A little light Reading


A Guest blog by Sammy McNally

With no book to hand on my recent EasyJet flight from Split in Croatia, I reluctantly reached for the in-flight magazine (EasyJet Traveller).

July’s in flight magazine was however, a damn good read  – with interesting, well written and informative articles about those cities and countries to which easyJet delivers and collects its tourist cargo.Sopwith

…….and each month they pick a few destinations which they major on – places which presumably are at their best or have something special to offer in the month/season that’s in it.

In Northern Ireland of course, the month of July heralds the marching season, about which the Easyjet mag informed us ‘hundreds of colourful parades take place across Northern Ireland on the 12th July bank holiday to commemorate the 1690 Battle of the Boyne’.

As the plane rose over Croatia and made its way northwards over the former Yugoslavia I couldn’t help but ponder if easyJet also covered other ‘festivals’ which both ‘celebrated’ and exacerbated ethnic tensions – perhaps August’s or September’s Monthly issues covered ‘celebrations of culture’  when perhaps ethnic tensions between Serbs and Croats reaches a crescendo and tourists can enjoy the spectacle of thousands of police officers on the streets – and the novelty of blocked off residential areas –  with a more than an even chance of some good old fashioned Balkan rioting?

(Although I stand to be corrected, I think our Balkan friends may well have moved on – and are trying to put the past behind them – not something the Orange Order could be reasonably accused of).

To be fair to easyJet, there was a coded message which they implanted at the end of their promo piece which stated ‘just check ahead for travel disruptions and advice’………..perhaps attempting to cover themselves in case of complaint from travellers –  though arguably they should have also added ‘and make sure to check the local news to ensure you are not caught up in a sectarian  riot’ or perhaps they should have warned that those travellers who have a dislike for ‘celebrations of culture’  – which in many instances are about stirring up ethnic and religious tensions –  should give the parades a wide berth?

Given that over 40% of the people in Northern Ireland itself probably could not agree with the contention that the parades are ‘great to watch’ I suspect that a significantly higher proportion of EasyJet travellers (if they understood the ethnic, religious and cultural context within which the marches took place) , would also feel disinclined to be enthusiastic about ‘celebrations of culture’ which require stringent legislation and policing to keep their sectarian trappings and supporters under control and which also contribute so negatively to community relations in Northern Ireland.

Update: Below are the e-mail communications between Sammy and Easyjet with names redacted for privacy purposes BD.

Email 1

Dear Sammy,

  We rely on an external network of writers, based in each of our 130+ destinations, to provide the recommendations for our destination guides. These writers are always locally based and are respected journalists in their community and it’s their expertise and on-the-ground knowledge that makes the content of our guides so useful.  

In this instance, the author of our Belfast guide felt the event’s inclusion was of cultural interest to our readers, however, we understand the sensitivities around the event – not least the activities that take place away from the parades and can only apologise for it not being spotted at our normally rigorous editorial sign off.

 Kind regards,

XXXXXXXXXX

 Brand executive

My Email.

Dear XXXXXXXX,

 thanks for reply. 

 Can you confirm that in future editions of Traveller, assuming the sensitivities surrounding the parade and the activities that take place away from the parade remain – that you will not be including such recommendations for travellers in future years?

 Regards, Sammy

Email 2

Hi Sammy,

 Yes, I can confirm that we will not be including such recommendations in future.

 Thanks,

XXXXXXXX

A stroll down Bangor Pier


Here we go again folks, we’re entering the home straight towards the “traditional” taig baiting season.

I went for a stroll down Bangor Pier yesterday. It was the first day of the “Sea Bangor” festival celebrating the seaside towns long maritime association as a port on the east coast. I was somewhat disappointed I must admit. The entire pier consisted of a tall shipTall Ship from the Netherlands, brilliant! and a British warship along with 9 (I counted them) recruitment stalls for the British army including and I kid you not, a cuddly bear stall with uniformed bears. Perhaps there was a subtle message there for fans of the latest reformed ibrox domiciled franchise?

Meanwhile, in this part of the world, it’s groundhog day for dummies.

