Next up in Faha’s series is the most Unionist County in Ireland. Antrim. Specifically the “Bible Belt” new council of Mid and East Antrim.
This 7th analysis of the new district councils will cover the new Mid and East Antrim council. This new council comprises all of the current Ballymena, Larne and Carrickfergus councils. The demographic breakdown is 19.34% Catholic, 72.88% Protestant, 0.8% Other and 6.97% None.
The following shows the change in the turnout for the nationalist and unionist parties comparing the 2005 and 2011 district council elections.
There were no nationalist candidates in all the Carrickfergus DEA’s and Larne Lough DEA. I used the Assembly results to estimate the 2011 turnout as well as turnout in adjoining DEA’s. The election turnout for the 2005 and 2011 elections indicate:
#1 There was a steep decline in turnout between the 2005 and 2011 elections.
#2 Unionist turnout is much higher than nationalist turnout in 8 of the 10 DEA’s. In the other 2 DEA’s, Bannside and Braid, it was slightly higher in the 2011 election.
#3 Almost 3,000 additional nationalist voters would have had to vote in 2011 in order to equal unionist turnout.
#4 In the 2011 Assembly election, nationalist voter apathy (1,400 voter deficit in the Ballymena DEA’s and an additional 300 deficit in Ballymoney Town) resulted in the election of Jim Allister to the Assembly for North Antrim. Jim Allister defeated Decaln O’Loan of the SDLP by only 613 votes.
#5 In the 2011 Assembly election, nationalist voter apathy (1,500 voter deficit in Larne and Carrickfergus) almost resulted in no nationalist representation for East Antrim. The SF MLA was elected with 3,388 votes, 759 votes short of a quota and only 498 votes ahead of a UUP candidate. It was only because 655 DUP and TUV votes that were nontransferable that the UUP candidate was not elected. The census shows 1.56 nationalist quotas based on voting age population.
The percentage change in the party vote between 2005 and 2011 is as follows:
In Ballymena, the SF vote held steady but the SDLP vote collapsed. There was a large increase in the nationalist electorate but all these additional voters did not vote. The UUP and DUP vote also collapsed. The UUP voters stayed home and the DUP voters mainly defected to the TUV. In Larne, the SDLP and independent nationalist vote was down, with some of these voters accounting for the increased SF vote. A sharp decline in the UUP and DUP vote here also with the UUP voters staying home and the DUP voters defecting to the TUV. The Alliance Green vote has changed little in Larne and Carrickfergus. There was a large decline in the unionist vote for all parties in Carrickfergus.
The new DEA’s bear some resemblance to the old ones (see map). The towns of Ballymena and Larne are divided between 2 DEA’s and the town of Carrickfergus between 3 DEA’s. The predicted election results are based on the 2011 turnout.
The average ward electorate is 2413. The total electorate and average ward electorate for each DEA is.
Bannside 14058 (2343)
Braid 16551 (2364)
Ballymena 15657 (2237)
Coast Road 12435 (2487)
Larne Lough 12848 (2570)
Carrick Castle 12886 (2577)
Knockagh 12090 (2418)
The current Ballymena, Larne and Carrickfergus district councils had the following party makeup after the 2011 elections.
SF 3 SDLP 3 Alliance 7 UUP 11 DUP 24 TUV 3 Unionist 5
The expected party strength in the new council with the new DEA boundaries:
SF 3 SDLP 2 Alliance 4 UUP 9 DUP 20 TUV 2
The new council will have 16 fewer councilors and the net party loss would be.
SF 0 SDLP -1 Alliance -3 UUP -2 DUP -4 TUV -1 Unionist -5
This council will be dominated by a hard line unionist majority- the DUP and TUV. The TUV could win a seat in Braid DEA at the expense of the UUP, depending on if the size of the nationalist surplus that could transfer to the 2nd UUP candidate. It is possible that an independent unionist could be elected in 1 of the Carrickfergus DEA’s but the increased electorate and increased quota will make it difficult for the election of any independents. The DEA boundaries are actually favourable to the nationalist parties. Despite 16 fewer councilors SF should return the same number with 1 less for the SDLP. There are over 2 nationalist quotas in the Coast Road DEA and if the nationalist turnout ever equals unionist turnout the SDLP would have a seat here. If the SDLP and SF decide to stand candidates in the Larne Lough, Carrick Castle and Knockagh DEA’s, and nationalist turnout equals unionist turnout, then tactical transfers could elect 2nd Alliance candidates in all 3 of these DEA’s. In Ballymena DEA, SF could elect a councilor if they ever organize here. This would be at the expense of the SDLP or a unionist in future elections. While this will always be a unionist dominated council, it is possible that with additional nationalist councilors in Ballymena and Coast Road and additional Alliance councilors in the 3 other DEA’s mentioned, the DUP and TUV would not have a majority on the council.