Skip to content

A fresh start? The Northern Ireland Assembly election 2016

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-326
Number of pages16
JournalIrish Political Studies
Issue number2
Early online date21 Nov 2016
DateAccepted/In press - 20 Oct 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print - 21 Nov 2016
DatePublished (current) - Apr 2017


As voters across Northern Ireland went to the polls on 5 May 2016, it was by no means obvious that they were participating in a landmark election. The preceding campaign was largely lacklustre, voters were left uninspired, and competition for votes was primarily conducted along predictable ethno-national lines. The Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin retained their positions as the dominant unionist and nationalist parties respectively, while the Ulster Unionist Party and Social Democratic and Labour Party struggled to retain their existing support, let alone expand it. The cross-community Alliance Party remained stagnant in fifth place. However, these ostensive signs of continuity with previous elections mask deeper signs of substantive change. The establishment of Northern Ireland’s first official opposition within current structures and the publication of a draft Programme for Government framework within a month of the election are indicative of a new era in consociational power sharing. Meanwhile, the growth in support for smaller parties, a further fall in voter turnout and an audible debate around social issues suggest at least a partial decline in the salience of the ethno-national dimension in the electoral arena.

    Research areas

  • Northern Ireland Assembly, elections, campaign, political parties

Download statistics

No data available



  • Full-text PDF (accepted author manuscript)

    Rights statement: This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Taylor & Francis at Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 409 KB, PDF document


View research connections

Related faculties, schools or groups