The timebomb and the country shuffle

Good Evening.

Some of you may have seen the below graphic which I published on my twitter feed yesterday.

Age demo 2011

I hasten to add that it is not my own picture but I can I assure you I have checked the figures and they are accurate. The figures are, of course, 5 years out of date.

In other words, we can advance every figure above by a factor of 5 years. In other words those 4 year olds will be voters by 2025

You may be well aware of this demographic timebomb. I am certain that the more intelligent unionist political leaders are also well aware of it.

Hence the well heralded narrative of “Norneverland” not to mention “Letsgetalongerism”. My own opinion of all this nonsense is that it is the latest manifestation of the “our wee country” and “the province” delusion.

Make no mistake there is a serious concerted campaign underway to pretend that this part of Ireland is a country in its own right.

It isn’t. It’s an artificially constructed statelet that has never, since its inception, functioned in a remotely normal fashion. The reason for that is simply that it was founded upon the basis of a sectarian, demographic majoritarian rule.

That is not to deny the right of every citizen to identify themselves as they wish. However no citizen has the right to deny their fellow citizens the same right.

In other words, equality and democracy.

The basis of this blog is to demonstrate that, the founding premise of the six county  state is falling apart.

Following the debacle of the “Unionist Outreach” attempt, the last throw of the dice is a shuffle towards creating a Nornirish identity.

Well I’m a Leinsterman, and I enjoy the banter in the pub during the rugby, I’m also a Dub, you can imagine the stick I get against , well anyone.

But when Ireland play………





A Democratic Deficit

What an interesting electoral cycle that was.

I think the uncontested facts are that Unionism stood still,  SF and the SDLP almost stood still but took an almighty wobble, The radical left wing did very well indeed and the so called “progressives” eh, didn’t progress very much. That is despite the attempt by the SDLP to grasp the “progressive” mantle. I still have no idea what the term actually means.

This all flies in the face of the narrative of this blog but I still stand firmly behind the basic narratives that underlie the central premise. To be clear I still think there is a clear correlation between those of a catholic/ nationalist upbringing, and the voting patterns evident in the the north east of Ireland.

What is clear is that the nationalist leaning electorate are not actually voting. There is no evidence that they are voting for anyone else such as the DUP but they are clearly just not voting anymore, for anyone.

This is a developing narrative. Some respected commenters here are suggesting that there is a need for a right wing, catholic, nationalist party. As a democrat I’m all for that idea. I’m yet to be persuaded that the likes of Fianna Fail would do well in the North East but I’m fully open to them standing for election

Meanwhile, it is clear that those of a nationalist mindset are under-represented in the current assembly.

That, in my view, is an educational matter.

Disengagement from the democratic process is something that should concern us all.






Constituency Reports Part 2

Part 2 of Fahas analysis in the leadup to this weeks assembly election covering the greater Belfast area. I have some caveats regarding the North Down constituency but I’ll leave it to yourselves to comment. BD

This is my analysis of the 9 Belfast area constituencies. The electoral office released the final electoral register on April 28 and there has been an increase of 14,000 voters since December. Over 10,500 of that increase has occurred since March. It appears that approximately 3,000 of those new voters are foreign nationals and 11,000 are native voters. The average per constituency is 777 and the largest increases have been in South Belfast (1,259), Upper Bann (1,203), West Belfast (1,092) and Newry&Armagh (1,005).

North Down

Faha N Down

North Down has always been an unpredictable constituency. The 2015 Westminster election provides no guidance to the Assembly results since independent MP Sylvia Hermon received half the vote. In 2011 there were 3 DUP candidates elected but this will change in 2016. The 2014 Council elections provide a more accurate indication for 2016. In that election the DUP received 31% which is 2.4% above 2 quotas. It would require perfect balancing and significant transfers to elect 3 this time. The UUP received 17.2% in 2014. However, the UUP have Alan Chambers as one of their candidates and in 2011 he received over 6% of the 1st preference vote. Because he is one of the UUP candidates the UUP 1st preference vote could be as high as 23%. The UUP will receive transfers from UKIP, TUV, Conservatives and other parties so will likely elect 2. There will be 2 non unionists elected. Brian Wilson is standing as an independent and will take 1st preference votes from both the Alliance and Green parties. Alliance should still elect 1 but it is not clear whether Brian Wilson will be a threat to the Green seat. It may depend on where the SDLP and SF transfers go to. I included the 1998 Assembly election results to illustrate a point. In 1998 the SDLP had over 2,000 1st preference votes. Based on the 2016 demographics one would expect the 1st preference SDLP and SF vote to be almost 3,000. However this constituency has been ignored by both the SDLP and SF and few voters from the Catholic community vote and of those that do the majority vote Alliance or Green. Contrast this with West Belfast, where even though unionists have only a small chance of winning a seat, they make a serious effort and go all out to win a seat for a unionist candidate.


East Belfast

Faha  East belfast

East Belfast is likely to see major changes in 2016 if the same electorate that voted in the 2015 Westminster election vote in the 2016 election. If you look at the results of the 201 Westminster election the total unionist vote was 20,467 and the total non unionist vote was 14,021. In the 2015 Westminster election the total unionist vote increased by only 229 votes  to 20,696 but the total non unionist vote increased by almost 5,000 votes to 18,986. Who are those extra 5,000 non unionist voters? We have no way of knowing for certain but it is likely that many are from the Catholic, Other religion and No religion communities since these groups have historically voted at low levels in the past. Some could also be liberal Protestants who voted for the 1st time. The big question for 2016 is will these 5,000 voters vote again this year. If they do then there will be 3 non unionist MLA’s elected. Based on the 2014 Council results there will be 2 DUP and 1 UUP elected. The 2015 Westminster results, with the Alliance vote at 42.8%, predict 3 Alliance seats. However, it is likely that there was a large amount of tactical voting by SDLP, SF, Green and independents for Naomi Long so the 1st preference Alliance vote will certainly by less than 42.8%. The Green party will be in contention for that 3rd non unionist seat. Naomi Long will receive a very high 1st preference vote which may be to the detriment of the 2 other Alliance candidates. If one of those has a low 1st preference vote and is eliminated then the Green candidate could be elected. I include the 1998 Assembly results to illustrate an important point. East Belfast had the highest increase in Catholic population between the 2001 and 2011 census of any constituency. It was 5%. The number of voting age I indicate for 2016 only includes those living in East Belfast in 2011. The 2016 number is probably 11,500 when taking into account the rate at which Catholics have been moving in to East Belfast since 2001. That 11,500 is twice the number that was present in 1998 when the total 1st preference nationalist vote was over 2,000. Theoretically it should be twice that in 2016 at 4,000. However, similar to North Down this constituency has been ignored by SDF and the SDLP. SF only compete in 1 ward, the Short Strand area and the SDLP have ignored the constituency since 1998. After the boundary review East Belfast will be adding wards from South Belfast so it is a poor strategy for both SF and the SDLP to ignore East Belfast since there would be a potential nationalist seat in the new Southeast Belfast.


