Making the Economic case for Reunification

An important academic paper has just been released outlining a compelling case for the reunification of this Island from a purely economic perspective.

It is important to emphasise that this is an economic, not a political, study. It envisages the likely outcomes in the event of economic reunion and demonstrates the clear potential benefits to both parts of the Island but particularly the North East.

The Report was commissioned by KRB inc. in California, compiled by Dr Kurt Hübner and Dr Renger van Nieuwkoop and includes an executive summary by Professor Steven Raphael, Professor of Public Policy. UC Berkeley, California. The full report is available Here.

Modelling Irish Unification

Within the executive Summary the reports findings are condensed as follows:

In the short run, unification would result in the North’s adoption of the euro. At current exchange rates, this would effectively devalue the currency for the North, causing a shift in international terms of trade that would favor Northern Ireland relative to the U.K. and relative to other countries in the Eurozone. The consequent increase in exports is projected to initially increase per-capita gross domestic product in the North by 5 percent, and then fade back to the long-run growth path within seven years.

 In the long run, unification would involve the adoption of the Irish tax system, greater openness in the North to Foreign Direct Investment, and diminished trade barriers between Northern Ireland, the ROI, and other countries in the Eurozone. A period of economic catch-up is likely to ensue whereby the Northern Irish economy would shift structurally from low value-added industries to high value-added industries. Additional benefits would derive from lower trade costs across the north-south border. These changes are projected to increase GDP per capita in the long run by 4 to 7.5 percent in Northern Ireland and by 0.7 to 1.2 percent in the Republic of Ireland.

Interestingly both parts of the Island would derive clear economic benefits but by far the greatest impact would be North of the current border:

“Irish unification would be economically beneficial to both parts of the island, and especially for smaller, poorer, Northern Ireland. “

The report goes on to look at detailed scenarios under the following headings (amongst others):

  • Tax harmonisation
  • Governmental functions
  • Trade barriers
  • Adoption of the Euro
  • Effects on the Balance of Trade
  • Rebalancing the wider economy

Naturally the above is a selective sample of the information contained within the report and I would urge readers to examine the full report as linked above.

Given the barbed comments of Unionist politicians regarding the (now resurgent) southern economy, the uncertainty surrounding the UK position within the EU, the upcoming electoral cycle North and South and the current Nationalist electoral apathy, this is a most welcome report based upon economic facts as opposed to wishful political thinking.

A smart pro-reunification political approach would be to analyse some of the facts contained in this report and develop a coherent, rational (as opposed to emotional) set of policies setting a new agenda designed to emphasise the strong economic benefits that would accrue to all the people of this Island when reunification takes place.


UK Boundary Review 2016 – Implications and What needs to be Done

A guest blog by Faha 

(All maps may be accessed on the Boundary review website here -BD )

The Westminster UK Boundary Review is scheduled to resume in 2016. The previous review was suspended after the final boundaries had been determined by the 4 Boundary Commissions of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This was due to the opposition of the Liberal Democrats who initially supported the conditions under which the Boundary Review was to take place. After the Conservative Party was unwilling to support reform of the House of Lords the Liberal Democrats withdrew their support for implementing the new boundaries for the 2015 Westminster election. The legislation was changed so that review was postponed but had to be completed by 2018. There is also a provision that the review will be based on the December 1st 2015 parliamentary electoral register. David Cameron and the Conservative Party have announced that they will proceed with the review and that the number of seats will be decreased from 650 down to 600. This was the basis of the previous review and Northern Ireland was to lose 2 of its 18 seats and was allocated 16 MP’s. The previous Northern Ireland review was completed and these were the final boundaries that were proposed (see attached map). The major changes were that the South Belfast constituency was abolished and the wards were divided up among Belfast East, Belfast West and Strangford. East Derry was also dramatically altered with the Coleraine urban area transferred to North Antrim and the remainder of East Derry merged with the entire Magherafelt district council as well some wards from Cookstown district council into the newly named Glenshane constituency. The electoral result would have been the loss of the SDLP MP for South Belfast and the defeat of the current DUP MP Gregory Campbell. The new Glenshane constituency would have a combined unionist vote of less than 40%.

