2017 Assembly Election – Faha’s view

Below is part one of Faha’s much anticipated analysis for the forthcoming Assembly elections – BD

Ballot Box

This is the first of my two part series on the constituencies for the March 2nd Assembly election. In this first series I will cover the 9 constituencies outside of the Belfast area. Here is some of the background I will go over prior to analyzing each constituency.

This chart shows the differential turnout between the Catholic and Protestant community background in the 2016 Assembly election. It is based on the 2016 constituency census data (extrapolated from the 2011 census) and the transfer pattern from nonsectarian parties. As you can see, with a few exceptions, most constituencies had a much lower turnout from the nationalist electorate compared to the unionist electorate. Overall nationalist turnout was 7% less than unionist turnout. If it had been equal to unionist turnout another 45,000 voters would have voted

2016 Assembly Election


This chart shows the difference in turnout for each constituency comparing the May 2016 Assembly election with the June Brexit referendum. In every constituency (except West Belfast) there was an increase in voter turnout for the Brexit referendum.

It is estimated at 110,000 more voters (the number in the chart is 96,209 but since EU nationals could not vote in the Brexit vote the 110,000 is the actual change) voted in the Brexit referendum. From the results it appears that most of those additional voters were nationalist, Alliance, Green and pro EU UUP voters. The pre-election  Lucid Talk poll, which predicted the final result to within 1%, indicated that 85% of nationalist, Alliance and Green voters were against Brexit and 85% of unionist voters were pro Brexit.

These Brexit results indicate that if an Assembly election had been held the same day then the   unionist parties would have received 44% of the vote and nationalist, Alliance and Green parties would have received 56% of the vote.

2016 Brexit Referendum

Faha 2017 Brexit.JPG

This chart shows the Lucid Talk polls from April 2016 and January 2017. I compared the April 2016 poll with the January 2017 poll and calculated the difference in the 3rd column. The last column indicates the difference between the January 2017 poll and the actual Assembly results from 2016. The Lucid Talk poll was very accurate in predicting the overall total vote for nationalist parties, unionist parties and nonsectarian parties. It underestimated the vote for the DUP and overestimated the vote for the UUP, Alliance and smaller unionist parties. Part of the underestimate for the DUP and overestimate for the smaller unionist parties is due to the fact that the smaller unionist parties did not compete in all constituencies. Thus, some of their voters choose the DUP instead by default. Keep in mind that the poll has a +/- accuracy of 3% so it compares very favourably with the actual results.

The January 2017 poll shows little change from the April 2016 poll. The only party change that may be statistically significant is the increase for PBP and possibly the decline for the UUP. All the other changes are too small to determine if they are actually real. However, the overall 3.76% decline for unionist parties is significant. Statistically, the real decline could be anywhere from only 0.76% to as high as 6.76%.

The January 2017 poll did note a few trends. Almost half mentioned the Health Service and RHI as important issues followed by Education, Equality and the Economy. Almost ¼ mentioned Brexit as an important issue followed by Irish Language and Irish Unity. It was also noted that a “large” number of DUP voters in 2016 said they would vote for other parties (primarily UUP) in this election. However, the actual poll results do not seem to indicate this but it could be due to DUP oversampling in this poll. Responses to questions on transfers showed that SDLP and UUP voters are now more likely to give 2nd preferences to each other. The most significant change is that UUP voters are more likely to give their 2nd preference to Alliance and the SDLP rather than the DUP. This is how UUP voters indicated their 2nd preference:

SDLP                      25.3%

Alliance                 23.7%

DUP                          5.8%

TUV                        19.0%

Other Unionist     11.6%

SF                              1.6%

PBP                           2.6%

Green                       3.2%

That trend could have a profound impact on the election prospects for DUP candidates. Unionist voters do not appear to have noticed any increased interest in voting in this election but nationalist voters have noticed increased interest among family, friend and coworkers in voting in 2017. This sounds plausible since 2016 unionist nonvoters have no reason to vote in this election. Brexit was passed in Westminster this week and the RHI scandal would certainly not increase unionist turnout for the DUP. Nationalist and nonsectarian voters appear to be more likely to vote this year with impending Brexit and its impact on Northern Ireland a big issue.

There will be additional Lucid Talk polls on February 13 and February 27th will provide more insight on the state of the electorate.


The following are the constituency profiles.

I have included the demographic data, 2016 Assembly results, the new quota with 5 seats and the Brexit vote.


All usual residents Catholic Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related) Other religions None
79,679 59,941 17,644 641 1,453
  75.23% 22.14% 0.80% 1.82%


Total                39,702

Quota                6,617

EU Referendum Turnout   40,987 (+1,285)

Remain        78%

Leave           22%


Both the SDLP and SF should elect 2 on transfers since they are close to 2 quotas (33.3%). In 2016 Dr. McCloskey had 4,227 votes at the last count, almost 1,200 votes behind Eamonn McCann. Gary Middleton of the DUP was elected with 6,641 votes and had a surplus. However with the higher quota in 2017 he would barely be above the quota. He is likely to receive fewer transfers this time but should be close to a quota. There are only 2 scenarios in which Eamonn McCann could be elected. There could be a decline in unionist turnout or an increase in nationalist turnout. If nationalist turnout were to increase by 3,000 votes the quota would be 500 higher and the DUP would be 500 votes short of a quota and Eamonn McCann would be elected. There were 1,285 more voters who did vote in the EU referendum so this scenario is possible.


                                              EAST  DERRY

All usual residents Catholic Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related) Other religions None
79,650 33,062 43,080 566 2,942
  41.51% 54.09% 0.71% 3.69%


New Quota          5,733

EU Referendum Turnout   40,563 (+6,164)

Remain        52%

Leave           48%

The DUP should elect 2 here even with a decline in their 1st preference. There should also be 1 SDLP and 1 SF elected. If you look at the stage 9 count last year this is where the SDLP and SF vote was.

SDLP                             4,172

SF (Archibald)             4,139

SF (O’Hoisin)               3,532

Since the SDLP was ahead of both SF candidates the SDLP candidate will be elected. Since the total nationalist vote equaled 11,843 and 2 quotas is 11,466 both SF and the SDLP should elect one. The only complication factor this time is that there is essentially a 2nd SDLP candidate as the current SDLP MLA, Gerard Mullan, has decided to stand as an independent. John Dallat’s 1st preference vote was 2,000 votes higher in 2011 compared to Gerard Mullan in 2016 so the latter will likely be eliminated. The 5th seat will come down to the UUP and Claire Sugden. Claire Sugden seemed unwilling to stand up to the DUP during the recent RHI debate at Stormont so this could hurt her chances for receiving transfers from Alliance or nationalist voters. If those additional 6,164 Brexit voters turn out there could be significant surplus of nationalist voters who will determine whether the UUP or Claire Sugden wins the 5th seat.

The following 3 constituencies I group together because they all have one demographic in common. The Protestant voting age population is in the 31% or lower range which is less than 2 quotas (33.33%).



                                           WEST TYRONE

All usual residents Catholic Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related) Other religions None
71,747 48,604 21,926 286 931
  67.74% 30.56% 0.40% 1.30%


New Quota        6,468

EU Referendum Turnout   40,039 (+1,252)

Remain        67%                                              

Leave           33%

I included a former SF member candidate in the SF total and 2 former SDLP councilor candidates in the SDLP total since these 3 candidates left their parties just prior to the election. The SDLP should elect one here since even in the 2015 Westminster election their vote was 16.67%. SF would need to be very close to 50% to elect 3. They are short by almost 6% but there are some possible transfers from the 5.76% nonsectarian voters (Alliance, Green, others). The main problem for SF here is the low nationalist turnout which was 52% in 2016 versus 65% for the unionist electorate. Since this is a border constituency Brexit will be a big issue here. The prospect of a hard border with Donegal could increase nationalist turnout which could potentially elect a 3rd SF MLA. If the nationalist turnout reaches 60% there will be 3 SF elected otherwise there will be 1 UUP and 1 DUP elected with only 2 SF.

                                                    MID ULSTER

All usual residents Catholic Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related) Other religions None
76,858 51,112 24,033 358 1,355
  66.50% 31.27% 0.47% 1.76%



New Quota        6,791

EU Referendum Turnout   42,411 (+1,683)

Remain        60%                                              

Leave           40%

The SDLP should elect one here as they are just short of a quota but should receive enough Alliance and Green transfer to reach a quota. SF would be 2.5% short of the 50% they need to elect 3. Low nationalist turnout (50% versus 60% unionist) is all that is preventing SF from electing 3. In the 2011 Assembly election SF had 49.2% and the SDLP 14.7% and there was 3.3% for independent nationalist and 1% for Alliance. With the 2011 results SF would have elected 3 and the SDLP one with the DUP winning the 5th seat. Another 2,000 nationalist voters in 2017 is all that is needed for 3 SF. The presence of Michelle O’Neill as a candidate and new SF leader could be enough to bring out those additional 2,000 nationalist voters.

