And so to Fahas final council analysis. At the end of this post is a summary prediction for the whole of the new Belfast council. I am considering another prediction contest perhaps based upon party percentage performance across all of the new areas prior to the actual poll on May 22. (BD)

This final analysis of Belfast will cover the East Belfast DEA’s of Titanic, Ormiston and Lisnasharragh. These areas have the greatest change in demographic makeup in Belfast, even more so than South Belfast. The following shows the demographics of the wards in the 2011 census in certain age cohorts and the change in the Catholic and Protestant population between the 2001 census and the 2011 census.

E Balfast 1

E Balfast 2

What is clear is that there has been a large increase in the Catholic population of all East Belfast wards, especially in Ravenhill, Woodstock, The Mount, Orangefield, Bloomfield and Island (now renamed Connswater). The decline in the Protestant population has been even greater than the increase in the Catholic population, exceeding 20% in some wards. The decline in the Protestant population is greater than the increase in the Catholic population because those with Other religions and None have also increased. Most of the Other and some of the None are ethnic nationals that have settled in East Belfast. The age profile of the wards is consistent with what occurs with “white flight” which has been studied extensively in the USA. Minority groups (native Catholics and foreign immigrants), who are generally young families, move into a majority group area (native Protestants). They usually replace elderly members of the majority group who slowly die off as well as younger members of the majority group who emigrate to the suburbs. You will notice that there are very few Catholics in the over 60 and over 70 age groups. The percentage of Catholics relative to Protestants is much higher in the younger age groups. It is usually in the 25 to 39 age cohort but in middle class areas it may extend to the 49 age cohort. The 0 to4 and 0 to 14 age cohorts have a similar composition to the 25 to 39 age cohort (their parents). In some wards this is seen in all age cohorts among school children and in other wards in mainly shows up in the youngest (0-4) age groups. In the Castlereagh area the wards of Wynchurch, Hillfoot, Cregagh, Downshire and Gilnahirk show similar trends though it is minimal in the wards of Lisnasharragh, Tullycarnet, Upper and Lower Braniel. In another 20 years, East Belfast will have the same demographic makeup that South Belfast had 10 years ago.

The following shows the change in the turnout for the nationalist and unionist parties comparing the 2005 and 2011 district council elections.

E Balfast 3

All the wards of Castlereagh Central are within the new Belfast Council but only 2 wards from Castlereagh East were transferred to Belfast. The results show:

#1 Turnout declined only slightly between the 2005 and 2011 elections.

#2 Unionist turnout is in the 50% range, except in Pottinger where it is much lower.

#3 Nationalist turnout is low in all DEA’s, except Castlereagh Central.

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

E Balfast 4

The new DEA’s have changed. Titanic (formerly Pottinger) lost the Ravenhill and Orangefield wards and gained the Sydenham and Connswater (formerly Island) wards. Ormiston (formerly Victoria) lost Sydenham and Island and gained the Castlereagh wards of Gilnahirk, Tullycarnet, Upper Braniel and part of Lower Braniel. The Lisnasharragh DEA bears no resemblance to any current DEA. It includes the Rosetta ward, the Ravenhill and Orangefield wards, most of Castlereagh Central and the Hillfoot ward from Castlereagh West.

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

Titanic                21338 (3556)

Ormiston           24843 (3549)

Lisnasharragh   20118 (3353)

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

E Balfast 5

These are the most likely results, based on the 2011 turnout. Ormiston is the least likely to show any change. In 2014, the Catholic electorate is probably 12%, with another 3% from the Other/None group that could potentially vote for a nationalist candidate. Even though the quota is only 12.5%, a potential electorate of 15% is not enough to elect a nationalist candidate because the nationalist turnout is so low and some of that 15% will vote Alliance. In another 10 years, the situation will be different since the nationalist electorate will have increased to over 20%, which will be enough to elect a SDLP councilor.

In Titanic, because of demographic change, the Catholic electorate is probably 23% in 2014. With another possible 3% to 4% from the Other/None group it would be at least 26%. Since a quota is only 14.3% there should be a nationalist councilor here. The estimated quota will be 1500. The potential nationalist electorate in 2014 is over 7000. There are several reasons it would not occur based on the 2011 vote.

#1 SF only concentrates on their base in Short Strand, even though 2/3 of the nationalist electorate resides outside that area.

#2 SF receive few transfers from other parties, even the SDLP.

#3 The SDLP devotes little effort to this DEA, even though there is a large potential nationalist electorate.

#4 There is 3300 ethnic non nationals old enough to vote in Titanic. Approximately 1800 were on the December 2013 electoral register. 2/3 are from the EU (mainly Polish). There have been several recent high profile attacks on foreign nationals in this area that appear to have originated from the loyalist community .The Alliance Party, SF and the SDLP  have been publicly supportive in condemning these attacks while the PUP, TUV and DUP have been silent. It is not clear if much effort has been made by the SDLP and SF in voter registration and canvassing these potential voters. Ignoring these 3300 potential voters would be a major strategic failure on the part of the SDLP and SF.

#5 Nationalist turnout was only 36% in 2011. It was over 50% in Short Strand so probably less than 30% outside of that area. The nationalist parties generally ignore the 2/3 of the nationalist electorate outside of Short Strand and need to make this a high priority. In 10 years, if the nationalist parties decide to seriously contest this DEA, there would be seats for both SF and the SDLP. At that point, the nationalist electorate will be approximately 34%.

The Lisnasharragh DEA is difficult to project because it is a conglomeration of wards from 4 existing DEA’s. You will notice that there are significant ward average discrepancies between the DEA’s. The average electorate for Lisnasharragh is only 3353, which is 1100 voters short of the average for Belfast. 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. If Lisnasharragh had an additional 1100 voters (which would have come from Botanic, which has 1500 voters too many and of which these additional voters would have been 2/3 nationalist), then the nationalist electorate would have been 3% higher. Whether an additional 20% of a quota would be enough to elect a SF councilor will not be known until after the election. In 2014, due to demographic growth, the Catholic electorate will be 31%, with an additional potential nationalist vote of 3% from the Other/None group for a total electorate of 34%. 2 quotas would be 28.6%. Since the SDLP is strong in this area, the SDLP vote should far exceed the quota of 14.3%. A very good turnout could see a total nationalist vote of 30%, with the remainder of the nationalist voters voting Alliance or Green. Since the SDLP and Alliance will each elect one, the final seat will probably come down to SF or Alliance. My estimate of the 2014 vote, based on 2010 Westminster tallies, is

SF   0%  SDLP     23.76%  Alliance  23.31%  Green   3.09%    UUP      16.19%   DUP     33.65%

The UUP is slightly above 1 quota and the DUP are above 2 quotas. Clearly there will be 3 non unionist seats. There will definitely be 1 Alliance and 1 SDLP seat. The big unknown is how much of the SDLP vote in 2010 who voted SDLP originated from SF voters who did not have a candidate to vote for. How many SF voters stayed home who would have otherwise voted? Also, the nationalist turnout in the wards that are part of the East Belfast constituency would have had a very low nationalist turnout in both the 2010 Westminster and 2011 council elections. The East Belfast wards contain 16% of the nationalist electorate so will they vote in much higher numbers in 2014? SF has the potential for a seat here if they are willing to put in the effort to increase nationalist turnout and target SDLP transfers.

For all the Belfast DEA’s the party makeup based on the 2011 election would be:

SF    19 SDLP  7  Eirigi   1  Alliance 9  UUP      5  DUP     17     PUP      2

I believe the most likely result in 2014 would be the following:

SF     20  SDLP  8  Eirigi   1  Alliance 8  UUP      4  DUP     17  PUP    2

The demographic changes in Castle since 2011 will probably result in a SDLP gain and UUP loss. If SF and the SDLP seriously contest Titanic then SF will win a seat at the expense of the 2nd Alliance seat. There would be 29 nationalist councilors and 23 unionist councilors with 8 Alliance so it does not appear that there would be a nationalist majority in the 2014 election. There are possible additional SF seats in Oldpark and Lisnasharragh as well as possible SDLP seats in Court, Balmoral and Botanic but this would require a higher nationalist turnout, as much as 600 additional nationalist voters per DEA, for this to occur. The maximum number of nationalist councilors could be as high as 34 but the unionist candidates in those 5 DEA’s have the advantage based on the 2011 turnout.

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