School Census 2020-2021

By Faha

The Department of Education has recently released data on the religion of pupils for the 2020-2021 school year. This data has been compiled yearly since the 2000-2001 school year. The religion of pupils for primary and secondary schools is recorded for Protestant, Catholic, Other Christian, Non-Christian and No Religion/Not Recorded.

Since 2018 the Other Christian, Non-Christian and No Religion categories have been combined into one. However, based on trends since 2000 it is possible to give estimates of the different groups in the 2020-2021 school census.

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I will compare the results of the 2020-2021 school census with that of the 2000-2001 school census.

The 2000-2021 school census recorded 328,044 primary and secondary school pupils and the 2020-2021 school census recorded 328,627 primary and secondary school pupils. The number of students has been remarkably stable over that 20 year period. However, that unchanged number of total students does not reveal some important underlying changes.

Protestant              2000-2001             140,337

2020-2021             105,115

Net Change                                        -35,222

Catholic                2000-2001             166,311

2020-2021             166,487

Net Change                                        +176

Other Christian     2000-2001             4,275

2020-2021             14,000

Net Change                                        +9,725

Non-Christian       2000-2001             1,110

2020-2021             4,200

Net Change                                        +3,090

No Religion           2000-2001             16,011

2020-2021             38,825

Net Change                                        22,814

The number of Catholic students is unchanged from 20 years ago. There has been a large decline of over 35,000 students who are Protestant.

Since the number of total students and Catholic students is unchanged, that 35,000 decline in Protestants has been offset by a 35,000 increase in the number of students who are Non-Christian, Other Christian and No Religion.

The 4,200 Non-Christians would be mainly Muslim and Hindu. The No Religion group are those who are not being raised in any religion.

The Other Christian group is very mixed. The Other Christian students are much more likely to attend Integrated schools. These students would include the Eastern Orthodox children of Romanian, Bulgarian, Latvian, Greek, etc. immigrants. Others would be children of mixed Catholic-Protestant marriages who are being raised as Christian but not belonging to a particular Catholic or Protestant denomination. Some would be Christian related such as Mormons.

In looking at the percentages of the different religions of the different groups in the 2020-2021 census these are the results:

Catholic                 50.66%

Protestant              31.99%

Other Christian      4.26%

Non-Christian        1.28%

No Religion           11.81%

It is clear that there has been a dramatic decline in the Protestant percentage of the student age population.

This will have major implications for future elections since all of these students will be of voting age within 13 years at the latest for the youngest and 1 year for the oldest.

Some may claim that the No Religion students are future Unionist voters. However, multiple opinion polls in recent years show that 50% of those with No Religion prefer the Alliance-Green parties, 25% nationalist parties, and 25% unionist parties. Since approximately 15% of Protestants vote for Alliance and other non unionist parties these new voters will gradually introduce a declining unionist total vote.

The unionist parties share of these new voters will struggle to exceed 30% with the other 70% voting for nationalist or non sectarian parties.

The unionist political parties do not seem to be aware of or be preparing for the coming demographic changes in the future electorate as evidenced in the school census figures above.

2022 Assembly Election

By Faha

In January LucidTalk released an opinion poll on voter preference for the 2022 Assembly election. The panel sample was 2,295 likely voters (excluded undecided and non voters). The sample of voters by religious background was:

Protestant 46.7%

Catholic 35.9%

None 15.8%

Other 1.5%

Voter preference for the 2022 election was as follows. The actual percentages for the 2017 election are in parenthesis with the net change from 2017.

SF 23.6% (27.9%) -4.3%

SDLP 12.7% (11.9%) +0.8%

PBP 1.2% (1.8%) -0.6%

Aontu 0.4% (0%) +0.4%

Alliance 17.9% (9.1%) + 8.8%

Green 1.9% (2.3%) -0.4 %

UUP 11.9% (12.9%) -1.0%

DUP 18.8% (28.1%) -9.3%

TUV 10.4% (2.6%) +7.8%

Other Unionist 1.2% (2.5%) -1.3%

Changes of 1% or less are not statistically significant. What is clear though is that there has been a moderate decline in support for SF and a large drop in support for the DUP. There are large increases in voter preference for Alliance and the TUV.

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The voters were asked which party they voted for in the 2017 Assembly election and this was compared with their preference for the 2022 election. For DUP voters 60% of their 2017 voters will still vote DUP but 23% will vote TUV, 10%

UUP and 4% Alliance. This indicates a major collapse in the DUP vote with the TUV the main beneficiary.

For UUP voters only 59% of their 2017 voters will vote for the UUP in 2022. They have a net gain from DUP voters but are losing an equal number to Alliance.

The TUV have kept all of their 2017 voters and have gained many DUP voters, such that their voter preference is now almost equal to the UUP.

For SF 80% of their 2017 voters will vote SF but 13% will vote SDLP and 6% Alliance.

For the SDLP 61% of their 2017 voters will vote SDLP but 27% will vote Alliance. However, their total vote increases slightly because they pick up more new voters from SF than they lose to Alliance.

Alliance is the biggest winner. They retain 82% of their 2017 voters. Of their new voters more than twice as many are from SF and the SDLP compared to new voters they receive from unionist parties. They are also receiving additional votes from Green voters.

If one looks at the results of the 2019 Westminster election it appears that the entire decrease in SF support had already occurred by the time of that election. There has been no further decline in SF support since then.

For the Alliance Party the gain in support for Alliance that was evident in the 2019 Westminster election had already occurred at that time. There has been no further gain in support for Alliance since that election.

For the DUP the situation is different. The DUP vote was higher in the 2019 Westminster election but the additional voters were from minor unionist parties that did not compete in that election. What has happened since 2019 is that there has been a massive collapse in support for the DUP with most of the loss to the TUV and to a lesser extent the UUP. This is almost certainly related to Brexit and the deleterious effects of Brexit on the Northern Ireland economy.

What are the implications for the 2022 election ? It is not possible to predict the relative proportion of the total nationalist and unionist vote. The sample for this poll was only 35.9% Catholic which is far less than the Catholic electorate would be in an Assembly election. The proportion of Protestants at 46.7% and the None group at 15.8% are also higher than that of the voting age population.

