North Down by-election, 1995
The North Down by-election, in the North Down constituency
North Down (UK Parliament constituency)
North Down is a Parliamentary Constituency in the United Kingdom House of Commons. The current MP is Sylvia Hermon, elected as an Independent in the 2010 General Election. -Boundaries:The county constituency was first created in 1885 from the northern part of Down...

, was held on 15 June 1995, following the death of James Kilfedder
James Kilfedder
Sir James Alexander Kilfedder was a Northern Ireland unionist politician.-Early life:...

, who had represented the constituency since the 1970 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1970
The United Kingdom general election of 1970 was held on 18 June 1970, and resulted in a surprise victory for the Conservative Party under leader Edward Heath, who defeated the Labour Party under Harold Wilson. The election also saw the Liberal Party and its new leader Jeremy Thorpe lose half their...

. Kilfedder had formed the Ulster Popular Unionist Party
Ulster Popular Unionist Party
The Ulster Popular Unionist Party was a unionist political party in Northern Ireland. It was founded in 1980 by James Kilfedder, independent Unionist Member of Parliament for North Down, who led the party until his death in 1995....

 in 1980, but the party disintegrated on his death and so this was the first by-election
A by-election is an election held to fill a political office that has become vacant between regularly scheduled elections....

 since Walsall North in 1976
Walsall North by-election, 1976
The Walsall North by-election on 4 November 1976 was held after the resignation of sitting Member of Parliament John Stonehouse. Elected as a Labour candidate, Stonehouse was a member of the English National Party when he resigned, after an interlude in which he faked his own death...

 where the former MP's party did not contest the seat and the first since Bristol South East in 1963
Bristol South East by-election, 1963
The Bristol South East by-election, 1963 was a by-election held on 20 August 1963 for the British House of Commons constituency of Bristol South East in the city of Bristol....

 when the election was not contested by the party that had won on the previous occasion.


The North Down constituency was created in 1950, and had consistently returned Unionist MPs with large majorities. It had also seen some of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland is a liberal and nonsectarian political party in Northern Ireland. It is Northern Ireland's fifth-largest party overall, with eight seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly and one in the House of Commons....

's strongest results, peaking at 22.1% of the vote in the 1983 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1983
The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945...

, and in the 1992 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1992
The United Kingdom general election of 1992 was held on 9 April 1992, and was the fourth consecutive victory for the Conservative Party. This election result was one of the biggest surprises in 20th Century politics, as polling leading up to the day of the election showed Labour under leader Neil...

, it had seen the Conservative Party
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

's best result in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

, picking up 32.0% of the vote.

In 1995, North Down was the wealthiest constituency in the province, and had one of the lowest Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

 populations. As a result, neither the Social Democratic and Labour Party
Social Democratic and Labour Party
The Social Democratic and Labour Party is a social-democratic, Irish nationalist political party in Northern Ireland. Its basic party platform advocates Irish reunification, and the further devolution of powers while Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom...

 nor Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin is a left wing, Irish republican political party in Ireland. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone". Originating in the Sinn Féin organisation founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, it took its current form in 1970...

, the two parties most closely associated with the Catholic community in Northern Ireland, had regularly stood candidates in the constituency, and neither chose to stand in the by-election.


Bob McCartney
Robert McCartney (politician)
Robert Law McCartney QC is a Northern Ireland barrister and former leader of the UK Unionist Party.He was initially a member of the Ulster Unionist Party but was expelled in June 1987 when he refused to withdraw from the general election of that year...

 had stood in the constituency for the Ulster Unionist Party
Ulster Unionist Party
The Ulster Unionist Party – sometimes referred to as the Official Unionist Party or, in a historic sense, simply the Unionist Party – is the more moderate of the two main unionist political parties in Northern Ireland...

 in 1983, when he had come third with 20.3% of the vote. In 1987 he fell out with the party when he refused to withdraw and give Kilfedder a free run on a joint platform of opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement
Anglo-Irish Agreement
The Anglo-Irish Agreement was an agreement between the United Kingdom and Ireland which aimed to help bring an end to the Troubles in Northern Ireland...

, instead running as a "Real Unionist". McCartney now announced his intention to stand in the election, as a UK Unionist. Despite their differences, he gained the tacit backing of the Democratic Unionist Party
Democratic Unionist Party
The Democratic Unionist Party is the larger of the two main unionist political parties in Northern Ireland. Founded by Ian Paisley and currently led by Peter Robinson, it is currently the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the fourth-largest party in the House of Commons of the...

