Fury, Outrage and Anger

Hi everyone,

It’s been an interesting few weeks.

The Tories clinging to power in Britain by flirting with the DUP, flashing the cash, paying for the goodies and swishing their conservative skirts brings to mind a political lap dancing image which I’d rather not conjure up.St matthews

The title of this blog is a reference to the Belfast Telegraph sub editors who seem incapable of any other adjectives regarding unionist reaction to, well, just about anything. I could have added a few more words such as defensive, defiant, aggressive and denial.

We have had to endure the unedifying spectacle of certain elected politicians treading one of three well trodden paths and  combination of all of them.

  1. Attempting to Justify the behaviours and consequences of those behaviours, of the crazier elements of their support
  2. Deflecting in every direction possible rather than addressing the actual issues
  3.  Disappearing from sight and sound entirely

This amounts to a single thing.

A dereliction of leadership.

If I may spell  it out, never has the PUL community been more in need of clear, focussed, leadership than now.

Without that, unionism cedes ground to the lunatic fringe that we saw on display in Windsor Park last night with their songbook in full voice and their unrestrained, instinctive, visceral, hatred, on display to a wider audience.

Wider Unionism has not yet realised that they are now a minority in the North East of Ireland.  Their politicians know it. Everyone else knows it, Horseman knew it some years ago, most educated unionist voters know it.  Someone needs to tell their 1690 facing followers.

As long as political unionism refuses to lead their voters, the only movement they will experience is backwards. That is a tragedy for their poorest and most disenfranchised voters.

As for the the Belfast Telegraph headline writers? Shame on you.

I hope, for the sake of unionism, that change will happen soon.



Westminster 2017 Faha Predicts

By Faha

I know that regular readers here have been looking forward to this. Faha’s analysis and predictions for the June 8th election are set out below……. Enjoy! – BD

NI Constituency pic

The June 8 Westminster election will be held in 2 weeks. This is my constituency analysis for that election. It is more difficult to do an analysis by comparing this election with the 2015 election because so much has transpired in the previous 2 years. The UK voted to leave the UK in the Brexit referendum one year ago. Northern Ireland voted Remain by a 56% to 44% margin and this fact will influence the results in Northern Ireland. The second major factor is the end of nationalist voter apathy in the March 2017 Assembly election, which resulted in the unionist parties winning a minority of seats in the Assembly. This is the first time the unionist parties, in any legislative Assembly in the previous 100 years, have ever been in a minority.

However, it is not as simple as transposing the results of the March 2017 election to the Westminster election. The electorate is different. The 30,000 EU voters who were eligible to vote in March are unable to vote in the Westminster election so this would decrease the vote totals for SF, SDLP, Alliance and Greens. Since this is a first past the post election, tactical voting will be more prominent. Turnout is difficult to predict but there is no reason to believe that there will be an increased unionist turnout. Brexit is a done deal and the Conservatives appear headed for a landslide victory in the UK. There is no reason for unionist non-voters who favour Brexit to vote since the Conservative Party will negotiate Brexit for them.

Some SF, SDLP, Alliance and Green nonvoters who did not vote in March, but who are strongly opposed to Brexit, may vote as a form of protest against Brexit and this is their only opportunity to do so before Brexit occurs in 2019. There may also be an increase in voting by dissident republicans who traditionally have voted for SF but have stopped voting in recent years. Of course, they have no interest in Westminster but the strong showing by SF in the Assembly election will motivate some to vote and defeat unionist candidates.

There was a Lucid Talk Poll done in the past week and the results were:

Change Assembly 2017

SF                    27.9%                         0.0%

SDLP               13.7%                         1.8%

PBP                    0.9%                       -0.9%

Alliance            9.8%                     0.7%

Green                0.7%                   -1.6%

DUP                  28.8%                    0.7%

UUP                  15.7%                    2.8%

TUV                    0.1%                   -2.4%

Conservative     0.2%                     0.0%

Others                2.2%                    -0.2%

The only statistically significant changes from the March Assembly election are the increase for the SDLP and UUP and the decrease for the TUV and Green. More than half the other vote would be for Sylvia Hermon.

There are 8 constituencies where there could be a change compared to 2015, I will briefly go over the 10 constituencies where there is no possibility of a change in the results from 2015. 4 of these are SF seats and 5 are DUP seats.

West Tyrone

Assembly result

SF           48.1%

SDLP       14.2%

UUP         8.2%

DUP        20.5%

An easy victory for SF here and it is possible the SF vote may exceed 50%.

Mid Ulster

Assembly results

SF            52.8%

SDLP        12.9%

UUP            9.1%

DUP          19.3%

Again an easy victory for SF with a vote greater than 50%.

Newry and Armagh

Assembly results

SF            48.4%

SDLP        16.3%

UUP          13.2%

DUP          17.8%

An easy victory for SF here and it is possible the SF vote may exceed 50%.

West Belfast

Assembly results

SF            61.8%

SDLP         8.6%

PBP          14.9%

UUP          1.2%

DUP          10.1%

This will be SF’s best result. The only point of interest here will be if the PBP vote collapses further.


Assembly results

SF                2.9%

SDLP            8.9%

UUP           20.1%

DUP            39.9%

Alliance      15.0%

An easy victory for the DUP here. This was one constituency where there was only a minimal increase in nationalist turnout. The Brexit referendum had a much higher turnout and there was a 44.5% Remain vote. If there is any evidence of a anti Brexit protest vote it would show up in higher vote total for Alliance, SDLP or SF.

Lagan Valley

Assembly results

SF                4.0%

SDLP            8.4%

UUP           25.2%

DUP            40.3%

Alliance      15.0%

Another easy victory for the DUP here. Lagan Valley voted 46.9% Remain on a higher turnout so it will be interesting if any anti-Brexit protest vote shows up in the Alliance, SDLP and SF vote.

East Antrim

Assembly results

SF                9.9%

SDLP            4.1%

UUP           22.7%

DUP            35.2%

Alliance      16.0%

An easy victory for the DUP here. This is another constituency with a higher Brexit turnout and a 44.8% Remain vote. Will there be any evidence of an anti-Brexit protest vote here?

North Antrim

Assembly results

SF               15.8%

SDLP             7.3%

UUP             12.5%

DUP              40.6%

TUV              16.1%

Another safe seat for the DUP. This was the most pro Brexit constituency at over 62%. The only point of interest here is if the TUV vote collapses further.

East Derry

Assembly results

SF                          25.8%

SDLP                     10.8%

Nationalist             1.2%

UUP                         6.7%

DUP                        33.3%

Other Unionist     16.7%

Alliance                    4.4%

This is a safe seat for the DUP. This is one constituency where a nationalist pact could be viable since the combined nationalist vote of 37.8% exceeds the DUP vote of 33.3%. In reality though it would not be successful since much of the other unionist vote would go to the DUP in such a situation and the DUP vote would exceed 40%, as it did in the 2015 Westminster election.

North Down

Assembly results

UUP           21.5%

DUP            37.5%

Alliance      18.6%

Green          13.7%

Sylvia Hermon will win easily here as she always does. She will receive the UUP vote as well as much of the SF, SDLP, Alliance and Green vote. Some of the DUP vote will also go to her.

Now I will analyze the 8 seats where there could be a change. I will start with the ones that will be the most likely to change.

South Antrim

Assembly results

SF                16.3%

SDLP             9.5%

UUP           20.8%

DUP            33.7%

Alliance      12.5%

I except that this seat will be won by Paul Girvan of the DUP and Danny Kinahan of the UUP will lose. They are several reasons for this conclusion. The DUP vote exceeded the UUP vote by 5,500 in the Assembly election. In the 2015 Westminster election Danny Kinahan won by only 1,000 votes. In comparing that 2015 vote with the previous Assembly election it appears that 1,000 of his votes were tactical votes from Alliance voters and another 500 were tactical votes from the SDLP. These 1,500 tactical voters probably voted for Danny Kinahan because Willie McCrea was seen as extreme by those voters and Danny Kinahan was seen as a moderate. These votes are unlikely to go to Danny Kinahan this time. Those tactical Alliance and SDLP voters are anti-Brexit and Danny Kinahan voted pro Brexit in Westminster so they are unlikely to vote for him. Paul Girvan of the DUP does not have the same image as Willie McCrea and it is more likely that most of the DUP Assembly voters will vote for him. This constituency is the most likely to have a change on June 8.

