The upcoming general election, announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for 4 July, holds significant implications for Northern Ireland. The election comes just three months after the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive, adding a layer of complexity to an already fragile political landscape. With 18 seats up for grabs, this election will shape Northern Ireland's representation in Westminster, influencing crucial issues such as budget allocations for public services, the benefits system, how we treat refugees and asylum seekers and how we proceed with the Northern Ireland Troubles Legacy and Reconciliation legislation.

For evangelical Christians, these issues are not abstract political debates but matters of profound moral and ethical concern. The allocation of resources affects the most vulnerable in our society, including children, people living in poverty and those who are settled here in the asylum process. From our recent UK-wide research report (Thinking Faithfully About Politics), we know that the biggest factor influencing how evangelicals will vote is the impact that their vote will have on others. 58% of respondents say that one of the main factors that determines which party they vote for is who they believe will best help those most in need. As evangelical Christians in Northern Ireland, we need to pay close attention to how candidates and parties propose to handle these issues. As the Evangelical Alliance in Northern Ireland, we are part of the Coalition of Christian Voices Against Poverty and we call our political leaders to work to see an end to poverty in Northern Ireland.

Could Northern Ireland’s influence be diminished?

One critical aspect of this election is the potential growth of Sinn Féin. Despite their increasing popularity, SF continues its policy of abstentionism, refusing to take their seats in Westminster. This stance raises significant concerns about the effective representation of Northern Ireland’s interests, particularly in the context of crucial budgetary and legislative decisions. If Sinn Féin secures more seats but does not occupy them, it could lead to diminished influence for Northern Ireland at a national level, potentially affecting public services and community projects that are vital to many evangelical church missions.

The contest for the Lagan Valley seat is particularly noteworthy. With Jeffrey Donaldson stepping down as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), suspending his membership, and confirming he will not run as a candidate, this seat is now wide open. The outcome here could signal a shift in local political dynamics. Evangelicals in Lagan Valley and beyond will be keenly watching how candidates address issues of moral and social importance such as availability of abortions for any reason, freedom of religion and belief in the workplace and same-sex marriages performed in our churches.


How does the timing of the election affect Northern Ireland?

The election’s timing poses challenges for local governance. Ministers leaving their posts to focus on their campaigns could interrupt crucial government functions. The effort to rebuild relationships and restore stable governance after the previous collapse of the Executive could be hampered, delaying the budget, the Programme for Government and legislative progress. For evangelical Christians and churches playing a vital role in community life, a stable and functional government is essential to support their efforts in seeing Northern Ireland thrive.

Despite these complexities, it is crucial for the people of Northern Ireland, including evangelicals, to see the value of participating in this election. While the electorate does not directly choose the prime minister, the composition of parliament influences national policies and their implementation in Northern Ireland. We know from Good News People, our report on evangelicals in Northern Ireland, that 81% of people in Northern Ireland identify as Christian in contrast to just 46% in England and Wales. This tells us that faith and religion still play an important role in how we think and live here. Evangelicals should be encouraged to care about and think faithfully about politics as people who have a hopeful and good news vision for Northern Ireland.

Prayer points

The 2024 general election is a pivotal moment for Northern Ireland, presenting both challenges and opportunities. Evangelical Christians have a critical role to play in this democratic process, leveraging their vote to influence policies that align with their faith and hope for a people and a place that flourishes. As the election approaches, let’s consider how we can pray:

  1. For the integrity and competence of MP candidates where we live.
  2. For how best to use our vote for a worthy candidate.
  3. For positive representation for Northern Ireland at Westminster in the new government.

If you’d like to know more about evangelicals in Northern Ireland, then download the Good News People report.