The Cat’s among the Pigeons


As the dust settles after the Brexit vote and the reality dawns, we all need to adjust to a new reality. Events can sometimes make change come pouring through the cracks rather faster than expected.

Some are having much difficulty with that. Including me.

Politically, Sinn Fein (Don’t go there Mary) reacted instantly with a call for a reunification poll. Within a week , Fianna Fail and Fine Gael and the SDLP followed suit, to a degree. The DUP, predictably,  didn’t. As usual they sought to align themselves with the Tories in London regardless of the consequences to the people here, most pointedly, their own voters.

The dynamic has now changed, without a doubt.

This is a moment of catalyst. There is a tangible feel in the air that change is now happening around us and yet nobody is entirely sure what to do next. Least of all our political leaders.

It is clear to me that within nationalist politics there is a wind of change. The traditional republican heartlands feel a sense of abandonment as a result of the expansion of the membership and voter base which has been most notable south of the border. Hence the stagnation and decline in the nationalist vote in those heartlands. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency in my opinion and it can only be done by talking and having some uncomfortable conversations. With honesty.

Equally, the opportunity provided by the Brexit vote to engage with those who voted yes but would, perhaps, be traditionally unionist voters (NOT TUV) is obvious. This is not some sort of nationalist outreach project. It is a genuine opportunity to engage in a serious way with intelligent fellow countrymen on something that is a concern to us all.

It is not a discussion about the southern state taking over the failed northern region, It is an opportunity to discuss shaping a new Ireland for us all, democratically.

 

July 12th 1913


A”Guest Blog” by James Connolly written in 1913 but with great relevance still today

“As this Saturday is the 12th of July, and as I am supposed to be writing about the North of Ireland in particular, it becomes imperative that I say something about this great and glorious festival.

The Anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne is celebrated in Belfast by what is locally known as an Orange Walk. The brethren turn out and take possession of the principal streets of the city, and for the space of some hours they pass in processional order before the eyes of the citizens, bearing their banners, wearing their regalia, carrying symbols emblematic of the gates of Derry, and to the accompaniment of a great many bands.James Connolly

Viewing the procession as a mere ‘Teague’ (to use the name the brethren bestow on all of Catholic origin), I must confess that some parts of it are beautiful, some of it ludicrous, and some of it exceedingly disheartening.

The regalia is often beautiful; I have seen representations of the Gates of Derry that were really a pleasure to view as pieces of workmanship; and similar representations erected as Orange arches across dingy side streets that, if we could forget their symbolism, we would admire as real works of art.

The music (?) is a fearful and wonderful production, seemingly being based upon a desire to produce the maximum of sound in the minimum of space. Every Orange Lodge in the North of Ireland, and many from the South make it a point to walk, and as each Lodge desires to have a band without any regard to its numbers, the bands are often so near that even the most skilful manipulator cannot prevent a blending of sounds that can scarcely be called harmonious.

I have stood on the sidewalk listening to a band, whose instruments were rendering:

Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to thy bosom fly.

Whilst another one about twenty yards off was splitting the air with:

Dolly’s Brae, O Dolly’s Brae,
O, Dolly’s Brae no more;
The song we sang was kick the Pope
Right over Dolly’s Brae.

But the discord of sound allied to the discord of sentiment implied in a longing to fly to the bosom of Jesus, and at the same time to kick the Pope, did not appear to strike anyone but myself.

For that matter a sense of humour is not one of the strong points in an Orangeman’s nature. The dead walls of Belfast are decorated with a mixture of imprecations upon Fenians , and, the Pope, and invocations of the power and goodness of the Most High, interlarded with quotations from the New Testament. This produces some of the most incongruous results. What would the readers of Forward say to seeing written up on the side of a wall off one of the main streets, the attractive legend:

God is Love,
Hell Roast the Pope.

Of course, the juxtaposition of such inscriptions on the walls appears absurd, and yet, the juxtaposition of sentiments as dissimilar is common enough in the minds of all of us, I suppose.

