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definition - West Belfast (UK Parliament constituency)

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Belfast West (UK Parliament constituency)

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Belfast West
Borough constituency
Belfast West shown within Northern Ireland
Created:1885, 1922
MP:Gerry Adams
Party:Sinn Féin
Type:House of Commons
Districts:Belfast, Lisburn
EP constituency:Northern Ireland
For other constituencies of the same name, see Belfast West.

Belfast West is a Parliamentary Constituency in the UK House of Commons.

Contents

Boundaries

The seat was created in 1922 when as part of the establishment of the devolved Stormont Parliament for Northern Ireland, the number of MPs in the Westminster Parliament was drastically cut. In 1983 the Sandy Row and Donegall Road areas were removed[1] leaving a seat centred on the west section of Belfast, though between 1983 and 1996/7 it included the area around the Docks on the north east side of the Lagan Estuary[2]. Belfast West also contains part of the city of Lisburn district in the shape of the Poleglass and Twinbrook estates.

Boundary changes

Initially the Boundary Commission proposed alterations for the boundaries of constituencies in Northern Ireland, with Belfast West having one of the smallest electorates of any constituency in Northern Ireland.

The Commission's revised recommendations, published in May 2006, added the Dunmurry ward and the Northern part of Derriaghy ward. Following public consultation, the proposals were passed through Parliament via the Northern Ireland Parliamentary Constituencies Order.[3] In an unprecedented move by a Boundary Commission, an electoral ward will be split between constituencies following disquiet in parts of Derriaghy. This ward will be split between Belfast West and Lagan Valley.

The constituency will be fought at the next UK general election with the following electoral areas;

  • From the Belfast district; Andersonstown, Beechmount, Clonard, Falls, Falls Park, Glencairn, Glencolin, Glen Road, Highfield, Ladybrook, Shankill, Upper Springfield, and Whiterock
  • From Lisburn city district; Collin Glen, Dunmurry, Kilwee, Poleglass, and Twinbrook. The ward of Derriaghy will be split so that which lies to the north of its boundary with Lagmore will be in this seat.

History

Belfast West has historically been the most nationalist of Belfast's four constituencies, though it is only in the last few decades that the votes for unionist parties have plunged to tiny levels. The constituency is largely made of a long, slender, belt along the Falls Road and its suburban extensions, with three of the five wards from the staunchly unionist Shankill area now something of a bolt-on, with a several kilometre long peace line dividing them from the rest of the constituency. There is also a smaller Protestant enclave at Suffolk.

Unsurprisingly, the tenor of the constituency is largely working class and in the 1991 census it was one of only twenty constituencies where the majority of housing was still council owned. Although there are now large pockets of middle-class housing in Andersonstown and other suburban parts of the seat. Closer to the centre public-sector terraced housing, both Victorian and high quality modern housing, predominates, while in the suburbs, leafy pockets are scattered among post-War housing estates such as Lenadoon and Twinbrook.

The Westminster constituency was consistently held by the Ulster Unionist Party but always had strong Labour movement sympathies. In the UK general election, 1923, the Belfast Labour Party came within 1,000 votes of taking the seat. A by-election in 1943 was won by Jack Beattie, standing for the Northern Ireland Labour Party. For the next twenty-three years the seat would regularly change from unionist to nationalist/labour, with the latter represented by a variety of parties.

In the 1966 general election the seat was won by Gerry Fitt of the Republican Labour Party. Later in 1970 he left that party to become a founder and first leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party. In the February 1974 general election, Belfast West was the only constituency in Northern Ireland to elect an MP supporting the Sunningdale Agreement. Fitt's majority was a narrow 2180 votes in February 1974 primarily due to the candidature of Albert Price the father of the Price sisters who were in prison in England for PIRA related offences. However the candidacy of a UVF backed candidate in October 1974 and a declining Unionist vote in 1979 led to him increasing his majorities in subsequent years. He retained the seat for the next nine years but increasingly distanced himself from nationalist groups and in late 1979 he left the SDLP altogether. He sat as an independent socialist but lost his seat in the 1983 when it was won by Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin. The Unionist vote which had still been at 30% in the 1982 Assembly elections was cut to 20% as a result of the 1983 boundary changes which, while adding the loyalist Glencairn area, removed the Donegall Road, Sandy Row and added the Nationalist Lenadoon area.