South Belfast

Faha South Belfast

The results in South Belfast will be determined by which electorate shows up on May 5th– the 2014 Council electorate or the 2015 Westminster electorate. If it is the 2014 Council electorate then the SDLP risk losing a seat to either Alliance or the DUP. In the 2015 Westminster election the number of voters increased by 6,000 and almost ¾ were SDLP or SF voters. 2015 also had the highest turnout of any election in South Belfast since the 1998 Assembly election. SF should win their seat here as they need very few transfers. If the SDLP balance their candidates evenly they should elect 2 also since they would receive significant transfers from the Green Party and Alliance surplus. Alliance and Green transfers will go at least 2 to 1 towards a nationalist candidate rather than a unionist. The change in the electorate since 2011 also favour nationalist candidates since the Catholic community electorate has increased by 1,900 while the Protestant community electorate has declined by 900. It will be difficult for unionist candidates to maintain their vote with a declining electorate. On the unionist side the DUP could win 2. The 2015 DUP Westminster vote at 22.1% was over twice the UUP vote of 9.1%. The UUP should pick up enough Conservative, Alliance and Green transfers to be competitive with the DUP. The DUP could still win 2 if the 2 candidates are perfectly balanced and they receive twice as many transfers from the PUP, TUV, UKIP and Ruth Patterson as the UUP do.


West Belfast

Faha West Belfast

West Belfast will have some major changes compared to 2011. Similar to South Belfast it will be partly determined by which electorate shows up on May 5th, the 2014 Council electorate or the 2015 Westminster electorate. One certainty is that Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit Alliance will be elected as his 19.2% vote in 2015 is far above a quota with a 5% surplus. The SF vote has been in the 54% to 55% range in 2014 and 2015 which is slightly less than 4 quotas. However, they should receive enough transfers from PBP to reach 4 quotas. Nevertheless, they will lose 1 MLA compared to 2011. Theoretically, they could keep 5 with a poor showing by the SDLP and with all 5 of their candidates perfectly balanced at 11%. However, this is unlikely since the SDLP received almost 10% in 2015 and would receive some PBP transfers as well as transfers from Alliance, Green and the UUP. It is also possible that the DUP could win a seat. If the turnout is similar to 2014, when the total unionist vote was 16.0% then the DUP would certainly win. However, in the 2015 election the total vote increased by 5,000 and these were all nationalist voters. In 2015 the total unionist vote was 13.2% which is only 1.1% less than a quota. The last nationalist candidate (probably SDLP) would also be less than a quota. It would have been very close. The one disadvantage the DUP have is Frank McCoubrey may not receive enough UUP transfers due to his previous association with the UDP. In 2011 over 100 UUP transfers went to nationalist candidates and 200 did not transfer. The number that do not transfer could be higher this year.


North Belfast

Faha North Belfast

It was thought before the final candidate list was known that the SDLP seat could be under threat from Alliance or a 3rd SF candidate. If you look at the 2014 Council results the SDLP vote was only 1% more than the Alliance vote and SF was less than 2 quotas. However, 2015 was a different result with the total nationalist vote equaling 45.7% which is 2.8% over 3 quotas. Since there are only 2 SF and 1 SDLP candidates by default all 3 will be elected. There is still a scenario where the Alliance candidate could win. The Alliance vote was 7.25% in 2015. If the total nationalist vote were to increase to 47% or more then there would be at least a 4% nationalist surplus. This is possible since there are 1,500 EU nationals on the electoral register who were not eligible to vote for Westminster and if even half those vote for pro EU parties the nationalist vote could reach 47%. Furthermore, since 2011 the Catholic community electorate has increased by 2,400 while the Protestant community electorate has declined by 200. If Alliance receives 3% of the 4% surplus in transfers the Alliance vote would be 10% plus. If the Green and Labour candidates bring out additional voters then those transfers could benefit Alliance also. The 2014 Council vote shows a DUP vote of 28.4% which is 2 quotas so only 2 DUP will be elected. The last seat could come down to Alliance, UUP or PUP. The PUP vote was 7.4% but with TUV and UKIP transfers should be 10%. If the UUP is at or slightly less than 10% then the UUP candidate would be eliminated. If 3% of the UUP transfers go to Alliance, 3% to the PUP and the rest do not transfer then it could be very close between the PUP and Alliance on the last count.



Faha Strangford

In 2011, the SDLP lost here by only 458 votes. The main obstacle for the SDLP in winning a seat is nationalist voter apathy. Despite a potential electorate over 13,000 the total SDLP and SF vote barely reaches 3,200 with perhaps another 1,000 from the Catholic community voting Alliance. There are 3,500 voters from the Catholic community in Newtownards and Comber DEA’s and the Moneyreagh ward but turnout there is less than 20% and the majority of that 20% vote Alliance. Based on the 2015 vote there should be 3 DUP, 1 UUP and 1 Alliance elected easily with the final seat between the SDLP and either the TUV or UKIP. This constituency is similar to East Derry where basically stay at home nationalist voters are gifting a seat to the TUV or UKIP. There are 11 unionist candidate on the ballot so unionist turnout will probably be as high as it was in 2015. On the other hand UKIP and the TUV have few sources for transfers other than one of these parties to the other so one could be elected with as little as 10% or 11% of the vote on the final count. The Conservatives received over 2,000 votes in 2015 and in the 2014 Council election Conservative transfers were just as common to Alliance as they were to the TUV and UKIP.


Lagan Valley

Faha Lagan Valley

In the 2014 and 2015 elections Lagan Valley had the 2nd lowest turnout from the Catholic community (only North Down is lower). It was approximately 25% whereas turnout from the Protestant electorate is near 50%. This is at a level that is seen only with an organized election boycott but no one has been able to discover what group is behind the boycott. Lagan Valley also had the 2nd largest increase in the Catholic population between 2001 and 2011 which was 4%. Since many of these people are moving in from West Belfast where nationalist voter turnout is high it is puzzling why the turnout is so low. In view of the in migration I estimate the Catholic electorate is 17,000 and with potential votes from the Other and None communities the potential electorate is 18,000. If even 40% voted there would be a nationalist quota even allowing for more than 1,500 voting Alliance. Based on the 2014 and 2015 elections there will be 3 DUP, 1 UUP and 1 Alliance. The last seat will be down to the last count between the SDLP and either the TUV or UKIP. There are also 1,500 EU nationals on the electoral register and this may be a constituency where EU voters vote at a higher rate than native nationalist voters. The SDLP do seem to be making a serious effort in this election so it could be close for the final seat.