To anyone really conversant with the facts bearing upon the relations of the religious in Ireland, and the part played by them in advancing or retarding the principles of civil and religious liberty, the whole celebration appears to be foolish enough.

The belief sedulously cultivated by all the orators, lay and clerical, as well as by all the newspapers is, that the Defence of Derry and the Battle of the Boyne were great vindications of the principles of civil and religious liberty, which were menaced by the Catholics, and defended by the Protestants of all sects.

The belief we acquire from a more clear study of history in Ireland is somewhat different. Let me tell it briefly. In the reign of James I, the English Government essayed to solve the Irish problem, which then, as now, was their chief trouble, by settling Ireland with planters from Scotland and England. To do this, two million acres were confiscated, i.e., stolen from the Irish owners. Froude, the historian, says:

“Of these, a million and a half, bog-forest and mountain were restored to the Irish. The half a million of fertile acres were settled with families of Scottish and English Protestants.”

A friendly speaker, recently describing these planters before a meeting of the Belfast Liberal Association, spoke of them as:

“Hardy pioneers, born of a sturdy race, trained to adversity, when brought face to face with dangers of a new life in a hostile country, soon developed that steady, energetic, and powerful character which has made the name of Ulster respected all over the world.”

And a writer in the seventeenth century, the son of one of the ministers who came over with the first plantation, Mr. Stewart, is quoted by Lecky in his History of England in the Eighteenth Century, as saying:

“From Scotland came many, and from England not a few, yet all of them generally the scum of both nations, who from debt, or breaking the law or fleeing from justice, or seeking shelter, come hither, hoping to be without fear of man’s justice in a land where there was nothing, or but little as yet, of the fear of God … On all hands Atheism increased, and disregard of God, iniquity abounded, with contentious fighting, murder, adultery.”

The reader can take his choice of these descriptions. Probably the truth is that each is a fairly accurate description of a section of the planters, and that neither is accurate as a picture of the whole.

But while the Plantation succeeded from the point of view of the Government in placing in the heart of Ulster a body of people who, whatever their disaffection to that Government, were still bound by fears of their own safety to defend it against the natives, it did not bring either civil or religious liberty to the Presbyterian planters.

The Episcopalians were in power, and all the forces of government were used by them against their fellow-Protestants. The planters were continually harassed to make them adjure their religion, fines were multiplied upon fines, and imprisonment upon imprisonment. In 1640, the Presbyterians of Antrim, Down, and Tyrone, in a petition to the English House of Commons, declared that:

“Principally through the sway of the prelacy with their factions our souls are starved, our estates are undone, our families impoverished, and many lives among us cut off and destroyed … Our cruel taskmasters have made us who were once a people to become as it were no people, an astonishment to ourselves, the object of pittie and amazement to others.”

What might have been the result of this cruel, systematic persecution of Protestants by Protestants we can only conjecture, since, in the following year, 1641, the great Irish rebellion compelled the persecuting and persecuted Protestants to join hands in defence of their common plunder against the common enemy – the original Irish owners.

In all the demonstrations and meetings which take place in Ulster under Unionist Party auspices, all these persecutions are alluded to as if they had been the work of “Papists,” and even in the Presbyterian churches and conventions, the same distortion of the truth is continually practised.

But they are told

“all this persecution was ended when William of Orange, and our immortal forefathers overthrew the Pope and Popery at the Boyne. Then began the era of civil and religious liberty.”

So runs the legend implicitly believed in in Ulster. Yet it is far, very far, from the truth. In 1686 certain continental powers joined together in a league, known in history as the league of Augsburg, for the purpose of curbing the arrogant power of France. These powers were impartially Protestant and Catholic, including the Emperor of Germany, the King of Spain, William, Prince of Orange, and the Pope. The latter had but a small army, but possessed a good treasury and great influence. A few years before a French army had marched upon Rome to avenge a slight insult offered to France, and His Holiness was more than anxious to curb the Catholic power that had dared to violate the centre of Catholicity. Hence his alliance with William, Prince of Orange.