                                        NEWRY AND ARMAGH

All usual residents Catholic Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related) Other religions None
88,081 58,598 26,966 522 1,995
  66.53% 30.62% 0.59% 2.26%





New Quota        7,953

EU Referendum Turnout   50,622 (+2,929)

Remain        63%                                              

Leave           37%

The SDLP should elect one here since they are above a quota. SF are further away from electing 3 here as they would need to increase their vote from the current 41% to over 45% to be close enough to elect 3 on transfers. Again, the problem for SF here is low nationalist turnout which is 11% less than unionist turnout. If nationalist turnout approaches 60% then SF will elect 3 here. If that occurs the DUP and UUP will be in a close battle for the final seat. Brexit should be a big issue here since obviously a hard border will affect this constituency in a significant way.

                                   FERMANAGH SOUTH TYRONE


All usual residents Catholic Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related) Other religions None
81,074 46,746 31,962 532 1,834
  57.66% 39.42% 0.66% 2.26%




New Quota        7,863

EU Referendum Turnout   48,158 (+1,010)

Remain        59%                                              

Leave           41%

This constituency is one of the most difficult to predict for obvious reasons. Based on the 2016 vote there would be 2 DUP and 1 UUP elected with 2 SF. The 2016 vote showed that after transfers the nationalist electorate was 51% and the unionist electorate 49%. SF could not elect 3 since they would need all of the SDLP vote as well as those Alliance, Green and Other transfers that go to the SDLP to transfer through to SF. Starting with a base vote of 39.95% they are too far away from 50% to elect 3. The DUP were just short of 2 new quotas and the UUP would elect one on transfers. The nationalist turnout was a full 20% less than the unionist turnout. However, it is now 2017 and the RHI scandal is now major news with Arlene Foster of the DUP the main candidate here. How this will affect the unionist vote and overall vote is unknown. Brexit and the prospect of a hard border will also be an important issue here. The UUP MP here, Tom Elliot, voted in favour of Brexit in Westminster this past week.  One thing is certain over the years is that unionist voters are very reliable voters and will vote in every election so there will be 22,000 to 23,000 unionist votes. The question is how those votes will be distributed among the DUP and UUP. The Lucid Talk poll is indicating a shift from the DUP to the UUP. In the 2011 Assembly election the UUP received more than 3,000 1st preference votes compared to 2016. If 2,000 of those return to the UUP then the UUP candidate will be elected with Alliance and Green transfers. If it is 2,500 then even the transfers will not be needed. Whether the 2nd DUP will be elected will depend on balancing between Foster and Morrow and nationalist turnout. It will be very difficult for the DUP to balance their candidates here since they do not know how the RHI scandal will affect Arlene Foster’s 1st preference vote. Obviously they need to push the 1st preference vote in Arlene Fosters’ direction since her defeat would be a major defeat for the DUP. For SF there is a sweet spot for increasing nationalist turnout. If it increases to 52% to 54% then they will elect 3 on transfers. However, if it increases to 55% or more then this scenario favours the SDLP. That is because the 3rd unionist candidate would then be polling 10% or less and would be eliminated. Enough of their transfers would go to the SDLP to elect the SDLP candidate. If nationalist turnout is in the 52% to 53% range then the SDLP candidate would probably poll less than the 3rd unionist candidate and would be eliminated instead.

                                              UPPER BANN


All usual residents Catholic Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related) Other religions None
92,513 40,880 46,748 809 4,076
  44.19% 50.53% 0.87% 4.41%



New Quota        7,614

EU Referendum Turnout   51,812 (+6,159)

Remain        47%                                              

Leave           53%

The combined SF-SDLP vote in the final count was 17,236 which is 2,000 votes over 2 quotas so there will be 2 nationalist MLA’s elected. O’Dowd of SF finished 167 votes ahead of Kelly of the SDLP but there were 1,260 Alliance and UUP voters who did not transfer to anyone. There will be 3 unionists elected but in 2016 the DUP were 2% short of 2 new quotas on their 1st preference vote. This has traditionally been a strong constituency for the UUP and any significant decline in the DUP vote could result in 2 UUP MLA’s elected. However, the Lucid Talk poll is not indicating such a dramatic shift. There were over 6,000 additional voters who voted in the Brexit referendum and it appears that nationalist turnout may have been close to unionist turnout. If those nationalist voters turn out for the Assembly election then 2 UUP could be elected with nationalist transfers.

                                                 SOUTH DOWN

All usual residents Catholic Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related) Other religions None
84,986 58,906 23,152 477 2,451
  69.31% 27.24% 0.56% 2.88%


New Quota        6,846

EU Referendum Turnout   47,701 (+6,649)

Remain        67%                                              

Leave           33%

At the Stage 4 count in 2016 these were the party vote totals:

SF                   13,321

SDLP               14,957

DUP                  6,470

UUP                  5,567

The SDLP are 1,267 votes above 2 quotas and SF are 371 votes short of 2 quotas so 2 SF should be elected with SDLP transfers. Subsequent stage counts in 2016 only involved DUP and SF transfers which will not occur in 2017 due to the higher quota. The DUP is at risk of losing out to the UUP for the 1 unionist seat if their vote declines in this election. There were also an additional 6,649 voters who voted in the Brexit referendum and if significant number of these vote then the UUP should win on nationalist transfers.


                                            NORTH ANTRIM

All usual residents Catholic Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related) Other religions None
86,546 24,618 57,871 644 3,413
  28.44% 66.87% 0.74% 3.94%


New Quota        6,833

EU Referendum Turnout   49,720 (+8,742)

Remain        38%                                              

Leave           62%

This constituency is straightforward. The TUV will elect one since they are above a quota. SF will elect one on SDLP transfers. The UUP 1st preference vote is almost 6% less than a quota but with unionist transfers (including TUV) as well as Alliance, Green and SDLP transfers the UUP candidate should be elected. Only 2 DUP will be elected. However, if the Brexit electorate was the electorate for this election then there would be 2 nationalist candidates elected, both SF and SDLP. In 2016 the nationalist turnout was only 36% and the unionist turnout 52%. In the Brexit referendum they appear to have been equal.

Obviously many of the 5th seats will be determined by which electorate votes in the election: the 2016 Assembly electorate or the 2016 Brexit referendum electorate.







Crossing the Rubicon ‘Alea iacta est’

Well folks,

After a relatively quiet Christmas it’s election time again as things currently stand at the time of writing. roman

I think it’s time we swung into action again here on the blog.

The quote above may be loosely translated as “Let the games begin” (With thanks to Sean South) by Julius Caesar

There is little point in me going over the political analysis as to where we are at, the web and the MSM are awash with that, although my own opinion would be very much that this election has come about as a result of what I would term traditional Unionist behaviours. Arrogance, hubris, triumphalism and entitlement.

Quite simply, I think nationalist inclined voters have had enough.

In a nutshell, as I read earlier in a since re-edited piece in a unionist inclined newspaper – Unionist politicians keep making the same basic mistake of saying no and then having to renegotiate from a position of weakness, inevitably getting a worse deal.

And so to the upcoming elections.

Firstly the reduction in seats from 108 to 90. This will affect both the last elected candidates last time round in particular and will influence the number of candidates selected by the parties. The obvious immediate effect will be to increase the quotas for each seat.

Secondly, the dynamic in this election will be crucial in terms of the response by the electorate:

  • Will Unionists desert the DUP in significant numbers?
  • Who would benefit from such a reaction (UUP/ TUV/ Independents/ Alliance etc)
  • Will the Nationalist electorate turn up this time?
  • Will SF’s seizing of the initiative be enough to re-energise their vote?
  • Will there be any significant cross community/ party transfers that signal a change in electoral mood and allegiences?

It’s early days and anything could happen but I’m preparing a constituency analysis of the possibilities.

In the meantime, here are last Mays results again as a reminder along with some comments.

Belfast NorthSF elected first, everyone else on the 11th count!