South Antrim

Faha S Antrim

South Antrim is difficult to predict because the Assembly and Council election results are so different than the Westminster results. This is due to tactical voting by Alliance and SDLP voters for the UUP in Westminster elections which was most noticeable in 2015 for Danny Kinahan. This is not the entire explanation since Westminster elections seem to bring out additional unionist voters who do not vote in Assembly and Council elections. In 2011 the SDLP lost on the final count by 1,250 votes. The demographics since 2011 show a net of 1,750 new voters in the Catholic community and 500 in the Protestant community. There was a 4% increase in the Catholic population between 2001 and 2011 indicating significant in migration so the true increase between 2011 and 2016 may be at least 2,500. The DUP and UUP are both standing 3 candidates but the Council results indicate that there are only 2 for the DUP and at most 2 for the UUP. The Alliance vote is always the highest for Assembly elections. The final seat will be between the SDLP and UUP and will depend on whether nationalist turnout increases from its usual low level. There are also 1,500 EU nationals on the electoral register and they will influence the final result.


East Antrim

Faha East Antrim


East Antrim is one constituency where SF could lose their seat. It was only by luck that SF won the seat in 2011. In that election at stage 8 Gerardine Mulvenna of Alliance was only 68 votes behind Rodney McCune of the UUP when she was eliminated and 318 of her transfers went to SF and SF won on the last count by 500 votes. However, if the UUP had been eliminated instead the final SF vote would have been only 3,090 and Gerardine Mulvenna would have needed only 700 of the 2,400 UUP transfers available to win. Now East Antrim should elect a nationalist MLA but nationalist turnout is very low here- only 32%. The main reason it is so low is that SF and the SDLP ignore most of the constituency. The 15,000 Catholic electorate is equally divide in 3 areas- 5,000 in the Glens, 5,000 in Larne Town and 5,000 in Carrickfergus and Jordanstown area. The turnout in the Larne Town area extending to Jordanstown is only 20% to 25%. Based on the 2014 Council results there will be 2 DUP, 1 UUP and 1 Alliance elected. One of either UKIP or the TUV will also be elected. The last seat will be between the UUP and SF and will depend on turnout. There is a chance the SDLP could win the final seat. The SDLP were almost 700 votes behind SF in the 2015 election. However, they do not need 700 1st preference votes to overtake SF since if one of the Alliance candidates is eliminated then they would receive approximately 400 Alliance transfers (based on analysis of the 2011 vote). So the SDLP only need to increase their 1st preference vote by at most 400 to win. This is no small task considering the level of nationalist voter apathy.

The 3 most important factors that will determine the final results are

#1 Turnout

#2 Turnout

#3 Turnout

If the turnout is similar to the 2014 and 2015 elections then the number of nationalist MLA’s could decrease from 43 to 40 with a SF loss to a unionist or Alliance in East Antrim and a SDLP loss to the DUP in West Belfast and a SDLP loss to Alliance, Green or a unionist in South Belfast. If turnout from the Catholic community equaled turnout from the Protestant community in all constituencies then there would be 50 to 51 nationalist MLA’s elected. I hesitate to predict any increase in turnout for this election. Unionist voters are reliable when it comes to voting and in looking at the votes for unionist candidates in Westminster and Assembly elections going back as far as 2003 I expect the vote for unionist candidates to be between 340,000 and 370,000. The 319,000 in 2011 was an anomaly due to scandals within the DUP. The vote for nationalist candidates has been in the narrow range of 285,000 to 287,000 since 2010. Since EU nationals can vote in this election and there are 30,000 on the electoral register the nationalist vote should increase to 300,000. It is difficult to identify any issues that would increase turnout further. There has been much publicity in the press about abortion and gay marriage. The latter affects only a very small minority of the electorate and would have minimal influence on turnout. Abortion is an emotional issue and could increase turnout among voters who are either pro life or pro choice. The publicity surrounding the anniversary of the Easter Rising may increase overall interest in politics among nationalist voters but that is probably limited to people who are already voting anyway. It is also possible that Brexit could have a slight influence among nationalist voters who are concerned about the border or economic implications of Brexit.

Constituency Reports (Part 1)

Faha’s analysis of the first 9 constituencies for the May elections. We were awaiting publication of the latest electorate statistics due to be published yesterday but these have not materialised so here goes: Part two will follow shortly looking at the greater Belfast area – BD

This is my analysis of next week’s Assembly election. I have included the demographics of the voting age population for each constituency as well as election results going back to at least the 2010 Westminster election. In some constituencies I have included demographic information from the 2001 census or election results further back than 2010.   This analysis is for the 9 constituencies outside of the Belfast area.

              Mid Ulster

Faha Mid Ulster


Mid Ulster is the most predictable of all the constituencies. Since there are 3 SF candidates and 1 SDLP candidate there will be 4 nationalist MLA’s elected as the total nationalist vote is far above 4 quotas. The total unionist vote also far exceeds 2 quotas. The vote is likely to be similar to the 2014 District Council results and with those results the 3 SF, 1 SDLP and 1 UUP candidates could all be elected on the 1st count. One of the 2 DUP candidates will also be elected on a subsequent count. The only thing to watch for here is to see if the nationalist vote increases to its share of the electorate population. The unionist vote has been over 35% recently and the electorate numbers suggest it would be only 32% if nationalist turnout equaled unionized turnout.


West Tyrone

Faha West tyrone.JPG

In West Tyrone there are 4 SF, 1 SDLP, 1 UUP and 2 DUP candidates. This election has become complicated due to a SF councilor, Sorcha McAnespy, resigning from the party to stand as an independent based in Omagh Town. Shortly after her decision, 2 SDLP councilors. Dr. Josephine Deehan and Patsy Kelly, also resigned from the SDLP and will stand as independents based in Omagh Town and Strabane Town respectively. There are also 7 other candidates from the Alliance, Green and minor parties and other independents standing. Despite the plethora of candidates the recent election results from 2014 and 2015 give a good indication of the results in this election. SF have been slightly above 3 quotas in the 2014 Council and 2015 Westminster elections. While Sorcha McAnespy will receive enough votes to lower that slightly SF should still elect 3 with her transfers and transfers from the minor party candidates. The DUP are standing 2 candidates but it is not possible to elect 2 as the UUP were above a quota in the 2015 Westminster election and just short of a quota in the 2014 Council elections. The fact that the UUP is opposed to Brexit will also help them with unionist farmers.