King James II, of England, being insecure upon his throne, sought alliance with the French monarch.

When, therefore, the war took place in Ireland, King William fought, aided by the arms, men, and treasures of his allies in the League of Augsburg, and part of his expenses at the Battle of the Boyne was paid for by His Holiness, the Pope. Moreover, when news of King William’s victory reached Rome, a Te Deum was sung in celebration of his victory over the Irish adherents of King James and King Louis.

Therefore, on Saturday the Orangemen of Ulster, led by King Carson, will be celebrating the same victory as the Pope celebrated 223 years ago.

Nor did the victory at the Boyne mean Civil and Religious Liberty. The Catholic Parliament of King James, meeting in Dublin in 1689, had passed a law that all religions were equal, and that each clergyman should be supported by his own congregation only, and that no tithes should be levied upon any man for the support of a church to which he did not belong. But this sublime conception was far from being entertained by the Williamites who overthrew King James and superseded his Parliament. The Episcopalian Church was immediately re-established, and all other religions put under the ban of the law. I need not refer to the Penal Laws against Catholics, they are well enough known. But sufficient to point out that England and Wales have not yet attained to that degree of religious equality established by Acts XIII and XV of the Catholic Parliament of 1689, and that that date was the last in which Catholics and Protestants sat together in Parliament until the former compelled an Emancipation Act in 1829.

For the Presbyterians the victory at the Boyne simply gave a freer hand to their Episcopalian persecutors. In 1704 Derry was rewarded for its heroic defence by being compelled to submit to a Test Act, which shut out of all offices in the Law, the Army, the Navy, the Customs and Excise, and Municipal employment, all who would not conform to the Episcopalian Church. The alderman and fourteen burgesses are said to have been disfranchised in the Maiden City by this iniquitous Act, which was also enforced all over Ireland. Thus, at one stroke, Presbyterians, Quakers, and all other dissenters were deprived of that which they had imagined they were fighting for at “Derry, Aughrim, and the Boyne.” Presbyterians were forbidden to be married by their own clergymen, the Ecclesiastical Courts had power to fine and imprison offenders, and to compel them to appear in the Parish Church, and make public confession of fornication, if so married. At Lisburn and Tullylish, Presbyterians were actually punished for being married by their own ministers. Some years later, in 1712, a number of Presbyterians were arrestcd for attempting to establish a Presbyterian meeting house in Belturbet.

The marriage of a Presbyterian and an Episcopalian was declared illegal, and in fact, the ministers and congregations of the former church were treated as outlaws and rebels, to be fined, imprisoned, and harassed in every possible way. They had to pay tithes for the upkeep of the Episcopalian ministers, were fined for not going to the Episcopalian Church, and had to pay Church cess for buying sacramental bread, ringing the bell, and washing the surplices of the Episcopalian clergymen. All this, remember, in the generation immediately following the Battle of the Boyne.

The reader should remember what is generally slurred over in narrating this part of Irish history, that when we are told that Ulster was planted by Scottish Presbyterians, it does not mean that the land was given to them. On the contrary, the vital fact was, and is, that the land was given to the English noblemen and to certain London companies of merchants who had lent money to the Crown, and that the Scottish planters were only introduced as tenants of these landlords. The condition of their tenancy virtually was that they should keep Ireland for the English Crown, and till the land of Ireland for the benefit of the English landlord.

That is in essence the demand of the Unionist Party leaders upon their followers today. In the past, as the landlords were generally English and Episcopalian, they all, during the eighteenth century, continually inserted clauses in all their leases, forbidding the erection of Presbyterian meeting houses. As the uprise of democracy has contributed to make this impossible today in Ireland, the landlord and capitalist class now seek an alliance with these Protestants they persecuted for so long in order to prevent a union of the democracy of all religious faiths against their lords and masters.

