After Haass, the numbers game threatens. How can we avoid it?

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 Ed Curran was right to tweak his old bête noire  BBC N Ireland for allowing Nolan the day off on Boxing Day instead of going live on Haass. Or was he?  Were you all better off without Nolan’s bear baiting over the cold turkey even if you were home alone on the day?  Even though desperate for content over the silly holiday season, the national UK media virtually ignored the Haass talks breakdown. What coverage there was – and still is – perfunctory. Do they know something that we don’t who are buried in this stuff? That it’s all political shadow boxing? On balance I think not. Beneath all the comforting cynicism, the Hass agenda matters, not so much because of the old bonds of myth and memory but because of the hidden agenda of the future. Steven McCaffrey in the Detail put his finger on an even better example of a neglected story.

But arguably the more far-reaching story was the Northern Ireland census results released in December 2012, the same month that the row erupted over restricting the flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall.

The census marked an historic shift, unprecedented in Northern Ireland’s history – but it has barely registered in the public mind. It revealed that the Protestant population, which once held a comfortable majority over Catholics, has fallen below 50% for the first time.Protestant numbers in Northern Ireland have dropped to 48% and Catholic numbers have risen to 45%. The gap is predicted to narrow. Anyone who winces at such sectarian headcounts might take comfort in the fact that the political message contained in the figures is that the future will inevitably be a shared one.The census figures contain hard numbers that weigh down on the ambitions of both unionists and republicans. As the Protestant and Catholic populations even-out in the years ahead, and particularly if the prospect of a Catholic majority emerges, new constitutional questions will come to the fore.

The politicians know this.

Spot on Steven. But in public, not a word to Betsy. It’s still to hell with the future and long live the past. A new numbers game is almost  upon us. How will it play out will become  an increasingly bigger part of our obsessive wee agenda

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  • Republic of Connaught

    SOS:

    “I will leave others to proclaim whichever identity they wish or are most comfortable with.”

    Yes, but the problem there for ‘British’ Northern Ireland folk like yourself is even if Northern Ireland exists in 30 years, it will not be a Northern Ireland you identify with.

    It will be like Derry is today; under UK rule but very Irish and with as little British symbolism as is possible.

    “On the “UK money” thing, being part of the UK it’s our money too you know.”

    No, it isn’t your money. Northern Ireland is a devolved region of the UK like Scotland and Wales and it makes a massive deficit every year. Donegal and Mayo are not devolved regions of Ireland with their own laws et al.

    It is English money which subsidizes the lifestyles in the north of Ireland, and well you know it.

  • Son of Strongbow

    RoC,

    As I suspected you’re making crude sectarian and nationalist points.

    What do you know of the aspects of NI that I identify with? Ah of course me being one of themuns you’ve got me boxed perfectly. A sash-wearing Ulster-Scot ‘flegger’ I suppose?

    We in the UK have decided on devolved regions. It is true that the economic powerhouse of the south east of England does support to a greater or lessor degree more deprived areas, NI, Wales, the north east of England etc. That’s the way our cookie has been crumbled.

    I’m happy for you and your fellow citizens of the Republic that wealth is as evenly spread within the country as you imply. Glad to hear that all those Euros sponged off the EU enriched the far west as it did the Pale. Well done you!

    Now have you met Billy P? Go and have a chat, he may just be more your cup of tae.

  • Republic of Connaught

    SOS:

    “As I suspected you’re making crude sectarian and nationalist points. What do you know of the aspects of NI that I identify with? Ah of course me being one of themuns you’ve got me boxed perfectly. A sash-wearing Ulster-Scot ‘flegger’ I suppose?”

    No need to act the sensitive soul, SOS. It really doesn’t become you.

    You pointed out earlier in this thread that you were British and Dublin was foreign to you. Derry must equally be foreign to you because it is clearly a very nationalist city. Therefore if Northern Ireland exists in 30 years and looks like Derry does today, will you feel at home in the place?

    What you and folk like you need to decide, is in the cold light of day would your identity and values be more respected by politicians in Leinster House like Kenny and Gilmore, or in a Northern Ireland state undoubtedly dominated by Sinn Fein in the next decade and onwards,

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Billy (sic) Pilgrim,
    “… the idea that sectarianism is a direct product of partition and the union, and will logically wither in their absence, is pretty much Irish nationalism 101.”
    You’re not wrong there. But maybe you haven’t spotted the Panglossian absurdity of that position …

  • tacapall

    ROC you can bring a horse to the trough but you cant make it drink the water, stop wasting your time.

  • Son of Strongbow

    RoC

    What on earth makes you surmise that I’m “sensitive” to your nonsense? Pity and bemusement are my most heightened responses.

    Continuing in your sectarian stereotyping is not at all impressive. Has Derry ceded from the UK? No it hasn’t . So rein in your nonsense for goodness sake, or do I really have to deliver International Borders 101 (the Key Stage 1 module)?

    And since we’re in lecture mode what “folks like you” need to do is let history happen. I’m totally relaxed about doing so yet “folks like you” seem overly exercised by what may come.