Nevertheless, the poll provides a very accurate sample of the distribution of votes among all the political parties. The 2019 Westminster election and 2019 District Council election appears to show the relative strength of the nationalist parties and the Alliance Party. Based on those results I expect the 2022 Assembly election would result in these changes:

Alliance would pick up additional seats in East Londonderry, North Antrim, East Antrim, Strangford and Upper Bann. There are also possible additional seats in East Belfast and North Down. All these additional seats would be at the expense of the unionist parties. Alliance could pick up nationalist seats in North Belfast, South Down and Lagan Valley.

The SDLP would take away the DUP seat in Foyle and a SF seat in Fermanagh South Tyrone.

The DUP would lose seats in North Antrim, Strangford and Upper Bann to Alliance. They could possibly lose seats to Alliance in East Belfast and North Down. They would also lose seats to the TUV but it is not possible to predict in which constituencies due to the lack of polling in individual constituencies.

There will be additional polling later this year.

I expect that the effects of Brexit in Northern Ireland will have a significant influence on the results.

Border Poll 2021

The following is a blog by Faha and was written at the end of January 2021.

Unfortunately, due to a serious family illness, I have been Dublin based for the last 2 months with no wifi access. This situation has now been resolved. We have much to catch up on !


The Sunday Times recently published results from opinion polls on the status of Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as attitudes about Brexit. In Northern Ireland the polling was conducted by LucidTalk and included a question about a Border Poll. The weighted sample of potential voters was 2,390. The Border Poll question was: If there was a Border Poll referendum on the Constitutional position of Northern Ireland would you vote for Northern Ireland to be:

No opinion and no real inclination to vote: the people Northern Ireland's  political parties need to engage -

Part of the United Kingdom
Part of a United Ireland
The results were
Part of the United Kingdom 46.8%
Part of a United Ireland 42.3%
Undecided 10.7%

The preference by political party vote in the 2017 Assembly election was:
DUP UUP SF SDLP Alliance Green Nonvoters
Part of the United Kingdom 95% 86% 1% 9% 24% 13% 46%
Part of a United Ireland 1% 3% 96% 75% 40% 63% 44%
Undecided 4% 11% 3% 16% 36% 24% 10%

No surprises with the political party preferences among the unionist and nationalist parties. What is interesting is that Green voters have a strong preference for a United Ireland. It is almost as high as SDLP voters.

There is also a plurality of Alliance voters that favour a United Ireland though many Alliance and Green voters are Undecided. It should also be noted that non voters are equally divided on the question. This indicates that the increased turnout that would occur with a Border Poll is unlikely to favour one side over the other.
The data also included preference by religious community and the results were:

                                                  Protestant    Catholic    No Religion                                                       

Part of the United Kingdom 89% 5% 37%
Part of a United Ireland 4% 85% 45%
Undecided 7% 10% 18%
The preferences among Protestants and Catholics are mirror opposites. Polls since the Brexit referendum in 2016 have consistently shown that among Catholics only approximately 5% wish to remain part of the UK. This varies little from one year to another. Prior to Brexit over 1/3 of Catholics preferred to remain in the UK.

A plurality of those with No Religion also prefer a United Ireland. This is a dramatic change since prior to Brexit the vast majority of those with No Religion preferred to remain in the UK.

So, what would be the results of an actual Border Poll if it were held in 2021? It would appear that there is a 4.5% edge in favour of remaining in the UK. However, this may not be true due to the nature of the weighting of the sample. The 2,390 weighted voters were:
Protestant 40.8%
Catholic 37.1%
No Religion 21.0%
Other 1.0%
In the 2011 census there were 2 ways in which Religion was documented. One included those with a Religion and those who were raised in a Religion (but no longer identified with that Religion). The second was those who stated they belonged to a Religion but did not include those who previously had a religion in those who currently belonged to a religion. There were also over 122,000 who did not answer the Religion question and after the Religion of those 122,000 was estimated and distributed to other religions the breakdown was approximately
Protestant 44% to 45%
Catholic 44% to 45%
No Religion 9% to 10%
Other 1%

The Catholic percentage in this poll (37.1%) is much lower than that in the 2011 census and the No religion group at 21% is much higher than that in the 2011 census. Of course, we do not know what the 2021 census will indicate in 2 months but it is unlikely that the No Religion group will be 21%. The school census in recent years has shown the No Religion group at 10% to 11% so those born since the 2011 census will likely be in that range. It is possible that among adults there will be fewer that identify as Catholic or Protestant but not enough to raise the No Religion group to 21%. It is also unlikely that those who identify as Catholic has declined to 37% from 45% while those identifying as Protestant has declined only half as much.
However, the poll is very useful because in 2022 it will be possible to compare the preference in a Border Poll opinion poll with the actual results of the 2021 census.

Any future polls can be compared to the 2021 census demographics. It will be possible to calculate the results of a Border Poll based on the demographics of the 2021 census and the findings based on Religion in these opinion polls.

Here is a theoretical estimate of a Border Poll if the 2021 census indicates:
45% Catholic
41% Protestant
14% No Religion/Other
The result would be, based on the recent poll:
Stay in the UK 44%
United Ireland 46%
Undecided 10%
Obviously, the result would be very close.
The eventual result of a Border Poll will be determined mainly by the eventual choice of the Undecided. Only approximately 25% of the Undecided are Protestant or those who vote for unionist parties (probably much overlap between the two groups). The percentage of Protestants who are in favour of a United Ireland or Undecided is low at 11%. This is unlikely to increase. The poll also asked voters how they would vote if there was a new EU Referendum and only 23% of Protestants would vote to rejoin the EU. So, a Border Poll result will most influenced by the other 75% who are non-unionist voters or non-Protestant. Other factors that will influence the result are:

1 Turnout

A Border Poll will have a much higher turnout than a Westminster or Assembly election. If similar to that of the vote on the Good Friday agreement it would be 1.2 million. This poll indicates that previous non voters are evenly divided on the question. However, non-voters are usually younger and this is a demographic that that is more in favour of rejoining the EU and also has a significantly lower percentage of Protestants.

2 Voting Age

The voting age for the Scottish Independence Referendum was 16. If this is the age for a Border Poll it would increase the margin for a United Ireland since this demographic would more likely favour a United Ireland.