To accomplish this they seek insidiously to pervert history, and to inflame the spirit of religious fanaticism. The best cure I know of for that evil is a correct understanding of the events they so distort in their speeches and sermons. To this end I have ever striven to contribute my mite, and while I know that the sight of the thousands who, on July 12, will march to proclaim their allegiance to principles of which their order is a negation, will be somewhat disheartening. I also know that even amongst the Orange hosts, the light of truth is penetrating.

In conclusion, the fundamental, historical facts to remember are that:

The Irish Catholic was despoiled by force,
The Irish Protestant toiler was despoiled by fraud,
The spoliation of both continues today
under more insidious but more effective forms,

and the only hope lies in the latter combining with the former in overthrowing their common spoilers, and consenting to live in amity together in the common ownership of their common country – the country which the spirit of their ancestors or the devices of their rulers have made – the place of their origin, or the scene of their travail.

I have always held, despite the fanatics on both sides, that the movements of Ireland for freedom could not and cannot be divorced from the world-wide upward movements of the world’s democracy. The Irish question is a part of the social question, the desire of the Irish people to control their own destinies is a part of the desire of the workers to forge political weapons for their own enfranchisement as a class.

The Orange fanatic and the Capitalist-minded Home Ruler are alike in denying this truth; ere long, both of them will be but memories, while the army of those who believe in that truth will be marching and battling on its conquering way.”

The End of Nationalist Voter Apathy?


By Faha

The Brexit referendum is over and Northern Ireland voted 440707Remain (55.75%) and 349,422 Leave (44.2%). The Total vote was 790,149 which was far above the Assembly vote in May.

Who are these additional voters and how many were there? This requires quite a bit of detective work.

Ballot Box

To begin with we know that 694,314 voted for candidates in the May Assembly election. The breakdown by party, candidate, and sectarian vote was:

Unionist Parties and Candidates           343,732       49.5%

Nationalist Parties and Candidates       274,328       39.5%

Nonsectarian Parties and Candidates     76,254       11.0%

I included People Before Profit in the nationalist vote since their entire vote appears to be from the nationalist community.

How many of these people voted in the EU Referendum? There is one group who voted in the Assembly election but who were ineligible to vote in the EU Referendum and these are EU nationals who are not UK citizens. There are over 80,000 EU nationals old enough to vote but only 30,000 were on the electoral register as non UK citizens. Assuming the turnout was similar to other voters then 14,000 to 15,000 voted. Removing these voters would change the party vote. I assume that few voted for unionist parties since most of these EU nationals are of Catholic background AND it is unlikely they would vote for unionist parties that want to leave the EU and deport them. So excluding these voters the vote for the Assembly was approximately:

Unionist Parties and Candidates           343,000       50.5%

Nationalist Parties and Candidates       262,000       38.5%

Nonsectarian Parties and Candidates     75,000       11.0%

Total                                                           680,000

The total Brexit vote was 790,000 so an additional 110,000 voted. I am assuming that all or almost all the 680,000 that voted in the Assembly election also voted in the Brexit referendum. I believe this is accurate for unionist voters since unionist voters are very reliable voters and consistently vote in all elections. However, as I will show this is true for the net unionist vote but some did stay at home in some constituencies but were counter balanced by others who voted in other constituencies. This is also true for the nationalist vote and nonsectarian vote.