    Now having seen who’s arrived on site I’m off before the wild imaginings of “collusion” makes their tiresomely predictable appearance in the thread.

  • Republic of Connaught

    SOS:

    “Has Derry ceded from the UK?”

    I’d say Derry is half way out the door. UK money – yes. British flags, army, royals, nationality – no.

    “And since we’re in lecture mode what “folks like you” need to do is let history happen. I’m totally relaxed about doing so”

    I’m glad to hear it and I hope that benign attitude is widespread among similar minded unionists. A blind man can see politically where things are going – a Northern Ireland with a Sinn Fein majority or a unified Ireland where the Democratic Ulster Party might even form a future coalition government with Fine Gael :)

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Mainland (sic) Ulsterman

    ‘…maybe you haven’t spotted the Panglossian absurdity of that position …’

    I have certainly spotted the grammatical clumsiness of the phrase ‘Panglossian absurdity’…

    Best just to say ‘excessive optimism’ in future.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    CS and Mick,
    Alliance is not “agnostic” on the border. It supports the union. It won’t defend the union at all costs, but its position is not to seek its end. Hard to say how Alliance voters would go in a border poll but my guess from the stats I’ve seen would be upwards of three quarters of them voting to stay as we are. With Alliance relatively healthy and influential, that’s not insignificant.

    As a unionist I’d say bring on the border poll, I don’t think nationalism will come within a country mile of winning it for the foreseeable future. As has been copiously and more diligently explained on this thread, nationalism no longer has “the Catholic people” in its palm. Guess what, some of them aren’t happy to be regarded as just a part of an ethic block, one of the 51 per cent who will deliver “victory”. Maybe the Troubles turned a lot of people against the idea of united Ireland for good …

    But nationalist over-expectation is tangible, isn’t it? It is nationalist expectation, not Catholic expectation, or CNR or whatever. They are different. And the priority for creating a more calm politics should be to throw a bucket of cold water over that over-heated nonsense – so people focus on dealing with the actual problems and issues of Northern Ireland instead of debating the big non-issue of the border.

    The Irish nationalism “dream” is just an escape from the difficult, messy realities of living together. To quote Bruce Springsteen: “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true / Or is it something worse?” That’s from The River, pop pickers.

    A united Ireland is like a crock of gold at the end of a rainbow. It’s fine to believe in it if it makes you feel good, but don’t waste your life away chasing it. Problem is, it’s the whole of NI society that has to suffer because of this kind of detached solipsism, from a whole group of nationalist political leaders. Their heart is not in the Northern Ireland project, because they prefer to chase an impossible dream. It’s doing untold damage and they need to get real and give up the cop out “united Ireland” stuff.

  • BluesJazz

    RoC

    What army do you think dispose of dissident bombs in Derry?

    I’ll give you a wee clue. It begins with ‘B’.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Mainland Ulsterman

    “united Ireland”

    Event the Orange order is based on “United ireland”.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Mainland Ulsterman

    “united Ireland”

    Even the Orange order is based on “United ireland”.

  • Republic of Connaught

    Bluesjazz,

    Remind me how long the British RAF recruitment poster lasted in Derry?!

  • Mick Fealty

    RoC

    You could try asking Donegal and Cork? And what about Connacht for that matter?

    Billy,

    Two quotes on Optimism from GoodReads:

    “The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.”

    - Cabell

    “Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”

    - Ghandi

    I think the case of the latter it pays to be clear about exactly what you want to become before you actually become it. ;-)

    For me, Viktor Frankl sums up the alternative to the generalised lack of vision or sense of future possibility that’s written through a lot of this thread, despite the good efforts of its progenitor:

  • Republic of Connaught

    “You could try asking Donegal and Cork? And what about Connacht for that matter?”

    The issue was about Derry’s attitude to UK jurisdiction, Mick.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yeah, I was trying to join in the whimsical tone of the whole thing, sorry if I got it wrong…

  • Republic of Connaught

    Mick,

    “Yeah, I was trying to join in the whimsical tone of the whole thing, sorry if I got it wrong”

    Don’t worry, Mick; I find most political talk about Ireland’s north is mostly twilight zone stuff anyway. :)

  • Greenflag

    @ MU,

    ‘A united Ireland is like a crock of gold at the end of a rainbow.’

    No it’s not . A UI is a political objective which is likely to be achieved within the next generation, There is however no pot of gold at the end of any rainbow and there never was and anybody who believes there is or was is throwing horsehoes at the moon ;)

    ‘Their heart is not in the Northern Ireland project, ‘

    Of course it isn’t . A UI is a possible dream whereas the NI Project such that it is seems like the impossible dream , Even Unionists are not enamoured of the GFA given that almost 50% voted NO to it in the GFA Referendum,

    It’s a patch a bandaid and thats all . It’ll have to do for the interim .Most people nationalists , republicans and unionists realise that .Some don’t particularly like it but they are powerless to do anything about it .

  • Charles_Gould

    MU

    “The Irish nationalism “dream” is just an escape from the difficult, messy realities of living together.”

    Thing is we live together pretty well in the main. The odd parade notwithstanding.