Results: DUP 3 SF 2 SDLP 1

Belfast South Final seat a run off between UUP/ DUP and Greens

Results: APNI 1 SF 1 DUP 2 SDLP 1 Green 1 

Belfast West  Final seat between SDLP and SF

Results: PBPA 1 SF 4 SDLP 1

East Antrim Final seat will be likely between SF and DUP

Results: DUP 3 UUP 1 APNI 1 SF 1

East LondonderryI’m going to call this one, SF may well take Claire Sugdens seat

Results: DUP 3 SF 1 SDLP 1 Independent 1

Fermanagh & South Tyrone – As always a fascinating constituency but SF made a complete mess of this last may by running 4 candidates, if they run three they could win 3

Results: DUP 2; SF 2; UUP 1; SDLP 1

Newry & ArmaghUUP possibly vulnerable

Results: DUP 1 SF 3 UUP 1 SDLP 1

North Antrim – UUP Scraped in here last time in last place – Huge local vote for Daithi McKay may affect SF vote

Results: TUV 1 DUP 3 UUP 1 SF 1 

Foyle – Big Q here is if Eamonn of PFP holds his seat at expense of SF

Results: DUP 1 SF 2, SDLP 2, PBPA 1

Lagan Valley – Alliance could be vulnerable here

Results: APNI 1, UUP 2, DUP 3

Mid UlsterUUP need a big swing here to take the DUP seat

Results: SDLP 1 SF 3 UUP 1 DUP 1

North DownDUP Last seat very vulnerable here

Results: APNI 1 DUP 3 UUP 1 Green 1

South AntrimAlliance and DUP vulnerable here

Range of likely results: DUP 3 APNI 1 UUP 1 SF 1

South Down Likely UUP Loss

Results: SF 2 SDLP 2 DUP 1 UUP 1

Strangford – Two words – Jonathon Bell, will he stand and if so on what platform and at whos expense (DUP)?

Results: DUP 3 APNI 1 UUP 2

Upper Bann –Probably a fight between SDLP / SF for final seat

Results: DUP 2 SF 2 UUP 2

West TyroneIf SF run 3 either DUP/ UUP or SDLP will lose out

Results: SF 3 DUP 1 UUP 1 SDLP 1

In Conclusion, there are a lot of variables and unknowns as well as few twists and turns ahead no doubt. I don’t doubt that the DUP will try to return things to the “vote Arlene and keep themmuns out” narrative of the last election. That has already started.

My own instinct is that this time may be different.

Faha is preparing a detailed analysis for the constituencies and this old blog will be cranking up a few gears in the weeks ahead.

Winnies Birthday

As some readers here may be aware the picture on the masthead above is of Winifred Carney who was born in Bangor on this day in 1887.

Winnie was a prominent Suffragist, socialist, trade unionist and activist in the struggle for Irish Independence.

She was the first woman to enter the GPO in 1916 in her role as James Connollys secretary. She was one of the last to leave the burning shell at the surrender. Famously, she arrived for duty “Armed with a typewriter and a Webley”.winnie-portrait

I attended a one act play in Belfast recently which focussed on her reflecting upon her eventful life with her husband George, a Shankill Rd Orangeman no less.

It is written by Roseleen Walsh and is called “Winnie and George – opposing Politics” It was an interesting and thought provoking play which I would highly recommend if it gets an extended run.

For those interested here is a documentary about her life

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/147590901″>WINIFRED CARNEY</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/northernvisions”>Northern Visions NvTv</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Moving lines on a Map

Yesterday, I attended the public consultation by the Boundary Commission regarding the new 2018 proposed Westminster boundary changes.

I made copious notes throughout the presentation and I thought I would share them with2016-review-provisional-proposals-map you as I was quite surprised at the very poor attendance. There were about 15 people present for the (excellent) presentation plus, of course, the officials from the Boundary Commission itself.

The cast of characters was, in itself, interesting. We had no less than 3 MPs present and an assortment of characters on behalf of various political parties. In fact I believe everyone in the room was representing some party or other. Being only one session of 3 yesterday (12 in total), and bearing in mind that it took place in Belfast, it was not surprising that most of the submissions were Belfast – centric.

It is important to bear in mind that most, if not all, of our political parties will be making detailed written submissions on the proposals prior to the 28 November deadline. These will be published on the Boundary commission website in due course.

The afternoon kicked off with a straightforward, although professional, presentation by Eamonn McConville, secretary of the NI Boundary Commission who explained the remit, methodology and parameters under which the study was undertaken.

All of the information he provided is readily available on the Boundary Commission website here and has been covered at length on this site previously. A full Map is available here.

This is the point where things got interesting. The floor was then open to verbal submissions from the floor which provided some very interesting insight into the thinkings of our current politicans and parties. If I may, I’ll deal with this in the order in which things played out.

First up was my own local MP, Sylvia Hermon.

Sylvia gave a very good speech and spoke about the close links between the various towns and districts in the North Down area, notably, Bangor, Holywood, Donaghadee and Groomsport. She emphasised the links between local schools, churches and communities and how they are interwoven. She spoke of how those links should be respected and how North Down was essentially a coastal community.  Regarding the proposals, she had two points. Firstly, and this was very diplomatically put, she didn’t see the logic of adding the 5 Dundonald wards to North Down and secondly, losing her neighbouring ward around Millisle.and indeed, further down the Ards peninsular, which, to her mind made more sense. She said that clearly she had no objections per-se to adding Dundonald but she was not happy regarding the potential losses along the Ards peninsular. Her difficulty here, which is the same for all vested interests of course, is the knock on effects on the other constituencies, particularly Strangford. Regarding the changes in Belfast, she said she would keep her opinions to herself, possibly wise given what was coming up.

Next up was the SDLP. They were represented by a Father/Daughter double act of Eamonn and Clare Hannah MLA who both spoke in a personal capacity rather than from an official party position..

Essentially they were saying the same thing regarding the boundary proposals although Eamonn gave us a fascinating anecdote about how his grandmother had acted as acted as election agent for Eamonn De-Valera in times past. In a nutshell neither was in favour of the move from four to three seats, not surprisingly given the likely effect upon Alasdairs South Belfast seat. I do know that Alasdair was at the morning session in person but unfortunately I missed that particular highlight. Claire spoke passionately about the absurdity of moving what are clearly South Belfast urban wards into the largely rural new constituency of West Down.

At this point I should state that there was one UUP and one Alliance representative present and although both asked some questions, neither made any submissions from the platform. I am aware, however, of an Alliance position paper which is largely in favour of and supportive of the Belfast boundary proposals. Again, not surprisingly given their enhanced chances of taking the new South East Belfast seat.

I know that there were also 5 SF representatives present. None spoke at this session but I was informed that Alex Maskey was due to attend the evening session. With the prospect of gathering 2 of the 3 Belfast seats at the next election with the current proposals I would expect little criticism as things stand.

Next up it was showtime.

The DUP arrived in force. All sharp suits, busy demeanor and frowns, we were treated to the double whammy of Nigel Dodds and Gavin Robinson giving full vent to their outrage. Yes I know.

Nigel is not a happy bunny. He wants the entire thing ripped up and started again. From scratch. I’ll not go into Unionisms record on drawing up electoral boundaries but the lack of self awareness was stunning.

He started reasonably enough talking about seperating towns from their natural hinterland (Derry anyone?) mentioned local identity (Don’t start me) but unfortunately moved swiftly along to the loss of Rathcoole and parts of Glengormley and Newtownabbey  from his own constituency. That’s when the reflexive rhetoric kicked in. A taste of it?

“Very poor”, “Dismemberment”, Basic lack of common sense”, “Unacceptable”, “Unnatural”, people being “Cast out”. I trust you get the idea.

Finally Gavin Robinson had his say.

Well he picked up where Nigel left off, my first notes are “Outrageous”. “Bizarrely contrived” “Unnatural” (again) and “People (in Dundonald) being used as mathematical pawns.” In a nutshell he’s not happy about losing Dundonald and gaining Belvoir.

It was a highly entertaining afternoon in fairness. I think the above may give you all an idea of where the parties stand on these proposals but as always  here, we remain vulnerable to the machinations and self interest of the Tories at Westminster. This boundary revision could be voted down by a tiny tory revolt. I have no doubt the DUP will vote against it.

That can’t change soon enough

The Details Revealed – 2018 Westminster Boundary Review

By Faha

The Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland released their preliminary proposals for the new 17 Westminster constituencies that will take effect with the 2020 Westminster election. There has been much speculation in the media on the implications of the new boundaries. Much of this speculation seems to be based on a lack of awareness of the rationale behind the decisions of the Boundary Commission and the restrictions imposed by the recent Westminster legislation regarding the Boundary Review. The Boundary Commission published a full report with their recommendations which can be reviewed at their website.

I am presenting a thorough review of the demographics of the new constituencies based on the 2011 census. Many of the new wards do not match the boundaries of the old wards used for the census but I used the census Outputs Areas (OA’s) to determine as accurately as possible the demographics where the old wards are divided between 2 constituencies.

These are the demographics for each of the 17 new Westminster constituencies.


