Sometimes, it’s what you don’t say

Good evening,

This particular post is on it’s fourth rewrite. I’m trying to get my head around Mike “TV” Nesbitt and his Unionist unity conversion on the road to Dungannon.

Back in 2013 he had this to say on the subject (and please note the date on the article),

“I can’t imagine any circumstances where it would be good for the Ulster Unionist Party, good for the pro-union people of Northern Ireland or good for politics to Lemmmingshave an electoral pact

Last week he had this to say,

“That only makes more sense if you’re putting the UUP first and I made it clear that this is about the Union, this is about putting Unionism first, this is about the good of Northern Ireland.  Not that long ago three of them were in Unionist hands, today one is because the DUP lost East Belfast last time, and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that on May 8th there will be no Unionist representing Belfast. So, it is a pro-Union deal to say we could see our way to supporting you to hold on in North Belfast and keep Sinn Fein out, if you’ll support us trying to get Sinn Fein out in Fermanagh”

So, It’s all about the “union” then? Ok. Mike wants to form an electoral pact with the DUP for the 2015  Westminster elections all of a sudden in two specific constituencies, North Belfast and Fermanagh, South Tyrone.

Has anyone else noticed that South Belfast was NOT mentioned last week?

I certainly did. I was most amused by that little sin of ommission. I wonder has Mike now given up on that particular “target” or perhaps he cannot see it’s value as a bargaining chip regarding his begging bowl approach to the DUP, not to mention his abandonment of egalitarian principles in favour of a return to Orange supremacist rule.

Let’s have a brief  look at the most marginal westminster parliamentary constituencies in terms of the electoral facts, at least according to the ever consistent Mike.

North Belfast:

Westm North Belfast

The facts here are well documented. The only game in town is the competition between Nigel Dodds and Gerry Kelly. I was in attendance at Gerry’s selection announcement recently (as an observer) and I can assure you that Sinn Fein are confident here. Very confident. Of course if the UUP were to withdraw it should more or less guarantee Nigel the seat but would it?

I’m not so sure. 12.3% of the nationalist vote went to the SDLP at the last election and Gerry only needs half of that to get elected (6%). That is precisely the same as the intra nationalst swing that happened in Fermanagh when the Unionist block last attempted a “unity” candidate. I’ll be blogging in more detail in due course on this one.

Fermanagh South Tyrone

Westm Fermanagh

This is Mikes real target, the tightest win, by four votes, at the last election. That is despite nationalism not having any pacts or agreements and thus a split vote. Given the demographic trends and the reaction of the nationalist electorate to the last attempt at a unity candidate I would be of the opinion that unionism should bring it on. It will be a nail biting count night however.

The fact that the UUP has reverted to type and considers Unionist principles should take precedence over any others reveals the true nature of any further pronouncements regarding a “share future” agenda as does the DUP veto over any integrated education representation at Stormont yesterday.

Mikes UUP agenda is simple, it’s called the “King Canute was right all along” strategy.


The Queens University – semantics, sectarianism or substance?

(this article was also published on Slugger O’Toole)

