Women win 30% of seats in Northern Ireland Assembly election

‘It’s a great day for women,’ says new Sinn Féin northern leader Michelle O’Neill

Almost a third of the seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly election were won by women.

New Sinn Féin northern leader Michelle O’Neill topped the poll in Mid Ulster and when all results were in she noted that her party has the best female representation of all the Stormont parties with 11 (41 per cent) of its 27 seats filled by women. “It’s a great day for women,” she said.

While women represent half of the North’s population, only 70 (31 per cent) of the 228 candidates on the ballot papers were female. At last year’s election women won 30 (28 per cent) of the 108 seats available.

After all the ballot papers were checked in Thursday’s vote 27 of the 90 seats (30 per cent) available this time in the reduced Assembly were filled by women, representing a proportionate increase.


The DUP returned six women (21 per cent), the SDLP four (33 per cent), and Alliance three (38 per cent), while Green Party deputy leader Clare Bailey was reelected in Belfast South and Independent unionist Claire Sugden retained her seat in East Derry.

All of the seats in North Down, East Antrim, Lagan Valley and North Antrim were won by men.

Nail-biting battle

Fermanagh South Tyrone emerged with the best female representation of the 18 constituencies. Four of the five people elected there were women – poll topping DUP leader Arlene Foster, Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew and Jemma Dolan, and Rosemary Barton who was the only woman elected for the UUP.

High profiles losses for the UUP included Sandra Overend in Mid Ulster and Jo-Anne Dobson in Upper Bann, where SDLP veteran Dolores Kelly made a political comeback to win the seat she lost last year to Sinn Féin.

Alliance leader Naomi Long topped the poll in Belfast East as did her party colleague Kellie Armstrong in Strangford.

There was a nail-biting battle between the UUP candidate Michael Henderson and Green Party deputy leader Clare Bailey in Belfast South to fill the last of the 90 seats, with Ms Bailey eventually being returned to Stormont.

She wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan Trust Women during her podium speech and also used the opportunity to highlight the importance of progress being made in the next Assembly on marriage equality for the LGBT community and women’s reproductive rights.

“The very last seat in the new reduced Stormont has returned a woman from a party who trusts women,” she said.

By party

Women elected/Total seats

Sinn Féin – 11/27

DUP – 6/28

SDLP – 4/12

Alliance – 3/8

Greens – 1/2

Independent – 1

UUP – 1/10