I used the phrase “Taig baiting” deliberately. My view of the whole thing is that much of the purpose of the day is not about defining who and what the British minority in Ireland are, and what they are for but rather what they are against and how they will defend that position. It is no accident that much of the display at this time of year is quasi militaristic in nature and the message is unambiguous.

The message is simple, we will defend our position by force of arms if necessary.

Hmmm, not exactly a unionist outreach strategy is it?

Regarding the flags, a couple of estates in Bangor are festooned with the usual paramilitary reminders, the Stormont standard, upside down union flags, union flags flown below the paramilitary ones etc. Thnkfully, the town centre is free of flags this year, no doubt in exchange for council funding. An interesting civic responsibility policy?

As for the Flags? Suffice to say they are a symbol, often used by those who lack confidence in their opinions or feel their beliefs are under threat. They are important in that sense as they often give voice to people who lack the ability to articulate their views and are unwilling or unable to argue that point of view in a conventional way by engaging in argument and persuasion their perceived “opponents”

Flags shouldn’t be like that, they should be a symbol of unity, not domination, pride, not supremacy, identity, not hatred of neighbours, confidence, not hubris.

It is unfortunate if any group of people identify themselves by what they are not.

Just this week, the Orange Order couldn’t bring themselves to include an Irish national flag in their new museum reflecting their “south of the border” members, although the place was  funded by Irish taxpayers to the tune of €700,000. Is anyone surprised?

Personally, I’d enjoy a few pints with Enda Kenny and a few home truths might be thrown in instead of the customary crisps regarding funding these bigots. Mind you, He’s from Mayo and those boys don’t tend to like us Dubs.

Meanwhile, the tour of the north (Which bits?) parade passed by St Patricks on Clifton St, actually observing the legal rulings regarding their behaviour, fantastic. Then one of the bands broke into the famed “Famine song” the second they had passed the determined point. This displayed the usual stunning lack of self awareness and knowledge of history for which such bands are renowned.

Still, this is progress of a sort, which, to borrow Séamus Heaneys phrase, drips slow in these parts.

One day, political unionism will have to cut clean and tell its followers the truth. The truth is that unionism is a minority, not just in Ireland but in this region also now. If the myth of superiority, supremacism and hubris is not challenged, the shock to the mindset of the British people in Ireland will be all the greater.

Meanwhile, in sunny Bangor, the pretence that all is as it was may go on. Although it has the oldest age demographic in the North, the symbolism of marching the youngest and most impressionable Bangorians off the end of the pier in the service of an army responsible for the murder of many, many citizens in Ireland, under the guise of a “festival” here left me a little cold.

Remember, on this day that the Irish people make a decision on their constitution, that many on this island have no vote. That must change


This is a very short post.

I think my point is made in the title.

It is essentially about a democratic deficit upon which principle, of course, the northern statelet was founded. Unlike some, I trust the people to come to a sensible decision. My own opinion is simply that I have no right to inflict my opinions, political, sexual or marital upon others. I’m a Yes Man.

In other news, the Stormont (6) county council is heading for collapse. Again.

Perhaps it’s time for a rethink? The only alternative game in town is Joint Authority.

Fermanagh South Tyrone – Whatever Next?


A guest blog by KenFerm

Ferm ST Result 2015

It is with no pleasure that I must say that whilst I was disappointed, I was not surprised, that FST was lost to nationalism, with Unionism once again donning the triumphant cloak of righteous entitlement.

The outcome was always on the cards given the dynamic being played out at home, hearth and meeting place.Dreary Steeples

Human nature being what it is, hope swirled expectantly in hearts even though the cool mind said otherwise. It’s still a bitter, hard pill.

A number of factors combined the last time that enabled Michelle to grab the seat, and a number of factors combined this time to reverse the position.

The dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone still stand proud and strong, the mist has swirled and, for now, cast an orange glow……  until the next time.  All Change and No Change.

The factors that combined in 2010 were:

  • Michelle was popular, with a high profile and seen as an effective Agriculture minister with a human touch
  • Soft SDLP voters were able to vote for her without too many qualms,
  • She didn’t raise the hackles of some unionists, with some farming unionists, perhaps being open to support her given what she achieved as minister.
  • The unionist candidate was an unknown, and gave the appearance, however cruelly of being a lightweight but with a pro-union rosette pinned onto his lapel. That went down badly with a number of unionist voters.
  • The SDLP candidate was centrally imposed and regarded as an outsider. This backfired and made it easier for SDLP voters to switch to the candidate with a chance of winning.