The most striking feature of the new constituencies is that there is a Catholic majority in 9 of the 17 constituencies. The current 18 constituencies have a Catholic majority in 7. This is partly due to the geographical and numerical constraints required by the legislation. A constituency can contain no fewer than 71,031 voters and no more than 78,507. In the current constituencies, those with the largest Protestant population are East Belfast, North Down, Strangford and East Antrim. All these constituencies are at least 10,000 voters below the average quota and needed to expand further west to collectively add 40,000 new voters. This had a knock on effect for other constituencies. I will explain this further when analyzing each constituency.



(View original map on website here )

For my analysis I will refer to any demographic changes and the expected results for the Westminster and Assembly elections. The next Assembly will have only 5 MLA’s elected per constituency and the Assembly will decrease from the current 108 to 85 members.

North Down

Although this is a nationalist blog I am beginning with North Down because the changes to North Down were the only ones possible due to geography and the quota requirements. It is geographically possible that the Ards Peninsula could have been added to North Down. However, this would have resulted in a constituency that was 1,000 over the maximum quota and thus cannot be allowed. The only alternative was to add the 5 Dundonald area wards. This decision basically then determined the nature of the Belfast constituencies and had a knock on effect that extended across Northern Ireland. The new North Down is even more unionist than the current one. Millisle was removed (geographical constraint) and 5 Dundonald area wards were added.

Westminster: Sylvia Hermon would still win here but when she retires this will definitely be won by the DUP as there is a large DUP vote in the 5 Dundonald area wards.

Assembly: The current Assembly has 1 Green and 1 Alliance MLA’s and the non unionist vote was 35%. That will decrease to the 33% range but still enough for 2 non unionist quotas (33.3%).

Belfast Southeast

The 5 Dundonald area wards were removed and 7 wards were added from South Belfast. This increased the Catholic population to 21.7% which is 9% higher than the current constituency. This constituency had the highest rate of increase in the Catholic population between 2001 and 2011 and will be near 27% for the 2020 and 2021 elections.

Westminster: If the Dundonald wards had been removed in 2015 Naomi Long would have won the election by 1% to 2% in the remainder of the constituency. Since the wards added from South Belfast have a net Catholic majority and the Alliance Party polls well in those wards the Alliance Party could win with a moderate amount of tactical voting by SDLP and SF voters even with a the current arrangement of a Unionist electoral pact.

Assembly: The non unionist vote was almost 40% in 2016 but with the removal of the Dundonald wards and the addition of the South Belfast wards it will be over 50% in 2021. The DUP would still win 2 seats but there would be 3 non unionist seats. Based on 2016 it would be 2 Alliance and 1 Green. However, SF and the SDLP have traditionally ignored East Belfast and even with that complete lack of effort in the East Belfast wards the nationalist vote was 10% within these boundaries in 2016. It is possible that either could win a seat in 2021 at the expense of Alliance or Green.

Belfast Southwest

This constituency consists of most of the current West Belfast wards except for the 3 unionist Court wards and 3 nationalist wards of Lower Falls. 8 wards were added from South Belfast. The new constituency is only 23% Protestant and still overwhelmingly nationalist.

Westminster: This will still be a safe SF seat though with less than 50% of the vote.

Assembly: Based on the 2016 results there should be 3 SF and 1 PBP elected with the last seat either the SDLP or DUP. The total unionist vote was approximately 15% to 16% which is less than a quota of 16.7%. The reason it is so much less than the 23% of the Protestant population is due to lower turnout compared to the West Belfast wards (some are students who do not vote here) and significant numbers vote Alliance or Green. The DUP would need Alliance or Green transfers as well as all the UUP transfers which may not occur.

Belfast Northwest

This constituency consists of the Court, Oldpark and Castle DEA’s as well as Beechmount ward and 2 wards from Newtownabbey. It is 6.5% more Catholic than the current North Belfast.

Westminster: The changes here would have and will have a dramatic effect on the Westminster results. The unionist wards removed from Macedon were exactly balanced by the addition of 3 unionist wards of Court. However, additional unionist voters were removed from 4 other Newtownabbey wards. 3 entirely nationalist wards were added from Lower Falls. There were some nationalist voters lost from 4 of the Newtownabbey wards but half those were voting SDLP or Alliance whereas the SF vote in Lower Falls is very high. It is likely that the SF vote would have been 6.5% higher in 2015 and the DUP vote 6.5% lower which means that the SF and DUP would have each had 40.5%. It is unlikely that PBP would stand here in 2020 and SF have a slight edge for 2020 due to 5 more years of demographic changes.

Assembly: There will still be 3 nationalist seats here but 1 DUP seat will be lost due to the reduction to 5 seats. The SDLP should win a seat with Alliance and UUP transfers.

South Down

South Down is basically unchanged with one ward removed and one added.

Westminster: Margaret Ritchie will easily win reelection.

Assembly: With the reduction to 5 seats it should be 2 SDLP, 1 SF and 2 unionists. The unionist electorate is far below 2 quotas but low nationalist turnout will result in 2 unionists elected.

Newry and Armagh

2 wards in the north were removed and the Mahon ward added. This was a puzzling change since Mahon is an urban ward in Portadown and the rural Blackwatertown ward (old Ballymartin and Charlemont wards) that was removed has always been part of the constituency. This may be challenged.

Westminster: No change here and an easy victory for SF.

Assembly: With the reduction to 5 seats it should be 1 SDLP, 2 SF and 2 unionists. The unionist electorate is below 2 quotas but low nationalist turnout will result in 2 unionists elected.

Upper Bann and Blackwater:

This constituency consists of the Lurgan, Craigavon and Portadown areas as well the Dungannon and Coalisland areas. The Banbridge wards and wards south of Lurgan and Craigavon were removed. The wards removed were over 3/4 unionist and the wards added are over 2/3 nationalist. This totally changed the demographics so that the Catholic population increased from 44% to 58%.

Westminster: The only way the DUP can hold this seat is through a unionist pact which will certainly occur once the DUP and UUP have realized the extent of the demographic changes. Without a pact both unionist candidates would poll less than 25% each and SF would be near 40%. The ward changes favour SF since the Banbridge area wards are where the SDLP vote exceed the SF vote and these were removed. Nationalist turnout is very low here but a unionist pact would still be needed to hold the seat for the DUP

Assembly:  Although the new constituency has a nationalist-unionist breakdown of 60% to 40% nationalist turnout is so low here there could still be 3 unionist elected. There will be 2 SF, 1 UUP and 1 DUP. The last seat will be between the SDLP and the DUP and will depend on turnout and Alliance transfers.

Fermanagh South Tyrone

This constituency was changed dramatically with the removal of the Dungannon area wards and the addition of 8 wards from Omagh and Strabane. It is 1% more Catholic and 1% less Protestant than the current constituency.

Westminster: The 2% net change in the demographics may seem minor but this is not true. The Catholic population removed in Dungannon Town include a large number of EU nationals who cannot vote in Westminster elections. The Catholic population added in Omagh and Strabane is entirely native Catholics who do vote in higher numbers than those in Dungannon. Even the 2% nominal shift would have resulted in a 500 vote SF victory in 2015 but the actual margin would have been over 1,000 given the changes in the nature of the voters.

Assembly: There will be 1 DUP seat lost here due to the reduction to 5 seats. Otherwise it will be 2 SF, 1 SDLP, 1 UUP and 1 DUP.

North Tyrone

The North Tyrone constituency is a combination of the current Mid Ulster and West Tyrone constituencies. It stretches from Strabane town to Cookstown. It is almost 70% Catholic

Westminster: This will be a safe SF seat. The only question is who the candidate is since North Tyrone contains both parts of the present Mid Ulster and West Tyrone constituencies.

Assembly: The results will probably be 2 SF, 1 SDLP and 2 unionists. As with other constituencies the Protestant electorate is less than 2 quotas but due to poor nationalist turnout 2 unionists will be elected here.


The only change in Foyle was the addition of 1,000 voters from the old Slievekirk wards.

Westminster: No change here and this seat belongs to Mark Durkan for as long as he wishes to contest it.

Assembly: The addition of the 1,000 voters from Slievekirk actually saved the unionist seat here since 900 of those voters are unionist. In the 2016 election the DUP would have barely reached a quota if it were only 5 seats. Those additional unionist voters from Slievekirk will save the unionist seat for at least one more election.


This new constituency is a combination of the northern half of Mid Ulster and the Limavady and Bann DEA wards. It excludes all the Coleraine urban wards. It is 59% Catholic.

Westminster: The only way a unionist can win this seat is with an electoral pact which will almost certainly be arranged. Nationalist turnout is low in the Limavady Town and Bann DEAs so the total nationalist vote would be in the 56% range and the unionist vote near 44%. It is possible that SF could reach 44% but the SDLP vote is approximately the same as the SF vote in Limavady Town and Bann DEA.