What would have the Brexit result if only the 680,000 Assembly voters voted? The clues are found in the Lucid Talk tracking poll for Brexit. The Lucid Talk tracking poll was very accurate for the Assembly election. There was some pre-election skepticism regarding their poll since it was predicting a nationalist vote of only 38% but given the final result it was very accurate. In the month prior to the election Lucid Talk found the following results;

Remain        52%

Leave           38%

Undecided   10%

Since the final result was 55.75% Remain to 44.25% Leave it appear the undecided broke more towards leave. Lucid found this was true in their final tracking poll one week prior to the election when there was a strong move of undecided unionist voters towards Leave. These were their findings:

Remain      Leave     Undecided

Unionist                  13.6%        83.4%         3.0%

Nationalist              86.4%        12.2%         1.2%

Nonsectarian          83.2%        13.0%         3.8%

Clearly the unionist voter preference was the mirror image of the nationalist-nonsectarian voter preference. After dividing up the Undecided the final preference would be approximately:

Remain      Leave

Unionist                  15.0%        85.0%

Nationalist              87.0%        13.0%

Nonsectarian          85.0%        15.0%

For the 680,000 Assembly voters the Brexit vote would have been

Remain         Leave

Unionist                      51,500        291,500

Nationalist               228,000          34,000

Nonsectarian             64,000          11,000

Total                         343,500         336,500

Obviously the vote would have been very close with only a slight edge for Remain. Since the actual vote was 440,707 Remain and 349,422 Leave the additional 110,000 voters who voted in the Brexit referendum voted

Remain        97,207          88.25%

Leave           12,942           11.75%

It is clear that those additional 110,000 voters must include few if any voters who would vote for unionist parties since the vote distribution is similar to the preference of Nationalist and nonsectarian voters. Indeed they were slightly more likely to favour Remain than nationalist and nonsectarian voters in the Lucid Talk Poll. However, I believe that a significant number did originate from the Protestant community though they appear to be liberal Protestants who would vote Alliance, Green or even SDLP. This will become more evident when I analyze the constituency vote.

These are the turnout figures by constituency for the May Assembly election

Faha Turnout 2016A

The nationalist turnout was much less than the unionist turnout in all constituencies except Foyle and Belfast West, South and North. Overall, nationalist turnout was 7% less than unionist turnout for all of Northern Ireland.

The following table shows the turnout by constituency for the Assembly and Brexit Referendum and the increase that occurred in each constituency for the Brexit Referendum. The vote for the Brexit Referendum is also shown by constituency.

Faha Euroref 2016

I estimate that of the additional 110,000 voters that voted in the Brexit Referendum that approximately 75,000 originated from the Catholic community, 15,000 from the None/Other community and 20,000 from the Protestant community. I will now look at the constituency vote for Brexit and refer to the turnout figures for the 2 elections as needed.

I will start with the 6 nationalist constituencies of Foyle, West Tyrone, Mid Ulster, Fermanagh South Tyrone, Newry & Armagh and West Belfast. 5 of these constituencies had SF MP’s at the beginning of 2015.There was a large drop in the Brexit vote in West Belfast of over 5,000 and this was the only constituency that had fewer voters than the Assembly election. These would have been mainly SF voters who stayed home. The net increase for these 6 was only 3,100. The vote breakdown in Foyle, West Tyrone, Mid Ulster and Newry & Armagh indicates that the net additional voters were nationalist voters. The native nationalist turnout in the latter 3 would still have been slightly lower than unionist turnout. Fermanagh South Tyrone is different. The Brexit vote can only be explained by a decline of 2,000 unionist voters and an increase of 3,000 native nationalist voters. The unionist turnout was 71% in May, the highest of any constituency and with the decline it would still be higher than the native nationalist turnout. There would have been approximately 5,000 EU voters who did not vote in Brexit so I am estimating that there was a net increase of 10,000 native nationalist voters, 1,000 None/other and a decline of 3,000 unionist voters for all 6.