Fermanagh South Tyrone

Assembly results

SF                                            22,008

SDLP                                         5,134

UUP                                          6,060

DUP                                         15,581

Other Unionist                            850

Alliance                                      1,437

Green                                            550

Labour                                          643

There is a unionist pact here will only Tom Elliot of the UUP standing as the unofficial unionist unity candidate. The total unionist vote of 22,491 only slightly exceeds the SF vote of 22,008. The SF vote does include some EU nationals but probably less than 1,000.  I expect that the majority of the 643 Labour vote will go to SF. Also, in Westminster elections some of the SDLP vote goes to SF. This is more likely to occur this time because the SDLP candidate is not from the constituency and is actually a councillor in West Tyrone. There could be a few Green or Alliance anti Brexit voters that also go to SF. I also expect more dissident republicans to vote in this election as a protest against a hard border. This seat will be won by SF though as always it will be a close election.

East Belfast

Assembly results

SF                                 2.9%

SDLP                             0.6%

UUP                            13.1%

DUP                            37.6%

Other Unionist           8.9%

Alliance                      31.4%

Green                           3.6%

Labour                          1.1%

I believe this constituency will result in a very narrow win for Alliance. The DUP appear to have the advantage. There is a 8.9% vote for the PUP and TUV here but some of these voters may stay home or vote UUP. I expect enough of them to vote DUP to increase the DUP vote to 41% to 42%. I expect that there will be enough tactical voting by SF, SDLP, Green and Alliance voters (and possibly a few UUP) to increase the Alliance vote to 36%. The major unknown is turnout.  East Belfast did vote 48.6% Remain on a higher turnout. There were 20,700 Remain voters. I think there will be an increased voter turnout here mainly due to anti Brexit voters and this will give Naomi Long a narrow victory over the DUP.

The following 2 constituencies could change but I believe it is very unlikely.

Upper Bann 

Assembly results

SF                27.8%

SDLP              9.9%

UUP           20.6%

DUP            32.8%

TUV               2.0%

Alliance         5.3%

It appears that SF may have a chance of winning in Upper Bann. The SF vote was only 2,500 less than the DUP vote in March. However, the TUV are not competing and most of their 1,000 votes will go to the DUP. The SF total also includes EU nationals and may be as high as 1,000. Thus, SF would need an additional 4,000 votes. It is possible that 1,000 to 2,000 could come from the SDLP. Nationalist turnout has always been much less that unionist turnout here and unless there is a significant increase in nationalist nonvoters who decide to vote as a protest against Brexit the DUP should retain this seat.


Assembly results

SF                36.7%

SDLP            31.8%

PBP              10.7%

UUP                3.7%

DUP               13.4%

Alliance           2.5%

SF would appear to have the edge here as their vote total exceeded that of the SDLP by over 2,000 votes. However, there is no UUP candidate and there is a history here of significant tactical voting for Mark Durkan from Alliance, UUP and even a few DUP voters which will make up that 2,000 vote difference. PBP will poll less without Eamonn McCann as the candidate and the SDLP will pick up more of that vote. Mark Durkan should win but with a narrower majority.


South Belfast

Assembly results

SF                  17.7%

SDLP             19.4%

UUP              9.0%

DUP            20.9%

TUV               1.6%

Alliance      17.8%

Green           9.9%

The DUP would appear to have the edge over the SDLP here. Not only was the DUP vote 1.5% higher than the SDLP vote in March but it is likely that the DUP will add another 1% from the TUV vote. However, there is likely to be significant tactical voting for the SDLP from some Green, Alliance, SF and even a few UUP voters to prevent the DUP from winning. In the Brexit referendum South Belfast voted 70% Remain and 30% Leave so there could be a significant anti-Brexit protest vote that will benefit Alasdair McDonnell. The Lucid Talk poll is showing a 1.8% increase in the SDLP vote and it is likely that this increase is localized to the constituencies of South Belfast, Foyle and South Down due to tactical voting and a personal vote for the candidates.

North Belfast

Assembly results

SF                  29.4%

SDLP             13.1%

PBP                 3.8%

UUP                5.8%

DUP               32.1%

PUP                 4.9%

Alliance          8.4%

Green             1.7%

There is an unofficial unionist pact here with Nigel Dodds of the DUP the only unionist candidate. The DUP will pick up all the PUP and most of the UUP vote so the DUP total vote should be 42%. The SF vote will be much higher than 29.4% and will come from 4 sources. SF should add 3% of the PBP vote. The SDLP have a low profile candidate and the SDLP vote is lower in Westminster elections compared to Assembly or Council elections due to some tactical voting for SF in Westminster elections. The big unknown is how much of the 13.1% of the March Assembly vote will go to SF. Alban Maginness received 8.2% in 2015 but he was a high profile candidate with a significant personal vote whereas Martin McCauley is relatively unknown. Furthermore most SDLP voters are anti Brexit and may be more inclined to tactically vote SF to defeat the pro Brexit Nigel Dodds. I believe the SDLP vote could be as low as 6%. There will also be a few Green and Alliance voters who will vote tactically for SF due to Brexit. These would be Green and Alliance voters who give SF a 2nd or lower preference in an Assembly election. The SF vote should reach 40% which would still be short of Nigel Dodds. SF can win only if stay at home republican and nationalist nonvoters turnout in an anti-Brexit vote. SF needs a perfect storm with additional votes from PBP, SDLP, Alliance and Green voters as well as non-voters to win here. If any one of those does not materialize SF cannot win.

South Down

Assembly results

SF                38.6%

SDLP            25.2%

UUP               8.5%

DUP              15.8%

Alliance         9.2%

SF is more likely to win this seat than North Belfast. The gap between SF and the SDLP was over 13% in March. Based on previous elections the SDLP will pick up another 9% from tactical votes from Alliance, UUP and DUP voters. However, the SDLP would still be 4% behind SF. There was higher unionist tactical voting for Margaret Ritchie in 2010 and if this were to recur in this election then the SDLP would close the gap. There is probably also a small personal vote for Margaret Ritchie among voters who voted for SF for the first time this past March. This will be a very close contest and the outcome will be determined by the extent of Alliance and unionist tactical voting. This is probably one constituency where the increased SDLP vote in the Lucid Talk poll is concentrated.

South Belfast, one to watch

“We can do this”

The words of a Sinn Fein activist on the stump in South Belfast last week.

I must admit I was personally sceptical. But it got me thinking.Polling booths

Then, this week , South Belfast bubbled to the surface again as a serious point of political interest. Sam McBride over at the newsletter published a predictably, unionist minded piece which Mick referenced in an earlier article here on Slugger. Chris Donnelly has also done an in depth piece on the constituency including the recent vote numbers.

What is clear is that the SDLP share of the vote has decreased from 32.3% to 19.4% (with the exception of 2010 when SF didn’t stand gifting a 41% vote to the sole SDLP candidate) and the Sinn Féin vote has increased from 9% to 17.7% since 2005.

The trend is clear therefore, that barring the unexpected (Or, of course, “events”) Sinn Féin is in a position to overhaul the SDLP as the the largest nationalist party, if not at this election, certainly by the next electoral cycle. It’s a question of when, rather than if.

The overall Nationalist vote, however, has remained essentially static. The two trends that have emerged are the shift in balance between the SDLP and SF, and the growth of the smaller parties. Alliance have doubled their percentage vote over the period but remained largely static since 2010. The Greens have also done very well, increasing from 3% in 2010 to 9.9% in 2017.

Outwith those two, the intra Unionist battle is clearly being won by the DUP who are now gathering votes at a ratio of 2:1 versus the Ulster Unionists. Nevertheless the overall Unionist vote has decreased from 51.1% to 31.9% – a staggering 20% drop in twelve years.

As a number cruncher myself, I must admit to an academic interest but as a republican I must also admit to an emotional and political interest.

There are three clear interesting elements to this election, the inter-nationalist SF v SDLP vote, the broader Nationalist V Unionist result and the issue of how the wider vote fragments among other parties.

