2003 Northern Ireland Assembly election
← 1998 26 November 2003 2007 →

All 108 seats to the Northern Ireland Assembly
55 seats needed for a majority
Turnout63.0% Decrease 6.8%
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Ian Paisley David Trimble Gerry Adams
Party DUP UUP Sinn Féin
Leader since 30 September 1971 8 September 1995 13 November 1983
Leader's seat North Antrim Upper Bann Belfast West
Last election 20 seats, 18.5% 28 seats, 21.3% 18 seats, 16.7%
Seats won 30 27 24
Seat change Increase10 Decrease1 Increase6
Popular vote 177,944 156,931 162,758
Percentage 25.7% 22.7% 23.5%
Swing Increase7.2% Increase1.4% Increase6.8%

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
Leader Mark Durkan David Ford David Ervine
Party SDLP Alliance PUP
Leader since 10 November 2001 6 October 2001 2002
Leader's seat Foyle South Antrim Belfast East
Last election 24 seats, 22.0% 6 seats, 5.6% 2 seats, 2.6%
Seats won 18 6 1
Seat change Decrease6 Steady Decrease1
Popular vote 117,547 25,372 8,032
Percentage 17.0% 3.7% 1.2%
Swing Decrease5.0% Decrease1.9% Decrease1.4%

  Seventh party
Leader Robert McCartney
Party UK Unionist
Leader since 1995
Last election 5 seats, 4.5%
Seats won 1
Seat change Decrease4
Popular vote 5,700
Percentage 0.8%
Swing Decrease3.7%

Seats won by each party per constituency. Voters elect 6 assembly members from the 18 constituencies.

First Minister before election


First Minister after election


The 2003 election to the Northern Ireland Assembly was held on Wednesday, 26 November 2003, after being suspended for just over a year. It was the second election to take place since the devolved assembly was established in 1998. Six members from each of Northern Ireland's eighteen Westminster Parliamentary constituencies were elected by single transferable vote, giving a total of 108 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). The election was contested by 18 parties and a number of independent candidates.

The election was originally planned for May 2003,[1] but was delayed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.[1]

Political parties

On the unionist side, the Democratic Unionist Party gained ten seats, primarily at the expense of smaller unionist parties, to become the largest party both in seats and votes, with thirty seats. The Ulster Unionist Party increased their vote slightly, despite slipping to third place in first preference votes, and won 27 seats, a net loss of one. Shortly after the election three Ulster Unionist MLAs, Jeffrey Donaldson, Norah Beare and Arlene Foster, defected to the Democratic Unionists.

On the nationalist side, Sinn Féin saw a big increase in their vote, gaining six seats at the net expense of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, for a total of 24 seats.

The minor parties all saw a significant fall in their support. The Alliance Party managed to hold all six of its seats despite their vote falling by a third, the Women's Coalition, United Unionist Coalition and Northern Ireland Unionist Party were all wiped out, and the Progressive Unionist Party and UK Unionist Party won just one seat each.

The biggest surprise of the election came in West Tyrone with the election of the independent Kieran Deeny, a doctor campaigning on the single issue of hospital provision in Omagh.

Several sitting MLAs stood under a different label to the one they had used in the 1998 election. Some had failed to be selected by their parties to stand and so stood as independents, whilst others had changed parties during the course of the assembly. Most of these realignments occurred within the unionist parties, with several defections between existing parties, and two new parties being formed – the United Unionist Coalition (formed by the three MLAs elected as independent unionists, though one later joined the Democratic Unionist Party) and the Northern Ireland Unionist Party (formed by four of the five MLAs elected as the UK Unionist Party, though one later left them, joined the Democratic Unionists for a period, then contested the election as an independent unionist). Neither the United Unionist Assembly Party nor the Northern Ireland Unionists won any seats in 2003.


Party Leader Seats +/- % of seats Number % of vote
DUP Ian Paisley 30 +10 27.8 177,944 25.7
Sinn Féin Gerry Adams 24 +6 22.2 162,758 23.5
UUP David Trimble 27 -1 25 156,931 22.7
SDLP Mark Durkan 18 -6 16.7 117,547 17.0
Alliance David Ford 6 0 5.6 25,372 3.7
Independent N/A 1 +1 0.9 20,234 2.9
PUP David Ervine 1 -1 0.9 8,032 1.2
NI Women's Coalition Monica McWilliams 0 -2 5,785 0.8
UK Unionist Robert McCartney 1 -4 0.9 5,700 0.8
United Unionist Council Denis Watson 0 N/A 2,705 0.4
Green (NI) John Barry 0 0 2,688 0.4
Socialist Environmental Goretti Horgan 0 N/A 2,394 0.4
Workers' Party Seán Garland 0 0 1,881 0.3
NI Conservatives Michael Howard 0 0 1,604 0.2
NI Unionist Cedric Wilson 0 N/A 1,350 0.2
Socialist Party Peter Hadden 0 N/A 343 0.0
Rainbow Dream Ticket Rainbow George 0 N/A 124 0.0
Ulster Third Way David Kerr 0 N/A 16 0.0
 Total 108 0 100.0 692,028 100.0
All parties with over 1,000 votes shown.

Electorate: 1,097,526; Valid votes: 692,028; Turnout: 63.05%.

SOURCE: ARK website
Preferable vote.
Preferable vote.

Votes summary

Popular vote
Sinn Féin
Ulster Unionist
Progressive Unionist
United Kingdom Unionist

Seats summary

Parliamentary seats
Sinn Féin
Ulster Unionist
Progressive Unionist
United Kingdom Unionist