Assembly: Probably 2 SF, 1 SDLP and 2 unionists.


A new constituency comprising the Coleraine urban area as well as the Ballymoney and Moyle councils and wards north of Ballymena Town.

Westminster: Gregory Campbell will probably move to this area to compete and win the seat for the DUP.

Assembly: Theoretically since the Catholic electorate is 33% there should be 2 nationalist quotas. However, nationalist voters in the Coleraine area have been boycotting elections for many years (except for the Brexit vote) so the result will be 1 SF, 1 TUV, 1 UUP and 2 DUP.


West Antrim

This constituency consists of the town of Ballymena and wards to the south. It extends to include the Dunsilly and Ballyclare DEA’s as well as 6 wards from the urban Newtownabbey area. It is 21% Catholic.

Westminster: This is strong DUP territory and should be an easy victory for Ian Paisley.

Assembly: There should be one nationalist seat here with a 21% Catholic population but turnout is so low that SF or the SDLP will struggle to reach one quota of 16.7%. The other 4 seats will be 2 DUP, 1 TUV and 1 UUP.

East Antrim:

East Antrim lost the Glens wards from Moyle and gained several wards from the urban Newtownabbey area including most of Macedon DEA. The new East Antrim is 2% less Catholic.

Westminster: An easy victory for Sammy Wilson here

Assembly: SF will lose their seat here as the 3 overwhelmingly nationalist wards from the Glens were removed. The result should be 1 Alliance, 1 UUP, 2 DUP with the 5th seat either DUP, UKIP or TUV.

South Antrim

This constituency had major changes with the Dunsilly and Ballyclare DEA’s removed as well as several wards from the urban Newtownabbey area. All of the Killultugh and Lisburn North and Lisburn South DEA’s were added. There were 2 Lisburn town wards (Hillhall and Blaris) that were not added. The demographic makeup is identical to the current South Antrim.

Westminster: This seat will likely be regained by the DUP. Danny Kinahan is losing areas where there is a significant UUP vote and gaining Lisburn town wards that are strongly DUP.

Assembly: There are 3 unionist seats here, 2 DUP and 1 UUP. The 2 non unionist seats are difficult to predict. The SDLP lost by only 220 votes to Alliance in 2016 and David Ford could retire by 2021. The Lisburn wards added have some of the lowest nationalist turnout in Northern Ireland and both SF and the SDLP poll poorly in Lisburn Town but Alliance does not poll well either.

West Down

This new constituency comprises the rural wards of Lisburn council and extends east into Castlereagh and south to include Banbridge Town and several other wards from the current Upper Bann. It is 25% Catholic.

Westminster: Jeffrey Donaldson should easily win this seat for the DUP

Assembly: There is 1 nationalist seat here which will be SDLP. There is also 1 Alliance, 1 UUP and 2 DUP.

Clearly the boundary changes will have a dramatic effect on the results of the 2020 Westminster election. If there are no electoral pacts the DUP will lose their seats in Upper Bann & Blackwater, Belfast Northwest and probably Belfast Southeast. The UUP will lose their seats in Fermanagh South Tyrone and South Antrim. SF would win 7 seats, the SDLP 2, the DUP 6, Alliance 1 and Sylvia Hermon in North Down. The SF total would equal the entire unionist total. However, there will be electoral pacts between the unionist parties. These pacts will cover Glenshane, Fermanagh South Tyrone, Upper Bann & Blackwater, Belfast Southeast and Belfast Northwest. Since the DUP currently hold 3 of those seats it is likely that the UUP will be given Glenshane. It will be important for SF and the SDLP to consider a nationalist electoral pact. Clearly it is not in the interest of Northern Ireland to have more unionist MP’s at Westminster since they are actively working against the interests of the people of Northern Ireland as seen by the recent support of the DUP for Brexit. A reasonable pact would be for SF to stand in Belfast Northwest and the SDLP in Belfast Southeast. SF would stand in Fermanagh South Tyrone and Upper Bann & Blackwater and the SDLP in Glenshane. With a nationalist electoral pact there would be 6 SF and 3 SDLP MP’s elected. For the SDLP to agree to an electoral pact SF would need to agree to take their seats at Westminster. Brexit will take place in 2019. The economic impact on Northern Ireland could be potentially devastating and there is the prospect of a hard border being imposed which is totally unacceptable to nationalists. Absentee MP’s are no longer a viable strategy. With more nationalist than unionist MP’s the unionist MP’s influence will be muted.

There will be District Council elections in 2019 and the results will give us a good idea of what the Westminster and Assembly results will be in 2020 and 2021. The Westminster results are much more important. The Assembly has no tax raising powers so the size of the Northern Ireland budget is determined at Westminster. While the Assembly results are interesting it does not matter whether there are 32 nationalist MLA’s or 40, or whether there are 43 unionist MLA’s or 38. There will still be a mandatory power sharing government with SF and the DUP.

There will be some changes to these preliminary proposals. Based on previous reviews there will be no major changes. Any proposed changes will need to comply with the quota range of 71,031 to 78,507. It is difficult to propose any changes involving multiple wards due to the unpredictable knock on effect to adjoining constituencies. There are some questionable boundaries in these proposals. For example, one ward in Dungannon Town (Mullaghmore) was include in North Tyrone while all the other ward were put in Upper Bann & Blackwater. Carryduff was divided between 2 constituencies and Castlereagh South was basically split between Strangford and West Down. Most of Lisburn Town was included in South Antrim but 2 wards (Blaris and Hillhall) were put in West Down. Newtownabbey was divided among 4 constituencies in an awkward manner. The Boundary Commission will eventually make a few minor ward shifts but the initial proposal we see will be very similar to the final boundaries.

Biding our time until the inevitable?

The reunification of Ireland is often spoken about as an inevitability, not least here. Of course it is far from an inevitability unless those of us who advocate it are willing to build relationships, develop new ideas and work hard to make it happen.

There is currently a narrative being promoted by the mainstream press and among certain political parties along the lines of making “Northern Ireland work”.

It hasn’t “worked” so far in its 95 year existence and I see no reason to believe it ever will as things currently stand.

It remains a heavily subsidised, socially divided, economic and political backwater. The Brexit result has brought this into sharp focus recently and hopefully, given people pause to think through some of the alternatives.

Tinkering with the existing arrangements is not a solution. New thinking and ideas are required. My own opinion is that the only way ahead is by re-imagining Ireland and developing a blueprint for a new Republic which is inclusive of all of our citizens and adequately protects and provides representation for everyone on this island.

And so to this weeks proposals regarding redrawing the constituency borders. Although it is the Westminster boundaries under review there will inevitably be a knock on effect upon the Stormont boundaries – both are due for a reduction in members elected at the next election round.

Back in 1925 we had a boundary commission tasked with defining the border. It ended up as a fiasco with its findings suppressed until January 1968. The actual border, of course, ended up being the original county boundaries which were first defined in the 16th century. The reasons for this failure included the poorly defined terms of reference, the competing and incompatible expectations of the sponsors (The British and Irish Governments) and the time involved in compiling the report (5 years)

This week, we have the latest attempt at redrawing boundaries by a commission. Of course, the imperative behind this has nothing to do with Northern requirements, it is being driven by a Tory government in westminster seeking to consolidate its electoral advantages. Plus ca Change.new-westminster-boundaries

It has generated considerable comment and analysis over the past few days which I have been reading since my return from Europe midweek.

I would recommend Nicholas Whytes excellent analysis here as a good overview of the likely impact if the new boundaries are implemented in their current form and also this from ex Alliance strategist Gerry Lynch . The Irish News have also done some excellent work here.

In summary:

  • Belfast will be reduced to 3 seats making Alasdair McDonnell’s South Belfast seat obsolete.
  • North Belfast will be expanded and will include the Shankill and Lower Falls wards – this will put Nigel Dodds on very shaky ground in terms of retaining his seat, expect a big SF push.
  • East Belfast, currently held by the deeply unimpressive Gavin Robinson will now include the more mixed areas of Ormeau, Beechill and Rosetta and the lower Ravenhill Road. This should increase the overall nationalist vote and also may benefit Alliance.
  • Foyle and South Down have minimal changes and are therefore likely to remain safe SDLP territory.
  • Fermanagh South Tyrone loses Dungannon and gains some solidly nationalist voting areas to the west which puts Tom Elliot in serious trouble, I would predict this seat going solidly in the direction of SF given the tightness of previous elections here.
  • A new constituency of West Antrim including Ballymena and Ballymoney – solid DUP territory
  • The new constituency of Upper Bann and Blackwater, which stretches west from Portadown to Dungannon looks to be also safe for the DUP
  • Glenshane, lovely name that, which puts Gregory Campbell and his old East (L)Derry seat in question by including Magherafelt and excluding solidly unionist leaning Coleraine.