3 Foreign Nationals

The percentage of foreign nationals who are of voting age is unknown and will not be known until the 2021 results are released. Other data from NiNo registrations indicated it could be as high as 10% of the voting age population. Currently 6% of the electoral register is composed of foreign nationals. EU nationals in particular would be in favour of a United Ireland since Northern Ireland would rejoin the EU. Their relatives and friends would then be permitted to settle in Northern Ireland.

4 Scottish Independence Referendum

The SNP appears headed for a large majority in the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections. All recent polls have shown a plurality or majority of Scottish voters would vote for an Independent Scotland.

If this occurs it could force the scheduling of a Border Poll in Northern Ireland.

Recent Polls, Results, Demographics and 2022 election implications

By Faha

There was an opinion poll released by LucidTalk earlier this month.

It covered multiple issues.

One question asked was “ NI ASSEMBLY ELECTION: If an NI Assembly Election were to be held tomorrow which political party would you vote for as FIRST PREFERENCE? – Excluding Don’t Know/Undecideds “.

I will analyze these findings and comment on different aspects of the poll.

Potential voters were asked what their voter preference would be for an Assembly election. The results were weighted by “likelihood to vote”. I will compare those preferences with the actual 2019 Westminster election results.

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Assembly Westminster 2019 Difference

SF 23.8% 22.7% +1.1%

SDLP 12.5% 14.8% -2.3%

PBP 2.1% 1.0% +1.1%

Aontu 1.5% 1.2% +0.3%

Alliance 15.5% 16.8% -1.3%

Green 2.5% 0.2% +2.3%

Independents 0.7% 0.2% +0.5%

UUP 11.5% 11.6% -0.1%

DUP 22.4% 30.5% -8.1%

TUV 6.4% 0.0% +6.4%

Other Unionist 1.1% 0.9% +0.2%

Voters were asked about their actual votes in the 2017 Assembly election, and of the 95% who indicated they actually voted in that election, voters preferences were almost exactly identical to the results in that election.

The 2019 Westminster results are not completely comparable to an Assembly preference since minor parties did not compete in all Westminster constituencies. Indeed, there were no TUV Westminster candidates in 2019. The differences in party preference for an Assembly election and the actual Westminster 2019 results are not statistically significant with one exception.

The DUP vote would be 8% lower in an Assembly election and the TUV vote would be 6.4% higher. It should be noted that the 6.4% preference for the TUV is more than twice their 2017 Assembly vote (2.6%).

There were some interesting results on voter preference by Religion background. The sample was listed as:

Protestant 47.3%

Catholic 37.5%

None 13.2%

Other 1.9%

For Protestant voters Assembly preference was:

Unionist 80%

Alliance-Green 14%

Nationalist 6%

For Catholic voters Assembly preference was:

Unionist 1%

Alliance-Green 15%

Nationalist 84 %

For No Religion voters Assembly preference was:

Unionist 17%

Alliance-Green 36%

Nationalist 42%

If one looks at voter preference in polls prior to Brexit only 1% of Catholics would vote for a unionist party and only 1% of Protestants would vote for a nationalist party. While 1% of Catholics still prefer a unionist party the percentage of Protestants who would vote for a nationalist party (mainly SDLP) has increased to 6%. Protestant voters now account for more than 15% of the total SDLP vote.

Another change is that prior to Brexit No Religion voters generally voted 40% unionist, 40% Alliance-Green and 20% nationalist. That voter group has changed dramatically with only 17% willing to vote unionist. That voter group now has a 29% SF preference.

What are the implications for a 2022 Assembly election?

I wish to point out that the demographics of Religion in this poll has a higher proportion of Protestants and a lower proportion of Catholics. We will not know the results of the 2021 census until 2022. However, it is possible to extrapolate from the 2011 census. We know that all those aged 9 to 17 are now old enough to vote. We also know the number of deaths since that census (mainly elderly voters). It appears that the current voting age population is approximately

14% No Religion/Other

44% Protestant

42% Catholic

The total unionist vote was 43% in the 2019 Westminster election. With the 2022 voting age demographics it may be only 40%. This is not only due to demographic changes but also to the significant increase in Protestants who are voting for Alliance, Green and nationalist parties.

The collapse in support for unionist parties among those voters with No Religion is also contributing significantly to the decline of the unionist vote.

To illustrate the implications of these changes in voter preference I will look at the vote in several constituencies in the 2019 Westminster election. For an Assembly election 1 quota is 16.6% and 2 quotas are 33.3%


DUP 47.2%

UUP 10.7%

Other Unionist 4.7%

Alliance 28.4%

Green 2.1%

SDLP 5.3%

SF 1.5%

Alliance has 28.4%. The combined Green, SDLP, SF vote is 9% so a 2nd Alliance candidate would easily be elected on their transfers with a net loss of one unionist seat.

East Antrim

DUP 45.3%

UUP 14.7%

Conservative 2.8%

Alliance 27.3%

Green 1.8%

SDLP 2.4%

SF 5.7%

The Alliance vote is 27.3%. The combined Green, SDLP and SF vote is 10% so a 2nd Alliance candidate would easily be elected with their transfers with a net loss on one unionist seat.

North Antrim

DUP 47.4%

UUP 18.5%

Unionist 0.6%

Alliance 14.1%

SDLP 6.7%

SF 12.8%

The combined Alliance, SDLP, SF vote is 33.6% and the SDLP candidate would be eliminated and their transfers would elect a SF and Alliance candidate with a net loss of one unionist seat.

East (London)Derry

DUP 40.1%

UUP 9.2%

Alliance 15.1%

SDLP 15.7%

SF 15.6%

Aontu 4.4%

The SDLP and SF are only 1% short of a quota but would receive some Aontu transfers so would each elect one. Alliance is an unlikely source for the remaining 2.4% of Aontu transfers but could receive some in tactical transfers. Alliance would certainly receive enough UUP transfers to reach the quota. There would be a net loss of one unionist seat.


DUP 10.1%

UUP 2.3%

Alliance 2.7%

SDLP 57%

SF 20.7%

PBP 2.8%

Aontu 4.3%

The combine unionist vote is 4.2% less than a quota so there would be a loss of the DUP seat.

Upper Bann

DUP 41%

UUP 12.4%

Alliance 12.9%

SDLP 9.2%

SF 24.6%

There were 3,350 more unionist votes than Alliance-SDLP-SF votes. However, there are 7,500 EU nationals on the electoral register here that were not permitted to vote in the Westminster election. If half vote in an Assembly election then the unionist vote would be less than 50%. There would also be some UUP transfers to Alliance so an Alliance candidate could be elected with a net loss of one unionist seat.