The situation is more complicated for the SDLP. The SDLP vote was 16.67% in Westminster in 2015 and with transfers from Alliance, Green and independents their vote in a STV election would have been approximately 19% which is well above a quota. It is not clear how much of the 1st preference SDLP vote will go to the 2 former SDLP councilors. Josephine Deehan will probably be the stronger of the 2 and it is possible that Daniel McCrossan will have less than a quota on the 1st count. Nevertheless he will still receive transfers from Alliance, Green and other minor candidates so he should be elected.

I included the results of the 2001 Westminster election to illustrate an important point. The SF vote declined by 3,000 from the 2001 election to the 2015 election. The SDLP vote also declined by 7,500. It is a myth that the SDLP voters have defected to SF. The vote of both parties is down by almost 11,000 compared to 2001 but many more SDLP voters are staying home compared to SF voters. You will also notice that the Catholic electorate has increased by 8,000 since 2001 but despite that large increase the total nationalist vote has collapsed. Turnout was 85% in 2001 but only 50% in 2015. In contrast there has been little decline in the unionist vote, only 1,600 since 2001. The unionist electorate has increased by only 1,600 since that time compared to the nationalist increase of 8,000. Unionist turnout was 75% in 2001 in 2001 but has only declined to 60%. It would require a nationalist turnout of 67% to elect a 5th nationalist MLA (either SF or an independent). Brexit could motivate an increased nationalist turnout as a hard border with Donegal is undesirable from a nationalist viewpoint but I doubt that it would increase to a level that high to elect a 5th nationalist MLA.


East Derry

Faha East derry.JPG

This constituency is likely to have some changes compared to 2011. If you look at the 2014 Council results the DUP is at 26.7% which is 2% less than 2 quotas. The UUP was at 17.6% which is 3.3% over a quota. The TUV received 9% with another 4% going to UKIP and the PUP. Since all those parties are competing for the Assembly election it appears that the DUP will elect 2 with 1 for the UUP and 1 for the TUV. The TUV are likely to receive the majority of the UKIP and PUP transfers and should be at 12% at some point in the count. Claire Sugden is standing as an independent but it is likely that many of her transfers will go to the UUP so 1 UUP should be elected.

The nationalist vote is straightforward. The SDLP have only 1 candidate and their vote was above a quota in 2014 so he should be elected. SF are standing 2 but are far short of 2 quotas. However, excluding the Others and None’s the religious background in 2016 is 43% Catholic and 57% Protestant. So theoretically there could be 3 nationalist quotas. This will not occur for several reasons. The main reason is that the nationalist turnout is much lower than the unionist turnout. The Catholic community electorate has increased by almost 6,000 since 2001 but the Protestant community electorate has increased by less than 2,000. Despite the large increase in the potential nationalist electorate the combined SF-SDLP vote is down over 4,000 within the current boundaries in 2015 compared to 1998. The combined unionist vote is down by approximately the same amount. In 2015 unionist turnout was 50% and nationalist turnout only 36%. In the Coleraine, Portrush, Portstewart and Limavady Town areas nationalist turnout was only 25%. That is a level only seen with organized election boycotts. SF has little presence in the urban Coleraine region and did not even have a council candidate for the Causeway DEA in 2014. Also the 2nd SF candidate would be dependent on Alliance transfers for election and few of those will transfer to SF although it is also true that few would transfer to the TUV.

Unfortunately nationalist voter apathy will result in a seat for the TUV. I hope the TUV candidate has the courtesy to thank the stay at home nationalist voters for his election.


Fermanagh South Tyrone


This constituency has the highest voter turnout of any. It is difficult to predict whether the DUP or UUP will win 2 seats. There are 3 factors that favour 2 for the UUP. In the 2014 Council election the UUP vote exceeded the DUP vote by over 6%. The UUP would also receive some Alliance transfers adding to their total. The UUP stood as the unionist unity candidate in 2015 and some votes lent by the DUP for that election may not return to the DUP. However, the DUP have one major factor in their favour and her name is Arlene Foster. Since she is now the leader of the DUP and probably the new First Minister at Stormont she will have a very high 1st preference vote. This could work against the DUP since if she is far above a quota the UUP could receive some of her transfers. If the UUP candidates are evenly balanced they could also win 2 even if the combined UUP vote is slightly less than the DUP vote.

On the nationalist side it is unlikely that SF will win 3. If you look at the 2014 Council vote the SDLP received 12.54% and after Alliance and Green transfers would be only 1% short of a quota. In the 2011 election the SDLP also received a few UUP transfers so they would be just shy of a quota. SF only received 32.14% in 2014 with 8% going to independent Republicans. It is unlikely that all of that 8% would go to SF. Even if they all vote SF the SF total would be 40% and they would be 3% short of 3 quotas. The only way that SF can elect 3 is by a higher nationalist turnout. In 2015 the unionist turnout was 75% and the nationalist turnout was less than 60%. Excluding the Others and None’s the religious breakdown is 59.2% Catholic and 40.8% Protestant. If the turnouts were equal there would be 4 nationalist quotas with another 2% to spare. That translates to an additional 4,500 nationalist voters. Are there any factors that could increase nationalist turnout? The first factor is that there is a large group of voters who were not eligible to vote in the Westminster election. These are EU nationals and there are currently 3,500  who are on the Fermanagh South Tyrone electoral register. These voters are very concerned about the Brexit referendum since a vote in June in favour of Brexit would seriously jeopardize their status in Northern Ireland. The possibility of loss of one’s job and potential deportation would be a strong motivation to vote. They are not eligible to vote in the Brexit referendum but can vote for pro EU parties in the Assembly election. If 2,500 of these voters voted for SF or the SDLP then the number needed to elect 4 nationalist MLA’s would be reduced to only 2,000. That 2,000 is still a large number but the possibility of restricted border crossing with the Republic of Ireland might motivate some native nationalist voters to vote also.