The infuriating point of FPP elections is, of course, that it focusses things in a very black and white way. The ultimate sectarian headcount if you’ll forgive me that phrase. For example, in 2017 Green Party transfers broke 70% for the two main nationalist parties – 40% of them went to SF.

Given the nature of this election, a number of questions present themselves:

Will the fragmented voters among the smaller parties actually vote, and if they do, who will they vote for?
Will the big ticket issues impact on voters? – Brexit, Stormont reignition, Equality issues, Political competence?
Will the politically smart and diverse electorate in South Belfast withdraw to the traditional barricades?
Regarding the Intra Nationalist battle – can Máirtín win?

In my opinion, yes he can but for that to happen it’ll require two things to happen.

It will require sufficient SDLP voters to shift their votes in the belief that Máirtin can beat Alasdair to take Mairtin over about 25%. In other words he needs to find 4000 votes above his 2015 total or 2000 above the May 2017 performance.

It will also require voters in the smaller parties to vote SF.

Given the rapid rate of demographic change in South Belfast it will be interesting to see how the vote coalesces this time around.

If, and it’s a big if, he can maintain the momentum he has built over recent elections. Yes Mairtin can win this but the odds are currently not in his favour.

The most recent Lucid talk poll gives the SDLP a 60% chance of retaining the seat with  the DUP as the likely winners if they don’t.

The SDLP are clearly pitching their hopes of retaining the seat on a campaign built upon the local popularity of Claire Hanna and the benefits of being the incumbent MP.

I am personally yet to be persuaded as to the benefits of any MP from hereabouts actually taking a seat in Westminster, not to mention taking an oath to an unelected monarch. I am unaware of a single instance of any elected MP from here materially affecting any piece of legislation passing through Westminster.

For me, South Belfast will be the one to watch on the night of June 8th.

Game Changer?

We face into yet another election which, I suspect, few want just now.

The key question is if the previously dormant nationalist leaning electorate will turn out again.

There is a text and and a subtext to this one. The text is the Brexit mini referendum and the subtext, as always, is the nationalist v unionist headcount.John Finucane

Momentum is key in politics and I have no doubts where the momentum lies just now.

The selection of John Finucane in North Belfast is a potential game changer. The SDLP pattern of simply attacking SF will be laid bare if they go for this one. I hope they don’t but you never know.

Just a thought but the potential for 7 unionist out of 18 MP’s is now live.




Democracy; An inconvenient truth?

A guest blog by Carrickally

(For newer readers, Carrickally is our resident Unionist writer) The picture in this piece was chosen by me and not Carrickally by the way, I have no wish to detract from or imply anything from his piece below.  

A strange point of view to take, you might think.  But i now reside in a part of the world where democracy is not an experience for those around me.  There are many, not just those born here, who have never known a democratic process; expat Arabs, some Africans, some Asians.

The publicity points out a low crime rate, that things get done, that there is no taxation and tolerance is all around.  Wouldn’t it be great if NI, or the rest of the island of Ireland or the rest of the British Isles was like that?  None of thise pesky carjackers, the rapid transit buses would already be whizzing around, we wouldn’t have to worry about a third of our pay packets going on tax and national insurance and we would all have a great life without walls separating leisure and school facilities!Marriage equality

Of course, even a cursory glance at the news here provides rapes, murders, trafficking, drug abuse and bribery.  A look at building site accidents and the worker camps shows that unskilled servitude leads to literal cracks in the shiny facades.  Sniff around to see utility bills five times higher for Johnny Foreigner, visa renewals that cost hundreds of pounds, bureaucratic procedures that must be paid for and medical insurance that must be bought; add on schooling and the net results squeaks up towards the third (on average) taken off our gross pay.  As for tolerance; the number of times I have heard praise for the man with the funny moustache and Endlösung…

I am not denying i have a good quality of life: better than at home.  I won’t deny i am a privileged expat and it is grossly insulting to the true hardship of those who work 70 hours per week for a fraction of my salary and with none of the benefits my company provide.  And it would certainly stick in my craw to suggest that there is some universal and stereotypical malaise in this neck of the woods.

What does shame me is that we dont realise just how lucky we are to have a level of individual freedom in the group of islands off Northwest Europe that allows us to voice our thoughts, organise gatherings to work towards improved conditions and have the ability to veer from the societal norms without being stoned into line.

And then i realise that we were all on that journey.  You could argue 400 years ago, 100 years ago or even we are still not truly free due to equality issues.

And that brings me back to democracy.

The power of change is there, for good or ill.

Use it and hope that it is for the former.  Be willing to protect it from the latter.

We go again

Well I didn’t anticipate this.

We go again to the polls.

Horseman would have loved these days I think, the playing out of the endgame of the demographic chess game that formed the statelate in the north east of Ireland.

I am very aware of the sensitivities  around where we are but I must admit I feel a certain sense of vindication regarding how far we how have come

We have three  things now to consider:

Will the Unionists parties coalesce?

Will the nationalist electorate remain resolute in turnout?

Is this a turning point?


My opinion is yes to all three questions.

This is only going in one direction.

Bring it on

Talking of Horseman…………..

As has been mentioned in the comments recently, the legendary Horseman’s predictions are gradually playing out in the real world and proving incredibly accurate. In that spirit what followsSt Patricks Day 2017 dancers is Fahas analysis of the latest release of the schools census data.

If I may, I’d like to thank all those who take the time to comment here. That is the reason this blog keeps going. In addition we have many readers who don’t comment but the figures continue to amaze me. 1,600 a day on average is a very respectable readership.

Go raibh maith agat agus lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh


The data for the 2016 School Census was released recently. This data was obtained in October 2016 for all Primary, Secondary and Special Schools in Northern Ireland. These records are available as far back as 2000 so I have compiled and compared the data for that 17 year time period. Here is the yearly data for the question on religion for students in each year.

Schools Census 2000-2016

The obvious and main trend is the steady decline of the Protestants in the student age groups. The Catholic percentage has increased slightly over the 17 year time period. There has been a small increase in non-Christians and those with No Religion has doubled from 4.9% to 9.8% during that time period. There also has been a significant increase in the Other Christian group who now constitute 3.42% of all students.

Who are these Other Christians? In the looking at the detailed 2011 Census Religion information by denomination and accounting for the recent increase in Romanian and Bulgarian nationals it appears that approximately 0.5% are Eastern Orthodox (EU nationals). Of the remaining 2.9% it appears that 1.75% can be accounted for as non-denominational Protestants or other Christian related religions such as Mormons. That leaves 1.15% remaining. Of note is that while Other Christians are only 3.42% of the student population they make up 25% of students in integrated schools.

Many of these are probably children of mixed marriages and children of Protestant and Catholics who are not affiliated with a church or parish. I estimate that of the total 3.42% that 0.5% are Eastern Orthodox, 0.5% of Catholic background and 2.5% of Protestant background. In the school census there are also 9.83% with No Religion or Not Recorded. The 2011 census category for Religion Brought in did not have a Not Recorded category but comparing the two I estimate that most of the 9.83% (at least 9.0%) with No Religion Not Recorded are actually No Religion.

There are probably a small number of non-denominational Protestants. There are also a few Catholics who are Not Stated since they wish to not reveal their religion status in State schools in order to avoid potential harassment.

Taking all these factors into account I estimate the Catholic population at 52%, the Protestant population at 37.5%, Non-Christian or Eastern Orthodox at 1.25% and No Religion at 9.25%. The Protestant student population is declining at 0.4% per year and by 2021 will be only 35%.

That year will be the 100th anniversary of the founding of Northern Ireland. The irony in that 35% is that in 1921 that was the percentage of the Northern Ireland population that was Catholic.

All these students will eventually be voters and based on the recent Assembly election approximately 51% would vote for nationalist parties, 37% for unionist parties and 12% for non-sectarian parties. Every year from 2017 on will add a new voter cohort where there will be a 15% gap between nationalist and unionist parties.

The unionist parties do not appear to be aware of this large gap between nationalist and unionist votes that will occur into the future with no end in sight. The recent Assembly election may have alerted some unionists to this fact.