I would argue the factors this time that combined were:

  • The unionist vote was more energised, given the closeness of the previous vote, and the delight of nationalists upon winning. It stuck in their craw and was an extra motivating element.
  • The feeling amongst unionists this was a last stand pivotal moment, lose now and lose forever.
  • Tom is high profile, well known and with little, if any, negative connotations for unionists.
  • John was a local SDLP candidate and could be expected to maintain the rump SDLP vote, given the debacle of the previous imposition. These are people who cannot bring themselves to vote for the ‘dirty Shinners’. The SDLP vote was not going to collapse.
  • Michelle is likeable, well regarded but had a much lower profile, certainly in her first number of years as MP, with little to point to on delivery and with a lack of a campaigning focus.
  • Politics, as in many rural places, can be personal and the lack of persistent visibility told.
  • SF relied on demographic change to provide a buffer, a false dawn that sapped their focus.
  • Since 2010 a large number of young voters have left for pastures new, near and far afield.
  • Emigration combined with a lack of a jobs drive & inward investment paid dividends for the unionists.
  • There is a significant number of ‘traditional republicans’ who did not, and will not, vote for SF now. These are less ‘dissidents’ but rather voters who feel betrayed by SF and have mostly walked away from politics. South Fermanagh would have quite a number of such voters. It crosses families, friendships and such feelings are now bitter & deeply held. SF typically reacts as a stung porcupine rather than engaging, reaching out. It compounds the issue for the future.
  • There are also ordinary nationalists who have simply switched off from politics, the squabbles and the apparent pettiness.

The electoral cycle turns and the dreary steeples shall remain unbowed, waiting for the next chapter of our placid yet deeply earnest contest.

The next contest for this Westminster seat starts now. The clock is ticking for Tom.

The campaign must start with an honest and detailed look at the underlying reasons behind the voting pattern & turnout.

The defeat can in turn be a motivating factor for nationalists; any misstep on fair play, equality, and triumphalism should be noted and stored for later use.

Engage, with honesty, voters in all their complexity, building consensus and alliances, across the broad range of nationalist opinion.

Campaign relentlessly on local issues, be seen to deliver on local needs and to offer hope and a desire to expect better.

Some other points that I think are worth mentioning.

With a Tory majority there will be a boundary commission that will recast the number and boundaries of constituencies. The realignment will not be kind to nationalism. It is in the common interests of Unionism and the Tories to ‘finesse’ the outcome.

Both SF and SDLP should or more importantly, need, to work together to counter this common threat. SF must not be tempted to play the ‘bash SDLP’ card. The Westminster boundaries and number of NI seats will determine the future shape of the Assembly. It was a strategic mistake to agree in a reduction of MLA’s per constituency before the review was concluded. SF’s over-riding objective should be to maximise the nationalist number of MLAs not just their own numbers. Both parties need to work together, on closely detailed policy and effective number crunching to ensure the best result for nationalism (and both parties).

With an English Tory majority, we now have English rule. An English rule that is harsh, right-wing and tied to a neo-con agenda. The Irish are naturally fair-minded, socially responsible with a desire for social solidarity.

It is an opportunity to shape opinion and sentiment.

The union has so far failed and will continue to fail all of us.

We deserve a better future.

Vote Early, Vote often


We are on the eve of the next election afflicting (sic) the long suffering voters of this part of Ireland.

We have a choice between the ballygobackwardsmen of the DUP and TUV, TV (Doesn’t like pacts) Mike,  Al (turn out the lights) McDonnell, the “Ginger Ninja” herself, Naomi and the Shinnisters.

I’ll be doing an all-nighter tomorrow. I am supremely indifferent to who the next English PM is although I will enjoy seeing how the SNP and Plaid Cymru do. What I’m interested in is the following:

Fermanagh South Tyrone

Upper Bann

East Belfast

North Belfast

South Belfast

South Antrim

In my humble opinion these are the only seats with a degree of uncertainty.