Faha Foyle

Foyle is unlikely to have any changes in this election. For years there has been speculation that SF could take 3 seats. Indeed, in the 2014 Council elections the SF vote exceeded the SDLP vote by 1.7%. However, for elections since 2005 the SF vote has been in the 31% to 34% range with no sign of a breakout from that level. There has also been speculation that Eamonn McCann or an independent such as Dr. Anne McCloskey could win a seat. This election is significant in that the leaders of both the nationalist parties are standing in the constituency.  The advantage of having a party leader contesting a constituency is that it may increase the total party vote. The disadvantage is that it can result in poor balancing, with the party leader far above a quota. In Foyle the presence of both Martin McGuiness and Colum Eastwood is likely to reduce the 1st preference vote for PBP and independents. I do not believe that SF, PBP or Anne McCloskey can take a seat from the SDLP. There is usually a unionist surplus of 6% and in 2011 80% of that surplus eventually ended up with SDLP candidates. The DUP have been attempting to increase unionist turnout by claiming that the unionist seat is under threat. This is aimed at unionist voters who do not understand the demographics of the constituency. It would require another 10,000 nationalist votes for the DUP to lose their seat, a scenario that will not occur. On the unionist side the only area of interest is the size of the UUP vote and that of the former DUP MLA Maurice Devenney.

Newry and Armagh

Faha N&A

There are 2 main contests here. The 1st is between SF and the SDLP and the 2nd is between the DUP and UUP with both the UUP and the SDLP hoping to pick up additional seats. In the 2011 election the SDLP lost the 2nd seat due to poor balancing and the lack of transfers. In the final count there was an undistributed SDLP surplus of 478 and the 2nd SDLP candidate lost by only 611. With proper balancing the 2nd candidate would have lost by only 133 votes. There was a UUP surplus of 857 but the majority did not give the SDLP any preference. There were also over 1,400 UKIP voters who gave no preference to the SDLP (it appears that less than 5% of those voters gave any preference to the SDLP). The SDLP vote improved marginally in 2015 compared to 2011 so this will be a very close contest for the 4th nationalist seat. It will depend on balancing among the candidates and transfers. There is also an independent republican, Martin McAllister standing who will take 1st preference votes from SF. Not all of his votes may transfer to SF. Another factor is that there are 3,000 EU nationals on the register who could not vote in the Westminster election. SF needs 60% of those to keep pace with the SDLP and those voters may well decide the outcome. Another issue is the pending Brexit referendum. Brexit would affect this constituency more than most and border restrictions would affect travel and trade. This may result in a higher nationalist turnout.

The UUP were shrewd in standing 2 candidates and I would give the edge to the UUP to elect 2 for several reasons. If you look at the 2014 Council results the UUP vote is almost twice the DUP vote. With Alliance and Green transfers it would be more than twice the DUP vote. The UUP were the Unity candidates in 2015 and not all of those DUP votes lent to the UUP may return to the DUP. Paul Berry, previously of the DUP, is standing and will reduce the DUP 1st preference vote. His transfers may not all return to the DUP. The Brexit referendum will also affect the unionist vote. Since the UUP is opposed to Brexit and the DUP in favour of Brexit unionist farmers and other unionists opposed to Brexit may vote UUP.


South Down

Faha South Down

In the previous 6 constituencies I discussed there is no realistic possibility that a current unionist seat could be lost to a nationalist candidate. It is certainly possible that SF could take seats from the unionist bloc in East Derry and Fermanagh South Tyrone but it would take a massive increase in nationalist turnout that is unlikely to occur. This is the 1st constituency where there is a reasonable possibility that the SDLP could take one of the unionist seats. There have been major demographic changes in South Down since 2011 and census data and death rates indicate there is an increase of 3,400 voters from the Catholic community versus only 100 from the Protestant community. The demographic changes appear to be evident in the 2014 and 2015 elections. In 2014 SF was 1.2% above 2 quotas while the SDLP was 9% short of 3 quotas. The unionist bloc was 1% short of 2 quotas. There was a 9% vote for Alliance, Green and NI21 and independent nationalists and the unionist bloc could depend on at least 2% of those for transfers and end up with 1% over 2 quotas. The turnout for 2015 Westminster was much higher, on the level of an Assembly election, but there was some tactical unionist voting for the SDLP. I estimate the unionist vote would be 1,000 higher without the tactical voting. With that extra 1,000 and some Alliance transfers there would have been exactly 2 unionist quotas. 2016 should be very close. There are some factors that will affect the 2016 vote compared to 2015. There are 1,200 EU national voters who may vote in the Assembly election and with the pending Brexit referendum they may be motivated to vote for pro EU parties. The nature of the competition among unionist candidates also favours the SDLP for a 3rd seat. Jim McAllister the former UUP MLA and Harold McKee the new UUP candidate will be competing for the UUP type voters. One will be eliminated. If the UUP is eliminated first their voters may be reluctant to transfer to Jim McAllister since he abandoned the party. Some may transfer instead to the DUP, TUV or even SDLP or may not transfer to anyone. Henry Reilly will be a strong candidate for the TUV. He switched from UKIP to the TUV but there appear to be little in the way of hard feeling locally since UKIP decided not to contest South Down. Henry Reilly was only 1% behind the DUP in 2015 and could win a seat for the TUV here if Jim Wells is eliminated in the later counts. What may hurt Jim Wells in South Down are the cutbacks in services at Downe Hospital. Services at the hospital have been threatened and this has occurred when Edwin Poots and Jim Wells were the health ministers. Expect the last count to be very close between the 3rd SDLP candidate and a unionist.


Upper Bann

Faha Upper bann

This is one constituency where nationalist voter apathy is a major factor. In the 2011 Assembly election the 2nd SF candidate was only 400 votes behind the 2nd UUP candidate who was elected on the final count. What has happened since then? In 2015 the total nationalist vote actually declined compared to 2011 while the total unionist vote increased by 5,500. In 2015, unionist turnout was over 60% and nationalist turnout was only 40%. Since it unlikely that these additional unionist voters will stay home in 2016 the nationalist vote would need to increase by 5,000 in order to reach 3 quotas. On paper, there should be 3 nationalist seats. Excluding the Others and None’s the Catholic electorate is 46.5% and the Protestant electorate in 53.5%. Between 2011 and 2016 the Catholic community electorate has increased by 2,300 while the Protestant community electorate has increased by only 300. Clearly the potential nationalist vote with equal turnout is far above 3 quotas (42.9%). I doubt that the SDLP will lose a seat here. In the 2014 Council elections the SDLP vote was 12.3% and with Alliance and NI21 transfers would have exceeded a quota of 14.3%.  SF is far from 2 quotas. Is there any way SF can find an additional 5,000 nationalist voters? Upper Bann does have over 4,500 EU nationals on the electoral register and these voters should be motivated to vote for pro EU parties in view of the pending Brexit referendum. Whether SF and the SDLP will even attempt to target and canvass these voters is unknown. If even half voted then SF would still need an additional 2,500 native nationalist voters to win a 2nd seat.

