As the dust settles after another round of elections the same old questions, like the “dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone”, rear their weary heads yet again.
I have long thought that moving beyond the simple sectarian headcount was possible in elections here. Unlikely but possible. I have viewed the possibility passively more as an observer more than a participant. I have witnessed the relentless increase in the nationalist vote over a relatively short period of time along with the inevitability of the decline in the pro union vote. The pro nationalist vote has stood still this time. I am quite relaxed about that. The nationalist vote in Fermanagh stood still for a long time before eventually powering ahead. There is no longer any dispute about which is the stronger voting block in that county. For many years the nationalist vote was kept in check by a three pronged approach. Gerrymandering, enforced emigration through allocation of employment and limitation of voting rights. That day is long gone thanks to the efforts of many others.
This round of elections has thrown up some interesting things. By accident almost, we have an all Ireland element in both the Euros and the local elections. The Sinn Fein performance is, without doubt, very good. In the Euro Elections a nationalist was elected on the first count exceeding the quota in the Northern constituency. They were elected in every other Irish region. Imagine how a certain Revd/ Dr/ Mr Paisley would have reacted to that back in the day? There is no question that things are moving along at a rate of knots. The SDLP had a good candidate who performed well. He fell at the transfer hurdle.
Within Unionism, Dianne Dodds, who distinguished herself with her sour and nasty reaction at the previous election, limped over the line eventually, Jimbo did very well and will be pleased no doubt. Expect a lurch to his approach on the part of the DUP shortly. As for the UUP? Less said the better.
So the question remains, is there a middle ground?
NI21 imploded as we all know by now. Alliance did what Alliance do, 6 to 7 %. The Greens pretty much held their ground also although the Euro candidate performed poorly. I see no evidence of a resurgent middle ground yet. All I see is a nationalist electorate reluctant to vote possibly due to a lack of motivation and a unionist electorate motivated by fear and loathing.