The next 4 constituencies I looked at are East Derry, North Antrim, Upper Bann and South Down. The net increase in the Brexit vote was 27,700 and in East Derry, Upper Bann and South Down it appears to have been almost entirely from the Catholic community. In East Derry the Brexit turnout was 51%. In May the unionist turnout was 51% and the nationalist turnout only 34%. If the nationalist turnout increased to 51% it would add 6,000 additional voters which is what occurred. It is also the only explanation for a Remain vote of 48%. The native Catholic electorate is 43% and the other 5% came from None/Other and Protestant Alliance-Green voters. A similar analysis applies to Upper Bann and South Down where the low nationalist turnout increased to the level of the unionist turnout and accounts for the increased vote in Brexit. North Antrim is a bit different. Overall turnout there was 58% and if the nationalist turnout increased from that of 36% in the Assembly election to 61% in Brexit that would add over 6,000 votes. Since the increased vote was 8,742 the additional 2,742 votes would have come from the None/Other and Protestant communities, probably equally from each. Overall for these 4 constituencies there would have been an additional net 22,000 Catholic voters but probably 27,000 native voters after allowing for EU nationals who voted in the Assembly election. The turnout from the None/Other voters probably increased by at least 4,000.

The next 4 constituencies I will look at are South Antrim, North, East, and South Belfast. In these constituencies the increased vote appears to have been mainly from the Catholic community but also significantly from the None/Other community. In East Belfast the increased vote appears to be entirely due to an increased turnout of Catholic and None/Other voters. Indeed, the Remain and Leave vote is almost identical to the Unionist and non-unionist percentage vote in the 2015 Westminster election. Some of those voters did not vote in the Assembly election but then voted again in Brexit. In South Belfast the increased vote of 7,860 appears to be from the Catholic community with perhaps 2,500 from the Other/None community. Only in South Antrim does there appear to be some increase from the Protestant community. 5,000 appear to be from the Catholic community, 1,500 from the None/Other community and 2,000 from the Protestant community. The additional Protestant voters may be those who voted in the 2015 Westminster election for Danny Kinahan but did not vote in May 2016. I suspect many of the latter voted Remain. The small increase in the North Belfast vote appears to be mainly Catholics and None/Other.

The final 4 constituencies are North Down, Strangford, East Antrim and Lagan Valley. North Down had an increase of almost 12,000 voters compared to the May Assembly election. Indeed, it had the highest percentage turnout of any constituency. This is quite amazing since North Down usually has the lowest turnout of any constituency. It appears that 3,500 came from the Catholic community, 2,500 from the None/Other community and 6,000 from the Protestant community. The majority of those additional voters from the Protestant community appear to have voted Remain. Lagan Valley had an increased vote of 9,572 and I estimate that 5,000 were from the Catholic community, 1,500 from the None/other community and 3,000 from the Protestant community. For East Antrim I estimate 3,500 from the Catholic community, 1,500 from the None/Other community and over 4,000 from the Protestant community. For Strangford I estimate 3,500 from the Catholic community, 1,500 from the None/Other community and 4,500 from the Protestant community.

The increased turnout for the Brexit referendum appears to be entirely due to Catholic, None/Other and liberal Protestants. The increased Catholic vote of 75,000 may seem high but the May Assembly turnout was only 45% and increasing that turnout to 57% would result in that high an increase. This is the same turnout from the Catholic community that occurred in the 2005 Westminster and 2003 Assembly elections. The nationalist voter apathy that existed from elections beginning in 2011 disappeared in this election. The increased turnout from the Catholic community appears to be mainly middle class Catholics who would vote SDLP, though a significant minority would vote SF, Alliance or Green. This is because of which constituencies the increased turnout occurred in. The None/Other group is 70,000 potential voters. Opinion polls have shown that this group would vote 50% Alliance/Green, 25% nationalist and 25 % unionist. However, they also vote at very low rates since they do not identify with the usual sectarian elections. At most 20,000 voted in May but this probably increased by 15,000 for this election. It could have been more but this is a young demographic and young voters have a lower turnout than older voters. The additional 20,000 from the Protestant community that voted appear to be liberal Protestants who voted Remain. They were exclusively located in the suburban Belfast constituencies.

