Jim Allister

Jim Allister

Allister in February 2013
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
for North Antrim
Assumed office
5 May 2011
Preceded by Declan O'Loan
Leader of Traditional Unionist Voice
Assumed office
7 December 2007
Preceded by Position created
Member of the European Parliament
for Northern Ireland
In office
10 June 2004  4 June 2009
Preceded by Ian Paisley
Succeeded by Diane Dodds
Personal details
Born (1953-04-02) 2 April 1953
Crossgar, Northern Ireland
Nationality British
Political party Traditional Unionist Voice
Other political
DUP (1971-2007)
Spouse(s) Ruth Allister
Children 3
Alma mater Queen's University, Belfast
Occupation Politician
Profession Barrister
Religion Free Presbyterian
Website Official website

James Hugh "Jim" Allister QC MLA (born 2 April 1953) is an Ulster loyalist politician and senior barrister from Northern Ireland. He is the leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) political party, serving as MLA in the Northern Ireland Assembly, where he represents North Antrim.

He was formerly a member of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), for which he successfully stood for election in 2004 to the European Parliament, succeeding Ian Paisley. He continued as a member of the European Parliament following his resignation from the DUP and his subsequent establishment of the TUV, but failed to retain his seat at the 2009 European parliamentary elections. In the European Parliament, although an avowed eurosceptic, he is a strong supporter of the Common Agricultural Policy's subsidies.


Allister was born in Crossgar in County Down. After attending Regent House Grammar School in Newtownards, Allister graduated with a Bachelor of Law with Honours in Constitutional Law from Queen's University of Belfast. In 1974 he unsuccessfully stood for the post of President of Queen's University Belfast Students' Union, coming a very close second.[1] He was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland as a barrister in 1976, where he specialised in criminal law, and later called to the Senior Bar as a Queen's Counsel; he "took silk" in 2001.


He is married to Ruth; the couple has a daughter and two sons.

First political career (1982-1987)

Allister joined the DUP at its founding in 1971. He served as a European Parliament assistant to Ian Paisley from 1980 to 1982. In 1982 he was elected as a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont for North Antrim and served as the DUP Assembly Chief Whip. He was also the Vice-Chairman of Scrutiny Committee of Department of Finance and Personnel from October 1982 to June 1986. Outside the Stormont Assembly, he was a member of Newtownabbey Borough Council from 1985-87. In 1983, he had stood as a DUP candidate in the Westminster election for East Antrim. Although he was the favourite to win [2] he narrowly lost to Roy Beggs, by 367 votes.

Following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in November 1985 by the Thatcher and FitzGerald governments, he was one of the most vocal and active opponents of the treaty. He was also a prominent member of the Joint Unionist Working Party, a body set up by his party and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) to oversee the unionist campaign against the Agreement. His colleagues Peter Robinson and Sammy Wilson were also members. On the unionist "Day of Action" on Monday, 3 March 1986, against the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which saw most of Northern Ireland electricity power supplies cut off and its main industry closed down, Allister led numerous Ulster loyalist street protests.

His departure from active politics in June 1987 followed a reported disagreement with Paisley over a voting pact with James Molyneaux's UUP. The situation resembled fellow unionist politician and barrister Robert McCartney's in the North Down constituency. McCartney was expelled from the UUP around the same time for not accepting the policy of the leadership. Allister and McCartney share the same assessment of the current political process in Northern Ireland, claiming it will ultimately lead to the creation of the political and economic unification of Ireland. The former North Down MP was invited by Allister to speak at the TUV's 2009 annual party conference in Belfast, which McCartney accepted.

Second political career (2004 - present)

After a successful period as a lawyer, Allister returned to run for the party's nomination for MEP in 2004. Allister was elected to the European Parliament for the DUP in the 2004 election. In March 2005 Allister was the victim of cybersquatting, when a domain advertised on the outside of his office was registered by the Ulster Young Unionist Council which preceded him.[3] The domain read "Too slow Jim, vote Ulster Unionist"[4]

On 27 March 2007, he resigned from the DUP because of the party's decision to enter into government with Sinn Féin. It was the second occasion on which he had resigned from the party [5] In the press conference announcing his resignation, he stated that he could never accept Sinn Féin in the government of Northern Ireland while the Provisional IRA Army Council remained in existence.