The key thing from a nationalist perspective is to get the vote out. I noted with interest the North Belfast SF leaflet highlighting the census results. It was clumsily done but the reaction it provoked was very revealing. Perhaps Unionism should have put a sock over it’s Achilles heel?

Madness in May part 4…… How shaky is Nationalism?


Here is the final part of Faha’s analysis for this weeks election  

Nationalist Constituencies- The Seats in Contention

This review covers the 4 nationalist seats where there is a possibility that the incumbent could lose the election. I will discuss them in the order of likelihood that there could be a change.

Fermanagh South Tyrone

West May FST

This seat could be lost by SF for several reasons. The most obvious is the unionist electoral pact with the UUP candidate Tom Elliot the only unionist candidate. If you look at the combined nationalist vote in the 2014 council elections it was 23083 (52.75%). The combined unionist vote was 20206 (46.2%). These totals reflect the vote in the DEA’s. However, the figures would not have been the same if a Westminster election had been held the same day. There is a small section of the Killyman ward that is in the new Armagh-Banbridge –Craigavon council which is entirely unionist and there are 400 unionist votes there. There is also a small section of the Dungannon DEA that is in the Mid Ulster Westminster constituency which is almost entirely nationalist and there are 400 nationalist votes there. So the actual vote within the Fermanagh South Tyrone Westminster boundaries would have been 22700 for nationalist parties and 20600 for unionist parties. Another major factor is that EU nationals are not eligible to vote in Westminster elections. There are over 3000 EU nationals who were on the district council electoral register but not on the Westminster electoral register. While it is unknown how many of those voted in 2014 it is likely if those voters were excluded for a Westminster election the total nationalist vote would have been less than 22000. This indicates that SF will lose this seat unless there is a large increase in nationalist turnout. The 2014 vote indicates that there is barely a 1000 nationalist plurality over the total unionist vote for a Westminster election. SF faces an uphill battle to retain this seat. The SDLP vote would have to collapse to 1000 from 3574 in 2010 and the Green Party would need to attract very few nationalist voters. Furthermore the 3500 voters who voted for dissident and independent republicans in 2014 would all have to turn out and vote for SF. The nationalist turnout was only 53% in 2014 while the unionist was 63%. Despite the fact that there are over 46,000 Catholics of voting age and only 31700 Protestants of voting age the UUP could win due to these factors. This would be a major upset victory for the UUP and if the Westminster election had been held the same day as the council elections in 2014 with the 2015 candidates the UUP would have won. This analysis is heavily based on the 2014 council election turnout. If SF increases the nationalist turnout by only 3% they would receive an additional 1300 votes which would be enough to win the election. Nationalist voters are also aware that Michelle Gildernew won by only 4 votes in 2010 and this is likely to increase nationalist turnout. Tom Elliot is also a more polarizing candidate than Rodney Connor and that could increase nationalist turnout also.

South Belfast

West May SB

The SDLP would have lost this seat to the DUP if the election had been held the same day as the 2014 council elections. The DUP vote was 800 more than the SDLP vote and the SDLP vote was even less than the Alliance vote. The poor SDLP vote was due to low nationalist voter turnout in the Botanic and Lisnasharragh DEA’s. The nationalist voter turnout was actually higher than the unionist turnout in the Balmoral and Castlereagh South DEA’s. The fate of Alasdair McDonnell will be determined by nationalist turnout. One factor in his favour is that there may be tactical voting for the SDLP from Alliance voters. The Alliance Party is certainly upset that the DUP and UUP have ganged up on Naomi Long in East Belfast and some Alliance voters may be angry enough about the DUP-UUP electoral pact to vote SDLP to prevent Jonathan Bell from winning here.

Foyle

West May Foyle

This could be a closer than usual election between the SDLP and SF. In the 2014 council elections the SF vote exceeded the SDLP vote by 600, the first election in which this has occurred. Mark Durkan should still win the election for several reasons. He has the advantage on incumbency and constituency work. There is a large vote for independent nationalists in Foyle and transfer patterns in the past indicate that more of this vote goes to the SDLP and SF. There is a large amount of tactical voting for the SDLP in Westminster elections. In previous elections approximately 20% of Alliance and unionist voters vote for the SDLP. Mark Durkan should win this election though it could be with a reduced majority.