, who had won only 9.8% of the vote in 1992 and chose not to stand their own candidate.

The Ulster Unionist Party had not run a candidate in North Down since Bob McCartney in 1983, but they believed they were best placed to take Kilfedder's personal vote. They chose to run Alan McFarland
Alan McFarland
Major Robert Alan McFarland, MLA was an Independent Unionist politician and MLA for North Down in Northern Ireland. He lost his Assembly seat in the 2011 election....

, a former Army Officer and then Parliamentary secretary to some of their MPs, in preference to Reg Empey
Reg Empey
Reginald Norman Morgan Empey, Baron Empey of Shandon, OBE, – known as Sir Reg Empey prior to 2011 – is a former Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for East Belfast...

, one of their most prominent members. The Alliance Party selected Oliver Napier
Oliver Napier
Sir Oliver Napier was the first leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland. In 1974 he served as the first and only Legal Minister and head of the Office of Legal Reform in the Northern Ireland power-sharing executive set up by the Sunningdale Agreement.-Early life:Napier was educated at St...

, their former party leader, hoping his experience and notability would regain some of the votes which they had lost in the 1992 election. The Conservative Party had suffered a dramatic loss of votes in the local elections, and their candidate in the 1992 election had moved away, but they chose Stuart Sexton, a member based in Bolton
Bolton is a town in Greater Manchester, in the North West of England. Close to the West Pennine Moors, it is north west of the city of Manchester. Bolton is surrounded by several smaller towns and villages which together form the Metropolitan Borough of Bolton, of which Bolton is the...


Four other candidates stood. Alan Chambers, a local councillor, ran as an independent Unionist. The Natural Law Party
Natural Law Party
The Natural Law Party was a transnational party based on the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It was active in up to 74 countries, and ran candidates in at least ten. Founded in 1992, it was mostly disbanded in 2004 but continues in India and in some U.S. states.The NLP viewed "natural law" as...

 stood James Anderson, their leader in Northern Ireland, Michael Brooks who had previously stood as an "Ulster Protestant" candidate in the Irish general election, 1987
Irish general election, 1987
The Irish general election of 1987 was held on 17 February 1987, four weeks after the dissolution of the Dáil on 20 January. The newly-elected 166 members of the 25th Dáil assembled at Leinster House on 10 March when a new Taoiseach and government were appointed.The general election took place in...

 in Donegal North East
Donegal North East (Dáil Éireann constituency)
Donegal North–East is a parliamentary constituency represented in Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish parliament or Oireachtas. The constituency elects 3 deputies...

, stood on a platform to "Free Para Lee Clegg
Lee Clegg
Sergeant Lee Clegg is a British Army soldier who was convicted of murder for his involvement in the shooting dead of two teenage joyriders in West Belfast, Northern Ireland. His conviction was later overturned.-Shooting:...

 Now", and Christopher Carter stood as Ulster's Independent Voice.

The big story of the campaign was from The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

, who announced that if McCartney was elected, he would apply for the Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

Whip (politics)
A whip is an official in a political party whose primary purpose is to ensure party discipline in a legislature. Whips are a party's "enforcers", who typically offer inducements and threaten punishments for party members to ensure that they vote according to the official party policy...

, an unusual move for a unionist, who were more usually associated with the Conservatives.


The results gave McCartney a win, which he claimed was a victory for left-right politics, as opposed to sectarian politics, with the Ulster Unionists a disappointed distant second. Shortly after the election, James Molyneaux
James Molyneaux
James Henry Molyneaux, Baron Molyneaux of Killead, KBE, PC is a Northern Irish Unionist politician and was leader of the Ulster Unionist Party from 1979 to 1995. He was a leading member and sometime Vice-President of the Conservative Monday Club...

 retired as their leader, and was replaced by David Trimble
David Trimble
William David Trimble, Baron Trimble, PC , is a politician from Northern Ireland. He served as Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party , was the first First Minister of Northern Ireland , and was a Member of the British Parliament . He is currently a life peer for the Conservative Party...


The Alliance came third, with their best ever share of the vote in the constituency. Chambers also saved his deposit, but the Conservatives received what was their worst vote in any UK Parliamentary election since 1918.

The by-election was the first since the Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election of April 1981
Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election, 1981 (April)
The by-election held in Fermanagh and South Tyrone on 9 April 1981 is considered by many to be the most significant by-election held in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. It saw the first victory for the militant republican movement, which the following year entered electoral politics in full...

 where a seat transferred between two candidates from outside the major parties, and the first since the North Down by-election of 1986 won by a minor party.

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