Therefore my initial thoughts are that we are looking at 8 Unionist and 8 Nationalist seats plus Sylvia in North Down.

Needless to say Unionists are not happy with this. Hardly surprising given their record of boundary manipulation and gerrymandering in the past.

“They’ve carried out major surgery in areas where there was no need to,” said Tom Elliot

Adrian McQuillan, MLA says with remarkable insight: “I think it’s a bit ridiculous. It’s just another way of getting rid of the name Londonderry.”

I can’t wait to see what Nigel Dodds and Gregory Campbell have to say. (Update – Nigel has responded)

The fact remains however, that these proposals are now open to discussion, consultation and possible revision prior to November .

The public consultations are scheduled for:  Tullyglass hotel, Ballymena on October 5; Silverbirch hotel, Omagh on October 11; Ramada hotel, Shaw’s Bridge, Belfast on October 20; and Seagoe hotel, Portadown on October 25. Each hearing will have three sessions running from 10am-1pm; 2pm-4pm; and 6pm-8pm.(c. Irish News)

The Cat’s among the Pigeons

As the dust settles after the Brexit vote and the reality dawns, we all need to adjust to a new reality. Events can sometimes make change come pouring through the cracks rather faster than expected.

Some are having much difficulty with that. Including me.

Politically, Sinn Fein (Don’t go there Mary) reacted instantly with a call for a reunification poll. Within a week , Fianna Fail and Fine Gael and the SDLP followed suit, to a degree. The DUP, predictably,  didn’t. As usual they sought to align themselves with the Tories in London regardless of the consequences to the people here, most pointedly, their own voters.

The dynamic has now changed, without a doubt.

This is a moment of catalyst. There is a tangible feel in the air that change is now happening around us and yet nobody is entirely sure what to do next. Least of all our political leaders.

It is clear to me that within nationalist politics there is a wind of change. The traditional republican heartlands feel a sense of abandonment as a result of the expansion of the membership and voter base which has been most notable south of the border. Hence the stagnation and decline in the nationalist vote in those heartlands. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency in my opinion and it can only be done by talking and having some uncomfortable conversations. With honesty.

Equally, the opportunity provided by the Brexit vote to engage with those who voted yes but would, perhaps, be traditionally unionist voters (NOT TUV) is obvious. This is not some sort of nationalist outreach project. It is a genuine opportunity to engage in a serious way with intelligent fellow countrymen on something that is a concern to us all.

It is not a discussion about the southern state taking over the failed northern region, It is an opportunity to discuss shaping a new Ireland for us all, democratically.


July 12th 1913

A”Guest Blog” by James Connolly written in 1913 but with great relevance still today

“As this Saturday is the 12th of July, and as I am supposed to be writing about the North of Ireland in particular, it becomes imperative that I say something about this great and glorious festival.

The Anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne is celebrated in Belfast by what is locally known as an Orange Walk. The brethren turn out and take possession of the principal streets of the city, and for the space of some hours they pass in processional order before the eyes of the citizens, bearing their banners, wearing their regalia, carrying symbols emblematic of the gates of Derry, and to the accompaniment of a great many bands.James Connolly

Viewing the procession as a mere ‘Teague’ (to use the name the brethren bestow on all of Catholic origin), I must confess that some parts of it are beautiful, some of it ludicrous, and some of it exceedingly disheartening.

The regalia is often beautiful; I have seen representations of the Gates of Derry that were really a pleasure to view as pieces of workmanship; and similar representations erected as Orange arches across dingy side streets that, if we could forget their symbolism, we would admire as real works of art.

The music (?) is a fearful and wonderful production, seemingly being based upon a desire to produce the maximum of sound in the minimum of space. Every Orange Lodge in the North of Ireland, and many from the South make it a point to walk, and as each Lodge desires to have a band without any regard to its numbers, the bands are often so near that even the most skilful manipulator cannot prevent a blending of sounds that can scarcely be called harmonious.

I have stood on the sidewalk listening to a band, whose instruments were rendering:

Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to thy bosom fly.

Whilst another one about twenty yards off was splitting the air with:

Dolly’s Brae, O Dolly’s Brae,
O, Dolly’s Brae no more;
The song we sang was kick the Pope
Right over Dolly’s Brae.

But the discord of sound allied to the discord of sentiment implied in a longing to fly to the bosom of Jesus, and at the same time to kick the Pope, did not appear to strike anyone but myself.

For that matter a sense of humour is not one of the strong points in an Orangeman’s nature. The dead walls of Belfast are decorated with a mixture of imprecations upon Fenians , and, the Pope, and invocations of the power and goodness of the Most High, interlarded with quotations from the New Testament. This produces some of the most incongruous results. What would the readers of Forward say to seeing written up on the side of a wall off one of the main streets, the attractive legend:

God is Love,
Hell Roast the Pope.

Of course, the juxtaposition of such inscriptions on the walls appears absurd, and yet, the juxtaposition of sentiments as dissimilar is common enough in the minds of all of us, I suppose.

To anyone really conversant with the facts bearing upon the relations of the religious in Ireland, and the part played by them in advancing or retarding the principles of civil and religious liberty, the whole celebration appears to be foolish enough.

The belief sedulously cultivated by all the orators, lay and clerical, as well as by all the newspapers is, that the Defence of Derry and the Battle of the Boyne were great vindications of the principles of civil and religious liberty, which were menaced by the Catholics, and defended by the Protestants of all sects.

The belief we acquire from a more clear study of history in Ireland is somewhat different. Let me tell it briefly. In the reign of James I, the English Government essayed to solve the Irish problem, which then, as now, was their chief trouble, by settling Ireland with planters from Scotland and England. To do this, two million acres were confiscated, i.e., stolen from the Irish owners. Froude, the historian, says:

“Of these, a million and a half, bog-forest and mountain were restored to the Irish. The half a million of fertile acres were settled with families of Scottish and English Protestants.”

A friendly speaker, recently describing these planters before a meeting of the Belfast Liberal Association, spoke of them as:

“Hardy pioneers, born of a sturdy race, trained to adversity, when brought face to face with dangers of a new life in a hostile country, soon developed that steady, energetic, and powerful character which has made the name of Ulster respected all over the world.”

And a writer in the seventeenth century, the son of one of the ministers who came over with the first plantation, Mr. Stewart, is quoted by Lecky in his History of England in the Eighteenth Century, as saying:

“From Scotland came many, and from England not a few, yet all of them generally the scum of both nations, who from debt, or breaking the law or fleeing from justice, or seeking shelter, come hither, hoping to be without fear of man’s justice in a land where there was nothing, or but little as yet, of the fear of God … On all hands Atheism increased, and disregard of God, iniquity abounded, with contentious fighting, murder, adultery.”

The reader can take his choice of these descriptions. Probably the truth is that each is a fairly accurate description of a section of the planters, and that neither is accurate as a picture of the whole.

But while the Plantation succeeded from the point of view of the Government in placing in the heart of Ulster a body of people who, whatever their disaffection to that Government, were still bound by fears of their own safety to defend it against the natives, it did not bring either civil or religious liberty to the Presbyterian planters.

The Episcopalians were in power, and all the forces of government were used by them against their fellow-Protestants. The planters were continually harassed to make them adjure their religion, fines were multiplied upon fines, and imprisonment upon imprisonment. In 1640, the Presbyterians of Antrim, Down, and Tyrone, in a petition to the English House of Commons, declared that:

“Principally through the sway of the prelacy with their factions our souls are starved, our estates are undone, our families impoverished, and many lives among us cut off and destroyed … Our cruel taskmasters have made us who were once a people to become as it were no people, an astonishment to ourselves, the object of pittie and amazement to others.”

What might have been the result of this cruel, systematic persecution of Protestants by Protestants we can only conjecture, since, in the following year, 1641, the great Irish rebellion compelled the persecuting and persecuted Protestants to join hands in defence of their common plunder against the common enemy – the original Irish owners.

In all the demonstrations and meetings which take place in Ulster under Unionist Party auspices, all these persecutions are alluded to as if they had been the work of “Papists,” and even in the Presbyterian churches and conventions, the same distortion of the truth is continually practised.

But they are told

“all this persecution was ended when William of Orange, and our immortal forefathers overthrew the Pope and Popery at the Boyne. Then began the era of civil and religious liberty.”

So runs the legend implicitly believed in in Ulster. Yet it is far, very far, from the truth. In 1686 certain continental powers joined together in a league, known in history as the league of Augsburg, for the purpose of curbing the arrogant power of France. These powers were impartially Protestant and Catholic, including the Emperor of Germany, the King of Spain, William, Prince of Orange, and the Pope. The latter had but a small army, but possessed a good treasury and great influence. A few years before a French army had marched upon Rome to avenge a slight insult offered to France, and His Holiness was more than anxious to curb the Catholic power that had dared to violate the centre of Catholicity. Hence his alliance with William, Prince of Orange.