Newry and Armagh

West May Nwry A

This constituency is interesting for several reasons, including the unexpected unionist electoral pact and the SDLP choosing a high profile candidate in Justin McNulty. It is not clear why the UUP and DUP decided on a pact here. The total unionist vote is less than 34%. Not all DUP voters will turn out to vote for the UUP and with an increasing nationalist electorate due to demographic changes the total unionist vote could be 32% or less. Even if the nationalist vote was evenly divided the UUP would not win. There has been a decline of 3000 votes each for the SDLP and SF since the 2005 Westminster election. Nationalist turnout is likely to be higher in this election. The Northern Ireland NHS review by Dr. Liam Donaldson has recommended reducing the number of acute care hospitals from 10 to only 4. Daisy Hill Hospital in one that could be downsized or closed so there is likely to be an increased turnout to save the hospital. This could be a close election but the SDLP would need some tactical unionist votes to win and it is unclear if those votes exist to any extent.

The British Election and making the case for a United Ireland


A Guest post by Sammy McNally

Quite how many people in Northern Ireland would prefer a United Ireland remains open to debate and as the decision on the need for a referendum lies with Theresa Villiers (the Viceroy) and as she currently has no plans to hold one, we are unlikely to find out anytime soon.

In the wake of the review of the (disappointing) census results, when the subject last enjoyed a period of public debate in Northern Ireland, SF took a bit of a beating when they tried to push the case for a referendum, with Unionists gleefully enquiring of SF whether they expected Northern Nationalists to vote for the Southern Health service.  Unionists had a point – and SF seem to have retreated quietly in some disarray to re-think their strategy.

The problem for SF was that FF had managed to almost bankrupt the Southern state with gombeenery, trousering, planning abuse and the encouragement of reckless speculation to the extent that one Irish Trade Unionist was moved to remark  – that the  Irish government had caused more economic damage than had been done by the British Government over hundreds of years. Nor could you anyway (at that point) have sold the case for land expansion to the electorate of the South who were being force fed austerity much worse than the Tory austerity being digesting by their fellow countrymen just across the border.

Britain remains the 5th (IMF 2014 Wiki) richest country in the world and if we wish to make the case for re-claiming the 4th Green Field we need to fight that battle on terrain that suits us – and that does not include trying to suggest Northern Nationalists would be better off economically in a United Ireland. Something that may, or perhaps more likely, may not, be the case.

The terrain that suits us better is clear however  when we look across the Irish Sea at the current election campaign underway in Britain and there we can see where the true strength of the case for Irish Unity lies.

There are of course many values that bind Britain and Ireland together but in many other respects we simply see the world differently – and this is particularly clearly illustrated when it comes to matters concerning foreign policy and membership of the EU.  We can also see the case for a united Ireland very clearly when we look at potential British coalition governments lining up Ulster unionist coalition partners (the DUP).A coalition that would not be in the best interests of good Ulster community relations or political stability in Ireland.

In the election campaign, the post military intervention shambles that is Libya, has raised its head, as thousands from Libya and neighbouring countries use the country as a departure point for their hazardous escape to Europe.

Mr Farage, who opposed military intervention, is supported (hypocritically) by Mr Miliband who favoured intervention in (correctly) pointing the finger at Mr Cameron for being at least partly responsible for the unfolding humanitarian crisis.  (You have got to be concerned when Mr Farage appears to be Mr Reasonable on matters of British foreign affairs.)

As the British people worry over young muslims departing to fight for ISIS and worry more about them returning to wreak havoc and mayhem on the streets of Britain, very few seem to want to see the link between their foreign policy and the threat from within. A threat which ex MI5 boss Stella Rimington reminded Tony Blair of

“So I think you can’t write the war in Iraq out of history. If what we’re looking at is groups of disaffected young men born in this country who turn to terrorism, then I think to ignore the effect of the war in Iraq is misleading.”

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2008/oct/18/stella-rimington-9-11-mi5

I suspect MI5 have been told that such utterances were both unhelpful and embarrassing by Cameron, but these are cautionary words that still hadn’t been taken on board by the British PM when he was seeking support for military intervention in Syria – and we can only imagine how much more dangerous Britain and elsewhere would be if ISIS had been given a (further) leg up in Syria as well as Iraq and Libya.