Adams' share of the vote, at 37%, was short of a majority and he achieved victory only due to Fitt and the SDLP candidate splitting the non-Sinn Féin vote. In 1987 Adams narrowly held his seat, but lost it in the 1992 general election amidst a strong tactical voting campaign in favour of Joe Hendron of the Social Democratic and Labour Party by unionists[4] in the Shankill Road area of the constituency. Hendron and his election agent were found guilty in an election court of having performed "corrupt and illegal practices" during the election by accepting advertising in the Irish News at less than the market rate, but the court upheld the election result.

In the mid 1990s the Boundary Commission originally suggested removing the Shankill wards from the constituency and replacing them with about half of the Belfast South constituency namely the 6 wards of the Balmoral Electoral Area and the Shaftesbury ward, effectively transforming the seat into a Belfast South West constituency.

The subsequent local enquiries were bitterly contested with the SDLP favouring the commission's original proposals which would add an area where Sinn Féin had little support (and aside from the Shaftesbury ward, had not contested in council elections), while Sinn Féin argued instead for adding the mostly republican Twinbrook and Poleglass estates (where they were outpolling the SDLP in council elections by a margin of 3 to 1.) With all parties except the SDLP supporting an option of retaining four seats in Belfast the latter option became the commissions final proposals and the Shankill wards remained in the constituency.

The boundary changes, coupled with the IRA ceasefire, meant that support for Sinn Féin in the constituency soared to new levels and in all elections held in the seat since 1996 they have taken over 50% of the vote. In 1997 Adams regained the seat and held it in 2001 and 2005.

Members of Parliament

The Member of Parliament since the 1997 general election is Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Féin. He previously held the seat between 1983 and 1992 when he lost it to Joe Hendron of the Social Democratic and Labour Party but regained it in 1997.

Monument to James Horner Haslett, MP & Mayor of Belfast, grounds of Belfast City Hall
ElectionMemberParty
1885James Horner HaslettConservative
1886Thomas SextonIrish Parliamentary
1890Irish National Federation
1892H. O. Arnold-ForsterLiberal Unionist
1906Joseph DevlinIrish Parliamentary
1918constituency abolished
1922constituency recreated
1922Robert LynnUlster Unionist
1929W. E. D. AllenUlster Unionist
1931New Party
1931Alexander BrowneUlster Unionist
1943Jack BeattieLabour (NI)
1943Independent Labour
1945Federation of Labour
1949Irish Labour
1950James Godfrey MacManawayUlster Unionist
1950Thomas TeevanUlster Unionist
1951Jack BeattieIrish Labour
1955Patricia McLaughlinUlster Unionist
1964James KilfedderUlster Unionist
1966Gerry FittRepublican Labour
1970Social Democratic and Labour
1979Independent
1983Gerry AdamsSinn Féin
1992Joe HendronSocial Democratic and Labour
1997Gerry AdamsSinn Féin

Election results

Elections in the 2000s

General Election 2005: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Sinn FéinGerry Adams24,34870.5+4.4
Social Democratic and LabourAlex Attwood5,03314.6-4.3
Democratic UnionistDiane Dodds3,65210.6+4.2
Ulster UnionistChris McGimpsey7792.3-3.9
Workers' PartyJohn Lowry4321.3-0.5
Rainbow Dream TicketLynda Gilby1540.4+0.2
IndependentLiam Kennedy1470.4+0.4
Majority19,31555.9+8.7
Turnout34,54564.2-4.5
Sinn Féin holdSwing+4.4%
General Election 2001: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Sinn FéinGerry Adams27,09666.1+10.2
Social Democratic and LabourAlex Attwood7,75418.9-19.8
Democratic UnionistEric Smyth2,6416.4N/A
Ulster UnionistChris McGimpsey2,5416.2+2.8
Workers' PartyJohn Lowry7361.8+0.2
Third WayDavid Kerr1160.3N/A
Rainbow Dream TicketRainbow George Weiss980.2N/A
Majority19,34247.2
Turnout40,98268.7-5.5
Sinn Féin holdSwing