King James II, of England, being insecure upon his throne, sought alliance with the French monarch.

When, therefore, the war took place in Ireland, King William fought, aided by the arms, men, and treasures of his allies in the League of Augsburg, and part of his expenses at the Battle of the Boyne was paid for by His Holiness, the Pope. Moreover, when news of King William’s victory reached Rome, a Te Deum was sung in celebration of his victory over the Irish adherents of King James and King Louis.

Therefore, on Saturday the Orangemen of Ulster, led by King Carson, will be celebrating the same victory as the Pope celebrated 223 years ago.

Nor did the victory at the Boyne mean Civil and Religious Liberty. The Catholic Parliament of King James, meeting in Dublin in 1689, had passed a law that all religions were equal, and that each clergyman should be supported by his own congregation only, and that no tithes should be levied upon any man for the support of a church to which he did not belong. But this sublime conception was far from being entertained by the Williamites who overthrew King James and superseded his Parliament. The Episcopalian Church was immediately re-established, and all other religions put under the ban of the law. I need not refer to the Penal Laws against Catholics, they are well enough known. But sufficient to point out that England and Wales have not yet attained to that degree of religious equality established by Acts XIII and XV of the Catholic Parliament of 1689, and that that date was the last in which Catholics and Protestants sat together in Parliament until the former compelled an Emancipation Act in 1829.

For the Presbyterians the victory at the Boyne simply gave a freer hand to their Episcopalian persecutors. In 1704 Derry was rewarded for its heroic defence by being compelled to submit to a Test Act, which shut out of all offices in the Law, the Army, the Navy, the Customs and Excise, and Municipal employment, all who would not conform to the Episcopalian Church. The alderman and fourteen burgesses are said to have been disfranchised in the Maiden City by this iniquitous Act, which was also enforced all over Ireland. Thus, at one stroke, Presbyterians, Quakers, and all other dissenters were deprived of that which they had imagined they were fighting for at “Derry, Aughrim, and the Boyne.” Presbyterians were forbidden to be married by their own clergymen, the Ecclesiastical Courts had power to fine and imprison offenders, and to compel them to appear in the Parish Church, and make public confession of fornication, if so married. At Lisburn and Tullylish, Presbyterians were actually punished for being married by their own ministers. Some years later, in 1712, a number of Presbyterians were arrestcd for attempting to establish a Presbyterian meeting house in Belturbet.

The marriage of a Presbyterian and an Episcopalian was declared illegal, and in fact, the ministers and congregations of the former church were treated as outlaws and rebels, to be fined, imprisoned, and harassed in every possible way. They had to pay tithes for the upkeep of the Episcopalian ministers, were fined for not going to the Episcopalian Church, and had to pay Church cess for buying sacramental bread, ringing the bell, and washing the surplices of the Episcopalian clergymen. All this, remember, in the generation immediately following the Battle of the Boyne.

The reader should remember what is generally slurred over in narrating this part of Irish history, that when we are told that Ulster was planted by Scottish Presbyterians, it does not mean that the land was given to them. On the contrary, the vital fact was, and is, that the land was given to the English noblemen and to certain London companies of merchants who had lent money to the Crown, and that the Scottish planters were only introduced as tenants of these landlords. The condition of their tenancy virtually was that they should keep Ireland for the English Crown, and till the land of Ireland for the benefit of the English landlord.

That is in essence the demand of the Unionist Party leaders upon their followers today. In the past, as the landlords were generally English and Episcopalian, they all, during the eighteenth century, continually inserted clauses in all their leases, forbidding the erection of Presbyterian meeting houses. As the uprise of democracy has contributed to make this impossible today in Ireland, the landlord and capitalist class now seek an alliance with these Protestants they persecuted for so long in order to prevent a union of the democracy of all religious faiths against their lords and masters.

To accomplish this they seek insidiously to pervert history, and to inflame the spirit of religious fanaticism. The best cure I know of for that evil is a correct understanding of the events they so distort in their speeches and sermons. To this end I have ever striven to contribute my mite, and while I know that the sight of the thousands who, on July 12, will march to proclaim their allegiance to principles of which their order is a negation, will be somewhat disheartening. I also know that even amongst the Orange hosts, the light of truth is penetrating.

In conclusion, the fundamental, historical facts to remember are that:

The Irish Catholic was despoiled by force,
The Irish Protestant toiler was despoiled by fraud,
The spoliation of both continues today
under more insidious but more effective forms,

and the only hope lies in the latter combining with the former in overthrowing their common spoilers, and consenting to live in amity together in the common ownership of their common country – the country which the spirit of their ancestors or the devices of their rulers have made – the place of their origin, or the scene of their travail.

I have always held, despite the fanatics on both sides, that the movements of Ireland for freedom could not and cannot be divorced from the world-wide upward movements of the world’s democracy. The Irish question is a part of the social question, the desire of the Irish people to control their own destinies is a part of the desire of the workers to forge political weapons for their own enfranchisement as a class.

The Orange fanatic and the Capitalist-minded Home Ruler are alike in denying this truth; ere long, both of them will be but memories, while the army of those who believe in that truth will be marching and battling on its conquering way.”

The End of Nationalist Voter Apathy?

By Faha

The Brexit referendum is over and Northern Ireland voted 440707Remain (55.75%) and 349,422 Leave (44.2%). The Total vote was 790,149 which was far above the Assembly vote in May.

Who are these additional voters and how many were there? This requires quite a bit of detective work.

Ballot Box

To begin with we know that 694,314 voted for candidates in the May Assembly election. The breakdown by party, candidate, and sectarian vote was:

Unionist Parties and Candidates           343,732       49.5%

Nationalist Parties and Candidates       274,328       39.5%

Nonsectarian Parties and Candidates     76,254       11.0%

I included People Before Profit in the nationalist vote since their entire vote appears to be from the nationalist community.

How many of these people voted in the EU Referendum? There is one group who voted in the Assembly election but who were ineligible to vote in the EU Referendum and these are EU nationals who are not UK citizens. There are over 80,000 EU nationals old enough to vote but only 30,000 were on the electoral register as non UK citizens. Assuming the turnout was similar to other voters then 14,000 to 15,000 voted. Removing these voters would change the party vote. I assume that few voted for unionist parties since most of these EU nationals are of Catholic background AND it is unlikely they would vote for unionist parties that want to leave the EU and deport them. So excluding these voters the vote for the Assembly was approximately:

Unionist Parties and Candidates           343,000       50.5%

Nationalist Parties and Candidates       262,000       38.5%

Nonsectarian Parties and Candidates     75,000       11.0%

Total                                                           680,000

The total Brexit vote was 790,000 so an additional 110,000 voted. I am assuming that all or almost all the 680,000 that voted in the Assembly election also voted in the Brexit referendum. I believe this is accurate for unionist voters since unionist voters are very reliable voters and consistently vote in all elections. However, as I will show this is true for the net unionist vote but some did stay at home in some constituencies but were counter balanced by others who voted in other constituencies. This is also true for the nationalist vote and nonsectarian vote.

What would have the Brexit result if only the 680,000 Assembly voters voted? The clues are found in the Lucid Talk tracking poll for Brexit. The Lucid Talk tracking poll was very accurate for the Assembly election. There was some pre-election skepticism regarding their poll since it was predicting a nationalist vote of only 38% but given the final result it was very accurate. In the month prior to the election Lucid Talk found the following results;

Remain        52%

Leave           38%

Undecided   10%

Since the final result was 55.75% Remain to 44.25% Leave it appear the undecided broke more towards leave. Lucid found this was true in their final tracking poll one week prior to the election when there was a strong move of undecided unionist voters towards Leave. These were their findings:

Remain      Leave     Undecided

Unionist                  13.6%        83.4%         3.0%

Nationalist              86.4%        12.2%         1.2%

Nonsectarian          83.2%        13.0%         3.8%

Clearly the unionist voter preference was the mirror image of the nationalist-nonsectarian voter preference. After dividing up the Undecided the final preference would be approximately:

Remain      Leave

Unionist                  15.0%        85.0%

Nationalist              87.0%        13.0%

Nonsectarian          85.0%        15.0%

For the 680,000 Assembly voters the Brexit vote would have been

Remain         Leave

Unionist                      51,500        291,500

Nationalist               228,000          34,000

Nonsectarian             64,000          11,000

Total                         343,500         336,500

Obviously the vote would have been very close with only a slight edge for Remain. Since the actual vote was 440,707 Remain and 349,422 Leave the additional 110,000 voters who voted in the Brexit referendum voted

Remain        97,207          88.25%

Leave           12,942           11.75%

It is clear that those additional 110,000 voters must include few if any voters who would vote for unionist parties since the vote distribution is similar to the preference of Nationalist and nonsectarian voters. Indeed they were slightly more likely to favour Remain than nationalist and nonsectarian voters in the Lucid Talk Poll. However, I believe that a significant number did originate from the Protestant community though they appear to be liberal Protestants who would vote Alliance, Green or even SDLP. This will become more evident when I analyze the constituency vote.