The British have been involved with a series of campaigns that might be generously described as not in the best interests of world peace.  Campaigns begun under Blair and continued under Cameron, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and (covertly) Syria. These campaigns could not be described as consistent with Ireland’s policy of neutrality but (insultingly) they do so with so-called ‘Irish’ regiments and with the involvement of Green Field Number 4.  (Surely it is time for the Irish government to formally request the renaming of these regiments.)

This is not to suggest that we debate the issue solely in terms of Perfidious Albion versus Immaculata Hibernia but rather to highlight the difference in values between our two countries – values that have been moulded by the different experiences of sitting on either side of the colonial divide for centuries.

Back in January, the DUP accused Ms Villiers of breaking her word on the setting up of a parade ‘panel’ which the DUP believed would be of assistance to Orange Order. This is the same DUP that a Tory Government might find itself reliant on to keep itself in power.

Of course the DUP have made (some of) their demands for support of any future government public, but anyone with a modicum of understanding of Ulster politics will know that privately it will be made clear to Davey Cameron that the ‘panel’ (or other mechanism) to review the controversial parade will now be required. We can also be sure that such a (DUP inspired) ‘panel’ will decide that Orangemen will get their way to complete their parade in North Belfast. It is difficult to think of a more inflammable scenario, not only will ‘loyalists’ be delighted but the various Republican ‘dissers’ groups may well have their recruitment officers working overtime to deal with the surge in applications as the ‘Orange card’ is replayed by a Tory government.

If anyone thinks the British government is not stupid enough to risk upsetting the political stability in Ireland, just take a look at what is happening in Iraq or at the boats struggling to cross the Mediterranean.

Of course none of these Irish concerns have even entered the political debate in Britain(so far), nor have any concerns regarding the implications of Britain leaving the EU and taking Green Field Number 4 with it, nor have the implications of “protecting UK borders”, as the DUP puts it, in its election manifesto. (Any border posts springing up as a result of Britain’s exit from the EU, may well need some sort of “protection” for her Majesty’s staff and as history tells us that type of imposition does not does not tend to go down well with the locals in border areas.)

The British of course will put the interests of their country first and so should we in Ireland by pushing the case for a United country, not only for cultural and social reasons but also to avoid Ulster’s involvement in dangerous British political horse-trading and because, whatever the right and wrongs of British attitudes to the EU and military intervention, the views the British hold on these matters are markedly different from our own.

Madness in May part 3 – The Union may be a little shakier


Part 3 of Faha’s series continues. I’d also recommend a read of this article here from The Detail which tells us what we all know numbers-wise but has some interesting analysis and terrific graphics as well as some home truths for the Unionist parties, specially on the day they trooped through the lobbies opposing gay marriage. (incidentally where were the SDLP?) – BD

Nationalist Constituencies- The Safe Seats  

This review covers the 4 nationalist seats where the outcome is not expected to change compared to the 2010 election.

West Tyrone:

West May WT

Pat Doherty should easily win this seat for SF. The only point of interest here will be the proportion of the vote that the SDLP, UUP and DUP receive and whether there is any change in the relative strength of the vote among these parties.

Mid Ulster:

West May MU

Francie Molloy should easily win this seat for SF. The only thing to watch here is to see if the SDLP can increase their vote and the relative strength of the unionist parties.

West Belfast:

West May WB

Paul Maskey will easily win this seat for SF. However, the vote in this constituency is very important because of the Assembly implications. The total unionist vote was 16% in the 2014 council elections and based on that percentage the DUP would win an Assembly seat at the expense of SF. The SF vote declined by 6000 compared to the 2011 Assembly election while the unionist vote increased by 800. The total nationalist vote was down by almost 6000 indicating that there must be significant dissatisfaction among traditional SF voters who stayed home in large numbers. Since the total SF percentage was only 55.9% SF would lose one of their 5 Assembly seats (57.2% equals 4 quotas). Since the DUP would win one the final seat would be won by either the SDLP or PBPA. So the Westminster vote has significant implications for the 2016 Assembly election.