Winners and Losers – AE17 Analysis

Below is Fahas take on these ground breaking election results:

Now that the 2017 election is over it is time for an analysis of the results. Below are the actual results:

Faha 2017 changes

The total nationalist vote was up by 63,694 to its highest level in any election. The increase was mainly due to increased support for SF. The SF increase had 2 sources. These were previous SF voters who had not voted in recent elections and new voters who voted SF as a protest against Arlene Foster and the DUP. The SDLP vote was up but these were primarily SDLP voters who had not voted in recent elections rather than the protest vote. The Alliance vote was up dramatically and the transfer pattern indicates that the majority came from the Catholic community. The DUP vote was up 22,846. However, this is somewhat misleading since UKIP only competed in 1 constituency and there were fewer PUP, TUV and independent unionists candidates. The total for the minor unionist parties was down over 15,000 and it is likely that 12,000 or more of these voted DUP instead. Nevertheless, the DUP did manage to bring an additional 10,000 new voters. The UUP also had a nice vote increase though it did not result in any additional seats. The Green vote and PBP vote was unchanged despite a 109,000 increase in overall turnout.

As far as turnout is concerned the nationalist voter deficit no longer exists. These are the turnout figures by constituency and are based on the voting age population:

Faha Turnout2016-17

There are 3 constituencies: Foyle, West Belfast and South Belfast, where the nationalist turnout is much higher than unionist turnout. The lower nationalist turnout in South Down, Newry and Armagh, Mid Ulster and West Tyrone disappeared with nationalist turnout equal to unionist. This was directly responsible for the loss of 4 unionist seats in those constituencies. The nationalist turnout in East Antrim, Strangford, Lagan Valley, and East Belfast is still significantly below unionist turnout and resulted in the failure of SF in East Antrim and the SDLP in Strangford to win seats. Fermanagh South Tyrone had a 9% increase in nationalist turnout. It is lower than unionist turnout for 2 reasons. This constituency has the highest unionist turnout of all constituencies and there are also large numbers of EU nationals who vote at a lower rate. The latter also partly explains the lower nationalist turnout in Upper Bann. Overall, nationalist and unionist turnout is equal. It is possible that the nationalist turnout was 54% and the unionist turnout 57%. That is because the School Census indicates an undercount of the Catholic population by 1% which changes the turnout percentages. Native voter turnout is equal among nationalist and unionist voters and the lower nationalist turnout is due to lower turnout among foreign nationals.

These are the winners and loser in the election.


SF is obviously the #1 winner. Not only did their vote increase by 56,600 to a record level but they almost equalled the DUP total. Their net loss was only 1 seat despite a smaller Assembly with 18 fewer members. Particularly impressive was winning 3 seats in Newry and Armagh, Mid Ulster, West Tyrone and Fermanagh-South Tyrone. They also pulled ahead of the SDLP in Foyle and South Down.

Alliance is the #2 winner. They added 50% to their 2016 total and kept 8 seats despite an Assembly with 18 fewer members. Their totals increased throughout the west and they almost won a seat in South Down. Their only limitation is that they do not appear to have any potential for increased seats other than South Down.

The SDLP is the #3 winner. Their vote increase did keep pace with the overall increase in turnout. They won back a seat from SF in Upper Bann and unexpectedly won in Lagan Valley. They could have won 15 seats. They were within 67 votes of winning a seat in Fermanagh South Tyrone and 225 votes short in Strangford. They did not attract the anti DUP protest vote and their entire vote increase was due to previous stay at home SDLP voters.


The TUV, UKIP, PUP, Conservatives are the #1 losers. UKIP essentially decided not to compete and the overall vote for minor unionist parties and candidates decreased 15,000 with most of that vote going to the DUP. The anti SF unionist vote is increasingly going to the DUP. These parties would be better off merging with the DUP or disbanding.

The DUP is the #2 loser. It is true that they increased their vote by over 22,000 but the majority of that increase was due to lack of competition from the smaller unionist parties. However they lost 10 seats and only have 1 more seat than SF. They came very close to losing additional seats in Strangford and Foyle and only won those seats because to the failure of SF and Alliance and Green voters to transfer to the SDLP and PBP.

THE UUP is the #3 loser. Despite increasing their overall vote they lost 6 seats and the party leader resigned. They are in danger of having fewer seats than Alliance in future elections and only won Fermanagh South Tyrone due to SDLP transfers.

The Greens and PBP are the #4 losers. Despite a much higher turnout these parties were unable to increase their vote. There appears to be a ceiling to the Green vote though they did keep their 2 MLA’s. The PBP vote collapsed in West Belfast and their pro Brexit stance cost them votes. They also failed to compete in most constituencies.

Now I will look at each constituency in detail.


Both the SF and SDLP vote was up but twice as much for SF. PBP finished 660 votes behind the DUP for the final seat. However, there was an undistributed SDLP surplus of 158 votes would have narrowed that to only 500+. There were also 330 SF votes and over 500 Alliance votes that did not transfer to anyone so if these had voted tactically defeat the DUP they would have succeeded. Net loss 1 PBP.

I will now look at the 3 constituencies of West Tyrone, Mid Ulster and Newry-Armagh due to similar demographic and results.

West Tyrone

SF won 3 here and it was not even close as they were ahead of the UUP by 760 votes in the final count. There was also an undistributed SDLP surplus of 300 so the margin would have been higher. Net loss 1 UUP.

Mid Ulster

SF had over 3 quotas here. The SDLP finished 1,200 votes ahead of the UUP and there was an undistributed SF surplus of 270 which would have increased the margin further. Net loss 1 UUP.

Newry and Armagh

SF elected 3 here and their 3rd candidate (Murphy) was 1080 votes ahead of the UUP. There were 64 undistributed SF votes and 606 undistributed DUP votes but this would not have changed the outcome as Murphy still would have won by at least 540 votes. Net loss 1 UUP.

Fermanagh South Tyrone

SF won 3 here but it was very close. At stage 2 Sean Lynch of SF was 62 votes ahead of the SDLP and the SDLP was eliminated with the SDLP transfers electing all 3 SF as well the UUP. There were over 400 Alliance, Green and Labour votes that did not transfer to anyone and these lack of transfers to the SDLP cost them the seat. The one consolation is that some SDLP transfers elected the UUP and resulted in the defeat of Morrow of the DUP. Net loss 1 DUP and 1 SDLP. SF gain.

East Derry

Nationalist turnout was up very significantly from 34% to 50%. This resulted in an additional 3,300 votes for SF, 1,300 for SDLP candidates and another 800 for PBP and Alliance. The media claimed this was a close election with 2 nationalist seats in doubt. However, with a total nationalist electorate of 40% this was never in doubt. There was also the narrative that it was UUP transfers that saved the SDLP. However, in any election there are always UUP transfers to the SDLP. The UUP transfers to the SDLP were up only 338 from 2016 and 100 of these were probably Alliance votes that transferred through the UUP. There were 382 transfers to the SDLP from Claire Sugden and 565 from the DUP. In the end the SDLP defeated the one of the SF candidates by 853 votes but even without the DUP transfers (some of which were tactical) the SDLP would have won. Net loss 1 DUP.

Upper Bann

The nationalist vote was up 10% here with an additional 3,000 for SF, 800 for the SDLP and another 800+ voting Alliance. Again, the media portrayed the win for the SDLP as due to UUP transfers. However, at stage 4, before any UUP transfers came into play, the SDLP were already ahead of Toman of SF by 217 votes. When Dobson of the UUP was eliminated most of her votes went to the UUP but 678 went to the SDLP and 55 to SF. The fact that so many went to SF and the SDLP rather than the UUP indicates that many of the 600+ Alliance-Green that went to Dobson actually subsequently transferred to the SDLP and SF. At that point the SDLP was 873 votes ahead of SF and the transfers of the UUP surplus (Beattie) added another 1864 to that margin. Net loss 1 UUP and 1 SF. SDLP gain.