East Belfast

DUP 49.2%

UUP 5.9%

Alliance 44.9%

Alliance would receive some UUP transfers. Whether the 3rd unionist seat would be lost will depend on how many of the 2,400 SF and SDLP voters who voted in the Assembly election but may not have voted in the Westminster election will narrow the gap. There are also 2,400 EU nationals on the electorate here.

North Down

DUP 37.9%

UUP 12.1%

Conservative 4.8%

Alliance 45.2%

A 3rd non unionist seat is further away here. However, if the UUP vote declines further the UUP candidate could be eliminated and a 3rd non unionist could be elected on UUP transfers.

Overall, the 2019 Westminster results and the results of the LucidTalk poll indicate a loss of 5 unionist seats in an Assembly election with a possible loss of up to 8 seats.

Alliance would be the main beneficiary of those losses.

Endgame approaches

I’ve been very quiet for a long time I know.

My reasons for that are many but I suppose the reason that underpins it is the uncertainties of these days we are all living through. The virus issues are complex and game-changing for us in the north eastern part of this island as we are now seeing. The Democratic Road To A Reunited Ireland – AN SIONNACH FIONN

Overlaid with the Brexit situation, I think it is fair to say that the days ahead will be unpredictable to say the least. Shifting borders, shifting political allegiences, shifting sands of certainty and demographic change will define our future.

Next year we will have another census. The results will be, shall we say, interesting. There will be two demographic uncertainties that I will be most interested in.

The first will be the numbers who declare as neither nationalist nor loyalist inclined Irish (or British) citizens.

Many of this group will be post GFA born and will have a natural antipathy to being defined by their percieved alleigience to one side or the other. That is their right in a republic and I fully respect it.

The only, and obvious problem, is that they don’t yet live in a republic. They are subjects of an unelected monarch rather than full citizens of a country that elects its head of state.

The historical reasons for this are well documented and discussed. For any readers that wish to research this I’d suggest the 1918 election in Ireland (pre- partition) as a good starting point.

The second point of interest will be the volume of formerly pro unionist people who will engage in reunification consideration and conversations.

Living, as I do, in North Down, it is striking how many people actually consider reunification as a matter of when, not if. They regard the prospect not with horror or fear but with an interest in serious political practicalities. The NHS/HSE, Housing, Welfare, the Homeless, the Economy. These are serious questions and deserving of serious discussions involving all of us.

For some time, i’ve had an ongoing discussion with a serious journalist regarding the question of a Border poll and when to hold it. I think it would be fair to say we disagree on certain points. This journalist believes holding on for a decisive vote is preferable to pushing for a vote tomorrow which may pass with a narrow majority. A valid view.

Naturally, I want a vote tomorrow.

The tide of demographic change is irreversable at this stage and the demographic defecit in the north east of Ireland  that is now so obvious to an international as well as a national audience, means that the changes are being exercised by external means.

Our days of being victims are over.

Our days of rejoining the Irish nation are close.

That will require bravery and serious thinking about our path ahead.


The Border Poll

By Faha

A poll was recently published by covering numerous questions related to Northern Ireland. The actual polling was done by LucidTalk. Two of those questions were specific to a Border Poll.Image result for Ireland map in green

One question queried that if there were a referendum on whether Northern Ireland should remain in the UK or become part of a United Ireland would you?

The weighted results were:

Remain Part of the UK           46.8%

Part of a United Ireland         45.4%

Undecided                                   7.8%

There was a narrow majority in favour of remaining in the UK.

Another question was asked which was:

Would you support Irish unity as a pathway back to membership of the EU for Northern Ireland?

The results were:


Yes                       47.9%

No                        44.8%

Undecided            7.3%

Since Brexit has occurred for the UK, and will be final at the end of this year, it appears that any Border Poll would be in the context of Northern Ireland returning to the EU as part of a United Ireland.

The results showed a 3% plurality for becoming part of a United Ireland. I will explore the results of this question further. The results were broken down by the voter’s political party vote in the 2017 Assembly election and the results were:

Yes               No             Undecided

Unionist parties               3.7%           91.7%              4.7%

Nationalist parties         91.6%            4.4%               4.0%

Alliance-Green               59%              18%               23%

Non-Voters                     43.2%           39.8%            17%

Unsurprisingly, over 90% of unionist voters wish to remain in the UK and over 90% of nationalist voters would vote for a United Ireland.

However, a clear majority of Alliance-Green voters would vote for a United Ireland in order to keep Northern Ireland within the EU. Only 18% would vote to remain in the UK with many undecided. There is also a slight plurality of non-voters who would vote for a United Ireland.

This is significant since a Border Poll would have much higher turnout than an Assembly or Westminster election. The recent Westminster election had a turnout of 800,000. The Scottish independence referendum had a turnout of 85% and a similar turnout for a Border Poll would result in over 1,200,000 voters. SF and the DUP have the most motivated voters and non-voters are generally those who only occasionally vote and appear to have views that are more in line with those of Alliance-Green, SDLP and UUP voters.

Amongst unionist voters most of those who would vote for a United Ireland or are Undecided are UUP voters.

Most of the nationalist voters who would vote to remain in the UK or are Undecided are more likely voters who vote for minor nationalist parties (43%) and to a lesser extent SDLP voters (15%).

Voter preference was also tabulated by religion and the results were:

Yes              No               Undecided

Protestant                8%              85%                  7%

Catholic                   88%                7%                  5%

Other/None            52.7%         36.1%              11.2%

15% of Protestant voters would vote for a United Ireland or are Undecided.

This is twice as high as that for unionist voters and this would be due to Protestants who vote for Alliance, Green or nationalist parties.

Similarly, the 12% of Catholics who are in favour of remaining in the UK or are Undecided is higher than that for nationalist voters and would be due to Catholics who vote for Alliance, Green or unionist parties.

If the poll results are extrapolated to the party preference vote in the recent Westminster election the results would be identical. However, an actual Border Poll would include EU nationals (who are not permitted to vote in Westminster elections) as well as 16 and 17-year olds (who were permitted to vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum).