In late 2007, speculation began over Allister's political intentions, with it being suggested that a new Unionist political party was imminent.[6] While it was suggested on 10 October 2007 that he had been approached by the United Kingdom Independence Party,[7] he proceeded to found Traditional Unionist Voice on 7 December 2007.[8] In the 2009 European elections, he gained 66,000 first preference votes and 13.5% of the first preference vote, standing as a TUV candidate, but lost his European Parliament seat on the second count. His candidacy was blamed in some quarters for the poor performance of the DUP candidate, Diane Dodds.[9]

He intimated that he might stand as a candidate for the Westminster Parliamentary election in North Antrim. According to the European election result in North Antrim, Allister stood a good chance of winning the seat, which would have been a tremendous loss to the DUP - historically the DUP's safest seat and the seat of DUP founder and former party leader Ian Paisley. In November 2009, Alex Kane, the Ulster Unionist Party's press officer, speculated in his weekly News Letter column that the TUV could win at least 14 seats in the next Assembly election.

In the 2010 General Election, Allister finished second in North Antrim, with 7,114 votes to the DUP's Ian Paisley Junior who polled 19,672 votes. His TUV party polled some 26,300 votes throughout Northern Ireland, a drop of almost two-thirds in their level of support at the European election in 2009. In the 2011 Stormont Election, he was elected MLA of North Antrim, claiming the 6th seat.

In August 2012 Allister called the Parades Commission "little Hitlers" when they placed restrictions on a loyalist parade.[10]

Controversy [edit]

On 4 November 2009, the party under Jim Allister caused controversy when it referred to the Irish language as a "leprechaun language" on its web site.[17] The statement was issued under the name of TUV vice-chairman Keith Harbinson and condemned the Department of Education for "wasting" money on Irish.[17] The party later removed the phrase, but the original page had already been spread on numerous other websites.[17]

In December 2009, TUV memberTrevor Collins promoted a petition in a meeting of the TUV to release Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) member Torrens Knight from prison. Knight had already been imprisoned for taking part in the Greysteel massacre and Castlerock killings in 1993. He was released under the terms of the Belfast Agreement (1998), but in earlier in 2009 had been sent back to prison for beating two women in a bar. Party leader Jim Allister has refused to this day to take action against Collins.[18]

On 28 November 2012, Ballymena TUV councillor David Tweed was convicted on 13 counts of sexual offences against two young girls. Pending sentencing he remained a member of Ballymena Borough Council and of the TUV,[19] although the party under Jim Allisterannounced on 15 November that it had 'suspended' his membership "not because we doubt his innocence, but because this is what the party rules require."[20] The TUV under Jim Allister also stated that the sex offences related "to a period long before he was a member of this party".[21] In January 2013 Tweed was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment. The TUV chose one of its unsuccessful 2011 Ballymena candidates, Timothy Gaston, to replace Tweed as a councillor.[22]

Jim Allister holds strongly & dangerous conservative views on social policy and is a supporter of the evangelical creationist lobby group, the Caleb Foundation.[11]

See also


  1. Profile, in.com; accessed 28 July 2016.
  2. Robert Waller, Almanac of British Politics, 3rd ed
  3. Connor, Alan (2005-04-25). "Election 2005: Cybersquatting IV". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
  4. "Ulster Young Unionist Council". Archived from the original on 2005-09-15. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
  5. Unionist opposition 'will emerge' "It was the second time he had quit the DUP fold, having left active politics in the 1980s after disagreeing with his leader's tactics over the Anglo-Irish Agreement."
  6. "Talks could lead to new unionist party - Belfast Today". Newsletter.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
  7. "Slugger O'Toole website". Sluggerotoole.com. 2007-10-09. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
  8. "New unionist group to be launched". BBC News. 2007-12-07. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
  9. "European Election 2009 Results (BBC)". BBC News. 2009-06-08. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
  10. "Parades body little Hitlers, says MLA Jim Allister". The Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved August 23, 2012.
  11. "Creationist Bible group and its web of influence at Stormont", Liam Clarke, Belfast Telegraph 1 September 2012
Northern Ireland Assembly
Preceded by
Declan O'Loan
MLA for Antrim North
2011 -
Succeeded by
European Parliament
Preceded by
Ian Paisley
MEP for Northern Ireland
2004 - 2009
Succeeded by
Diane Dodds
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