South Down:

West May SD

Margaret Ritchie will easily win this seat for the SDLP. The vote totals will have implications for the Assembly election. The DUP polled only slightly above UKIP in the 2014 council elections. Since then there have been moves to close wards at Downe Hospital, threatening a future possible hospital closure. This is occurring under the DUP Health Minister Jim Wells. Follow the DUP vote here to see if the DUP Assembly seat could be lost to either UKIP or the SDLP.

Madness in May Part 2 – Is the Union still safe?


Part two of Faha’s analysis for the May elections. For me Upper Bann and North Belfast may provide some of the most interesting counts this time around. BD

This review covers the 5 unionist seats where there is a possibility that the incumbent could lose the election. I will discuss them in the order of likelihood that there could be a change.

East Belfast

West May EB

This is the election that is receiving the most publicity in Northern Ireland. If it were not for the unionist electoral pact in Belfast East it could be a close election. However, with the DUP-UUP electoral pact and the fact that the TUV, PUP and UKIP have all declined to stand in order to bolster the DUP vote, there is no possibility that Naomi Long can win this election. In the 2014 council elections the DUP vote was 3500 higher than the Alliance vote. All the other unionist parties that will not be standing in this election received 10600 votes. The Alliance party received 6510 votes in 2014. Perhaps Alliance could add another 1000 from NI21 voters and a few Green tactical voters. Perhaps up to 500 tactical nationalist voters. That would bring the Alliance vote up to 8000. Not all of the 5093 UUP voters will vote DUP since some will vote Alliance and some will stay home. The transfer pattern from the 2014 council election indicates that less than 1000 would vote Alliance. Even with this scenario the Alliance vote would not equal the 2014 DUP council vote. That is before even taking into account the over 5000 TUV, UKIP and PUP voters of whom most will vote DUP. Gavin Robinson should win this election.

Upper Bann

West May UB

David Simpson is still likely to win this election but there is a possibility of a UUP upset victory. In the 2014 council elections the total UUP vote was 1479 less than the DUP vote. The TUV, UKIP and the PUP are not standing and those parties received over 3500 votes. However, the transfer pattern reveals that the DUP may be no more likely to receive these votes than the UUP and some of these voters may stay home. Jo-Anne Dobson also stands to receive the majority of the 632 NI21 votes and perhaps a few Alliance votes so her vote total may be less than 1000 behind the DUP. The UUP are aware of how close this election could be and will be putting all their effort in to winning. Theoretically, SF should also be in this competition. However, the SF vote declined by 2700 compared to the 2011 Assembly election while the SDLP vote has remained steady. This indicates a trend of increasing nationalist apathy. With over 60% of potential nationalist voters not even bothering to vote in 2014 it is difficult to imagine what would motivate them to vote in this election. This election is basically a 2 way contest between the UUP and DUP, with the DUP having a slight edge and SF out of the running due to nationalist voter apathy.

South Antrim

West May SA

This is another seat where the UUP will make a serious effort to defeat the DUP incumbent Willie McCrea. This is a constituency with increasing unionist voter apathy as the DUP vote declined by 3000 in 2014 compared to 2010 and the UUP vote declined by 3700. The Alliance Party also lost 1/3 of their 2011 Assembly vote in 2014. The 2014 vote may not accurately reflect the 2014 results since the TUV did not stand in the Dunsilly and Airport DEA’s. It is unclear who those TUV voters voted for in those DEA’s. The UUP was 1900 votes behind the DUP in 2014 but there were almost 1000 NI21 votes and most of those will go to the UUP. Danny Kinahan could pick up some tactical Alliance votes. Similar to Upper Bann, the UUP have approximately a 1000 voter deficit to overcome.

East Antrim

West May EA

Many will be surprised that this constituency is considered competitive. However, if you look at the 2014 council election results the UUP vote was only 1400 less than the DUP vote. NI21 received over 800 votes and if the UUP candidate Roy Beggs receives 600 of those the deficit would only be 800 votes. The 2014 council results point to a very close election between the UUP and DUP. This is an election that the UUP should be contesting as seriously as Upper Bann and South Antrim. It is unclear if they are doing so as it appears to be under the radar as to how close this election could be.