Elections in the 1990s

General Election 1997: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Sinn FéinGerry Adams25,66255.9+ 13.9
Social Democratic and LabourJoe Hendron17,75338.7- 5.5
Ulster UnionistFred Parkinson1,5563.4-8.2
Workers' PartyJohn Lowry7211.6N/A
Human RightsLiam Kennedy1020.2N/A
Natural LawMary Daly910.2N/A
Majority7,90917.2+ 15.5
Turnout45,885
Sinn Féin gain from Social Democratic and LabourSwing

1997 Changes are compared to the 1992 notional results shown below [5].

Notional 1992 UK General Election Result : Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Social Democratic and LabourN/A20,04544.2N/a
Sinn FéinN/A19,02742.0N/A
Ulster UnionistN/A5,27511.6N/A
OthersN/A9752.2N/A
Majority1,0182.3N/A
General Election 1992: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Social Democratic and LabourJoe Hendron17,41543.6+ 7.9
Sinn FéinGerry Adams16,82642.1+ 1.0
Ulster UnionistFred Cobain4,76611.9- 6.8
Workers' PartyJohn Lowry7501.9- 2.5
Natural LawMichael Kennedy2130.5N/A
Majority5891.7- 3.7
Turnout34,54573.2+ 4.1
Social Democratic and Labour gain from Sinn FéinSwing

Elections in the 1980s

General Election 1987: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Sinn FéinGerry Adams16,86241.1+ 2.1
Social Democratic and LabourJoe Hendron14,64135.7+ 9.4
Ulster UnionistFrank Millar7,64618.7+ 12.9
Workers' PartyMary McMahon1,8194.4- 0.1
Majority2,2215.4- 7.6
Turnout69.1- 1.1
Sinn Féin holdSwing
General Election 1983: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Sinn FéinGerry Adams16,37939.0N/A
Social Democratic and LabourJoe Hendron10,93426.1- 14.4
Independent SocialistGerry Fitt10,32624.6N/A
Ulster UnionistThomas Passmore2,4355.8- 19.0
Workers' PartyMary McMahon1,8934.5- 2.4
Majority5,44513.0- 11.7
Turnout70.2+ 13.7
Sinn Féin gain from Social Democratic and LabourSwing

Following the 1979 election, Fitt became increasingly at odds with the SDLP and left it, continuing to sit as an independent socialist.

Elections in the 1970s

General Election 1979: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Social Democratic and LabourGerry Fitt16,48040.5- 8.5
Ulster UnionistThomas Passmore8,24524.8- 11.7
Democratic UnionistWilliam Dickson3,71611.2N/A
Republican ClubsBrian Brennan2,2846.9- 1.1
AllianceJohn Cousins2,0246.1N/A
Labour (NI)Derek Peters5401.6N/A
Majority8,23524.7+ 12.2
Turnout56.5- 10.7
Social Democratic and Labour holdSwing
General Election October 1974: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Social Democratic and LabourGerry Fitt21,82149.0+ 8.0
Democratic UnionistJohn McQuade16,26536.50.0
Republican ClubsKitty O'Kane3,5478.0+ 1.5
Volunteer Political PartyKen Gibson2,6906.0N/A
Marxist-Leninist (Ireland)Peter Kerins2030.5N/A
Majority5,55612.5+ 8.3
Turnout67.2- 4.3
Social Democratic and Labour holdSwing
General Election February 1974: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Social Democratic and LabourGerry Fitt19,55441.0N/A
Democratic UnionistJohn McQuade17,37436.5
Independent RepublicanAlbert Price5,66211.9N/A
Republican ClubsJohn Brady3,0886.5N/A
Labour (NI)Billy Boyd1,9894.2N/A
Majority2,1804.6- 0.9
Turnout71.5- 13.0
Social Democratic and Labour gain from Republican LabourSwing

After the 1970 election Fitt left the Republican Labour Party to cofound the Social Democratic & Labour Party. The remains of Republican Labour had disintegrated by 1974.