These are the turnout figures by constituency for the May Assembly election

Faha Turnout 2016A

The nationalist turnout was much less than the unionist turnout in all constituencies except Foyle and Belfast West, South and North. Overall, nationalist turnout was 7% less than unionist turnout for all of Northern Ireland.

The following table shows the turnout by constituency for the Assembly and Brexit Referendum and the increase that occurred in each constituency for the Brexit Referendum. The vote for the Brexit Referendum is also shown by constituency.

Faha Euroref 2016

I estimate that of the additional 110,000 voters that voted in the Brexit Referendum that approximately 75,000 originated from the Catholic community, 15,000 from the None/Other community and 20,000 from the Protestant community. I will now look at the constituency vote for Brexit and refer to the turnout figures for the 2 elections as needed.

I will start with the 6 nationalist constituencies of Foyle, West Tyrone, Mid Ulster, Fermanagh South Tyrone, Newry & Armagh and West Belfast. 5 of these constituencies had SF MP’s at the beginning of 2015.There was a large drop in the Brexit vote in West Belfast of over 5,000 and this was the only constituency that had fewer voters than the Assembly election. These would have been mainly SF voters who stayed home. The net increase for these 6 was only 3,100. The vote breakdown in Foyle, West Tyrone, Mid Ulster and Newry & Armagh indicates that the net additional voters were nationalist voters. The native nationalist turnout in the latter 3 would still have been slightly lower than unionist turnout. Fermanagh South Tyrone is different. The Brexit vote can only be explained by a decline of 2,000 unionist voters and an increase of 3,000 native nationalist voters. The unionist turnout was 71% in May, the highest of any constituency and with the decline it would still be higher than the native nationalist turnout. There would have been approximately 5,000 EU voters who did not vote in Brexit so I am estimating that there was a net increase of 10,000 native nationalist voters, 1,000 None/other and a decline of 3,000 unionist voters for all 6.

The next 4 constituencies I looked at are East Derry, North Antrim, Upper Bann and South Down. The net increase in the Brexit vote was 27,700 and in East Derry, Upper Bann and South Down it appears to have been almost entirely from the Catholic community. In East Derry the Brexit turnout was 51%. In May the unionist turnout was 51% and the nationalist turnout only 34%. If the nationalist turnout increased to 51% it would add 6,000 additional voters which is what occurred. It is also the only explanation for a Remain vote of 48%. The native Catholic electorate is 43% and the other 5% came from None/Other and Protestant Alliance-Green voters. A similar analysis applies to Upper Bann and South Down where the low nationalist turnout increased to the level of the unionist turnout and accounts for the increased vote in Brexit. North Antrim is a bit different. Overall turnout there was 58% and if the nationalist turnout increased from that of 36% in the Assembly election to 61% in Brexit that would add over 6,000 votes. Since the increased vote was 8,742 the additional 2,742 votes would have come from the None/Other and Protestant communities, probably equally from each. Overall for these 4 constituencies there would have been an additional net 22,000 Catholic voters but probably 27,000 native voters after allowing for EU nationals who voted in the Assembly election. The turnout from the None/Other voters probably increased by at least 4,000.

The next 4 constituencies I will look at are South Antrim, North, East, and South Belfast. In these constituencies the increased vote appears to have been mainly from the Catholic community but also significantly from the None/Other community. In East Belfast the increased vote appears to be entirely due to an increased turnout of Catholic and None/Other voters. Indeed, the Remain and Leave vote is almost identical to the Unionist and non-unionist percentage vote in the 2015 Westminster election. Some of those voters did not vote in the Assembly election but then voted again in Brexit. In South Belfast the increased vote of 7,860 appears to be from the Catholic community with perhaps 2,500 from the Other/None community. Only in South Antrim does there appear to be some increase from the Protestant community. 5,000 appear to be from the Catholic community, 1,500 from the None/Other community and 2,000 from the Protestant community. The additional Protestant voters may be those who voted in the 2015 Westminster election for Danny Kinahan but did not vote in May 2016. I suspect many of the latter voted Remain. The small increase in the North Belfast vote appears to be mainly Catholics and None/Other.

The final 4 constituencies are North Down, Strangford, East Antrim and Lagan Valley. North Down had an increase of almost 12,000 voters compared to the May Assembly election. Indeed, it had the highest percentage turnout of any constituency. This is quite amazing since North Down usually has the lowest turnout of any constituency. It appears that 3,500 came from the Catholic community, 2,500 from the None/Other community and 6,000 from the Protestant community. The majority of those additional voters from the Protestant community appear to have voted Remain. Lagan Valley had an increased vote of 9,572 and I estimate that 5,000 were from the Catholic community, 1,500 from the None/other community and 3,000 from the Protestant community. For East Antrim I estimate 3,500 from the Catholic community, 1,500 from the None/Other community and over 4,000 from the Protestant community. For Strangford I estimate 3,500 from the Catholic community, 1,500 from the None/Other community and 4,500 from the Protestant community.

The increased turnout for the Brexit referendum appears to be entirely due to Catholic, None/Other and liberal Protestants. The increased Catholic vote of 75,000 may seem high but the May Assembly turnout was only 45% and increasing that turnout to 57% would result in that high an increase. This is the same turnout from the Catholic community that occurred in the 2005 Westminster and 2003 Assembly elections. The nationalist voter apathy that existed from elections beginning in 2011 disappeared in this election. The increased turnout from the Catholic community appears to be mainly middle class Catholics who would vote SDLP, though a significant minority would vote SF, Alliance or Green. This is because of which constituencies the increased turnout occurred in. The None/Other group is 70,000 potential voters. Opinion polls have shown that this group would vote 50% Alliance/Green, 25% nationalist and 25 % unionist. However, they also vote at very low rates since they do not identify with the usual sectarian elections. At most 20,000 voted in May but this probably increased by 15,000 for this election. It could have been more but this is a young demographic and young voters have a lower turnout than older voters. The additional 20,000 from the Protestant community that voted appear to be liberal Protestants who voted Remain. They were exclusively located in the suburban Belfast constituencies.

If the Assembly election had been held the same day as the Brexit referendum the results would have been very different than in May. Alliance would have picked up an additional seat in North Down and possibly East Antrim and the Greens would add one in East Belfast. There would have been an additional SF seat in East Derry and additional SDLP seats in Upper Bann, Lagan Valley, South Antrim, North Antrim, Strangford and possibly South Down though one would have been lost to the DUP in West Belfast.

Although there was a large increase in the vote from the Catholic and None/Other communities I do not expect that this will recur in future Assembly and Westminster elections. Most of the Westminster elections outside of Fermanagh South Tyrone, North Belfast and East Belfast are not competitive and most of the increased vote was in the noncompetitive seats. These voters are also unlikely to vote in an Assembly election as it makes no difference in their lives whether there are 56 unionist, 42 nationalist and 10 Other MLA’s or 48 unionist, 48 nationalist and 12 Other MLA’s. The nature of the Executive is such that the outcome is already pre-determined prior to the election.

However, whether the UK is in or out of the EU potentially has a major impact on their lives which is why they voted in the Brexit Referendum.

The Brexit result and the aftermath

Without a doubt this result is a shock.

I, like many others, expected a narrow victory for the remain campaign.

The decision is one for UK citizens primarily and as such, I have respect for their decision.

But this one is different.

It is different because it lays bare the disunity at the heart of their kingdom.

Make no mistake, I believe Scotland will have another referendum on independence within 18 months. I also believe this one will be carried.

As usual my primary interest is the results here in the North East of this island.

The headline is, of course, that the majority voted to remain in the EU. A democratic deficit therefore exists as far as the North is concerned.EU Brexit Poll - BBC

A quick look at this BBC map is instructive, those of you familiar with the demography of the place will immediately notice a similarity with the political map of the North East.

Despite much evidence of cross party / community voting there is a certain familiar aspect to this map.

Sinn Fein have been very fast out of the traps on this one calling for a border poll before 6am this morning.

It’s going to be a very interesting Summer

UPDATE: here are all the constituency figures – as pointed out by Fitzjameshorse, I’m proud to report that North Down was the only majority unionist area to vote Remain.

Brexit Figures