#LE19 - a turning of the tide? Report of local elections in Northern Ireland, 2019

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Abstract

Otherwise routine local elections in Northern Ireland on 2 May 2019 were bestowed unusual significance by exceptional circumstance. A prolonged stalemate between the two largest political parties had left Northern Ireland without a devolved government for over two years; meanwhile, arrangements for the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland had been central in the turbulent ‘Brexit’ process engulfing the UK government. Meaning, that the local elections in 2019 would be a litmus test of public opinion in Northern Ireland at a time when the place more often spoken about than spoken for. In the event, results were mixed; there were signs of electoral continuity and others of political flux. Two trends will likely be significant in the long term. First, the consolidation of ethno-nationally defined electorates on the part of the DUP and Sinn Féin following the continued decline in support for the moderate unionist UUP and moderate nationalist SDLP. Second, a surge in support for the cross-community Alliance Party and a notable increase in support for the non-aligned Green Party and People Before Profit Alliance, alongside Independent candidates, suggests diversification in the issues directing Northern Irish voters’ allegiance, and at least a partial decline in the electoral salience of the constitutional question.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-79
JournalIrish Political Studies
Volume35
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2019

Keywords

  • Northern Ireland
  • United Kingdom
  • Brexit
  • local elections
  • Unionism
  • Nationalism

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