General Election 1970: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Republican LabourGerry Fitt30,64952.8+ 0.8
Ulster UnionistBrian McRoberts27,45147.3- 0.7
Majority3,1985.5+ 1.4
Turnout84.5+ 9.7
Republican Labour holdSwing

Elections in the 1960s

General Election 1966: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Republican LabourGerry Fitt26,29252.0+ 23.7
Ulster UnionistJames Kilfedder24,28148.0+ 6.8
Majority2,0114.1- 8.7
Turnout74.8+ 0.1
Republican Labour gain from Ulster UnionistSwing
General Election 1964: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Ulster UnionistJames Kilfedder21,33741.2- 12.9
Republican LabourHarry Diamond14,67828.3N/A
Labour (NI)Billy Boyd12,57924.3N/A
Independent RepublicanBilly McMillen3,2566.3N/A
Majority6,65912.8- 3.8
Turnout74.7+ 2.0
Ulster Unionist holdSwing

Elections in the 1950s

General Election 1959: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Ulster UnionistPatricia McLaughlin28,89854.1- 4.2
Ind. Labour GroupJohn Joseph Brennan20,06237.6N/A
Sinn FéinThomas Heenan4,4168.3- 6.1
Majority8,83616.6- 14.3
Turnout72.7- 2.0
Ulster Unionist holdSwing
General Election 1955: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Ulster UnionistPatricia McLaughlin34,19158.3+ 8.3
Irish LabourJack Beattie20,06227.4- 22.6
Sinn FéinEamonn Boyce8,44714.4N/A
Majority18,14130.9+ 30.9
Turnout74.7- 9.4
Ulster Unionist gain from Irish LabourSwing
General Election 1951: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Irish LabourJack Beattie33,17450.0+ 3.7
Ulster UnionistThomas Teevan33,14950.0- 1.5
Majority250.0- 5.2
Turnout84.1+ 0.5
Irish Labour gain from Ulster UnionistSwing
Belfast West by-election, 1950
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Ulster UnionistThomas Teevan31,79650.8- 0.7
Irish LabourJack Beattie30,83349.2+ 2.9
Majority9131.5- 4.0
Turnout62,629
Ulster Unionist holdSwing
General Election 1950: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Ulster UnionistJames Godfrey MacManaway33,91751.5+ 5.0
Irish LabourJack Beattie30,53946.3- 7.2
Sinn FéinJimmy Steele1,4822.2N/A
Majority3,3785.2- 1.8
Turnout83.6+ 10.5
Ulster Unionist gain from IndependentSwing

Elections in the 1940s

General Election 1945: Belfast West

Electorate 80,641

PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Independent LabourJack Beattie30,78753.5N/A
Ulster UnionistKnox Cunningham26,72946.5- 16.1
Majority4,0587.0- 18.2
Turnout57,51673.1+ 5.1
Independent Labour gain from Ulster UnionistSwing
Belfast West by-election, 1943
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Labour (NI)Jack Beattie19,93646.2N/A
Ulster UnionistKnox Cunningham14,42633.4- 29.2
Ind. Unionist AssociationWilliam McConnell Wilton7,55117.5N/A
Independent RepublicanH. C. Corvin1,2502.9- 34.5
Majority5,51012.8- 12.4
Turnout54.8- 13.2
Labour (NI) gain from Ulster UnionistSwing

Elections in the 1930s

General Election 1935: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Ulster UnionistAlexander Browne34,06062.6+ 4.0
Independent RepublicanCharles Leddy20,31337.4- 4.0
Majority13,74725.2+ 8.0
Turnout68.0- 0.1
Ulster Unionist holdSwing
General Election 1931: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Ulster UnionistAlexander Browne31,11358.6+ 0.7
Nationalist (NI)Thomas Joseph Campbell22,00641.4- 0.7
Majority9,10717.2+ 1.4
Turnout68.1- 5.8
Ulster Unionist holdSwing

Note: The sitting MP, W.E.D. Allen, had joined the New Party earlier in 1931 but did not contest the seat at the general election.