As many of you may be aware, the Sinn Féin students at Queens University in Belfast have succeeded in gaining sufficient votes to trigger a “united Ireland Poll” among the student body. This matter seems to have energised parts of the mainstream media to an inordinate degree, particularly the Belfast Telegraph. Personally I am all for for radical student politics, there is a long, proud tradition of rebellious students being at the forefront of political change and anger at the status quo.
Give me that, rather than the Bullingdon club crowd currently bumbling their way through what is the the current incarnation of British party political ineptitude.
The election in Queens required a 600 vote mandate to go ahead, which, having been gained, now requires a vote of at least 10% of the student body for the result to stand. That means that of a 24,000 student body, at least 2.400 must vote. Voting is available online and a 50% plus 1 majority is sufficient to win.
There is a clear majority of nationalist background students attending Queens. On paper, the vote should be a shoo in. Is this about polarising views, dividing the student body, semantics, sectarianism or substance? What is the purpose?
I met today with Sean Fearon today, who is head of the SF branch in Queens and asked him those very questions.
The most obvious question for me was what the whole thing was designed to achieve. His response was that it was part of an overall movement to create momentum and debate towards an island wide vote in much the same way that the Scottish independence campaign grew organically at a grassroots level.
I asked him was he receiving advice, instructions or help at any level from his party.
He was adamant that he was receiving no material assistance from the party at all. I’ll let readers make up their own minds as to the unsaid part.
We moved onto the dynamics of the campaign. I made the point that the Scottish campaign ultimately revolved around personal economics which impact, for the most part, on the “senior” electoral demographic. Students, on the other hand, tend to be a little more idealistic. Ahem.
I wanted to know if there was a strategic economic plan, preferably backed up by independent respected economic opinion. Sean responded by referring to Dr Conor Patterson and Michael Burke who both spoke at a recent debate on the subject but I was unconvinced by his grasp of the importance of the subject.
With the vote taking place on the 28th of October, I asked what the campaign would involve.
Apparently there will be debates with the other student party groups within the university.
This may be a major problem.
The Unionist party organisations in the student body are currently trying to launch a counter referendum. The SDLP organisation in Queens views the referendum as “divisive and sectarian”.
I put that point to Sean.
“Is this not a polarising and divisive strategy?”
His answer was interesting and I’ll sum it up below if I may:
We are asking a question
We are happy to debate and discuss
We are happy for it to go to a vote
What, in the above, are others afraid of and why would they try to prevent any of it happening?

Better Together!

Good evening all,

I’ve just returned from a brief holiday in Italy. Sometimes geographical and cultural distance provides a degree of perspective, regarding matters at home, and we may return refreshed, invigorated, energised and ready to look at things anew, as it were.IMAG0001022

I’ve had a wonderful time away. It was instructive in many ways. The Italians are a very “laid back” race in general. Trying to source a timetable for the various ferries, trains and buses involved was simply impossible. It was all sorted on the spot, at the time, in person.

I loved that.

In the same way that the new Guinness advertisement strikes me as the first really good one in a long time and genuinely makes me proud to be a Dub, the Italians are quietly proud of their culture, heritage and hospitality, but with a degree of humility.

There is no sense of hubris, superiority, supremacism or flag waving nonsense. Just quiet confidence in themselves.

I arrived back late last night and have been catching up on events here. We all know what MacMillan had to say regarding “Events”. I had more of a sense of the Churchillian “Dreary steeples”.

The, simply clueless, Theresa Villiers is doing something or other regarding parades, I’m not sure what. Slugger has appointed the “energetic” David (Fianna Fail) McCann as a “Deputy Editor”, God help us and my old mate Barton Creeth thinks it’s great setting up a food bank in South Belfast. Barton. We have memories of such things in Ireland, long memories. Food banks, though well intentioned, are an indictment of where we are in 2014.

While in Italy at a particularly beautiful setting over a few, post dinner, bottles of wine, we, Mrs Bangordub and myself, found ourselves in conversation with a lovely couple from Cheshire. We found common ground on many topics over a few hours.

Particularly when the Scottish Independence vote came up during the course of our chatter. They were of the opinion that we were “better together”. I, naturally, agreed.

I’m not sure they were expecting my perspective on the subject however. It never occurred to them, I suspect, that I was looking at things as an Irishman.




Game Changer

I’ve been quiet recently on the blogging front over the past few weeks but I have some interesting stuff coming up regarding the forthcoming Westminster elections. Here are some of the sites and articles I’ve been reading recently that may be of interest.

As we absorb the lessons of the Scottish referendum result and reflect upon the implications for this part of the world, as our local politicians settle into their traditional tribal responses, as we wonder what will happen next, I am coming to the conclusion that this is a game changer.

Already, within 48 hours of the result, a new movement is taking shape. It’s called the “45”. Phil McGiolla Bháin explains it here.

There is an fascinating interactive map here from the Guardian on national identity and who identifies themselves as British or otherwise.. I have a feeling the Belfast Telegraph wasn’t consulted on these results as the Norn Iron identity seems to have shrunk somewhat. Ahem.

Meanwhile in Co Fermanagh, there is a fascinating article on schools and demographic change over on the Detail website. Well worth a read!



Scotland the Brave?

