Book charts the history or north's elections

Dr Alan Parkinson launched his book 'Election Fever' at the Linen Hall Library in Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell
John Monaghan

AFTER three elections in 17 months, a referendum and the current political stalement, it has been anything but dull for Northern Ireland voters going to the polls.

Now a new book written by Dr Alan Parkinson, pores over the history of elections in the north since the early 20th century.

Election Fever focuses on eight 'case study' contests - such as the 1981 'H-block' elections - and examines how the polls were covered in the main daily newspapers, looking in particular at the differing editorials found in The Irish News and The Belfast Telegraph.

Launching the book yesterday at the Linen Hall Library in Belfast, Dr Parkinson said voters in Northern Ireland had been referred to as the "most politicised and election weary" electorate.

Covering the period right up until the 2003 assembly election, Dr Parkinson joked that he "had to keep on adding appendices" to include the seemingly never-ending series of polls held here in the last two years.

"No-one has done an in-depth history of elections in Northern Ireland. I thought it would be an interesting comparison to look at how papers like the Belfast Telegraph and Irish News have covered elections and added to the sense of the occasion," said the retired teacher and lecturer.

Dr Parkinson, the author of several previous books, said he had noted a shift over time in the coverage of both The Irish News and The Belfast Telegraph.

He said: "The Belfast Telegraph reflected James Craig's views. Up until the 1960s, it was really a right-wing paper which backed the unionist government. It only changed when people like former editor Jack Sayers came in and supported the likes of Terence O'Neill.

"Meanwhile, Joe Devlin (the nationalist politician who died in 1934) had worked for the Irish News and the paper always reflected his political beliefs."

Demographic shifts have caused some of the north's constituencies to change in outlook "tremendously", with West Belfast in particular transformed from a "very close" contest to a safe Sinn Féin seat.

Dr Parkinson said: "It is hard to believe that at one stage West Belfast was a safe unionist seat."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 for the first month to get full access


Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: