Next up is Fahas analysis of West Belfast. Interestingly he predicts a first seat for Eirigi in Black Mountain, remember where you saw that first if it comes to pass! It will also be interesting to see the electoral fallout resulting from the Gerry Adams debacle.

This analysis of the new Belfast council will cover the West Belfast DEA’s of Court, Black Mountain and Collin. These new DEA’s include most of the current Court DEA, the Upper Falls and Lower Falls DEA’s and 85% of the Dunmurry Cross DEA from Lisburn. The following shows the change in the turnout for the nationalist and unionist parties comparing the 2005 and 2011 district council elections.

W Belfast 1

The election turnout for the 2005 and 2011 elections indicate:

#1 Nationalist turnout remained the same in Upper Falls; one of the rare DEA’s where voter turnout did not decline between 2005 and 2011.

#2 Unionist turnout is low in the overwhelmingly nationalist DEA’s of Dunmurry Cross, Upper Falls and Lower Falls

#3 Nationalist turnout is very low in the overwhelmingly unionist Court DEA.

The change in the party vote between 2005 and 2011 is as follows:

W Belfast 2

There was a moderate decline in the SDLP vote in the Lower Falls DEA and a more substantial decline in the Upper Falls DEA. There was a large decline in the SF vote in Lower and Upper Falls. Most of that decline was due to defection of SF voters to various dissident republican candidates. There was also a substantial decline in the UUP and DUP vote in Court DEA.

The new DEA’s have changed substantially. The new Court DEA includes all of the current Court DEA (except for the section of Crumlin ward north of Crumlin Road) and a section of Legoniel ward. It also includes the Lower Falls wards of Clonard, Falls and part of Beechmount. Black Mountain DEA includes all of the current Upper Falls (except the Ladybrook ward) and the Upper Springfield, Whiterock and most of the Beechmount wards from Lower Falls. Collin DEA includes Ladybrook ward and most of the current Dunmurry Cross DEA except for half of the Seymour Hill ward and the entire Derryaghy South ward.

The average ward for Belfast is 3535. The total electorate and average ward electorate for each DEA is.

Court                        20772 (3462)

Black Mountain      25060 (3580)

Collin                        22028 (3671)

You will notice that there are significant ward average discrepancies between the 3 DEA’s. The Court DEA is 438 voters short of the average for Belfast wards. Black Mountain is 315 voters and Collin 816 voters in excess of the average. The unionist Court DEA is below average and the nationalist Black Mountain and Collin DEA’s are above average. This has significant implications for the election results in the Court DEA. This is another example of the brilliance of the unionist parties and the incompetence of the nationalist parties when it comes to these matters. At no point in the process in which the new wards and new DEA’s were devised did the nationalist parties introduce legislation or insist that the new wards and DEA’s have equal numbers of voters.

The demographics and predicted election results are based on the 2011 turnout.

W Belfast 3

The Court DEA will be the most interesting and unpredictable. The unionist parties automatically lose 1 councilor since the current 5 wards were reconfigured into 4 wards due to population loss in the previous 20 years. The loss could be 2 councilors if only 3 are elected. It would require a total nationalist vote of 42.9% for 3 quotas and the demographics indicate a nationalist vote of between 38% and 39%. However, in 2011 the nationalist turnout was 53% in the Lower Falls wards and the unionist turnout only 42% in the Court wards. Furthermore, the nationalist turnout in the Court DEA was only 18%. This was probably not due to true voter apathy. Rather, the nationalist voters stayed home because they knew there was no hope of electing a nationalist candidate in the Court DEA. Will these Court nationalist voters vote in 2014 now that there could be up to 3 nationalist candidates elected?  Here I present some more detailed data on the new Court wards:

W Belfast 4

In the 5 wards of the current Court DEA the Protestant population declined 10% over 10 years, a 1% yearly decline. The Catholic population increased 5% over 10 years, a 0.5% yearly increase. The total Catholic population in Court for 2001 was 1120 and this doubled to 2256 in 2011. In 2001, most of the Catholic population in Court lived in enclaves bordering Lower Falls and Legoniel. In 2011, half of the Catholic population is in those enclaves and the other half are diffusely dispersed. One census OA in Crumlin had a Catholic population of 1% in 2001 and it was 30% in 2011. Interestingly, there was also an increase in the Protestant population in Clonard and Falls though some of that increase is due to ethnic nationals who are Protestant. Based on the election results and turnout in 2011 the results for the new Court DEA would be:

SF       31%  SDLP     7%  Nationalist     3%  Alliance      1%  UUP           4%  DUP          41%  Unionist     13%

With a combined unionist vote of 58% and a combined nationalist vote of 41% it appears that there would be 4 unionist councilors elected. However, there are numerous factors that will affect the 2014 election results such as:

#1 What influence will the flag protests have on unionist turnout in 2014? If turnout goes up the unionist percentage will increase.

#2 Will the prospect of a 3rd nationalist seat increase nationalist turnout among nationalist voters in both the current Court wards and the Lower Falls wards? If the Lower Falls wards turnout returns to 2005 levels there would be an additional 700 nationalist voters. In the old Court DEA wards only 300 of 1800 potential nationalist voters voted in 2011. With the prospect of a 3rd nationalist seat there would be an additional 600 nationalist voters if turnout increased to 50% from these wards.

#3 How will the small Protestant population of Falls and Clonard vote (approximately 500 potential voters of which 200 may vote)?  Many may be living with Catholic partners and would probably vote for more moderate parties such as UUP, Alliance and SDLP.

#4 How will the transfer pattern work out?  In 2011, 1% of the 3% dissident republican vote did not transfer to SF or the SDLP. It is also likely that little of the Alliance vote will transfer to the DUP or PUP. Since the UUP may be eliminated, how much of their 4% will not transfer to the DUP or PUP or transfer to the SDLP? Some NI21 votes may also transfer to the SDLP.

#5 What will be the effect of the demographic changes since 2011? The trends suggest a further 2% decline in the Protestant electorate which would blunt any effect from increased turnout. The current Court DEA wards may have increased by another 200 to 300 Catholic voters.

#6 As noted above, the failure of the nationalist parties to obtain DEA’s with equal number of voters may have resulted in the loss of a potential nationalist seat. The Court DEA should have an additional 438 voters, all of whom would have been nationalist voters from expanding the DEA further into Beechmount ward. If this had occurred the nationalist vote in 2011 would have been 42% and the unionist 57% with 1% Alliance. Only after May 22nd will we know if this would have been crucial.

SF are guaranteed 2 seats here and the DUP are guaranteed 3 seats. The 6th seat will be won by either the SDLP or the DUP, PUP, TUV  or UUP. The SDLP candidate could be elected with the help of transfers from the SF surplus, independent nationalists, Alliance, NI21 and UUP. As in the Oldpark, the refusal of dissident republican voters to transfer to the SDLP or SF could result in the election of the PUP or DUP candidate. It would be ironic if this unwillingness to transfer to the SDLP and SF results in the failure of obtaining a nationalist majority on Belfast council.

The Black Mountain DEA is likely to elect the Eirigi candidate, as well as 5 SF and 1 SDLP. In 2011 Eirigi received 11.3% of the vote, far short of the 16.7% quota. However, this new DEA has a quota of only 12.5%. In 2011, Eirigi received an additional 0.5% in transfers. Furthermore, the boundary changes are favourable for Eirigi since Ladybrook ward was removed and the Upper Springfield and Whiterock wards and most of Beechmount ward were added. In these 3 wards there was a strong vote for Eirigi, Workers Party, Socialist Party and People Before Profit Alliance. During the boundary review, there was a proposal to transfer Beechmount ward to Court, which would have resulted in a 3rd SF seat in Court DEA. SF opposed this move which would also have made Black Mountain a 6 ward DEA with a higher quota of 14.3%. Eirigi would find it difficult to reach 14.3%. Whether this was another poorly thought out strategy by SF will not be known until after the election. If Eirigi only polls 10%, the ward transfer would be of no consequence. If Eirigi polls 14.3%, the ward transfer would also be of no consequence. If Eirigi polls 12.5%, then SF may have gifted a seat to Eirigi. Eirigi will also benefit from transfers from the Workers Party and People Before Profit Alliance candidates in Black Mountain. In the 2011 Lowers Falls election, 20% of transferred votes from those parties went to Eirigi.

The Collin DEA should elect 5 SF and 1 SDLP. I estimate the SF vote at 72%, which are 5 quotas. The SDLP vote would be 18% with 10% Alliance-UUP-NI21. If the SDLP vote increased to over 20% there would be the possibility of electing 2, depending on the balancing of SF candidates and transfers from Alliance, UUP and NI21 voters. Eirigi could prevent SF from winning 5 seats. They will take 1st preference votes from SF and some of these voters may not transfer back to SF.