Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention: Wikis


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1973 · members United Kingdom members · 1982
Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention
All 78 seats to the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention
1 May 1975
First party Second party Third party
Replace this image male.svg Replace this image male.svg Ian Paisley - (cropped).png
Leader Harry West Gerry Fitt Ian Paisley
Party Ulster Unionist Social Democratic and Labour Democratic Unionist
Leader since 22 January 1974 21 August 1970 30 September 1971
Leader's seat Fermanagh and South Tyrone Belfast North North Antrim
Last election 31 seats (35.8%) 19 seats (22.1%) 8 seats (10.8%)
Seats won 19 17 12
Seat change -12 -2 +4
Popular vote 167,214 156,049 97,073
Percentage 25.4% 23.7% 14.8%
Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
Replace this image male.svg Replace this image male.svg Replace this image male.svg
Leader William Craig Oliver Napier Brian Faulkner
Party Vanguard Alliance Unionist Party NI
Leader since 9 February 1972 1972 4 September 1974
Leader's seat Belfast East Belfast East South Down
Last election 7 seats (11.5%) 8 seats (9.2%) N/A
Seats won 14 8 5
Seat change +7 0 N/A
Popular vote 83,507 64,657 50,891
Percentage 12.7% 9.8% 7.7%

Incumbent Chief Executive
Brian Faulkner

Chief Executive-elect

Northern Ireland 1973-1998

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
Northern Ireland

Interim bodies
Northern Ireland Assembly (1973)
Northern Ireland Executive (1974)
Constitutional Convention (1975)
Northern Ireland Assembly (1982)
Northern Ireland Forum (1996)
1973  · 1975  · 1982  · 1996
1973  · 1975  · 1982  · 1996
See also
Anglo-Irish Agreement
New Ireland Forum
Northern Ireland by-elections, 1986
Northern Ireland sovereignty referendum, 1973

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The Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention (NICC) was an elected body set up in 1975 by the UK Labour government of Harold Wilson as an attempt to deal with constitutional issues surrounding the status of Northern Ireland.


Formation of the Constitutional Convention

The idea for an NICC was first mooted by the Northern Ireland Office when it produced a white paper entitled The Northern Ireland Constitution.[1] on the 4th July 1974. The document laid out plans to hold elections to a body which would seek to agree a political settlement for Northern Ireland. The proposals became law with the enacted of the Northern Ireland Act 1974 later that month. With Lord Chief Justice Robert Lowry appointed to chair the new body, elections were announced for the 1 May 1975.

The elections were held for the 78 member assembly using the Single Transferable Vote system of proportional representation in each of Northern Ireland's twelve UK constituencies. Initially the body was intended to be purely consultative, although it was hoped that executive and legislative functions could be devolved to the NICC as agreements were made.


Unionists opposed to the NICC once again banded together under the umbrella of the United Ulster Unionist Council (UUUC) and this coalition proved the most successful, taking 46 seats.

Party Leader Votes % Seats +/-
Ulster Unionist (UUUC) Harry West 167,214 25.4 19 +10
Social Democratic and Labour Gerry Fitt 156,049 23.7 17 −2
Democratic Unionist (UUUC) Ian Paisley 97,073 14.8 12 +4
Vanguard (UUUC) William Craig 83,507 12.7 14 +7
Alliance Oliver Napier 64,657 9.8 8 0
Unionist Party NI Brian Faulkner 50,891 7.7 5 −19
Republican Clubs Tomás Mac Giolla 14,515 2.2 0 0
Labour (NI) David Bleakley 9,102 1.4 1 0
Independent Loyalist (UUUC) N/A 5,687 0.9 1 +1
Independent Unionist N/A 4,453 0.6 1 −2
Ulster Unionist Party (non-UUUC) Harry West 2,583 0.4 0 N/A
Independent N/A 2,052 0.3 0 0
Communist Michael O'Riordan 378 0.1 0 0

Source: Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention Elections 1975


Votes summary

Popular vote
Total UUUC
Ulster Unionist (UUUC)*
Vanguard (UUUC)*
Republican Clubs
Ind. Loyalist (UUUC)*

Seats summary

Parliamentary seats
Total UUUC
Ulster Unionist (UUUC)*
Vanguard (UUUC)*
Ind. Loyalist (UUUC)*

Leading Members

A number of leading Northern Ireland politicians were elected to the NICC, increasing hope that the body might achieve some of its aims. Also elected were a number of younger figures who would go on to become leading figures in the future of Northern Ireland politics. These included:

Progress of the NICC

The elections left the body fundamentally weakened from its inception as an overall majority had been obtained by those Unionists who opposed power sharing as a concept. As a result the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention Report published on 20th November 1975 [2] recommended only a return to majority rule as had previously existed under the old Parliament of Northern Ireland government. As such a solution was completely unacceptable to the nationalist parties, the NICC was placed on hiatus.

Hoping to gain something from the exercise, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Merlyn Rees announced that the NICC would be reconvened on 3 February 1976. However a series of meetings held between the UUUC and the SDLP failed to reach any agreement about SDLP participation in government and so the reconvened NICC once again produced the same results. As a result Rees announced the dissolution of the body on 4 March 1976 and Northern Ireland was returned to direct rule. The NICC had, overall, been a failure as it failed to lessen the impasse in Northern Ireland and so led to no changes being enacted.

Significance of the NICC

On the face of it, the NICC was a total failure as it did not achieve its aims of agreement between the two sides or of introducing 'rolling devolution' (gradual introduction of devolution as and when the parties involved saw fit to accept it). Nevertheless, coming as it did not long after the Conservative-sponsored Sunningdale Agreement, the NICC indicated that no British government would be prepared to re-introduce majority rule in Northern Ireland. During the debates William Craig accepted the possibility of power-sharing with the SDLP, a move that split the UUUC and precipitated the eventual collapse of Vanguard.

The idea of electing a consultative body to thrash out a deal for devolution was also retained and in 1996 it was revived when the Northern Ireland Forum was elected on largely the same lines and with the same overall purpose. Given that the Forum led to the Belfast Agreement and the Northern Ireland Assembly, the importance of the NICC as a model for this second body is clear.


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