North Belfast Constituency
Nelson was first elected as a Councillor in 1989 to represent the Castle area of North Belfast and during that time he was High Sheriff of Belfast in 1997. He joined the DUP in 2001 and in the Council elections of that year he moved from the Castle area to the Oldpark area of North Belfast.
Nelson was first elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2003 and during that time he was appointed as Minister of Culture Arts and Leisure in 2009. He was successfully returned to the Assembly in 2011 and served as Minister of the Department for Social Development from 2011 until Setptember 2014.