If the Assembly election had been held the same day as the Brexit referendum the results would have been very different than in May. Alliance would have picked up an additional seat in North Down and possibly East Antrim and the Greens would add one in East Belfast. There would have been an additional SF seat in East Derry and additional SDLP seats in Upper Bann, Lagan Valley, South Antrim, North Antrim, Strangford and possibly South Down though one would have been lost to the DUP in West Belfast.

Although there was a large increase in the vote from the Catholic and None/Other communities I do not expect that this will recur in future Assembly and Westminster elections. Most of the Westminster elections outside of Fermanagh South Tyrone, North Belfast and East Belfast are not competitive and most of the increased vote was in the noncompetitive seats. These voters are also unlikely to vote in an Assembly election as it makes no difference in their lives whether there are 56 unionist, 42 nationalist and 10 Other MLA’s or 48 unionist, 48 nationalist and 12 Other MLA’s. The nature of the Executive is such that the outcome is already pre-determined prior to the election.

However, whether the UK is in or out of the EU potentially has a major impact on their lives which is why they voted in the Brexit Referendum.

The Brexit result and the aftermath


Without a doubt this result is a shock.

I, like many others, expected a narrow victory for the remain campaign.

The decision is one for UK citizens primarily and as such, I have respect for their decision.

But this one is different.

It is different because it lays bare the disunity at the heart of their kingdom.

Make no mistake, I believe Scotland will have another referendum on independence within 18 months. I also believe this one will be carried.

As usual my primary interest is the results here in the North East of this island.

The headline is, of course, that the majority voted to remain in the EU. A democratic deficit therefore exists as far as the North is concerned.EU Brexit Poll - BBC

A quick look at this BBC map is instructive, those of you familiar with the demography of the place will immediately notice a similarity with the political map of the North East.

Despite much evidence of cross party / community voting there is a certain familiar aspect to this map.

Sinn Fein have been very fast out of the traps on this one calling for a border poll before 6am this morning.

It’s going to be a very interesting Summer

UPDATE: here are all the constituency figures – as pointed out by Fitzjameshorse, I’m proud to report that North Down was the only majority unionist area to vote Remain.

Brexit Figures

Dear Brexiteers………


I thought it might be useful to pen an open letter to anyone considering voting leave or out or whatever it is this week from the viewpoint of an unapologetic Irish Nationalist. My points below are, of course, from that viewpoint and regarding the future status of the north east of Ireland.

This debate has boiled down to two questions over the course of the campaign.

Economics and Immigration.

Firstly the economic argument.

Simply put, there is no coherent anti argument. Overwhelmingly the concensus is that brexit would be an economic disaster for the UK. That will be amplified in the north. According to the Guardian, major Banks are already looking to relocate to Dublin, the hit to the UK economy will be huge but that is a matter for people in England.

I think the people of Scotland are are already tuned into this as a result of the lies they were told during the Independence referendum. That mistake will not be repeated.

Unfortunately, here, things are different.

Every election in this part of the world tends to be viewed through the prism of the “national” question.

That tends to skew the answers somewhat. Make no mistake, this is a low wage low cost economic backwater unlike a few miles to the south. There is much to lose here in a brexit vote.

Secondly there is the Immigration argument.

Where to start on this one? We are a nation of immigrants and emigrants

From the Celts to the Normans to the Lowland Scots and many in between we are a rich mix of many races from which we have forged a distinct identity.

As for the emigrants, we are spread across the globe. For reasons of economic necessity and also through enforced deportation by a foreign power as well as an engineered genocide, we have outposts across the world.

They are outposts of succour, not of power.  That is what we are proud of as a people.

I’m not inclined to deliver lectures on how to vote.

I just know that the economics are a clear case to me and so is the immigration argument

 

 

 

 

 

Brexit: breaching the GFA and the case for a United Ireland


By Sammy McNally

In Hugh Orde’s timely statement about the UK leaving the EU, but not having robust border controls in Ireland – he succinctly suggests that;

“If you shut the front door, leaving the back door open would be stupid.”

