The 2019 General Election in Northern Ireland: the Rise of the Centre Ground?

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Series Details Volume 91, Number 1, Pages 49-55
Publication Date January-March 2020
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The experience of the 2019 general election in Northern Ireland took a very different course to that of the rest of the UK and, indeed, to the pattern of electoral politics typical of the region. Coming after almost three years with no functioning devolved government, combined with intense disagreement and uncertainty about Brexit, voters were ready to give a message to the two largest parties. Both Sinn Féin and the DUP suffered losses in the election, with the headline outcome being that unionism no longer holds the majority of seats for Northern Ireland in Westminster.

More generally, there was a swing from both sides towards centre ground voting, which brought significant gains for the Alliance Party and the SDLP. This article summarises the reasons for this broad trend, focussing on the conditions and electoral pacts which brought it about. It also considers what it might mean for the prospects for Irish unification, noting that a referendum on unification will only be passed by attracting votes from those who tend to see themselves as neither unionist or nationalist.

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