South Down

The main story here was the massive increase in the SF vote by 6,300 which was totally unexpected. The Alliance Party also doubled their vote from2,200 to 4,500. There was never any possibility of a UUP seat. This was another example where it was thought that a large number of UUP votes would transfer to the SDLP. When the UUP was eliminated 2/3 of their transfers went to the DUP and of the other 1/3 more transferred to Alliance than the SDLP. The SDLP only received 13% of UUP transfers. In the end SF transfers saved the SDLP and they won over Alliance by 738 votes. Net loss 1 UUP.

North Antrim

There was a large increase in the nationalist turnout from 36% to 50% but the unionist turnout was also up. There was never a chance for a SDLP seat here with only 5 seats as the demographics do not exist for 2 nationalist seats. Net loss 1 DUP.

South Antrim

Nationalist turnout was up from 37% to 53% with SF adding 2,300 and the SDLP 650. There was also an Alliance increase of over 2,100. Since the Alliance increase far exceeded the SDLP increase Alliance won easily. Net loss 1 UUP.

East Antrim

The nationalist turnout increased from 35% to 46% but the unionist turnout was also up 5%. SF lost their seat here due to the higher quota with only 5 seats. Some have claimed that with better transfers from the SDLP they would have won. It is true that only 1/3 of SDLP transfers initially went to SF. Subsequent Alliance transfers that originated from the SDLP increased that to ½. Even if another 500 transfers went to SF from the SDLP, SF would have still been 1,000 votes behind the UUP. The only way that SF could have won would be with a nationalist turnout equal to unionist turnout. The UUP picked up a seat due to an additional 2,000 1st preferences. Net loss 1 SF and 1 DUP. UUP gain.

Lagan Valley

The big story here was the SDLP win and nationalist turnout was up from 33% to 44%. Supposedly the SDLP won because of UUP transfers. Apparently Jenny Palmer has been subject to abuse (online and otherwise) because of her alleged role in the defeat of the DUP and election of the SDLP. However, there is no electoral evidence that she helped the SDLP in a greatly significant way compared to historical transfer patterns. When she was eliminated only 309 of her 5095 votes went to the SDLP (6%) and at least 50 of those originated from the Greens and independents. Over 70% of her transfers went to the UUP and 12% to the DUP so her votes stayed in the unionist community. Butler of the UUP then had a surplus of 3,525 of which 41% transferred to the DUP and 31% to the SDLP. The SDLP transfers are up from historical patterns. Usually when a UUP candidate is eliminated from a Belfast area constituency the DUP receive 55% to 60% and the SDLP 20% to 25% of transfers with 20% not transferring to either. The SDLP won by 433 votes so the UUP transfers at the higher rate to the SDLP did make a difference but it was the reluctance of UUP voters to give the DUP any preference that mattered more. Net loss 2 DUP. SDLP gain.


Low nationalist turnout cost the SDLP a seat here. Nationalist turnout did increase from 35% to 44% but unionist turnout increased from 48% to 56%. At the final count the SDLP lost to the DUP by 225 votes. The UUP transfers went equally to the SDLP and DUP but 60% of UUP vote did not transfer. There were not enough additional SF and Green non transfers (only 140) to potentially close the gap. Low nationalist turnout cost the SDLP a seat and even a 1% increase in turnout would have made the difference. Net loss 1 UUP

North Down

The main surprise here was the large increase in the nationalist turnout though most of those additional voters voted Green or Alliance. When the Alliance surplus was distributed 55% went to the Greens but the other split 60% unionist and 40% nationalist. I estimated low that 30% of the Alliance vote originated from the Catholic community (historically it is 20%)) but it could have been 40%. Net loss 1 DUP.

East Belfast

No surprises with Alliance winning 2. Net loss 1 DUP.

North Belfast

Total turnout was up 5,000 but it was 3,800 nationalist and 1,000 Alliance. The DUP had a major embarrassment since Nelson McCausland of the DUP was behind Alliance at stage 5 and was eliminated. SF finished 556 ahead of Alliance to secure their 2nd seat. Net loss 1 DUP.

West Belfast

SF won 4 with near perfect balancing. The PBP vote was down significantly but Carroll was still near a quota when the SDLP was eliminated. The SDLP was eliminated because they were 353 votes behind the DUP after stage 2. The total unionist vote was up 130 and the lack of transfers from the UUP and Alliance meant that the SDLP was behind the DUP. In order to win they needed to be ahead of the DUP and then receive 20% of unionist transfers to be ahead of the 4th SF. Net loss 1 SDLP.

South Belfast

SF topped the poll and total turnout was up 6,300. 4,000 of those were nationalist voters with most of the remainder additional Alliance and Green voters. The DUP had no chance of winning 2 here and indeed both their candidates were behind the UUP on the 2nd to last count. The Greens were 1,542 votes ahead of the UUP in the final count but there were 1,490 undistributed DUP surplus so the final result would have been much closer. Net loss 1 DUP.

The nationalist voter apathy that has existed for at least 10 years no longer exists. At this point it is not certain that there will be a new government formed between SF and the DUP at Stormont. The DUP can concede few concessions to SF. If it does otherwise it would be an admission of defeat and would outrage their voter base. The alternative for the DUP is direct rule from London. This would be more than acceptable for the DUP since direct rule is Conservative Party rule with Theresa May instead of Margaret Thatcher. There would be no nationalist input into the governing of Northern Ireland which if fine from the DUP perspective. SF cannot go into government without major concessions from the DUP. To do so otherwise would alienate those additional 56,000 voters who voted SF mainly as a protest against the arrogance of the DUP. At any other time in history SF would object to direct rule. This time may be different. It is in Sinn Fein’s interest to have direct rule by the Conservative Party. The Conservatives will implement Brexit and possible harsh budget cuts for Northern Ireland. In 2 years this would only increase the likelihood of favourable Border Poll result. What would be the results of a Border Poll? It is somewhat speculative at this time but there are some clues from the recent Lucid Talk poll and the actual election results. The Lucid Talk poll has been very accurate for 3 consecutive elections. They obtain their results from a panel that fits the demographics of Northern Ireland. The same voters who were polled on Assembly voting intentions were also polled on preferences for a United Ireland in December 2016. In that poll 95% of nationalist voters are in favour of a United Ireland if Brexit occurs. Only 9% of unionist voters were in favour of a United Ireland if Brexit occurs. The results for Alliance-Green voters were not released. So of the 42.1% of voters who voted for nationalist candidates 40% of that total are in favour of a United Ireland if Brexit occurs. Of the 45.7% of voters who voted for unionist candidates 4% are in favour of a United Ireland if Brexit occurs. The total vote is 44% in favour of a United Ireland and 44% against a United Ireland if Brexit occurs. How the Alliance and Green voters would vote is unknown but it is known from Lucid Talk that 85% of Alliance and Green voters are opposed to Brexit. These voters were 12% of the electorate in the recent election.

The nationalist parties need to begin the negotiation process with EU officials and the Irish government on how to integrate Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland. From the EU perspective they will be supportive as they have no incentive to give concessions to the UK in the pending Brexit negotiations. The EU was very supportive when East Germany merged with West Germany. Northern Ireland has only 10% of the population of East Germany. Overall, Ireland is less than 2% of the population of the EU and the EU should be able to help with the financial and trade adjustments that would occur with a United Ireland. From the nationalist perspective it is important to persuade as many Alliance, Green and unionist voters of the benefits of a United Ireland. I recall one Northern Ireland opinion poll on a United Ireland from 15 years ago. The question of a United Ireland was broken down by religious preference. For Catholics, 15% to 20% preferred to remain in the UK. For Protestants 97% preferred to remain in the UK. This poll did ask a unique question for the Protestant voters (not asked of Catholics though). They were asked if a United Ireland was preferred, “acceptable”, “tolerable”, or “unacceptable”. Not surprisingly 60% answered “unacceptable” and 25% “tolerable”. However, 12% answered “acceptable”. It appears that 12% are now in favour of a United Ireland because of Brexit. Including the 3% that were in favour of a United Ireland, 15% of Protestants were in favour or thought it was “acceptable”. That would be 8% of the 53% of voters from the Protestant community who voted in this Assembly election. 4% of those were voters for unionist candidates and 4% voted Alliance or Green. Those are the voters from the Protestant community that the nationalist voters should be targeting in a United Ireland referendum. There is no point in targeting the 60% who consider a United Ireland “unacceptable” though it would be worth persuading those 25% who consider a United Ireland “tolerable”.


A border poll will bring out many more voters than the Assembly election. It will probably be 80% of the voting age population if it was held in 2020. That would be 1,200,000 voters or 400,000 more than the Assembly. These are mainly voters that have limited interest in politics. The turnout will not be greater than 80%. The GFA referendum had an 80% turnout of the voting age population. Even though the GFA meant the end of 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland 20% of the voting age population could not be motivated to vote. The Scottish referendum on independence also had an 80% turnout of the voting age population. Even though this was a vote on independence 20% of the population could not be motivated vote.

One alternative that has not been mentioned if there is no agreement to create a new government at Stormont would be to change the GFA so a government could be formed. This would involve abolishing community designations, abolishing mandatory power sharing, no weighted majorities and no petition of concern and only a First Minster and no Deputy First Minister. The resulting government would be a loose voluntary coalition. Instead of Arlene Foster as a First Minister, SF and the SDLP could nominate Naomi Long or Stephen Agnew as First Minister. The vote would be 50 to 40 and Arlene Foster would lose. If there was a vote on an Irish Language Act or same sex marriage the vote would be 50 to 40 and the measures would pass.

Something to think about as an alternative to the current unstable setup.


The Counting day

After an electric election day we face the count now.

I’m opening this thread so that everyone can post whatever gossip or information they may have to share.

It appears that the nationalist electorate may have woken up finally and we could be in for a very interesting day.


Will we have Michelle as First Minister? (Not that that is important), Will the DUP go into meltdown? What happens next?

Lucid Talk are predicting an increase in the total nationalist vote to 40% with a 3% increase in the Alliance-Green vote and almost a 3% decrease in the unionist vote (46.6%). The entire decrease in the unionist vote is at the expense of the DUP. UUP voters are still unwilling to give their 2nd preferences to the DUP.

In last year’s Lucid Talk poll the nationalist vote was 1.5% higher than what was predicted. So the nationalist vote could be 41.5% and the unionist 45.5%.

That means Unionism is a minority in this juristiction.

Tomorrow might just be very interesting.


2017 Assembly Election – Faha’s view Part 2

This is the second part of my series on the constituency profiles for the March Assembly election. I will cover the 9 Belfast area constituencies.

In the previous week there has been one major political development. That is the public statement by the UUP leader Michael Nesbitt that he would give his 2nd preference to the voting.jpgSDLP after voting for the UUP 1st preference. He also stated that UUP voters should give their lower preferences to whichever candidates would be best for their constituency. His statements attracted much attention, comments and criticism. The criticism even came from within his own party. These are the actual 2nd preferences for voters as indicated in the recent Lucid Talk poll.



Michael Nesbitt is essentially following the preferences of UUP voters. Only 6% will give the DUP a 2nd preference and only 37% to any unionist party. Indeed, half of UUP voters would give the SDLP or Alliance Party their 2nd preferences. The transfer pattern for DUP and TUV voters are similar to recent elections. A significant change from 2011 is that no Alliance voters are willing to give the DUP a 2nd preference. Similar to UUP voters, SDLP voters are now much more willing to give cross community transfers to the UUP. Although 31% of SF voters claim they have no 2nd preference this is unlikely to occur in the actual election since most SF voters do have 2nd preferences. Although much publicity has been given to 2nd preferences it will actually have little influence in most constituencies outside of the Belfast area. In the 9 constituencies that I covered in the past week this is what one would expect. SF 2nd preferences will not matter in 8 constituencies. This is because SF is attempting to win 3 seats in 4, 2 seats in 4 and one seat in North Antrim. The only conceivably constituency where SF transfers could come into play would be East Derry, where the 2nd SF candidate could be eliminated and there would be a SF surplus. Similarly, the SDLP will have a surplus only in Newry and Armagh and the main obstacle for SF in winning 3 seats there is the low nationalist turnout. The UUP transfers will matter only in Foyle and possibly Upper Bann. This is because the UUP will be in the last count trying to elect one in every other constituency. The UUP transfers in Upper Bann (if they occur) could elect the SDLP and defeat SF. In Foyle, the lack of UUP transfers to the DUP could defeat the DUP and elect PBP.

Lucid Talk also did a sub tracker poll this past week where they asked the voters who voted in their January poll if they had changed who they would vote for. Lucid Talk determined that 9% of voters had changed their choice to a different party. The net effect compared to their January poll was approximately

Alliance    +1

Green       +0.5

PBP           +1.5

DUP           -2

SF              -1.5

It appears that SF is losing votes to PBP and there has been more losses for the DUP compared to the previous drop of 3.3% from the 2016 Assembly election. In practical terms the shift to PBP overestimates their increase because they are only competing in 6 constituencies. Since at most half of their potential electorate is in those 6 then their voters in the other 12 would choose other candidates or not vote.

I will attempt to take into account 2nd preferences in my analysis.



                               NORTH BELFAST

All usual residents Catholic Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related) Other religions None
81,477 38,342 37,864 849 4,422
  47.06% 46.47% 1.04% 5.43%



New Quota      6,096

EU Referendum Turnout   39,972 (+3,424)

Remain        50.4%

Leave           49.6%

I believe North Belfast will elect 2 SF, 1 SDLP and 2 DUP. I came to this conclusion by looking at the final count in the 2016 election. In the final count these were the totals for the candidates






5,225 (5,345)






The SF vote underestimates what would be their actual final total in 2017 since Gerry Kelly had 120 of his surplus transfer to candidates other than SF. Both the DUP and SF have good balancing. In 2017 the quota is higher at 6,096 so no candidates would be elected until the Alliance candidate is eliminated and their transfers distributed. Since Alliance in 2016 was not eliminated until the last count we do not know where their transfers would go but there are clues from the 2011 election. IN 2011 the 2 SF and 1 SDLP candidates were already elected at the point where the Alliance candidate was eliminated and the Alliance transfers were DUP 20%, UUP 25%, nontransferable 55%. So 55% of Alliance voters were unwilling to give ANY preference to the DUP or UUP. Those 55% would be Alliance voters from a nationalist background who would have given preferences to the SDLP or SF. What we do not know is, of the 45% who did give a preference to the DUP or UUP, how many would have ranked the SDLP above the DUP or UUP. I estimate 10% would have given the SDLP a higher preference than the DUP or UUP. It could be a little higher, it could be a little lower. How was 2016 any different than 2011? Since 2011 there were the flag protests in Belfast and the Alliance Party was the subject of verbal and physical attacks from hardline unionism, including the DUP. We do not know how this exactly affected Alliance transfers to the DUP but we do have a clue from South Belfast. In 2016 at stage 11, the Alliance candidate Paula Bradshaw, had a surplus. 80% of that surplus went to the SDLP and Greens (almost equally), 15% went to the UUP and 5% to the DUP. In 2017 Alliance voters would be even less inclined to give the DUP any preference due to the pro Brexit position of the DUP and the RHI scandal. If this were 2011 we would expect that 2,500 of the Alliance voters would transfer to the SDLP (most likely) with a few to SF. Another 1,300 would have transferred to the UUP or DUP. The SDLP will easily receive the 1,250 Alliance transfers it needs to reach a quota and will likely have a surplus. Of the additional 1,250 Alliance transfers that are going in the direction of the SDLP or SF how many will give SF a preference? Since the Gerry Kelly vote would really be 5,345, even if only 800 give SF a preference then both SF candidates would be in the range of 5,400 to 5,700. It should be noted that the final Alliance vote of 3,836 includes almost 900 transfers from PBP, Greens, etc. who would likely give SF some preference. I doubt that more than 200 to 300 Alliance transfers will give any preference to the DUP. That is enough to put one candidate at a quota but the other 2 would be at 5,300 and 5,100 with the latter too far behind SF to be elected. My calculation does not take into account that the Lucid Talk poll indicated that some UUP voters this year are less willing to give any preference to the DUP so the actual DUP totals would be less on the final count. In 2016 the DUP received 60% of UUP transfers and it could be much less than 50% in 2017. Of course, I am not assuming any increase in nationalist turnout while the Lucid Talk poll does indicate an increased nationalist, Green and Alliance turnout. The DUP can only elect 2 in North Belfast since they will be starved for transfers from the Alliance Party and to a lesser extent the UUP.






                                     WEST BELFAST


All usual residents Catholic Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related) Other religions None
73,575 59,198 12,230 447 1,700
  80.46% 16.62% 0.61% 2.31%



New Quota      6,047

EU Referendum Turnout   31,191 (-5,059)

Remain        74%

Leave           26%

There will definitely be 3 SF and 1 PBP elected here. Whether the SDLP or SF win the 5th will be dependent on whether or not Alex Attwood is ahead of the DUP candidate in the next to last count. In 2016 the SDLP (4,430) was 90 votes ahead of the DUP in the final count and won the final seat. However, in 2017 there are only 5 seats so there is no possibility of a DUP win. It would seem that the SDLP would receive more than enough unionist transfers to win the 5th seat. SF has good balancing but the SDLP would only need 800 unionist transfers out of the total unionist vote of 4,340 to win the last seat. However, in 2017 this scenario may not occur. That is because the SDLP final vote includes an estimated 350 transfer votes from SF and the PBP. The SF transfers will not exist and PBP have fewer transfers available due to the higher quota. So the SDLP needs either more 1st preference votes or fewer DUP final votes that add up to 350. The SDLP can only win if they are ahead of the DUP in the next to final count. Now there will be fewer UUP, Alliance and Green transfers to the DUP this year (551 in 2016) so the DUP vote total will be less and some of those will transfer to the SDLP. It is not clear whether that 350 vote gap can be closed. Unionist turnout could be lower since there is no hope of a unionist seat with the higher quota. The 5th seat will come down to SF or the SDLP and will entirely depend on whether the SDLP are ahead of the DUP in the next to last count.

                                                       SOUTH BELFAST                                                                            

All usual residents Catholic Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related) Other religions None
93,699 41,615 41,353 2,583 8,148
  44.41% 44.13% 2.76% 8.70%



New Quota      6,121

EU Referendum Turnout   44,556 (+7,860)

Remain        69.5%

Leave           30.5%

I believe South Belfast will elect 1 SF, 1 SDLP, 1 Alliance, 1 Green and 1 DUP. I come to this conclusion by looking at the stage 9 count in the 2016 election which was as follows:

SF                                     5,247 (5,400)

SDLP (Hanna)                 4,934

SDLP (McKinney)           3,057

Alliance                           5,729

Green                              4,524

UUP                                 3,272

DUP (Little-Pengelly)     5,073

DUP (Stalford)                4,368

The new quota is 6,121 so no one would be elected at that point. I estimate the actual SF vote at 5,400 since the Labour candidate with almost 1,000 votes was eliminated in the previous count but SF did not receive any of the potential transfers since the SF candidate had already reached a quota. Some of the Labour transfers would go to SF in 2017. The SDLP

candidate with 3,057 would then be eliminated and Hanna would be elected with a large surplus. Eventually her 3rd and lower preferences would come into play. However, Hanna only needs 1,200 of McKinney’s vote to reach quota and the other 1,850 votes would go to SF, Alliance and Green. SF would need 700 of those and Alliance only 400 so both would be elected. The Green candidate would then be at approximately 5,200. At this point the UUP would be eliminated and approximately 3,300 votes would be transferred. The Lucid Talk poll indicates that many UUP voters will now give their 2nd preferences to Alliance, Green and the SDLP instead of the DUP. The Green candidate only need 900 of those to reach a quota (27%) which will almost certainly occur. Even if all of the other 2,400 transfer to the DUP the 2nd DUP candidate would be over 400 votes short of a quota. The Green candidate would win even with only 700 transfers (20%). The DUP have the same problem here as in North Belfast where they are starved for transfers from non unionist parties and to some extent the UUP. There is an alternative scenario where the Alliance Party, or less likely the 2nd SDLP, could win the 5th seat. This was the vote totals at stage 8.

SF                                     5,247 (5,400)

SDLP (Hanna)                 4,738

SDLP (McKinney)           2,964

Alliance (Bradshaw)      3,570

Alliance (Morrow)         2,837

Green                               4,289

UUP                                  3,213

DUP (Little-Pengelly)    5,049

DUP (Stalford)               4,355

Both Morrow and McKinney are slightly behind the UUP. If the Alliance vote was more evenly balanced (and with 500 more 1st preference Alliance votes with a higher turnout) and the Alliance vote was higher than the SDLP then McKinney would be eliminated. After his transfers elected Hanna there would still be a surplus of 1,500 votes that would go to SF, the 2 Alliance and 1 Green candidates. SF would be close to a quota and there would be only 800 votes to transfer to Alliance and Green. When the UUP is eliminated then there would be 3,200 votes transferred. The Lucid Talk poll indicates that over 2,000 would go to the SDLP and Alliance with a few to the Greens. Since that poll indicates a much stronger 2nd preference for Alliance (23.7%) than Green (3.2%) then it is possible that both Alliance candidates could be ahead of the Green Party. The Greens still have the edge but a significant increase in Alliance 1st preferences and the willingness of UUP voters to transfer much more heavily to Alliance than the Greens could give Alliance 2. This is much less likely than the first scenario I presented. A similar scenario could occur with the SDLP. At stage 9 the 2nd SDLP was only 215 votes behind the UUP and if the 2nd SDLP were ahead of the UUP then the UUP candidate would be eliminated and many of the UUP transfers would end up with the SDLP candidates. There were also almost 8,000 additional pro EU voters who voted in the Brexit referendum and if these vote in any significant number the DUP cannot possibly win 2 seats.


                                             EAST BELFAST


All usual residents Catholic Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related) Other religions None
74,979 9,571 57,695 1,067 6,646
  12.76% 76.95% 1.42% 8.86%


New Quota      6,196

EU Referendum Turnout   42,646 (+5,490)

Remain        49%

Leave           51%

The result in East Belfast should be 2 DUP, 1 UUP and 1 Alliance. Alliance is short of 2 quotas but will receive enough Green and nationalist transfers to elect 2. It appears that with perfect balancing the DUP could edge out the UUP this will not occur. The UUP are at 11.1% but there is almost a 6% surplus of nationalist and Green potential transfers after 2 alliance are elected. There is also 13% for the smaller unionist parties that will transfer and the UUP received the equivalent of 4% in transfers from those parties in 2016.




                                       EAST ANTRIM

All usual residents Catholic Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related) Other religions None
72,580 14,952 51,646 738 5,244
  20.60% 71.16% 1.02% 7.23%




New Quota      5,402

EU Referendum Turnout   41,545 (+9,153)

Remain        45%

Leave           55%

For East Antrim I looked at the stage 10 count to determine who will win the 5 seats. The new quota is 5,402.

Alliance                    5,234

UUP (Beggs)            4,708 (4,800)

UUP (Stewart)       2,622

DUP (Hilditch)      4,631 (5,400)

DUP (Lyons)          4,631 (5,000)

DUP (Ross)            3,108

UKIP (Jordan)        2,986

SF                            3,470

The numbers in parenthesis are the actual total for a 2017 election due to a higher quota and in 2016 these candidates had their surplus transferred. Stewart of the UUP would be eliminated and enough of his votes would transfer to Alliance (168 needed) to reach a quota. Most of the remainder would go to Beggs of the UUP and he would be elected. There would still be another 1,700 available for eventual transfer to the DUP or UKIP. In 2016 they did transfer 33% to DUP and 18% to UKIP with almost 50% not transferring. UKIP would be at 3,300 but there would be only 600 votes to transfer to the remaining 2 DUP candidates. Lyons could be at or just below a quota but Ross would also be at approximately 3,300. Either the DUP or UKIP would win the 5th seat on the others transfers most likely reaching a quota. SF would be 2,000 votes short of a quota. This is where UKIP has their best chance for a seat and poor balancing by DUP or fewer voters willing to transfer to the DUP could result in a UKIP win. Nationalist turnout is very low here but there were over 9,000 more voters who voted in Brexit and an estimated 4,000 were nationalist voters. If 2,500 of those vote in 2017 there would be a nationalist seat here. The difficulty for the SDLP winning here is that they need an additional 1,000 1st preference votes in order to be ahead of the 2nd Alliance candidate, whose transfers would put them ahead of SF.