EU nationals are 3% of the total electorate and 7% of the voting population. Thus, it appears that a Border Poll would have a narrow majority for a United Ireland, perhaps 51% to 52%.

Should a Border Poll be called at this time?

I would strongly recommend against such a poll at this time. We have already seen how disruptive the Brexit vote was to UK society with a 52% vote in favour of leaving the EU with no idea of what that would actually entail.

We also do not know how Northern Ireland would be integrated into the Republic of Ireland. A 55% or higher majority, and ideally 60%, would be desirable for an United Ireland.

A year from now we will have clearer picture on voter attitudes. Ireland, the UK and EU will be going a through a coronavirus pandemic with unknown consequences on the economy.

There could still be a Hard Brexit late December which could adversely affect the Northern Ireland economy.

Next January, the calling of a Border Poll will need to be seriously considered if voter opinion indicates a clear majority would favour a United Ireland.

What if? – Assembly Election 2020

By Faha

There has been some speculation recently that there will be an Assembly election called by the Northern Ireland Secretary of State in January. With the Westminster election results it is possible to estimate the number of seats that each party could win in each constituency.

There are a few caveats with these predictions. There were some Image result for northern ireland assembly map"constituencies where not all the parties competed (North, South and East Belfast, North Down, Fermanagh-South Tyrone) and there is evidence of some tactical voting in certain constituencies.

EU nationals were not permitted to vote in the Westminster election and the addition of these voters in an Assembly election could influence the outcome as this could add another 10,000+ voters.

There is also the issue of whether the nationalist parties, especially Sinn Fein, should agree to an election without certain changes in the nature of the Assembly. The issue of gerrymandering of the current constituencies also needs to be addressed.

Northern Ireland



































Other Unionist







Overall for Northern Ireland the Westminster unionist vote was 43% and the nationalist vote 40% with 17% for others (almost all Alliance). This was a nominal decline of 6% in the unionist vote and 2% in the nationalist vote.

For the individual constituencies these were the results and would be the implications for an Assembly election.

























Other Unionist




The SDLP would elect 3 on these numbers. SF would elect 2 as Aontu, PBP and Alliance are far behind SF in the percentage vote. The DUP won a unionist seat with only 500 votes to spare and it appears likely there would be no unionist seat with a total unionist vote of 12.4% (Quota is 16.7%)

East Londonderry























Other Unionist




SF and the SDLP are only 1% short of a quota and would receive enough Aontu transfers to elect both. Alliance is only 1.5% short of a quota and would receive enough UUP transfers for a seat. The fact that SF, SDLP and Alliance have an equal vote just short of a quota indicates there will be one unionist seat lost here.

West Tyrone
























Other Unionist




There should be no change here. The SDLP are over a quota. SF are short of 3 quotas but should elect 3 on transfers. The total unionist vote is 28.75% which is far short of 2 quotas (33.3%) and the DUP has no source of transfers for the additional 4.5% needed to elect 2.

Mid Ulster























Other Unionist




No change here. The total unionist vote is 3% short of 2 quotas and the DUP have no source of transfers from the non unionist parties.

Fermanagh South Tyrone






















Other Unionist




The 3rd SF seat is at risk here and was only won in 2017 when the SDLP candidate was eliminated 60 votes behind the 3rd SF candidate. The doubling of the Alliance vote here increases the risk to the 3rd SF candidate since Alliance voters are much more likely to transfer to the SDLP.

Newry and Armagh























Other Unionist


No change here. Although it appears the 3rd SF seat may be at risk the total unionist vote is only 30%, more than 3% short of 2 quotas. Alliance have half a quota but if the 3 SF candidates are balanced Alliance will be eliminated.

Upper Bann






















Other Unionist




SF would win 2 seats here since the SDLP would be eliminated due to the higher Alliance vote. The total unionist vote is 53%. If the DUP have perfect balancing the UUP would be eliminated and Alliance would be elected with some UUP transfers. There is a significant EU nationals vote here so the total unionist vote could be only 50% which would make an Alliance seat more likely.

South Down























Other Unionist


SF is just short of 2 quotas and the SDLP is 4% short of 2 quotas. Aontu transfers will help both parties but the SDLP would still be 1.5% short of 2 quotas. Balancing will determine outcome. Alliance are almost 3% short of a quota but will be closer on UUP transfers. Only one unionist seat here.

North Antrim






















Other Unionist





There would be one less unionist seat here. The nationalist vote is 19.5%, almost 3% over a quota. That surplus will go to Alliance which will put them over a quota.

East Antrim























Other Unionist





There would also be one less unionist seat here. Alliance is 6% short of 2 quotas but the combined Green, SDLP and SF vote is 10% so 2 Alliance will easily be elected.

South Antrim






















Other Unionist




No change here with 3 unionists, 1 Alliance and 1 SF.

Lagan Valley






















Other Unionist





Alliance is far ahead of the combined SDLP-SF vote and will win 2 seats here with the 2nd at the expense of the SDLP.
























Other Unionist





Another lost unionist seat here as Alliance is only 5% short of 2 quotas. The combined Green, SDLP and SF vote is 9% so Alliance should easily elect 2 on transfers.

North Down




















Other Unionist





There was no Green candidate so it is unknown whether it would be one Green and one Alliance elected or 2 Alliance. If the UUP candidate is eliminated it is possible that 2 Alliance and 1 Green could be elected on UUP and other unionist transfers.

Belfast East












Other Unionist



The UUP could lose their seat to the DUP. However, the council election results indicate this may not occur. However, if the UUP vote does not return to council levels then 2 Alliance and 1 Green could be elected on UUP transfers. Turnout was only 50% in nationalist Short Strand so if that vote turns out for an Assembly election there could be a lost unionist seat here.

South Belfast





















Other Unionist




On raw numbers the SDLP would win 3 seats here. However, there were no SF or Green candidates. Nevertheless, the SDLP could win 2. There is only one unionist seat here so the other 2 seats would be 1 Alliance and SF and the Greens for the 5th seat.

Belfast North




















Other Unionist




The raw vote shows only 2 unionist seats and 3 SF seats. SF will probably win 2 with the SDLP or Alliance winning the 3rd non unionist seat.