North Antrim

Faha North antrim

North Antrim would be the most likely constituency where there could be a unionist loss, in this case to the SDLP. If you look at the 2011 election Declan O’Loan of the SDLP lost to Jim Allister of the TUV by 600 votes in the last count. In 2016 there are several factors in favour of the SDLP and one factor against the SDLP. The demographic changes over the past 5 years indicate a 1,500 increase in the Catholic electorate versus an 800 increase in the Protestant electorate. If half of those voters vote the gap would only 300 votes. There are also Green and Labour candidates in 2016 which may draw out a few more voters that could transfer to the SDLP. Finally, there is a change in the nature of the unionist vote in 2016. In 2011, the UUP received 600 Alliance transfers which were needed to elect the UUP candidate. In the 2014 Council election the UUP vote was 16.7% which is above a quota so those Alliance transfers will end up with their 3rd preference, some of which will be SDLP rather than DUP or TUV. On the other hand there is one major factor favouring unionist candidates in 2016. In 2011, Evelynne Robinson of the DUP was eliminated at stage 8 but 766 of her votes did not transfer to the remaining DUP candidate nor any other candidate. This is unusual and is unlikely to recur in 2016. In the end there should be 1 SF, 1 UUP, 2 DUP and 1 TUV candidate elected with the last seat to be won by either the SDLP or the remaining unionist candidate (either DUP or TUV). This is one constituency where the pending Brexit referendum may determine the outcome. There are 2,000 EU nationals on the electoral register most of whom were not registered in 2011. If they vote for the SDLP in significant numbers they could defeat a pro Brexit TUV or DUP candidate.

The Saturday Night Treatment

I once had an interesting conversation with a certain prominent journalist from this part of the world regarding the experiences of nationalists in times past.

He told me an intriguing story about how it became a regular occurrence outside his local “Chapel” or Church, as I would have it, that every Saturday evening, right on the clock as 7pm Mass was about to commence, the local loyalist bands would deign it suitable to parade the road outside with as much volume and venom as they could muster.

He called it “The Saturday night treatment”.

Nationalists in the north east of this Country may be familiar with this type of behaviour. I was not. At least not until I witnessed antics such as their behaviour in Belfast in recent years.

Happily living in tolerant, open minded Bangor for the last ten years or so, things seem very civilised on that front. Although the town is, on paper, only 15% nationalist leaning, things are open enough to allow room for the usual 12 July Orange parades, An annual childrens Easter parade and, this year, the Ulster Fleadh.

That, surely, is how it should be, although I believe there is work to be done still, such as a St Patricks day parade. (Perhaps that is one for another day)

Many have lauded the work done in Derry over recent years regarding accommodation for loyalist parading. Perhaps the local agreements in Bangor regarding parading past sensitive places should also be recognised and praised? These have been achieved at a local level, quietly, and without political fanfare.

North Down Canvass

SF Canvass in Bangor

Meanwhile there are encouraging signs of North Down being taken seriously at last by Nationalist Parties. Sinn Fein have begun canvassing Bangor for the first time ever and Posters and Leafletting are evident which I must say is a first experience for me.

I would expect very little electoral impact for the May elections but green shoots are evident and this bodes well for the future.

It is noticable from the comments on this blog that there is a substantial nationalist constituency that feels disenfranchised, particularly those with strong religious/social convictions and, perhaps, those with a right of centre viewpoint. There is a gap in the market here and I suspect that Fianna Fail may be eyeing it up.

Prior to the elections, Faha is preparing some detailed analysis which will be published here in due course



Assembly Election 2016 -The Numbers Game

The May 5th Assembly election is less than 5 weeks away. This a review of previous elections since 2003. I have looked at the raw vote for unionist, nationalist and nonsectarian parties and have plotted the changes over time in the various elections.

I have also calculated voter turnout from the Catholic and Protestant voting age population for each election.

Voters 2003 to 2016

If you look at the first set of data the religious background of the voting age population is shown for the 2001 and 2011 census. The 2001 census is relatively straightforward in that the group of None/Other was only 2% of the voting age population and probably only 1% of actual voters.

Polls have consistently shown that the None/Other group vote at a much lower rate than those from the Protestant and Catholic community background. The 2011 census is more complicated. There were 60,000 more foreign nationals in the 2011 census compared to 2001.

The Protestant voting age population increased by 9,000 but this was entirely due to foreign nationals (Eastern Orthodox and Protestants from other immigrant nationalities). The Catholic voting age population increased by 93,000 but 30,000 of this increase was due to foreign nationals. There was also a large increase in the Other/None group to 71,000 but over 20,000 of those were also foreign nationals.

The potential unionist electorate did increase from 2001 to 2011 since some of the None/Other group would vote or transfer to unionist candidates but this increased electorate probably plateaued by 2005.


Graph Last 7 Turnout

Extrapolating the addition of new Protestant voters minus emigration and the death of older voters indicates the potential unionist electorate has been stable since 2005. The potential nationalist electorate has increased dramatically between 2001 and 2016. The 2nd chart shows the percentage turnout from the potential unionist and nationalist voter pool. Now it is true that there has been a large increase in the vote for the nonsectarian parties but these voters do have 2nd preferences and I looked at the transfer pattern to estimate the turnout from the unionist and nationalist voter pool.

When you look at the vote for unionist, nationalist and nonsectarian parties there are several notable findings. With a fixed potential unionist electorate the vote for unionist parties in 2015 is essentially the same as that in the 2003 Assembly and 2005 Westminster elections. It did decrease in the 2010 and 2011 elections but this is entirely due to scandals within the DUP at that time. It has since completely recovered in 2015. You will note that there was no decline in the unionist vote when comparing the 2011 Assembly and 2014 Euro election but a massive decline of 43,000 votes in the nationalist vote between those elections.

I have adjusted the percentage turnout from the potential nationalist electorate in each election to account for the increase in the nationalist electorate over time (the unadjusted numbers are based on the 2001 census for the 2003 to 2007 elections). The graph indicates that the nationalist turnout was 3% to 5% higher than the unionist turnout in the 2003 and 2005 elections. By the 2010 and 2011 elections it was slightly less than the unionist turnout. In the 2014 and 2015 elections it was 6% and 9% less than the unionist turnout respectively. The unionist turnout in 2015 was slightly higher than the unionist turnout in 2003 and 2005 but the nationalist turnout declined from 59% in 2005 to 46% in 2015.

While unionist voters are still voting at the same rate as they always have, 20% of the potential nationalist electorate have stopped voting.