Elections in the 1920s

General Election 1929: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Ulster UnionistW. E. D. Allen33,27457.9+ 3.4
Independent RepublicanFrank MacDermot24,17742.1N/A
Majority9,09715.8+ 1.7
Turnout73.9- 5.2
Ulster Unionist holdSwing
General Election 1924: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Ulster UnionistRobert Lynn28,43554.5+ 1.6
Labour (NI)Harry Midgley21,12240.4- 3.7
Sinn FéinPatrick Nash2,6885.1N/A
Majority7,31314.1+ 8.3
Turnout79.1+ 8.8
Ulster Unionist holdSwing
General Election 1923: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Ulster UnionistRobert Lynn24,97552.9N/A
Belfast LabourHarry Midgley22,25547.1N/A
Majority2,7205.8N/A
Turnout70.3N/A
Ulster Unionist holdSwing
General Election 1922: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Ulster UnionistRobert LynnUnopposedN/AN/A
Ulster Unionist holdSwingN/A

Elections in the 1910s

General Election December 1910: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Irish ParliamentaryJoseph Devlin4,54352.7-0.2
Liberal UnionistJ. Boyd Carpenter4,08047.3+1.1
Majority4635.4-1.3
Turnout8,62393.4-1.8
Irish Parliamentary holdSwing
General Election January 1910: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Irish ParliamentaryJoseph Devlin4,65152.9+3.7
Liberal UnionistJ. Boyd Carpenter4,06446.2-2.8
Ind. NationalistP. J. Magee750.9N/A
Majority5876.7+6.5
Turnout8,79095.2+0.6
Irish Parliamentary holdSwing

Elections in the 1900s

General Election 1906: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Irish ParliamentaryJoseph Devlin4,13849.2N/A
Liberal UnionistJ. R. Smiley4,12249.0N/A
Ind. Liberal UnionistAlexander Carlisle1531.8N/A
Majority160.2N/A
Turnout8,41394.6N/A
Irish Parliamentary gain from Liberal UnionistSwing
Belfast West by-election, 1903: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Liberal UnionistH. O. Arnold-ForsterUnopposedN/AN/A
Liberal Unionist holdSwingN/A
General Election 1900: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Liberal UnionistH. O. Arnold-ForsterUnopposedN/AN/A
Liberal Unionist holdSwingN/A

Elections in the 1890s

General Election 1895: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Liberal UnionistH. O. Arnold-ForsterUnopposedN/AN/A
Liberal Unionist holdSwingN/A
General Election 1892: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Liberal UnionistH. O. Arnold-Forster4,26655.5N/A
Irish National FederationThomas Sexton3,42744.5-6.2
Majority83910.9+9.6
Turnout7,693
Liberal Unionist gain from Irish ParliamentarySwing

Elections in the 1880s

General Election 1886: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Irish ParliamentaryThomas Sexton3,83250.7+0.9
ConservativeJames Horner Haslett3,72949.3-0.9
Majority1031.3+0.8
Turnout7,561
Irish Parliamentary gain from ConservativeSwing
General Election 1885: Belfast West
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
ConservativeJames Horner Haslett3,77850.2N/A
Irish ParliamentaryThomas Sexton3,74349.8N/A
Majority350.5N/A
Turnout7,521N/A
Conservative holdSwing

Sources

References

See also

 

All translations of West Belfast (UK Parliament constituency)


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