On the 18th of September Scotland will vote for full independence from the UK. The result may have seismic repercussions in this part of the World, The Orange Order have already said they will withdraw from Scotland if a yes vote is passed. BraveheartTheir Scottish “Grand Master” came out with this beauty: “We are primarily a Christian and charitable fraternal organisation, we rarely step into the political arena.”

Without doubt unionism in the north east of Ireland will have a lot of soul searching and re-evaluation to do in the event of a Yes vote.

The never ending series of Belfast Telegraph polls telling us we are all “Northern Irish” now, may have to be revisited. The Scottish act of union 407 years ago allied with 407 years of pro union propaganda has come down to a 3% swing needed in the vote over the last two weeks. That is a narrowing of the gap from a required 7% swing in mid August and a 10% swing a month earlier. The implications for a similar vote here, particularly given the low registration and voting habits of the CNR community are intriguing.

The “Naw” campaign has been about scaremongering, economic fear and exploiting the uncertainty that independence will bring. The reality is that not one of the countries that has gained its independence, ever, has changed its mind. Not one.

“Yes” can win this. Momentum is everything in politics. My call is that they will do it, just. It is a decision for the Scottish people which is why I have made few comments on this so far. I wish them well whatever they choose but I will watch with interest the reaction of Ulster Unionists to the results.

I’ll leave you with the words and music of a Scottish Band and a poll for your thoughts.


Michael Collins and the Czar of Russia

In 1919 Michael Collins was elected as Minister for Finance in the first Dáil Éireann. The first Dáil was convened following the 1918 election at which an overwhelming

Members of the First Dáil, 10 April 1919 First row, left to right: Laurence Ginnell, Michael Collins, Cathal Brugha, Arthur Griffith, Éamon de Valera, Count Plunkett, Eoin MacNeill, W. T. Cosgrave and Ernest Blythe. Kevin O’Higgins is in the third row (right)

majority of the entire Irish people had voted for pro-independence candidates. At the time, Ireland was a backwater of empire, a country without international recognition, sovereign independence or even a line of credit.

The general (sic) consensus is, that with few cards to play, Collins was an outstanding success in this role: “In overall terms, Collins’ performance in Finance was outstanding by any criteria. … Collins’ personal organization skills were exceptional, allowing him to hold four major positions simultaneously, prompting him to impose order and clarity on a world of disorder and confusion. If his unexpected death robbed the state of its most capable administrator, it also denies the historian the opportunity to compare him with his successors in Finance.” Andrew McCarthy

His master stroke was the raising of a National Loan which, with a target of £250,000 actually generated some £400,000 for the fledgling state. This loan was raised from ordinary Irish people, not bankers, not governments, not the IMF nor the European Central Bank.

National-Loan 1919

For a country with only the resources of its people, primarily agricultural in nature and with only its potential to sell, this was a true triumph of confidence on the part of Collins. Indeed at this time Belfast was the industrial centre of Ireland. It had been for some time with the shipyards among the best in the World. There were other industries, of course, such as the Linen mills but these were already in steep decline by 1919.

As for the Czar, (well, the Russian Republic, I plead artistic licence) ordered Ludwig Martens the head of the Soviet Bureau in New York City to acquire a “national loan” from the Irish Republic, offering some of the Russian Crown Jewels as collateral. The jewels remained in a Dublin safe, forgotten by all sides, until the 1930s, when they were found by chance! Perhaps FJH can offer some further information? ;-)

We are all, I am sure, aware of what happened next, partition, independence for most of Ireland and a divergence of economic as well as political fortunes, so where are we now?

Today most of the Island is a dynamic outward looking, open economy with a highly educated, well paid and generally happy population. Yes, I know the past few years have been difficult but, coming from a very high plateau, the fall has been checked and the re-bounce is well underway. As the Irish Times says “Irish people enjoy among the highest quality of life and standard of living in Europe, according to the European Union.” – Well, some of the Irish People at least.

In the north eastern six counties there is a different story to be told. Whatever the rights and wrongs of partition it is, nevertheless, an established historical fact. Both juristictions withdrew into a self regarding political and economic cul de sac from which the south only truly emerged thirty years ago. In the north, that is yet to happen. With the decline of the heavy industries upon which Belfast in particular prided itself the search is still continuing for its place in the economic world.