B Review existing

Existing Boundaries

The 600 seats will be allocated based on the December 1st 2015 parliamentary electoral register. This register was 46,354,197 at the time of the May Westminster election and approximately 1,240,000 were on the Northern Ireland register. A constituency can only vary by +/- 5% from the average per constituency. Special exceptions were made for 4 constituencies in the Isle of Wight, the western isles of Scotland and the Orkney and Shetland islands. With 600 constituencies and a total electorate of 46,354,197 the average per constituency would be 77,257. Based on the Northern Ireland electorate, Northern Ireland would be allocated exactly 16 seats. It appears Northern Ireland will lose 2 seats as it did in the previous review. Or would it???

There is a new complicating factor that did not exist in the previous review. Since that time Individual Electoral Registration (IER) has been introduced to Scotland, England and Wales and the previous Household registration was phased out. IER was introduced in Northern Ireland in 2002. During the implementation of IER in the rest of the UK 1,900,000 who were on the register during the era of Household registration did not register under IER. However, they were still included on the electoral register in order to be given more time to register under IER. Any who had not registered under IER were to be removed by December 2016. In July 2015, the Conservative Party announced that this date would be moved up to December 1st 2015 in order to coincide with the December 1st date that will be used for the Boundary Review. This announcement created some controversy, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats claiming these 1.9 million will be disenfranchised. A Conservative Party spokesman stated that these 1.9 million had been contacted up to 9 times and still had not registered under IER. It is likely that most of those 1.9 million will not register under IER and will be dropped from the electoral register prior to the compilation of the December 1st register. This was what occurred when IER was introduced to Northern Ireland in 2002. The 2001 electoral register contained 1,198,000 people and when IER was introduced the number decreased to 1,072,000 in 2002. That was a loss of 10% of the electorate. Why the dramatic decrease? There are many reasons why these individuals did not register under IER but were registered under Household registration such as:

  • They were dead
  • They had emigrated to a foreign country or were attending a university abroad
  • They were double registered (students who were registered at both a home and university address)
  • They were not capable of registering due to a medical condition (dementia, severe autism, etc.)
  • They were in prison
  • They had absolutely no interest in politics and refused to register. These people may have been included on the household register since the head of household listed them but as individuals they will not register.

Based on the history of IER in Northern Ireland I believe that most of those 1.9 million will be dropped from the electoral register and the December 1st electoral register could be less than 45,000,000. The average per constituency may be less than 75,000. Thus, the number of seats allocated to Northern Ireland could be higher depending on what the final number on the Northern Ireland register is on December 1st. I estimate that another 25,000 voters would increase the Northern Ireland total to 17 and another 65,000 would increase the total to 18. There are approximately 140,000 people in Northern Ireland who are eligible to be on the parliamentary register who are not currently registered. This estimate is based on the 2011 census, excluding EU nationals (most who are not eligible)

B Review Proposed

Proposed Boundaries

One would expect that all the Northern Ireland political parties would desire more MP’s for Northern Ireland and would mount a major voter registration drive to increase the number of voters on the electoral register. This motivation would vary by political party and I will explain why. It has to do with the electoral implications of 16 seats versus 17 or 18.

The UUP have the strongest incentive to increase the number of voters on the electoral register. They would likely lose both their MP’s with 16 seats. Fermanagh South Tyrone was to expand to include the old Torrent DEA which is almost 90% nationalist and part of the Killyman ward (95% unionist) was to be transferred to Upper Bann. With these boundaries the nationalist vote would increase 4% and the unionist vote decrease by 4%. That would amount to a shift of 4,000 votes and since Tom Elliot only won by 530 votes SF would have easily won if the election had been contested on the new proposed boundaries. The UUP MP in South Antrim would also be in danger of defeat with only 16 constituencies since it was proposed that South Antrim be altered so that Ballymena town and surrounding wards would be added. This is strong DUP territory with the DUP vote 3 times that of the UUP. Since Danny Kinahan won by less than 1,000 votes in the current South Antrim he would have lost if the election had been contested under the new proposed boundaries. The UUP have a very strong incentive to increase the number of MP’s in Northern Ireland to 18 so they can contest the next election on the current boundaries.