Belfast West























Other Unionist




PBP will win one as they are just short of a quota. The DUP are over 3% short of a quota with no source for transfers. SF could win 4 again. The risk to the 4th seat comes from the SDLP since the SDLP will receive many Alliance transfers and some Aontu transfers. With good balancing SF could retain 4.

An Assembly election would result in a net loss of 5 unionist seats for a total of 35. Nationalist seats would be in the 39 to 41 range so basically unchanged. Alliance and Green seats would increase by 4 to 6 and could be as high as 16 seats but no fewer than 14.

They are a few matters that need to be addressed before SF, SDLP, Alliance and Greens agree to a new election and the formation of a new government at Stormont.

#1 Petition of Concern

This was originally inserted in the GFA to protect the nationalist minority from domination by a unionist majority. However, it was abused by the DUP to prevent passage of any legislation the DUP did not agree with. The unionists are now in a minority in the current Assembly and likely an even smaller minority in the next one. The unionist minority does not need protection. The petition of concern should be abolished.

#2 Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister

There should be no requirement as to the composition of the Executive. A voluntary coalition should be introduced. The unionist minority cannot appoint any unionist to the Executive without the support of the Alliance and Green parties. It is inconceivable that those parties would vote for any DUP MLA for First Minister or even Deputy First Minister. The nationalist parties are actually in control in this matter. for example, the nationalist parties could elect Clare Bailey as First Minister and Sorcha Eastwood as Deputy First Minister (or reverse the positons I mentioned). The Green and Alliance parties would be ecstatic. The nationalist parties would find this acceptable and female MLA’s would celebrate the outcome. The DUP would be outraged but there is nothing they could do about it.

Of course, both the DUP and SF would be opposed to a voluntary coalition. SF would be opposed since they want a guaranteed position in the Executive. The DUP would be opposed since their vote would decline.

They could no longer frighten unionist voters with the prospect of a SF First Minister.

#3 Gerrymandering

The current constituencies are based upon a review that was last completed 12 years ago. The recent review was never acted upon by Westminster.

The constituencies have become grossly unequal in electors with Newry and Armagh containing almost 85,000 voters and East Antrim only 65,600. The Boundary Review for Northern Ireland should be separate for Stormont constituencies and the 18 constituencies should not vary more than +- 2%.

An impartial Boundary Review Commission should be appointed with equal input from the British and Irish governments.

It should not take 8 years as the current review has done and should complete all its work in one year.

Final Westminster Polling

 By Faha

LucidTalk conducted a poll of Northern Ireland voters and their Westminster voting preferences from November 27th to November 30th. The poll was commissioned by Electoral Calculus and Remain United. I will discuss some of the findings in this poll.

Compared to the previous poll there are increased percentages of voters who Image result for voting day northern Ireland"state they are 100% certain to vote. In the previous poll unionist voters were significantly less likely to be 100% certain of voting compared to nationalist voters. However, now the percentages are almost equal between nationalist and unionist voters in the 94% to 95% range. However, Protestant voters are 91% certain to vote and Catholic voters 95% certain to vote.

Westminster voting intentions, excluding nonvoters and undecided (5% of voters), showed the results were:

SF 25.2%

SDLP 13.0%

Alliance 15.6%

UUP 11.6%

DUP 29.6%

Others 5.0%

The Other group includes PBP, Aontu, Independents, Green, UKIP and Conservatives. Over 70% of the vote for Others comes from the Catholic community and only 18% from the Protestant community. This indicates that much of that 5% is PBP, Aontu, Greens and Independents.

If only those 100% certain to vote are included the unionist vote would decrease minimally in the poll. The results are much more influenced by the weighting of the sample. The sample of those 100% certain to vote was weighted by Religion as follows:

Catholic 38.6%

Protestant 39.1%

None/Other 22.4%

The percentage of Catholics and Protestants are therefore equal and this is consistent with an extrapolation of the 2011 Census adding in new voters and removing voters (mainly elderly) who have died.

However, the 22.4% shown as None/Other is much higher than the 11% indicated in the census. The higher sample in the poll could be due to the increasing secular identity in Northern Ireland since 2011. It could also be due to over sampling of None/Other voters. A 22.4% None/Other sample, rather than the 11% indicated in the census, has a significant effect on the poll findings. This is because the Alliance voter preference in the None/Other group is over 40%.

I calculated voter preference based on a None/Other percentage similar to the 11% in the census and Catholic-Protestant percentages in the census. The results are:

SF 26.0%

SDLP 13.3%

Alliance 12.5%

UUP 12.0%

DUP 31.0%

Others 5.2%

The total SF-SDLP vote goes up by 1.1% and the total UUP-DUP vote goes up by 1.8%. The Alliance vote declines by 3%.

Electoral Calculus did do seat predictions but the average number of voters per constituency would be 130 which is too small a sample to give accurate predictions. The 5.2% vote for minor candidates may decrease since there is a tendency for such voters not to waste their vote on election day.

Based on the new poll finding and my adjustment I would conclude that:

The DUP vote will be down significantly from their 36% in 2107.

If this is a uniform decline they will not win in North Down, South Belfast and North Belfast. They could also lose East Belfast and South Antrim and possibly Upper Bann.

The Alliance vote will be up significantly from their 7.9% in 2017. It could be over 50% higher than their 2017 vote. This will probably not be a uniform swing and will most likely be concentrated in North Down, East Belfast, South Belfast and South Antrim. In half the constituencies they will poll 3% to 4%.

The vote for the SDLP, UUP and SF are within the margin of error for their 2017 results. SF may lose 2% of their vote to Aontu but this could only be of significance in Foyle and South Down.

Part 2 -Election 2019 – The Next Nine

By Faha

Analysis of the remaining 9 constituencies for Thursdays poll as promised

West Tyrone- Safe Sinn Fein

SF won here in 2017 with 47% of the vote. Based on the Council election they should maintain that percentage. The UUP, Alliance and SDLP percentage will be up and that of the DUP will be down.Image result for crossing the border in ireland"

Mid Ulster- Safe Sinn Fein

SF will easily win here, though Council election results suggest their vote will be down. The SF vote was 54.5% in 2017 and may only be 50% with an increase in the SDLP vote.

Newry and Armagh- Safe Sinn Fein

SF won with 48% in 2017 and Council results indicate it should be at least 45%. The overall unionist vote will be down, as there are almost 3,000 new voters on the register, few of whom will be voting unionist. The SDLP vote should be up.