It is a myth that there is voting apathy among unionist or nonsectarian voters. The voter apathy is entirely from nationalist voters.

What are the implications for the 2016 Assembly election?

I expect that the unionist electorate will continue to vote at the usual 55% rate. The lower turnout in 2010 and 2011 were aberrations due to temporary scandals.

What will happen to the nationalist voter turnout? Are there any factors that could increase that turnout? The actual 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising will be less than 2 weeks before the election but most of the anniversary events have already occurred. While patriotism could be a factor I expect this effect to be minimal. The EU referendum on Brexit will be in June and the proximity to the Assembly election may affect turnout. There have been 2 Lucid Talk polls on Brexit and they showed that only 10% of SF, SDLP, PBP, Alliance and Green voters want to leave the EU.

The polls also showed that only 20% of unionist party voters want to remain in the EU. It is possible that nationalist voters who own or work for businesses that have significant trade with EU countries may be more motivated to turn out to vote for pro EU parties in the Assembly elections but it is not clear if this will be more than minimal.

There is one group of voters that should be highly motivated to vote for pro EU parties and that group are the EU nationals that live in Northern Ireland. Their status in Northern Ireland could be jeopardized by Brexit. They cannot vote in the Brexit referendum but are allowed to vote in the Assembly elections.

The Department of Social Development recently released some data on foreign nationals. As of July 2015 there were 145,000 Non UK nationals living in Northern Ireland with a national insurance number (NiNo). Almost 30,000 were from the Republic of Ireland. The other 115,000 included approximately 85,000 from European countries. That 115,000 does not include ethnic nationals who were born in Northern Ireland (probably only 2,000 or so) or those who have arrived since July 2015. I estimate 90,000 EU nationals of voting age living in Northern Ireland as of April 2016. Only 30,000 are registered to vote.

Surprisingly there appears to have been little interest by the pro EU parties in registering those 60,000 unregistered prior to the April 18th deadline for voter registration. They generally live in the same streets where the registered foreign nationals live. There are 3,000 unregistered EU nationals in East Belfast and one would think that the Alliance Party would register these so they could win a 3rd seat from the DUP. There are 2,000 unregistered EU nationals in North Antrim and it is surprising that the SDLP are not registering them considering that they lost the seat in 2011 by only 600 votes. There are 1,000 unregistered in Strangford and the SDLP lost by only 450 votes in 2011. Similarly for Sinn Fein they lost a seat in Upper Bann by only 400 votes to the UUP and there are over 3,000 unregistered EU nationals in that constituency. In Fermanagh South Tyrone Sinn Fein could lose a seat to the SDLP based on the 2014 council results but with 4,000 EU nationals not registered to vote they could take a seat from the DUP to cancel out that loss if even half that number were registered and voted.

In summary, I expect a continued high turnout of voters from the unionist voting bloc. There may be a slight increase in native nationalist voter turnout related to the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising and the Brexit referendum. There could be a significant increase in voter turnout among EU nationals concerned about Brexit but this will probably be limited due to the low voter registration rates among those communities.


Boundary Review 2016

A  guest Blog by Faha analysing the implications of the latest boundary review and the implications for forthcoming Westminster elections. Detailed maps of the proposed changes are not yet available but I will publish links as soon as they are. BD

In February 2016 the electorate statistics for the UK Boundary Review were released and the number of seats allocated to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were announced.

The total size of the Westminster Parliament will be reduced from 650 seats to 600 seats for the 2020 and subsequent elections. Scotland was allocated 53 (loss of 6), Wales (loss of 11), England 501(loss of 32) and Northern Ireland 17 (loss of 1). Northern Ireland will lose only 1 seat compared to the previous suspended review where Northern Ireland would have lost 2 seats.2015 council map

The reason for the change is that Individual Electoral Registration (IER) was introduced to England, Scotland and Wales in 2014. It had already been in place in Northern Ireland since 2002. The introduction of IER resulted in a decline of over 1,600,000 voters on the December 2015 electoral register compared to the May 2015 register. Northern Ireland increased by 4,000 voters.

The large decline in voters for the December 2015 register, which is the one that will be used for the boundary review, resulted in a lower average for all constituencies which benefited Northern Ireland.

For the Northern Ireland review the average number of voters per constituency is 73,139. A 5% variation is allowed when constructing constituencies so a constituency could have as few as 69,482 or as many as 76,796 voters. The legislation allows for more leeway for Northern Ireland so a constituency could have as many as 78,507 voters. In the previous review the Boundary Review acknowledged this but mentioned that there was no need to use this exception.

The possible boundaries I am outlining are speculative to some extent. However, I believe that the one lost seat will be one of the Belfast constituencies since the number of voters in the new Belfast City Council is the number exactly needed for 3 seats and there is no need to include any wards outside of Belfast.

It is also true that the Boundary Commission attempts to preserve existing constituencies as much as possible and generally avoids transferring voters to a new constituency if at all possible. Nicholas Whyte also did an excellent review on Slugger O’Toole earlier this month.

Fermanagh South Tyrone: 71,038

I will start in the west with Fermanagh South Tyrone. There is no need to change this constituency in any way. There were some minor ward boundary changes when the new council wards were devised. It would consist of all the Fermanagh DEA’s and the Clogher Valley and Dungannon DEA’s.

Foyle: 71,398

There is no need to alter Foyle. The only change is that a few hundred voters will be added from the old Slievekirk ward in Strabane which were added to the old Hollymount ward (but renamed Slievekirk).

West Tyrone: 72,899

This would include all the current West Tyrone (except for a few hundred from Slievekirk mentioned above) and add the wards of Park, Claudy, Feeny and Dungiven.

Mid Ulster: 71,501

This would include all of the current Mid Ulster and add the Kilrea and Garvagh wards.

Newry and Armagh: 75,635

This would include all of the current Newry and Armagh wards except Tandragee which would be transferred to Upper Bann. It should be noted that in the previous review the Tandragee ward was the only ward removed from Newry and Armagh.

Upper Bann: 73,585

Upper Bann would consist of all the wards of the old Craigavon council as well as the Tandragee ward and the new Loughbrickland ward. The 4 Banbridge Town wards would be removed and transferred to Lagan Valley. This would keep all the Portadown, Craigavon and Lurgan wards within the same constituency and Banbridge Town would also be kept intact but in a different constituency.

East Londonderry: 71,795

This constituency would undergo significant changes due to the loss of 6 wards to West Tyrone and Mid Ulster. It would include all the remaining wards from East Londonderry and add the wards of Ballycastle, Kinbane, Giant’s Causeway, Dervock, Route and the 3 Ballymoney wards of East North and South. It would probably be renamed to possibly Causeway Coast and Glens.