Unionists like Sammy Wilson (DUP), who are cute enough to know that although the return of border controls is in Unionist (ideological) interest and would go down well with their constituents also know that they can’t be seen to argue that in public and still hope to be able to present themselves as responsible enough for government.Border crossing

By way of rebuttal of Orde’s statement Samuel offered us;

“Taoiseach Enda Kenny this week has not been definitive in his view that there would have to be border controls – there could be, there might be, there’s a possibility, and we have had some more positive comments that the CTA would be kept,”

Which is a fair point to make  – except it undermines Sammy’s own case by reminding everyone that we currently have no border controls and after Brexit, he and those in the Leave campaign, can’t guarantee there will still be no border controls – and they can’t agree between themselves about what is actually going to happen.

The TUV position is that there will be some “complexities” in border security post Brexit and we can well imagine that if Unionists had any say in it – perhaps in the event of a hung parliament with turmoil in the Tory party after Brexit – such complexities would undoubtedly become greater if the Tories needed Unionist votes.

Of course, the idea that Eastern Europeans, like the the Albanians picked up on the South coast of England (on 29/05/2016) would not avail of an open border between the 2 parts of Ireland is plainly a complete nonsense.

EU Nationals (which according to the Bexiteers may well soon include Albanians and Turks) will, on balance, prefer the train trip to Belfast from Rosslare (having entered the Republic of Ireland legally as EU Nationals) rather than the speed boat across the busy English channel – and of course they just may prefer to stroll across the border at their leisure before heading off to their preferred destination of London – rather than clinging to the underside of a lorry going through the Chunnel.

And as the oft quoted street canines of Northern Ireland  and any student of Irish history will know – the Irish (canine) tail never gets to wag the British dog. After all why should 60 million plus (and growing rapidly) mainlanders concerned about their own livelyhoods worry about their neighbours over the water – it simply hasn’t happened up until now when those interests have been in conflict.

The British people are quite entitled to prefer not to have an unlimited number of EU immigrants in their country or the reduction of sovereignty which membership of the EU entails – indeed the British (mainlander) arguments for Brexit are strong and arguably stronger that those to stay in the EU.

Unfortunately for the plain (Nationalist) people of Northern Ireland(and Ireland as a whole), British National interest is yet again in conflict with Irish National interest and Brexit is a classic example of why we in Ireland(North and South) should be pushing the case for a United Ireland.

In Ireland(North and South) we had a referendum on the GFA which confirmed the right of the people of Ireland to self- determination and contains the following  clause;

“affirm that whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, the power of the sovereign government with  jurisdiction there shall be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in the diversity of their identities and traditions and shall be founded on the principles of full respect for, and equality of, civil, political, social and cultural rights, of freedom from discrimination for all citizens, and of parity of esteem and of just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities”

Quite clearly organising a referendum that has the potential to rupture the economic and social integration of Irish people on both sides of the border is completely at odds with the principle outlined above that “just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities” and is, to use an infamous quote from earlier days, ‘bordering on the reckless’.

The ‘sovereign government’ of the UK has embarked on a referendum process which is  welcomed by Unionists  and Republican dissidents alike, who are being offered the prospect of rolling back the progress that has been made since the GFA with the border arrangements being thrown into turmoil and the prospect of the restriction of goods and people across the border and the inevitable requirement of security arrangements to enforce control. It is entirely reasonable to expect some deterioration in the security situation, as suggested by Hugh Orde and entirely reasonable to suggest that the current SOS for Northern Ireland, Ms Villiers, should not have retained her job as a campaigner for Brexit.

Demographics alone may not bring about a United Ireland, but this Brexit referendum, which is a clear breach of the spirit and arguably the letter of the GFA , should convince anyone from a Nationalist background( who will at some point in this century be in a majority in Northern Ireland) of the clear advantages of Unification of their country.

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.

 

Strangford

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

Faha FST.JPG

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.

 

Foyle

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.

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