                                                SOUTH ANTRIM

All usual residents Catholic Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related) Other religions None
77,818 24,699 47,700 704 4,715
  31.74% 61.30% 0.90% 6.06%




New Quota      5,856

EU Referendum Turnout   43,553 (+8,430)

Remain        49.5%

Leave           50.5%

The DUP should elect 2 as their total vote is over 2 quotas. Even with a decline to less than 33.33% they would receive enough transfers from the smaller unionist parties to elect 2. The UUP are above 1 quota and will elect one. There will be 2 non unionist seats. Or will there be? At stage 5 in 2016 the vote was

SF               4,739

SDLP          3,547

Alliance     3,764

UUP            4,452

UUP            4,031

DUP            5,067

DUP            5,036

DUP            4,212

At the next stage in 2016 the SDLP was eliminated because they were 217 votes behind Alliance. If the SDLP end up with more votes than Alliance then Alliance would be eliminated and the SDLP would win a seat on transfers. However, there would not be enough Alliance transfers to elect SF also. A 2nd UUP would be elected on Alliance transfers and the DUP surplus. Nationalist turnout is very low here, 37% versus unionist 52%. An increase in nationalist turnout to 45% would add another 2,000 nationalist votes which would be more than enough to elect both the SDLP and SF. An additional 8,430 voters did vote in the Brexit referendum and it appears from that vote that at least 5,000 were nationalist voters.

                                                  LAGAN VALLEY

All usual residents Catholic Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related) Other religions None
80,861 15,331 59,343 818 5,369
  18.96% 73.39% 1.01% 6.64%




New Quota      6,476

EU Referendum Turnout   48,414 (+9,572)

Remain        47%

Leave           53%

This is a difficult constituency to predict. From the 2016 vote it appears there would be 3 DUP elected since the DUP at 47.2% are close enough to 3 quotas to elect all 3 on transfers from the smaller unionist parties. The UUP would elect one and Alliance one. This was the stage 6 count in 2016

SDLP                           4,012

Alliance                      4,994

UUP                            5,004

UUP                            4,737

DUP                            5,635

DUP                           4,986

DUP                           4,518

DUP                           4,309

The SDLP were eliminated and in 2017 they have enough transfers to elect Alliance and one UUP. In 2016, 60% of SDLP transfers were eventually nontransferable to Alliance or the UUP. Lucid Talk indicates a greater willingness for SDLP voters to give the UUP a preference in 2017. However, there may not enough to elect 2 UUP. The lowest DUP candidate would then be eliminated and the total DUP vote is just shy of 3 quotas but certainly ahead of the 2nd UUP. The major difficulty in predicting 2017 is that there were 9,572 additional voters who voted in the Brexit referendum and from the results it appears they were all nationalist, Alliance, Green and a few pro EU UUP voters. Half were nationalist voters and nationalist turnout for Brexit was almost twice what it was for the Assembly election.  If only 3,600 of those vote in 2017 then everyone’s quota increases by 600 (new quota 7,100). If Alliance are then at 6,500 and the SDLP at 6,000 then the 2nd UUP is eliminated and Alliance and possibly the SDLP are elected on transfers. The SDLP 1st preference vote may be helped by two factors. The former Alliance MLA Seamus Close endorsed and signed Pat Catney’s nomination papers. There are also 2 Alliance councilors on the Lisburn Castlereagh council who recently resigned from the Alliance Party and endorsed Pat Catney. Michael Nesbitt the leader of the UUP has also publicly stated that he will give his own 2nd preference to the SDLP.



All usual residents Catholic Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related) Other religions None
72,001 12,496 53,673 684 5,148
  17.36% 74.54% 0.95% 7.15%




New Quota      5,440

EU Referendum Turnout   42,110 (+9,484)

Remain        44%

Leave           56%

In 2016 the final count was:

SDLP                            3,338

Alliance                       4,662 (4,624)

UUP (Nesbitt)            4,673

UUP (Smith)               3,958 (3,248)

DUP (Bell)                   4,663 (5,164)

DUP (Hamilton)         4,663 (4,983)

DUP (McIlveen)         4,663

The numbers in parenthesis represent what the actual totals would be with the higher quota. 2 DUP candidates had a significant surplus that transferred to the UUP. Smith of the UUP would be slightly behind the SDLP and his transfers (777) would elect Nesbitt. There would still be 2,471 UUP votes available to transfer and it is likely that Alliance would receive the 800 needed for a quota. Based on previous elections the SDLP would receive enough to reach 3,600 but would be far short of a quota. So there would be 3 DUP, 1 UUP and 1 Alliance elected. This is another constituency where the Brexit vote was much higher than the Assembly vote. An additional 9,500 voters voted in the Brexit referendum and it appears that they were mainly nationalist, Alliance, Green and pro EU UUP voters. At least 4,000 appear to be nationalist voters. Nationalist turnout was only 35% for the Assembly election. If 3,000 of those Brexit voters vote in 2017 the quota would be close to 6,000. The 1st scenario above where the 2nd UUP candidate is eliminated would then come into play but Alliance could already be at a quota with the additional voters. The SDLP could be at 4,500 to 5,000 prior to the UUP transfers and would likely be ahead of the 3rd DUP after UUP transfers. The role of Jonathan Bell of the DUP in revealing the extent of the RHI scandal could affect the DUP vote. Since he is a candidate he will be a constant reminder to voters of the RHI scandal. It is unlikely that many of his votes will transfer to the DUP. It is also possible that his allegations may result in fewer UUP transfers to the DUP. Michael Nesbitt has also publicly stated that he will give his next preference to the SDLP after the 2 UUP candidates. This is a shrewd move since if Joe Boyle is eliminated the bulk of the excess SDLP transfers could end up with the UUP after the Alliance candidate is elected and a 2nd UUP could be elected.


                                                     NORTH DOWN

All usual residents Catholic Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related) Other religions None
72,633 9,420 55,164 870 7,179
  12.97% 75.95% 1.20% 9.88%




New Quota      5,372

EU Referendum Turnout   44,177 (+11,982)

Remain        52%

Leave           48%

North Down will elect 2 DUP, 1 UUP, 1 Alliance and 1 Green. The DUP vote is well above 2 quotas and even with a small decline in their vote would be above 2 quotas. The UUP are only 1% shy of a quota which they will receive on transfers from the smaller unionist parties. Alliance is at a quota and the Greens should reach a quota on SF, SDLP and Other transfers.


The final results will be strongly influenced by any change in turnout. If the exact same electorate votes that voted in the 2016 Assembly election then the worst case scenario for nationalist parties (SF, SDLP, PBP) is 34 seats with 47 unionist seats and 9 Alliance-Green. The electorate will be different in 2017. Lucid Talk has picked up increased interest among nationalist voters for this election and a slight decrease in interest among unionist voters. I estimate the unionist vote could be down by 5,000 due to disillusioned DUP voters who will stay home. That would bring the total vote down to 690,000. It is difficult to quantify how many more nationalist voters will vote this year. It is probably enough to increase the total vote to 700,000. I doubt the total vote will be anywhere near 800,000 which is what one would expect with all the Brexit voters voting this year. 750,000 is probably the maximum. However, even a decline of 5,000 unionist voters and an increase of 10,000 nationalist votes would have a profound effect on the outcome. There would then be 3 more additional nationalist seats, 1 more Green and 4 fewer unionist with a final result of 43 unionist, 37 nationalist and 10 Alliance-Green. If this were to occur then a government could be formed at Stormont if a few changes were made to the GFA. These would include:

Abolition of the Petition of Concern.

End community designation and cross community requirements for any votes.

Voluntary coalition with one First Minister elected.

No weighted majorities.

If these changes were made the Alliance and Green parties would hold the balance of power. Nationalist parties would have no objection to Stephen Agnew or Naomi Long as a First Minister. The DUP would object to both but would be unable to prevent their election since there would no longer be a unionist majority to do so.

The alternative is no government at Stormont and a return to direct rule. Since the Conservative Party will be in power at Westminster for a long time this would essentially be a return to unionist rule with no nationalist representation.