Is the north east best served as a destination for low wage service companies (eg: call centres) or, like the rest of the country, should it be marketed as a destination for successful, ambitious companies requiring a young, smart, highly educated workforce, a business friendly environment and unfettered access to the wider European economy or should it be constrained by a Daily Mail reading, mostly elderly, backward looking collective of pin striped, bowler hatted, myopic neo-victorians?

One of the most awkward questions of recent years is the level of subvention or subsidy by the colonial paymasters in Westminster. The most interesting point is that there is no solid answer to the actual figure here is the source material. As may be seen from this link the figures are, at best, arbitrary, at worst a best guess. Meanwhile an ongoing argument is engaged regarding Sinn Fein and the DUP regarding welfare reform and the price of implementing a Tory government policy, a Tory govt that was not elected or voted for in any way in this part of the world.

My question is simple, how do we approach, define and challenge this economic question?







Horseman predicts the future

Good evening,

I’ve been quiet of late due to a combination of some number crunching on behalf of nameless third parties, the summer silly season and some domestic stuff of no consequence. At the suggestion of commenter Jon Wallace I’ve begun some WB Yeatsbackground work on continuing Horsemans annual balance sheet analysis for 2014. Enda, over at Endgame in Ulster, has previously done some good work on this here.

The general idea is to analyse demographic changes over the previous year and apply the findings to likely future trends. I’m happy as the proverbial Pig in the brown stuff doing this type of number crunching. The key figures are based around census returns, births, deaths, immigration, emigration, community background and, of course, election results. It may take me a while!

I’d spent a couple of hours on this today when I stumbled upon some interesting conclusions that I thought were worth sharing with you.

The 2001 Census results for community background by age were as following:

Age Band Catholic (%) Protestant (%) Other (%) None (%)
0 to 4 49.1 43.1 0.4 7.4
5 to 9 49.5 44.9 0.3 5.3
10 to 14 50.4 45.3 0.3 4
15 to 19 51.4 45.2 0.3 3.1
20 to 24 49.5 47 0.5 3
25 to 29 46 50.4 0.6 3
30 to 34 44.7 51.9 0.6 2.8
35 to 39 44.6 52.6 0.5 2.4
40 to 44 43.7 54 0.5 1.8
45 to 49 42.2 55.6 0.5 1.7
50 to 54 39.7 58.6 0.4 1.4
55 to 59 36.6 62 0.3 1.1
60 to 64 35.8 63 0.3 0.9
65 to 69 35.1 63.9 0.2 0.7
70 to 74 33.4 65.8 0.2 0.7
75+ 30.2 69.2 0.2 0.4

This, extrapolated to the 2011 census should have led to the following:

2011 BASED ON 2001
Age Band Catholic (%) Protestant (%) Other (%) None (%)
0 to 4
5 to 9
10 to 14 49.1% 43.1% 0.4% 7.4%
15 to 19 49.5% 44.9% 0.3% 5.3%
20 to 24 50.4% 45.3% 0.3% 4.0%
25 to 29 51.4% 45.2% 0.3% 3.1%
30 to 34 49.5% 47.0% 0.5% 3.0%
35 to 39 46.0% 50.4% 0.6% 3.0%
40 to 44 44.7% 51.9% 0.6% 2.8%
45 to 49 44.6% 52.6% 0.5% 2.4%
50 to 54 43.7% 54.0% 0.5% 1.8%
55 to 59 42.2% 55.6% 0.5% 1.7%
60 to 64 39.7% 58.6% 0.4% 1.4%
65 to 69 36.6% 62.0% 0.3% 1.1%
70 to 74 35.8% 63.0% 0.3% 0.9%
75+ 32.9% 66.3% 0.2% 0.6%

The actual 2011 figures were:

Age Band Catholic (%) Protestant (%) Other (%) None (%)
0 to 4 49.2% 36.4% 1.0% 13.4%
5 to 9 49.3% 40.1% 0.8% 9.8%
10 to 14 49.5% 41.9% 0.7% 8.0%
15 to 19 49.0% 42.9% 0.6% 7.5%
20 to 24 48.9% 42.3% 0.8% 7.9%
25 to 29 50.9% 40.7% 1.2% 7.1%
30 to 34 49.7% 42.4% 1.5% 6.4%
35 to 39 46.8% 46.2% 1.3% 5.6%
40 to 44 45.4% 49.4% 1.0% 4.3%
45 to 49 44.7% 50.8% 0.9% 3.6%
50 to 54 43.5% 52.8% 0.8% 2.9%
55 to 59 42.1% 54.5% 0.8% 2.5%
60 to 64 39.2% 57.9% 0.8% 2.1%
65 to 69 36.3% 61.4% 0.8% 1.5%
70 to 74 35.4% 62.8% 0.7% 1.1%
75+ 31.3% 67.2% 0.6% 0.8%

There has been much speculation here and elsewhere regarding the effects of immigration/ emigration and the increasing trend towards secularisation so how far out was Horseman with his predictions? Not a lot is the answer, here is the variation between his predictions and the actual results:

Age Band Catholic (%) Protestant (%) Other (%) None (%)
0 to 4
5 to 9
10 to 14 0.4% -1.2% 0.3% 0.6%
15 to 19 -0.5% -2.0% 0.3% 2.2%
20 to 24 -1.5% -3.0% 0.5% 3.9%
25 to 29 -0.5% -4.5% 0.9% 4.0%
30 to 34 0.2% -4.6% 1.0% 3.4%
35 to 39 0.8% -4.2% 0.7% 2.6%
40 to 44 0.7% -2.5% 0.4% 1.5%
45 to 49 0.1% -1.8% 0.4% 1.2%
50 to 54 -0.2% -1.2% 0.3% 1.1%
55 to 59 -0.1% -1.1% 0.3% 0.8%
60 to 64 -0.5% -0.7% 0.4% 0.7%
65 to 69 -0.3% -0.6% 0.5% 0.4%
70 to 74 -0.4% -0.2% 0.4% 0.2%
75+ -1.6% 0.9% 0.4% 0.2%

My conclusion is that Horseman was incredibly accurate in his predictions. Regarding the Catholic proportion of the election he was accurate to within 1% in all bar two age groups and <1.6% in the exceptions. Regarding the Protestant community he was marginally less accurate but the difference is almost entirely accounted for by the other or none categories. I am yet to hear or see a reasoned argument countering his projections.

As always, it is actual votes that count in the real world. My thinking is that the nationalist electorate is somewhat under represented due to electoral apathy and low turnout. The way to turn that around is possibly to address the economic issues that motivate most people to turn out and vote. Perhaps it is about time for the economic case for a re-united Ireland to be coherently made.

The day the lights went out

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great European war of 1914.

It is right and proper that those who died during that conflict are remembered and their sacrifice recognised. Few families in Britain or Ireland emerged at the conclusion of hostilities four years later quite the same. For families in Germany, France, Belgium and many other countries around the World it was a similar experience. Families are similar the world over, they grieve and worry in just the same way. That war was possibly the last in which armies fought armies. Since 1918 civilian populations seem to have become part of the battlefield. Current events in Gaza are testament enough to that.Western Front

In Ireland, at the time,  there were two distinct lines of thought regarding the outbreak of War. There still are, more of that later.

Under the leadership of the Wexfordman John Redmond, the Irish Parliamentary Party encouraged Irishmen to join up on the premise that a home rule bill would follow as a “reward”. I have a one word response to that which I’ll not publish here. Strangely and conversely, the Dubliner, Edward Carson was encouraging Unionists across the country to do the same on the basis that, guess what, home rule would be prevented on that basis. (There’s a thesis there on the duplicity of the “Welsh Wizard”- Lloyd George)

Anyhow, as I am in danger of embarking upon an historical magical mystery tour, let’s fast forward to today.

Former Taoiseach, John Bruton (Or John Brutal as he was known in past days- Brutal being Dublin slang for useless) had this masterpiece in todays Irish Times. Meanwhile, our President was attending this event in France. In Dublin meanwhile, yesterday, there was this ceremony in Glasnevin cemetary of all places. As my Dad would have said, graves (nearby)  must have been spinning at a rate of knots.