East Antrim: 74,740

This would include all the wards of the old Larne and Carrickfergus councils as well as the Lurigethan and Torr Head & Rathlin wards to the north as well as the Jordanstown, Rostulla, Monkstown, Abbey, Ballyduff, Ballynure, and the Ballyclare East and West wards. All the current voters in the constituency would remain but a few from the old Hawthorne and Abbey wards would be added with a similar situation in the north with Torr Head as the new wards combine voters from the current East Antrim with voters from outside the current constituency. Only the Ballyclare and Ballynure wards have all their voters that are new to the constituency.

North Antrim: 72,878

This would include all the wards of the old Ballymena council along with the wards north that are currently part of North Antrim-Rasharkin, Clogh Mills, Dunloy and Loughguile&Stranocum. It would also add the wards of Toome, Cranfield, Randalstown, Shilvodan, Parkgate, Doagh and Ballyrobert.

South Antrim: 75,248

This would include the Antrim, Airport, Glengormley Urban and Macedon (except Abbey ward) DEA’s and the Mossley and Fairview wards. The Glengormley Urban wards were actually part of South Antrim 10 years ago but removed during that boundary review and placed in North Belfast. South Antrim would also expand into Lisburn and include the wards of Glenavy, Stoneyford, Ballinderry, Maghaberry, Moira, Maze and Lagan. Since only the more rural wards in Lisburn would be added all the urban wards of Lisburn Town would be kept in the same constituency of Lagan Valley.

Lagan Valley: 74,971

Lagan Valley would lose several rural wards to South Antrim as mentioned above but the core of the constituency would remain. It would include all the Lisburn North, Lisburn South and Downshire East DEA’s as well as the White Mountain, Blaris and Hillsborough wards. It would include the Dromore, Quilly and Gransha wards that are currently in the constituency and add all 4 of the Banbridge Town wards as well as the Rathfriland ward.

Belfast North: 70,215

Belfast North would lose all the Newtownabbey wards to South Antrim. It would consist of the Castle, Oldpark and Court DEA’s as well as the Beechmount and Ballymurphy wards.

Belfast Southwest: 69,856

This would consist of the Collin and Balmoral DEA’s as well as the Black Mountain DEA (except the Ballymurphy and Beechmount wards) and the Blackstaff, Windsor and Central wards.

Belfast Southeast: 72,411

This would consist of the Ormiston, Titanic and Lisnasharragh DEA’s and the Ormeau and Stranmillis wards.

North Down: 74,317

North Down would include all the wards of the old North Down council and the Warren ward. All these wards are part of the current constituency. It would add the Castlereagh East DEA (except the Moneyreagh ward which is currently part of Strangford). In the previous review North Down was extended to include all of the Ards Peninsula. This would not be possible this time since the electorate would be 79,407 which would exceed the maximum allowed. Nicholas Whyte suggested that Loughview ward could be removed to Southeast Belfast in which case North Down could include the Ards Peninsula. Indeed Holywood ward could also be added to Southeast Belfast and North Down would then have 73,444 voters which is just above the quota. I believe this will not happen for 3 reasons. Adding the Ards Peninsula would disrupt the current Strangford constituency by removing 15,000 voters and also add over 27,000 new voters to the constituency. The 2nd reason is that the 5 Dundonald area wards were part of North Down as recently as the 1995 Westminster by-election in North Down. In the subsequent boundary review these wards were transferred to Strangford. In the boundary review 9 years ago they were transferred to East Belfast. The 3rd reason is the knock on effect in Belfast. Adding Loughview and Holywood to East Belfast would result in Stranmillis and Ormeau transferred to Southwest Belfast with the further knock on effect of transferring Turf Lodge ward to North Belfast. The DUP would STRONGLY object to adding another 100% nationalist ward to North Belfast.

Strangford: 75,360

Strangford would consist of the Ards Peninsula, Newtownards, Comber and Castlereagh South DEA’s and the Moneyreagh, Saintfield and Derryboy wards. It would lose the Ballynahinch and Kilmore wards to South Down. These wards were previously part of South Down until the review 9 years ago. The Carryduff wards were also part of Strangford until the review 9 years ago. In the recent suspended review Strangford was extended to approximately the current Belfast City line so this would continue that extension.

South Down: 75,522

South Down would lose the Banbridge wards and add the Ballynahinch and Kilmore wards. Those latter 2 wards were part of South Down until removed in the review 9 years ago.

There has been some criticism that the 5 year review of constituencies is too disruptive. However, if the Northern Ireland parties can keep the voter registration levels high then Northern Ireland should remain at 17 constituencies. The number of new voters over a 5 years period would only be 35,000 or 2,000 per constituency. This would result in only minor changes every 5 years and no more disruptive than the previous 10 year reviews.

At this time I will not speculate on the electoral implications of the boundary review until the actual Boundary Commission proposals are released in another 6 months.


Teach your Children Well

One of the interesting things I have learned since I moved north of the border ten years ago is how History is taught, or rather not taught, in the schools here.

The commemorations around the centenary of the 1916 rising have brought into vivid focus that there is a lack of knowledge regarding the events of that time among many in this part of the island. This fact startled me, particularly as those events were pivotal to the existence of the northern six county statelet.Hedge school

I am told that the history of that period is taught exclusively through the prism of the great war of 1914-1918. I may be wrong but I am yet to be contradicted.

Having  been taught my history in a Christian Brothers school in Dublin, I grew up with a strong sense of our place in the world and how our own narrative fitted within the context of the wider events taking place during the first quarter of the last century.

Chris Donnelly recently was the recipient of unionist “outrage” for teaching his students the facts of the events, in Ireland, 100 years ago. I wonder what they fear?

British educational policy in Ireland has evolved from the penal laws where our language, culture and (of course) history were forbidden as subjects for learning, to a rather more subtle shaping of a curricular agenda.

Why? I am inclined to think the intended result is the same.

This of course leads us onto the integrated education argument. Let me be clear as to where I stand on this. I am all for integrated education when it gives equal weight to all perspectives, historically, culturally and with regard to the wider curriculum.

I would particularly like to see the Leaving certificate available to students here.

It is often conveniently forgotten that without the Catholic educational system, generations here would have received no education whatsoever. We are, all of us, in the debt of those who provided that service for free over many years.

On a personal note, on this the week before Easter 2016,  I am very proud of the fact that, although my surname is not a common one, five of my wider family were on active service that week including two women.






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