North Antrim: Safe DUP

Ian Paisley Jnr. won with 59% in 2017. The TUV and UUP received only 7% each. I expect the DUP vote to be down dramatically.

The DUP only received 30% of the Council vote with the TUV and UUP each at approximately 16%. The TUV is not standing for Westminster.

However, Ian Paisley was suspended from Westminster a year ago and with the low DUP Council vote I expect his vote to be only in the 40% range. He may pick up some of the TUV Council vote as well as some independent unionist votes but it is likely that the UUP vote will be up, possibly as high as 30%. Not enough to win.

East Londonderry: Safe DUP

Gregory Campbell of the DUP won with 48% in 2017. His vote will be down in this election but should exceed 40%.

This is a constituency where a Remain pact could have defeated the DUP as the non unionist vote in the Council election was 46%.

Upper Bann: Leaning DUP

David Simpson of the DUP won here in 2017 with 43.5% of the vote. He was not selected for this election due to a scandal and Carla Lockhart, a DUP MLA, will be standing.

The UUP received 15.5%, SF 28%, SDLP 9% and Alliance 4.5%.

The decline in the DUP vote, noted in the Lucid Talk poll, suggests the DUP vote could decline to 35%. It is unlikely that the SF vote would increase to that level to defeat the DUP but here could be some tactical voting for SF from SDLP or Alliance voters.

The DUP vote was 28% in the Council election with the UUP at 22%. There are 2,700 new voters on the register with 1,500 added in November.

Unionist turnout has historically been much higher than nationalist turnout here. To illustrate this the current electorate of 83,000, based on demographics, would be 42,000 unionist and 41,000 nationalist or Alliance with 100% turnout.

In 2017 30,000 of those unionists voted versus only 21,000 of nationalist and Alliance voters. Unless this changes in this election SF will be unable to overtake the DUP.

Fermanagh South Tyrone: Leaning Sinn Fein

Always a close contest between SF and the unionist candidate here. SF won in 2017 by 875 votes.

There are 2,200 new voters on the register (1,200 added in November) and these are likely to be younger Remain voters. Tom Elliott of the UUP appears to be in the Leave camp.

Unionist turnout will be down here due to Brexit. Whether the new border is a hard border with the Republic or it is in the Irish Sea it will be devastating for unionist farmers. It is unlikely that they will turn out and vote to support their own bankruptcy and loss of their farms.

SF should win with a 1,000 to 2,000 vote margin.

Foyle: Leaning SDLP

SF won this seat in a major upset in 2017 by only 169 votes. This seat will likely revert to the SDLP in this election. The Council results in May were approximately:

SF 26%

SDLP 31%

Aontu 2.5%

PBP 8.5%

Other nationalist 10%

The SDLP had a 5% lead over SF. Since Aontu and PBP are both competing the only uncertainty is where the 10% received by other nationalists will go.

In looking at the transfer pattern for those other nationalist it appears that the SDLP and PBP received more of those transfers than SF.

There were 1,600 new voters added in November and these are likely to be younger voters that would favour SF or PBP. However, I expect that the SDLP will win here by 5%. There may be a few tactical votes for the SDLP from Alliance and UUP voters which did not occur in 2017.

South Down: Too close to call between Sinn Fein and the SDLP

There were some interesting changes here between the 2015 and 2017 election.

In both elections the total unionist vote was 10,800. The Alliance vote increased by 200 and the SDLP vote declined by 200. However, the total vote increased by 8,000 from 2015 to 2017 and all 8,000 of those additional voters voted for SF and SF won with a margin of 2,400 and 40% to 35%. .

The SF vote held up well in the Council election at 34.6%. There was 8.6% for independent nationalists so the SF vote should be in the 38% to 39% range. Aontu received 2.5% and are competing.

The SDLP only have a chance if some Alliance voters vote for the SDLP. There are also an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 unionist voters who are Remain voters and some may vote for the SDLP in this election.

SF have a slight edge but it should be closer than the 2017 election. The SDLP can only win with tactical voting by Alliance and unionist Remain voters.

Overall I expect a SF loss and SDLP gain in Foyle. There is a small possibility of a SF upset win in Upper Bann and a SDLP upset win in South Down.

Westminster Election 2019 – Change comes dripping slow

 By Faha

The Westminster election is imminent so I will analyze the 9 Belfast region constituencies followed by another analysis of the remaining 9 constituencies.

The recent District Council elections provide a clue as to the Westminster vote. There was also a recent LucidTalk poll on voter preferences. There has as well, been a large increase in voter registration. Between the Westminster election in June 2017 and November 1st 2019 the electorate increased 23,000. However, in the month of November anothe27,000 voters were added.Image result for young voters Ireland"

Brexit is also the main issue in this election and Northern Ireland voted 56% Remain. Recent polls have shown that the electorate is now 60% Remain.

The District Council elections in May 2019 showed the following results with 677,000 votes.

SF 23.4%

SDLP 11.9%

Aontu 1.1%

PBP 1.4%

Other Nationalist 3.8%

Total Nationalist 41.6%

Alliance 11.5%

Green 2.1%

Other 0.5%

Total 14.1%

UUP 13.9%

DUP 23.8%

Other Unionist 6.6%

Total Unionist 44.3%

Not all of the 677,000 voters who voted in May are eligible to vote in the Westminster election. EU nationals who voted in the District Council election are not permitted to vote in Westminster election so excluding those EU voters there may be 665,000 voters who can and will probably vote in the Westminster election.

However, Westminster elections have a much higher turnout than local elections. In 2017 812,000 voters out of an electorate of 1,244,000 voted for a turnout of 65%. Since there are an additional 50,000 voters on the electorate one would expect a voter turnout of 845,000 voters this week with identical turnout. So another 180,000 voters could vote this week compared to May.

Who will these voters be?

The extra 50,000 new registered voters are more likely to be younger voters since that age group has the lowest rate of voter registration. Of the 27,000 new voters added in November the largest increases were in North and South Belfast with 2,800 in each constituency.

In looking at the ward data they appear to be more likely non unionist voters.

East Antrim: Safe DUP

Sammy Wilson easily won with 57% in 2017. The new UUP leader Steve Aiken is standing here so the UUP vote will be up. The DUP vote should be down but probably still above 50%.