The DUP also have a strong incentive to increase the number of voters on the electoral register so that Northern Ireland has 18 MP’s. It is true that South Antrim would revert to the DUP if there were only 16 constituencies. However, the DUP would probably lose Southeast Belfast (East Belfast) if there are only 16. If you look at the proposed Southeast Belfast most of the Castlereagh East wards were removed and East Belfast was extended deep into South Belfast to include many nationalist majority wards which are also wards where Alliance has a good vote. In looking at the district council vote in 2014 the Castlereagh wards that would be removed had a 75% unionist vote with the DUP near 50% and Alliance only at 12%. The Alliance vote would have been higher in the Westminster election. The DUP won the Westminster election by 2,600 votes and it appears that the DUP vote exceeded the Alliance vote by more than 2,600 in the Castlereagh wards that would be removed. The South Belfast wards that would be added have a good Alliance vote and with even minimal tactical voting by nationalist voters Naomi Long would have won the election if the proposed boundaries were in place for the 2015 election. The DUP would also lose the seat of Gregory Campbell with only 16 MP’s so there is a strong incentive for the DUP to increase the number of voters on the register to preserve the current East Derry boundaries.

The SDLP also have a strong incentive to increase the number of constituencies to 18 in order to preserve the South Belfast constituency. There would also be a beneficial effect in the Assembly elections as constituencies such as Newry and Armagh and South Down have far too many voters and the unionist wards on the periphery that would be removed would result in a 5th nationalist MLA in both. That 5th MLA would be SDLP in both.

SF have no incentive to increase the number of voters on the register as it would be less likely that they could retake Fermanagh South Tyrone with 18 constituencies. Of course, with a possible looming Assembly election they do have an incentive to increase the number of nationalist voters on the register. However, whether there are 16 constituencies or 18 will have no effect on the number of SF MP’s that are elected with Fermanagh South Tyrone less likely with 18.

The political parties have less than 2 months to increase the number of voters on the electoral register and should be motivated to do so in order that Northern Ireland has more representation at Westminster.

The Great North Antrim Sinn Féin Selection Controversy


Something interesting regarding the upcoming elections in North Antrim from FJH

Originally posted on Keeping An Eye On the Czar of Russia:

Let me put a scenario to you.

A political party gets less than 13% of the votes in the Westminster Election. Next May, it is defending one seat in a six seat constituency. And it had a Selection Conference two months ago.

How many candidates should the Party field to retain its seat? Surely the obvious answer is….one….the sitting member.

But in North Antrim, Sinn Féin is running two candidates, sitting MLA Dáithí McKay and Cara McShane. All with the announced intention of giving voters a chance to elect a second Sinn Féin member. It is …to say the least…optimistic.

In 2011, due largely to boundary changes, the second nationalist seat (SDLP) was lost. Six months ago the SDLP vote was around 7% but likely to improve in a PR election.

What is going on there? Is the sitting member not worried that maybe reducing his vote could cost him…

View original 116 more words

Stormont Troopers (and the train coming down the tracks)

Oh the fun and games above on the hill!

It is, if nothing else, entertaining.

On a more serious level, it is confirming the politico-sceptic opinions of much of the electorate here. I think there is a concensus that nationalist voters are not turning out to reflect their demographic strength in recent elections so I’ve had a look at some relevant figures which, after all, is what this blog is about.

Firstly let us look as the turnout by age at the 2010 UK election:

Turnout by age 1

Now we all know two things, those most likely to vote unionist are in an older demographic cohort in the north east of Ireland and they are also in a majority within that older cohort. In fact they are in a majority at every age over 43 according to the most recent census.

We also know that potential nationalist voters are in a majority at every age below that threshold and, indeed, are on the cusp of a majority overall in real terms.

The actual voting figures are currently approx 4% apart between the main nationalist and unionist blocks. This tends to be concentrated geographically but that is a subject for another blog.

What I am looking at here is the fact that the older demographic tend to vote in greater numbers and therefore disproportionately skew results. That is a perfectly legitimate electoral fact and in no way do I dispute the results thereof.

Let’s take a look at another interesting graph from the Guardian:

Guardian Turnout

Although this graph is based on UK voting patterns we can see that the gap exceeds 5% on average. That is enough to generate a border poll debate.

It is interesting to note that in Scotland the inclusion of younger voters generated a much energised  electorate and an independence campaign that failed only, as is now generally acknowledged, by a campaign of fear and intimidation aimed primarily at older voters.

The challenge for nationalist parties now is to energise and invigorate their base electorate.

Are any of them up for it?

Best and Henderson are from where? (by the man from the Daily Telegraph)

Hi All,

I actually remember the days when there was a six month wait for installation of a phone line. I thought that was a thing of the past to be honest.

My recent absence from the blogosphere is unfortunately due to a recent house move and the the absence of Wifi.  Apparently a 15 “working” day wait to transfer my connection is standard. Hmmmmph.

