamus Mallon
Personal details
Born (1945-01-29) 29 January 1945 (age 74)
Armagh, Northern Ireland
Political partyUlster Unionist Party
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Gibson (m. 1968–2015; her death)
WebsiteOfficial Website



Nicholson was born in 1945 in Armagh, Northern Ireland.[3] Educated locally, he later worked as a farmer on the family farm. He joined the Ulster Unionist Party in the early 1970s and was the Secretary/Organiser of Mid-South Armagh Unionist Association from 1973 to 1983.[3] He was elected to his first public office in 1976 as a member of Armagh council; he served until 1997 and was chairman of the council in 1994–95.[3] From 1982 to 1986, Nicholson was a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly.[4]


Nicholson was elected as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Newry and Armagh in the 1983 general election for the UUP. At Westminster, he served on the Agriculture Select Committee.[3] Along with all other unionist MPs, he resigned from the House of Commons in December 1985 as part of a wider protest against the Anglo-Irish Agreement of that year and to secure a renewed mandate from their electors.[3] A by-election to fill his seat took place in January 1986.

Nicholson, who was defending the nationalist-majority Newry and Armagh constituency in the by-election, was the only resigning MP not to re-win his seat, losing it to Seamus Mallon of the moderate nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) in the by-election. He contested the seat again at the 1987 general election[3] but demographics in the area had shifted against unionism; nationalist and republican candidates have held it ever since.

European ParliamentEdit

At the 1989 election to the European Parliament, he was elected as a Member of the European Parliament for Northern Ireland. He retained this seat in 1994, 1999 and 2004 although never reaching a quota of first preference votes. On each occasion, he was re-elected with the help of transfers from other candidates, under Northern Ireland's EU election system of proportional representation using the single transferable vote. In 2009, running as a Conservatives and Unionists candidate, he was elected second ahead of the Democratic Unionist Party, who for the first time failed to reach quota in a European Parliament election.

Nicholson was initially a member of the European People's Party group in the European Parliament. In 1997, however, he transferred to the eurosceptic Independents for a Europe of Nations group. He served as vice-chairman of the group for two years.[5] In 1999, he joined the European Democrats wing of the European People's Party - European Democrats group, the largest group in the Parliament, a eurosceptic wing which also contained the UK's Conservative MEPs. He was one of six Quaestors in the European Parliament, becoming the first ever MEP from Northern Ireland to hold such a senior position when elected on 21 July 2004; he was re-elected in 2007. In 2009 he was elected as a Conservatives and Unionists candidate and subsequently joined the European Conservatives and Reformists Group. He currently serves on the Agriculture Committee of the European parliament.

Nicholson describes himself as a "euro-realist"; he is opposed to the creation of a federal Europe and is against the adoption of the euro as the currency of the United Kingdom.[4] He does, however, believe that the European Union has been good for Northern Ireland in relation to funding and infrastructure.[3] In 2016, Nicholson voiced his concerns about the way in which the EU has changed since he first became an MEP.

He is retiring at the 2019 European Parliament election.[6]

Personal lifeEdit

Nicholson married Elizabeth Gibson in 1968 and had six sons and one daughter. His wife died in May 2015 after a long illness.[3]


  1. ^ "Key dates ahead". European Parliament. 20 May 2017. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  2. ^ "Key dates ahead". BBC News. 22 May 2017. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Northern Ireland Assembly MEPs". Stratagem. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
  4. ^ a b "UUP candidate: Jim Nicholson". BBC. 18 May 2004. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
  5. ^ European Parliament archive entry for James Nicholson (incl. Membership)
  6. ^ McBride, Sam (15 April 2019). "After 30 years as an MEP, Jim Nicholson to retire". Belfast Newsletter. Retrieved 12 May 2019.

External linksEdit