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

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

Nationalist Constituencies- The Seats in Contention

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

Fermanagh South Tyrone

West May FST

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

South Belfast

West May SB

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


West May Foyle

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

Newry and Armagh

West May Nwry A

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

The British Election and making the case for a United Ireland

A Guest post by Sammy McNally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nationalist Constituencies- The Safe Seats  

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

West Tyrone:

West May WT

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

Mid Ulster:

West May MU

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

West Belfast:

West May WB

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

South Down:

West May SD

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

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

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

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

East Belfast

West May EB

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

Upper Bann

West May UB

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

South Antrim

West May SA

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

East Antrim

West May EA

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

North Belfast

West May NB

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

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

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

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

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

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

West May BD

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

North Down:

West May ND

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


West May Str

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

Lagan Valley:

West May LV

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

North Antrim:

West May NA

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

East Derry:

West May ED

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

A slow train coming down the line

I’ve promised some numbers for the May elections to those who’ve stuck with this blog down the line and those who are used to me know that my consistent message has been the correllation between the demographics and the votes is startlingly close. The Westminster elections are a raw election. First past the post, no transfers, no messing. I disagree with the method but we work with what we have.

I’m looking at four constituencies. Newry- Armagh, FST, NB, and SB. I’m not looking at East Belfast as that is a entirely one off situation and largely an inter unionist issue. I will come back to it.

Ok. Here we go! I’m going to provide the raw proportional percentages over the last 2 Westminster elections, compare them with the 2011 census and see what you come up with.

West may1







Now lets take a look at the 2011 census community background figures and “go compare”:

Corrected Westm1










It is obvious from the above figures that the census figures match the voting figures very closely. There are a few anomolies also, such as the increased Alliance vote in South Belfast in 2010. The Anna Lo factor obviously impacted on, primarily, the UUP vote for example.

We are five years down the road now from that particular vote. We know that the older unionist demographic is fading. We also know that immigration, emigration and electoral apathy are all factors.

The only certainty is that there is a slow train coming down the line for political unionism and sooner or later the chickens will be roosting.

May will give us all an indication of the next stop.

Unionist Unity’s last Hurrah?


Ahead of schedule, it seems,  I have learned that we have a deal for Unionist Unity at last for the May elections. Apparently the official announcement is due in the morning   ( Wednesday 18th)

There are four constituencies involved. Fermanagh South Tyrone (No surprise), North Belfast (Stop the press!) Newry and Armagh and, wait for it …….East Belfast! Now that is a surprise.Comber

Possibly of more interest are the omissions. Notably South Belfast but also South Antrim and Upper Bann.

Alliance may well view the move in East Belfast as a sign of panic in DUP ranks in that parish, Id regard it as an insurance policy. There is obviously a lack of confidence within the party regarding retaining that particular seat. If I was Naomi Long, I’d be licking my lips tonight, metaphorically of course.

Fermanagh? Tightest seat in christendom as well as the dreariest steeples.

My money is on SF retaining the seat. I base that on the demographic changes (On the way in detail shortly I promise) and the effect upon the nationalist electorate of good old unionist pacts in general.

Newry and Armagh? Not a hope for a unionist candidate, an obvious carrot for the UUP.

North Belfast? Now this could be fun. SF are very, very confident of this one. Will the UUP vote transfer to the DUP en masse or, as I suspect, will the middle class unionists of Cave Hill simply not vote rather than support the odiously and obviously sectarian manipulators of the local electorate (eg:Girdwood), their DUP representatives.

My take is that is a major win for the DUP. The only possible plus for the UUP is FST if they can win it. It is worth remembering that they didn’t manage that last time around with an agreed unity candidate, let alone a single UUP person.

It is fascinating that no agreed candidate has been selected for South Belfast. Does this signify an acknowledgement that the constituency is lost to Unionism? I don’t know.

I have the feeling that this election may be the last hurrah for unionist electoral pacts. They hark back, in my mind, to the hegemony of the single candidate days of the old UUP complete with gerrymandered constituencies and limited voter registration.

No doubt there will be denials issued that the sectarian headcount ideology or philosophy is in play. Make no mistake, it very much is.

If this play of the cards doesn’t work, what next for political Unionism?


South Belfast 2015 A bridge too far?

South Belfast is hotting up as a potential electoral touchstone for the forthcoming elections. Within the nationalist camp we have the increasingly blunderingly percievied  incumbent, Dr Al versus the “social media and finger on the pulse” expert, Máirtin O’M. If the SDLP had an ounce of media management sense the well meaning leader would not be let out without a team of minders in possession of a short leash and a well written script. A well worn dictum of the dark arts of PR is never to let a silence fill the airwaves of a disaster. A worse decision is to fill the silence with bluff and bluster.

Sinn Fein seldom make that elementary mistake. That may be a crucial difference come May.

Who will win come May in South Belfast?

This is now a nationalist seat. Unthinkable 20 years ago but now a fact

The only chance Unionism has of winning this seat is via a “pact”.

Think about that that for a minute. Could you imagine Carson, the Dubliner, Paisley or Craigavon admitting that South Belfast could fall to a non Unionist candidate? Let alone squabbling about how to stop “themmuns” keeping the seat.

What we have is eleven pro union parties and two pro reunification parties so far.

Game on






Where are we now?

I’d like to extend my best wishes to all who read this blog for the new year. I trust everyone had a great Christmas and thanks for bearing with me during my recent quiet spell.

Back to business. Rather than going over the events of 2014 I’m going to take a look at the recently issued OFMDFM 2013 Labour Force Survey Report. This gives us an opportunity to take a look at the demographic changes that have occurred since 1990 and also includes information that is more up to date than the 2011 Census. The report in it’s entirety is available here.

2014 was a relatively quiet year demographically.The Euro and Local elections threw up few surprises on a low turnout. 2015 may, perhaps, be more interesting with the May Westminster election and the 2016 Assembly election 12 months hence.

Regarding my analysis of the report below, there are two important notes to be aware of:

  • The definition of “Working age” changed in 2010 to include females between 59 and 64. (everyone else is defined as 16 to 64)
  • Those respondents defining themselves as neither Catholic nor Protestant are excluded from the figures. It is my belief that the majority of those defining themselves as “Other” are, in fact from a Catholic background due to the fact that they are predominantly a younger demographic and therefore more likely to come from a Catholic upbringing which is less likely to define itself as such. It should be noted that Catholics were in a majority at every age below 42 in 2013 according to the 2011 Census.

As regular readers here may be aware, the demographic and electoral trend seems to have stalled somewhat in recent years with the Catholic/ Nationalist vote settling at around the 44% mark while the Unionist percentage continues to decline steadily and is currently around the 50% mark. I am firmly of the view that the potential nationalist electorate is under-represented across the North. I believe that this is due to a number of factors:

  • Political apathy by the electorate
  • Under registration of voters
  • Poor candidate selection and lack of application in what are viewed as “Unionist” areas by Nationalist parties
  • Lack of strategic vision. eg: Economic, Social, Political.
  • Fragmentation of the vote due to a refusal on the part of the electorate to be defined as “one” or”t’other”. (A good thing in my view)

Here are some figure from the report:

NI 2013 Labour Rpt1


I think the figures are pretty stark here. Between 1992 and 2013:

  • Protestant working age economic participation declined by 4% while Catholic participation rose by 5%. A 9% swing. That is pretty dramatic in a 21 year period. Is it down to fair employment legislation or, perhaps, an ageing protestant workforce?
  • Protestant unemployment rates declined from 9% to 6%. Great news. Catholic Unemployment rates declined from 18% to 9%. Halved. Of course the real story is that the gap was so large in the first place and is narrowing so quickly.

From the Report “Between 1990 and 2013, the proportion of the population aged 16 and over who reported
as Protestant decreased by eight percentage points from 56% to 48%, while the proportion
who reported as Catholic increased by three percentage points from 38% to 41%. Over
this period, the proportion of the population reported as ‘other/non-determined’ has almost
doubled (from 6% to 11%)”

NI Labour Report 2013 2From the report, between 1990 and 2013 the number of Protestants increased by 37,000, or 6%, to 680,000, while the number of Catholics increased by 148,000, or 34%, to 588,000 over the same period. The number of people aged 16 and over classified as ‘other/non-determined’ has more than doubled from 63,000 to 161,000 over this period.
By way of providing context to the figures obtained in the LFS sample, according to the
2011 Census there were 618,000 Protestants aged 16 and over in Northern Ireland,
compared to 567,000 Catholics, and 247,000 who would be considered ‘other/non determined’.
Thus, in 2011, 43% of those aged 16 and over were Protestant, 40% were
Catholic and 17% were ‘other/non-determined’.

Interesting? Perhaps we should look at the age profiles next?

Ni Labour Report 2013 3


Again, from the report: There were 166,000 Protestants aged 60 and over in 1990 and this had increased to 213,000 by 2013. The number of Catholics in this age group increased from 76,000 to 117,000 over the same period. The 11,000 aged 60 and over classified as ‘other/nondetermined’ in 1990 had more than doubled to 28,000 by 2013.

To provide context to the figures obtained in the LFS sample, Census figures from 2011
show that among those aged 60 and over, 55% (198,000) were Protestant, 33% (118,000) were Catholic, and 12% (42,000) would be considered ‘other/non-determined’.

And so what of the future?

Lets take a look at the 16 to 24 age cohort:

NI Labour report 2013 4In Summary: Between 1990 and 2013, the number of Protestants in this age group has decreased by 25,000 (22%) to 91,000. The number of Catholics has also decreased over this period, albeit to a lesser extent, from 105,000 to 99,000 (6%). These decreases have been somewhat offset by an increase among those classified as ‘other/non-determined’; from16,000 in 1990 to 28,000 in 2013.
According to the 2011 Census, 36% of those aged 16 to 24 were Protestant (82,000), 44%were Catholic (100,000) and 20% were ‘other/non-determined’ (45,000)

I hope my fellow number crunchers have something to get their teeth into there. I certainly found it fascinating.

In the release of state papers over the last few days it was noted that in 1986, Maggie Thatcher was informed that nationalists in Ireland had a strategy of waiting, that time was on their side. There is undoubtedly a truth in that.

Athbhliain faoi mhaise dhuit!




A Licence to Spin

Guest post by Sammy McNally

Long before the BBC was ever even dreamt of, Orangemen have been marching – marching both where they are welcome and marching where they are not welcome.  The challenge for the BBC is to reflect the pomp and ceremony of those parades which are welcomed and to report on the controversies surrounding those parades which are not.

Orange March girlsAnyone viewing The Twelfth (BBC NI’s longest running outside broadcast programme ) which includes coverage from a number of locations in Northern Ireland of the marches on the public holiday of the 12th July, might reasonably, but incorrectly conclude, that there was little or no controversy  associated with the parades featured therein.

In 2012, The Twelfth programme, was the subject of a complaint that the BBC had not complied with its own guidelines on impartiality in its coverage of the Belfast parade.

 (Covered here by BangorDub )

The BBC Trust rejected the complainant’s contention that the Belfast parade was ‘very controversial’ (which in recent years is often followed by days of rioting) – a category with specific editorial requirements.  (I think it safe to conclude none of the Trustees lived near the route of the Belfast parade).

The Trust also rather conveniently suggested that the Programme was part of a  linked ‘series’ even though  the programmes that is was ‘linked’ to were News programmes and suggested that any controversy was therefore covered by the News.  And the Trust also concluded that the “programme did contain some references which acknowledged the controversial nature of parades in general and these were sufficient in the context of a programme that has such clearly defined ambitions and where the audience would have a pre-existing understanding of the underlying issues.”

In 2013 The Twelfth programme was again the subject of a complaint on the grounds that there was even less balance in the programme than the previous year. One can imagine that during the course of this complaint this might have been a cause for some concern for BBC (NI) as they would potentially have had to publically revise the format of a programme very popular with the Unionist community  – at what continues to be a very sensitive time in the parading debate.

But BBC NI, need not have worried, in an extraordinary piece of logic the BBC Trust ruled that ‘The Committee agreed that the question for it was whether what BBC NI had done in 2013 was sufficient to achieve due impartiality according to the Guidelines. It noted that there are many ways to achieve due impartiality under the Guidelines. The Committee did not think it was necessary for the BBC to have gone about achieving due impartiality on this occasion in the same manner as it had done in the year before“.

So what was ‘sufficient’ in 2012 was not actually ‘necessary’ in 2013. An absolute gem from the Trust.

(Ruling Here, Published December 2014


What is perhaps most concerning about this piece of contorted logic, is that it appears to avoid  the need to have any balance at all in a programme which is a TV celebration of a cultural event which is (very) controversial, often leads to serious public disorder and has damaging consequences for community relations. Orange OrderIn practical terms, as far the BBC Trust is concerned, the BBC, can bypass the need for balance by simply advancing the self-serving claim that such a promotional style of programme can be fairly viewed as part of series which includes News programmes.  


By this logic the more controversial a topic then the greater will be the News coverage and the more the programme will comply with the guidelines.  It is hard to believe that whoever drew up the BBC guidelines could have guessed that ‘linkage’ would be so (mis)used.  

The BBC has helped build a (well-earned) reputation for impartiality by exploring the controversial aspects of Northern Ireland politics even during the height of the troubles but that reputation must surely be at risk – at least among the Nationalist community – by continuing to broadcast a programme  – about an event, which is not only overtly political but has sectarian and paramilitary trappings – in such an unashamedly promotional way.

It is inconceivable to imagine a programme being broadcast in Britain which covers an event with such potential for public disorder and which is so offensive in sectarian (or racial terms) to a large section (44%) of the population? But this is of course, Northern Ireland, where things are different and it may be that the BBC Trust is mindful of the current political situation and wishes to avoid making any ruling which unsettles Unionist political opinion further.  And that is perhaps Orange Bonfire nightunderstandable – but that is not however the role that  the BBC Trust was set up to perform nor is it the role that licence fee payers impacted upon by the parade or those who belong to the broader Nationalist community can reasonably expect the BBC Trust to perform.  

….but whatever spin the BBC Trust wishes to put on it – this is a programme which has evolved in its current format, when Nationalists in Northern Ireland were treated as, and seen as, second class citizens – and is at a minimum, badly in need of a serious (impartial) make-over – and is arguably way, way, past it’s sell by date.  


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