Therefore as I sit in a local hostelry, nursing my “beverage” and availing of their free Wifi I thought a quick post was in order.

The bould Sammy McNally has been in touch this morning regarding a report in this mornings Daily “Torygraph” regarding the excellent start to the World Cup by the Irish Rugby Team. (There is a clue in that)

Apparently, in their print edition, they have the following revelation:

“How many of the Starting XVs were born in the country they represent?”

Ireland only have 11 (according to the Telegraph) because 1 was born in NZ(Payne) , 1 in Israel(Heaslip) and 2 in Northern Ireland(Henderson,Best).

Now, seldom does a day go by that I don’t read some nonsense along these lines, usually from Unionist politicians propagating the “our wee country” myth, but seriously lads, Ireland Rugby Team, Ireland’s Call, even the name of this region is northern Ireland.

It strikes me as hilarious that after 95 years of trying to deny the bloody obvious the Torygraph is still at it. It will, of course, have the same reaction and result among Northern Nationalism.

I suppose they are merely pandering to their dwindling readership. Perhaps that is why it is not on their online edition?

Fear not dear readers, by the way, my recent move was merely from the outer reaches of Bangor, to a rather leafier area nearer the town centre. I am (un)reliably informed that my Wifi will be restored tomorrow but for the moment I am very happy just here



Well Well, Sammy appears to have got another result!

ApologyDTel - Copy

Is the Orange Order isolated on EasyJet stance?

By Sammy McNally

When the Orange Order are finished giving the board of EasyJet a good tongue lashing they may also need to consider popping into Fleet street to give the British press a piece of their mind.

… and they might also need to have a word with the tourist body Visit Belfast.

In commenting on the EasyJet furore in their on-line edition, the Daily Mail stated that (using language somewhat more akin to Sinn Fein)

“Thousands of Pro-British Protestants hold marches every July 12 in the British ruled Drumcree 2015province to mark a 1690 victory by King William of Orange that sealed Protestant domination, a tradition Catholic Irish nationalists consider provocative”

Clearly no airline can be recommending a ‘cultural’ event which more than 40% of the indigenous population find ‘provocative’ (Without providing the appropriate context).

The Independent stated that:

“In the case of this year’s parades, the disruptions included a major outbreak of violence in north Belfast in which a 16-year-old girl was injured after being dragged underneath an out-of-control car”

Closer to home, Visit Belfast, the tourist body tasked with promoting events in Ireland’s second city responded to the query:

“Can you confirm what the official policy of Visit Belfast is in relation to encouraging tourists to attend 12th July celebrations in Belfast?”

with this unconvincing reply:

“With any major event planned for the city, such as and including the 12th of July parades/celebrations, Visit Belfast provides comprehensive information for visitors and residents, on its website, blogs, consumer and industry e-zines, literature.  This also includes information about OrangeFest in Belfast, parade timings and routes, visitors attraction and shop opening hours, street entertainment and up to date information on bus and rail transport.”

Visit Belfast have yet to respond to a further query as to whether their reply above means that they “promote Orangefest to tourists?”

The problem for the Orange Order is that support for their position, apart from that coming from the usual suspects (Unionist politicians) and those associated with the organisation, is thin on the ground.

The DUP’s William Humphrey stated that “The decision by EasyJet to remove an article which highlights and promotes the tourist potential of 12th July parades is an outrageous overreaction to one complaint from a blogger”.

What the Orange Order and the DUP don’t seem to realise is that EasyJet are entitled to review the suitability of events they recommend in their in-flight  magazine – and that the number of people who suggested to them that they do such a review – is completely irrelevant.

Have any British politicians rushed to the defence of the Orange Order which according to Senior Orange man Dr David Hume has now suffered “demonization”?

It doesn’t seem so.

It can’t of course be ruled out that someone from the Tories or UKIP (or perhaps Kate Hoey from the Labour Party) will give some moral backing to the Orange Order in their struggle with EasyJet – but David Cameron and Nigel Farage probably wouldn’t approve.

…ironically, the people who are probably most disconcerted by the Orange Order’s leaders’ decision to do battle with EasyJet are the ordinary, decent, sensible members of the organisation who now have to witness their leadership start another campaign – like the right to march at Drumcree or the abolition of the Parades Commission – which they simply cannot win.

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,


 Brand executive

My Email.


 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.



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.


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