I sense an attempt at rewriting history. A revisionism and redrawing of the maps of history. Much of it is writ large  on the pages of William Martin Murphys old propoganda organ, the infamous “Indo” or Irish Independent. It would be more properly titled the “Anglo Unionist” but there’s another blog in that argument.

Meanwhile other Irishmen were planning to fight for their own small nation against a neighbouring aggressor. Events that would culminate in the beginnings of the fall of an empire.

My own view is that the only use of a war is to learn the lessons of it’s causes and effects and to apply those lessons for the sake of our children. It appears not everyone shares that view.


Palestine 2014

As we witness the appalling scenes in Palestine unfolding I thought it may be worth taking a step back and making some observations from a distance, as it were.

This is not a subject that this particular blog is about but I doubt any readers here are unmoved by the unfolding scenes despite the clear bias of certain elements of the mainstream media, not least the BBC.

First some figures:Gaza

Interesting? Not if you are are a resident of Gaza City. A matter of life or death perhaps.

The Israeli line is that of self defence. The done to death line is the 70 year old holocaust victim narrative. It is a narrative based upon victimhood of the Jews as a race.

There is undoubted truth in that. Over many centuries the Jewish people have been targetted as a race. Often for the simple reason that that they are skilled in the ways of commerce, yet that fact itself is a cliché. It is viewed as a vice rather than a virtue. It is a cliché that engenders envy amongst other emotions. It has been played upon for religious rather than race reasons for centuries by those with an agenda.

Why can we not step back and view what is currently happening in context? I think it is perhaps because we have a limited historical memory. We still hesitate to judge the Israeli state because of what happened to the Jewish People in the 1940’s rather than what has happened since. The state of Israel was, of course, created by the British Government. A partition of an ancient land- Palestine. The native population was corralled in designated areas (To Hell or to Connaught anyone?).

No service is done to the state of Israel by the behaviour of their leaders in these days. They have succeeded only in uniting most reasonable people in revulsion against their actions.


A Day in a Field

As we approach the 11th night and the Orange Orders 12th of July celebrations for this year I’ve been reflecting on the changes that have occurred and how so many things remain the same. There is a depressing repetitive narrative each year surrounding this gerry Bonfireweekend and the fallout which often continues for a considerable period afterwards. From a broadly nationalist perspective there is a sense of incredulity at the perceived nihilistic, self destructive behaviour of the “bonfire crowd” as well as the, at best, ambiguous response of political unionism. I’m struck by the contrasting views withing unionism towards the whole thing. I also note that this year there are subtle changes.

Carrickally of this parish blogged eloquently on this blog last year about what the 12th meant to him. It was a welcome article and described a cultural celebration that was of great importance to him. It painted a picture of a day which threatened nobody and, although not something I would partake in, I would have no objections to. Unfortunately, Medusa like, there is more than one head to this snake. Unionism is famously diverse in its opinions and difficult to unify except in the face of a common threat. Therefore a common threat must be identified if political unionism is to endure and thrive. For the avoidance of doubt that threat has “traditionally” been the likes of me, my flag and my fellow citizens in this part of the world. The threat this year appears to be extended to Anna Lo, the virgin Mary, Pakistan, Poland, the people of Palestine and the Ivory Coast amongst others. I hear not a single unionist voice raised against this. Not one.

Yet I see subtle things. Perhaps I am mistaken. The Orange Order have actually discouraged violent protest this year. It is qualified but it is a start. It certainly makes a change from the threats of yesteryear.  One of the most interesting contributions has been made by Sammy Wilson of all people. Read the last six paragraphs of this. A direct challenge to his party leader and the Orange Order I would think.

A vibrant self confident culture is one which finds expression in a celebration in the positive celebration of its virtues and which stands proudly anywhere in the world. A culture that finds expression in burning the flags and images of its perceived enemies is a culture that is dying. I would be happy to see Carickallys vision taking its place as part of the nation but until the ugly snake is confronted and defeated within the unionist community, until the silence is ended, until respect is shown instead of hypocritically demanded, that day is some distance off.


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