North Belfast

West May NB

You will notice in the demographics that the Catholic and Protestant voting age population are equal in 2015. In normal circumstances this would indicate a very close election between the DUP and SF. The UUP-DUP electoral pact has changed the calculations and there is very low possibility that SF will win this seat. Nigel Dodds is the only unionist candidate. Even the Conservative Party (who are contesting 16 Northern Ireland constituencies) declined to stand a candidate and decided to join the unionist pact along with every other unionist party. The nationalist vote will be divided among SF and the SDLP and the Workers Party and Fra Hughes will siphon away small numbers of nationalist voters. The combined nationalist vote was 15000 in the 2014 council elections and the combined unionist vote was 18600 so it is inconceivable that Nigel Dodds will be defeated in 2015. There is also a large degree of nationalist voter apathy in this constituency. The Conservative Party is supporting the unionist electoral pact in Belfast North and Fermanagh South Tyrone, the only 2 constituencies where they are not standing a candidate. This may have implications for the stability of the Assembly since clearly the Conservatives are not a neutral party and are attempting to defeat SF here and in Fermanagh South Tyrone. SF has already publicly commented on this.

Madness in May, part 1- The Union is Safe!


“Lots of people go mad in January. Not as many as in May, of course.” – Karen Joy Fowler

Guest Blog by Faha. Part one of a four part series

“Only three weeks to go folks until the ultimate sectarian headcount. The last of the FPP races outside the horseracing world.

Faha has been crunching the numbers with his usual aplomb and his post is below as promised. I’m popping in a few figures of my own below to stir the debate and I look forward to the usual excellent quality of your thoughts and comments” Bangordub

West May BD

This first review of the Westminster election will cover the unionist seats where the outcome is not expected to change compared to 2010. I have included data on the demographics of the electorate within each constituency based on the 2011 census, adding in new voters who are now 18 years of age and subtracting voters who have died based on Northern Ireland mortality statistics since 2011.

North Down:

West May ND

There is no doubt that Sylvia Hermon will win this seat overwhelmingly. She received 63% of the vote in 2010. The hard line unionist vote will be divided among the DUP, TUV and UKIP so there is no possibility that she could lose. It is significant that the DUP vote collapsed from 12412 in the 2011 Assembly election to only 7730 in the 2014 council elections. The UUP have declined to stand a candidate. Is this an indication that the UUP is hoping she will return to the UUP?

Strangford:

West May Str

Jim Shannon should easily win here. Of concern for the DUP is the over 4000 drop in the DUP council vote since the previous Westminster and Assembly elections. Watch the TUV and UKIP vote here to see if one of the 3 DUP Assembly seats are at risk in 2016.The Alliance 2014 council vote was down significantly from the 2011 Assembly election and the vote in this election could have implications for their Assembly seat. Can the combined SDLP and SF vote come near an Assembly quota?

Lagan Valley:

West May LV

Jeffrey Donaldson should easily win this seat. Of concern for the DUP is the over 4000 vote decline in 2014 since the 2011 Assembly election. The Alliance vote has also dropped by almost 1500 since 2011. The TUV could be in contention for an Assembly seat here depending on their vote as the DUP vote in 2014 was exactly 3 quotas, indicating that one of their Assembly seats is in jeopardy.

North Antrim:

West May NA

Ian Paisley should easily win here. It is interesting that Jim Allister did not stand here and Timothy Gaston is the TUV candidate. The reason for this may be to raise his profile as a 2nd TUV Assembly candidate in 2016. You will note that the DUP vote collapsed by 6000 compared to the 2010 and 2011 elections, indicating there is significant dissatisfaction with the DUP among traditional DUP voters. The TUV have noticed this and may be hoping for a 2nd Assembly seat in 2016.

East Derry:

West May ED

Gregory Campbell should easily win this seat. What is surprising here is that UKIP and especially the TUV decided not to contest this seat. The DUP vote has declined by over 4,000 compared to the 2011 Assembly election and their 2014 council vote was less than 2 Assembly quotas. The TUV received 9% and the PUP + UKIP were an additional 4% indicating that the TUV could take one of the DUP Assembly seats in 2016. However, by declining to stand in 2015 it will be difficult for the TUV to evaluate their prospects for 2016.

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