Lagan Valley: Safe DUP

Jeffrey Donaldson won with almost 60%. This constituency voted 53% Leave and now would likely be evenly divided on Brexit. The DUP should win with slightly over 50%.

Strangford: Safe DUP

Jim Shannon won with 62% in 2017. His vote will be lower this time but still comfortably above 50%.

West Belfast: Safe Sinn Fein

SF won with 59% of the vote in 2017. The District Council results indicate they will maintain this vote and may reach 60%.

South Antrim: Too close to call between UUP and DUP.

In 2017 Paul Girvan of the DUP defeated Danny Kinahan of the UUP by 38.2% to 30.8% with a margin of 3,200 votes. South Antrim was evenly divided between Leave and Remain. There have been 3,400 new voters added since 2017 (5%) and it is likely that many of these are younger Remain voters. Recent polls show that the DUP vote will be down 20% from 2017 with a steady UUP vote so this constituency will be very close. The District Council election showed that the DUP was 5% higher than the UUP and 10% higher than Alliance with 7% for independent unionists. Even minimal tactical voting by Alliance and nationalist voters would result in the defeat of the DUP, a temptation that some of those voters will find hard to resist. I would give the UUP a slight edge due to Brexit.

North Down: Leaning Alliance

IN 2017 Sylvia Hermon defeated Alex Easton of the DUP 41% to 38% with a margin of only 1,200. While Easton is standing again Sylvia Hermon has retired. The UUP have a well-known local MLA, Alan Chamber, as their candidate. There is also a Conservative candidate. Stephen Farry is standing for Alliance with backing from the Green Party, SDLP and SF (all of whom are not competing). In the May District Council election the UUP polled 20% and the DUP 28.5% with 9% for other unionists. The Alliance vote was 26% and the Green vote 14.7% with 1.5% for nationalist and non unionist independents. Since the vast majority of the Green and nationalist voters will vote Alliance, the Alliance vote should be at least 41%. Even if most of the other unionist voters choose the DUP that DUP vote will not exceed 36% to 37%. There are also 1,600 new voters on the register and most of these are likely younger and/or Remain voters. North Down voted 52% Remain and this would be over 55% in 2019. Alliance should win here.

East Belfast: Too close to call between Alliance and DUP

In 2017 Gavin Robinson of the DUP easily defeated Naomi Long of Alliance 56% to 36% with a margin of 8,500 votes. However, half of that margin was due to tactical voting by UUP voters. The UUP vote collapsed from 13% in the 2017 Assembly election to 3% in Westminster. What has changed in 2019? The 2019 Council election showed both the DUP and Alliance receiving 33%. The Green Party and nationalist parties received 10.5%, the UUP 13.5% and other unionists 10%. The DUP will receive most of the other 10% unionist vote and Alliance will receive the 10.5% Green nationalist vote. East Belfast voted 51% Leave but would now be a narrow Remain constituency. There are also 2,700 new voters since 2017 (1,700 in November alone). These are more likely younger and Remain voters. These new voters and the willingness of nonvoting Remain voters to vote will determine the outcome. Also if there is any tactical voting by UUP voters, as there was in 2017, the DUP will be helped if this occurs. I believe that tactical voting to the DUP by UUP Remain voters is very unlikely and some of these voters may vote Alliance.

South Belfast: Safe SDLP

The dynamics of the election here are totally different than in 2017. In 2017 Emma Little Pengelly of the DUP won over the Alasdair McDonnell of the SDLP 30% to 26% with a margin of 2,000. In 2019 Claire Hanna is now competing for the SDLP. Furthermore, events in North Belfast precipitated a chain reaction. Initially, the new leader of the UUP, Stephen Aiken, stated that the UUP would compete in all 18 constituencies. However, in North Belfast this led to loyalist paramilitary threats against the UUP so the UUP decided not to compete in North Belfast. This in turn led to a decision by the SDLP to stand down in North Belfast, East Belfast and North Down and their voters were advised to back the strongest pro Remain candidate. The Green Party followed by standing down in North Belfast, South Belfast, East Belfast and North Down and asked their voters to vote for anti-Brexit candidates. The leader of the Green Party, Claire Bailey, openly endorsed Claire Hanna. SF also declined to compete in South Belfast. The combined SDLP-SF-Green vote in 2017 was 47% which far exceeds the DUP vote of 30%. The combined total unionist vote in the Council election was only 32% while the combined SDLP-SF-Green vote was 44%. Alliance received 24%. There were also 3,800 new voters added since 2017 (2,800 in November) and few of these are in unionist areas. While not all Green and SF voters will vote SDLP, the SDLP vote should be well over 40% and the DUP will be less than 30%.

North Belfast: Leaning Sinn Fein

See South Belfast above for how events unfolded in North Belfast. The 2017 vote was:

Nigel Dodds DUP 21,240 (46.2%)

John Finucane SF 19,159 (41.7%)

SDLP 2,058 (4.5%)

Workers Party 360 (0.8%)

Green 644 (1.4%)

Alliance 2,475 (5.4%)

The DUP won by 2,081 votes. However, in 2019 only SF, Alliance and the DUP are competing. There are over 3,000 SDLP, Green and Workers Party voters that will choose other candidates. While some may vote Alliance, more than 2,000 will vote SF. So if that 2017 election had been held with only SF, DUP and Alliance candidates it would have been very close. What has changed since 2017? The Council election showed a combined unionist vote of 41% and a combined nationalist vote of 43% and a combined Alliance-Green vote of 16%. 4,000 new voters have been added since 2017 with 2,800 in November. It appears the increased registration is concentrated in certain wards and it is likely that less than 40% of those voters are unionist voters. While this election would have been even in 2017 the demographic changes alone would give SF a 500 vote edge.

The recent actions of the loyalist paramilitaries, as well as the intimidation of Catholic families attempting to move into housing in Ballysillan, will likely increase nationalist turnout. It is also possible that some Alliance voters will vote SF in order to defeat Nigel Dodds. I expect SF to win by a narrow margin though it could exceed 1,000 votes.

Overall, I expect the loss of DUP seats in South Belfast and North Belfast and a gain of 1 seat each for SF, SDLP and Alliance. East Belfast and South Antrim are too close to call. If another LucidTalk poll is released this week with Westminster voting intentions I will update my predictions.