    My own view is that if I was a resident I wouldn’t mind the odd parade – tolerance and all that my good chap – and if I were an OO member I would go and have a chat with the residents and not insist on exercising my rights to expression if they were dead against it. Discretion is the better part of velour and all that.

  • Greenflag

    @ MU,

    Never mind the rainbow though . There ‘s lots of gold in Monaghan :)

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-25575879

  • Greenflag

    @CG ,

    Alas ‘discretion’ is an unknown word in the OO vocabulary.
    The wolf doesn’t discuss his predatory route details with his prey -neither does he seek his ‘prey’s permission as to where , when and how he will behave come meal time .

    .

  • ForkHandles

    Billy, appreciate the response. I think considering the past over 100s of years to evaluate the current times, is a flawed way to reason things. If we did that then we should be really fuming at the Scandinavians for all that raping and pillaging their distant relations did when they called themselves Vikings. Obviously daft.
    These days its standard of life that matters. That’s why people prefer the UK. There are no freedoms to be won or oppression to be freed from any more. Its about goods and services and having a wide range of choices such as who can provide the best internet connection for the least cost.
    I travel from Belfast to Dublin often, mostly to the airport. Aircoach is a great service, a great example of all Ireland business :) Its about 1 hour 30 mins or something like that to Dublin airport.
    I would agree that the middle east is a middle ages type of society in many parts. The oppressive nature of the false religion called Islam is the reason for this. The Arabs are totally nuts in many regards. But here in Dubai the value they still place in morality is something that in my view holds society out of the cesspit that many western locations are spoiled by. The value on family and family life is also something that shows western decay and broken families to be such a failure for western priorities.

  • Republic of Connaught

    Forkhandles:

    “These days its standard of life that matters. That’s why people prefer the UK.”

    Which part of the UK? London, yeah a great quality of life there. Not so much Bradford or Glasgow. The fallacy is to pretend being under UK rule makes Belfast like London; it most certainly does not.

    Very few foreign visitors would say the quality of life is better in Northern Ireland than the Republic in this day and age. To confirm this, immigrants voted with their feet. Dublin attracted many times the amount of immigrants than Belfast ever has.

    And even in the midst of the euro crisis, it still does.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    ROC,

    The standard of living is incredible compared to when I was a child; then nobody locked their doors because nobody owned anything worth stealing.

  • Republic of Connaught

    Joe,

    Indeed, “old” Ireland is dead and gone, it’s with O’Leary in the grave.

    The property prices in Dublin’s affluent areas, despite the euro crisis, are still as expensive as homes in Beverly Hills, and they’re selling. Expectations are much higher now for Irish people with college qualifications than in earlier generations.

    If being part of the UK meant Ireland would be as wealthy as London, I’d vote for it myself. But you can see in Northern Ireland, they only get the bare minimum investment. Dublin dwarfs Belfast now for financial output and investment, which wasn’t the case pre partition.

  • David Crookes

    …..and when a modern reader comes on the line of poetry to which you allude, RoC, he needs a footnote to tell him who O’Leary was. That shows you how things move on.

    Lots of historical phenomena end up in the grave. Look at World War II. Twelve years after it ended, you had the start of what is now the EU.

    Partition is not some eternal archetype. Partition is a mere EPISODE which presently is younger than a number of NI’s citizens. A lady of 105 lives in the care home across the road from me. She spent the first twelve years of her life in an undivided Ireland.

    Between 1945 and 1957 France and West Germany decided that they were going to get along with each other. If they could do it…..

    I don’t see the advent of UI as representing a victory for one side in the game of numbers. I see it more as the amicable ending of an episode. I’ve heard doomsters on my own side of the fence say things like, ‘It’ll be like the 1920s all over again, only worse, and youse’ll all get yer thotes cut!’ But that isn’t going to happen.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    September 1913

    What need you, being come to sense,
    But fumble in a greasy till
    And add the halfpence to the pence
    And prayer to shivering prayer, until
    You have dried the marrow from the bone;
    For men were born to pray and save;
    Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
    It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

    Yet they were of a different kind,
    The names that stilled your childish play,
    They have gone about the world like wind,
    But little time had they to pray
    For whom the hangman’s rope was spun,
    And what, God help us, could they save?
    Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
    It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

    Was it for this the wild geese spread
    The grey wing upon every tide;
    For this that all that blood was shed,
    For this Edward Fitzgerald died,
    And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,
    All that delirium of the brave?
    Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
    It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

    Yet could we turn the years again,
    And call those exiles as they were
    In all their loneliness and pain,
    You’d cry `Some woman’s yellow hair
    Has maddened every mother’s son’:
    They weighed so lightly what they gave.
    But let them be, they’re dead and gone,
    They’re with O’Leary in the grave.[

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    “It’s a patch a bandaid and thats all . It’ll have to do for the interim .Most people nationalists , republicans and unionists realise that .Some don’t particularly like it but they are powerless to do anything about it .”

    @Greenflag,

    I’m glad to hear it. So many of the republicans on this site–SF supporters or not, come across as Bolsheviks: they believe that a united Ireland is historically inevitable but also believe that a vanguard party is required to deliver it.

    And I believe that if you look the percentage of unionists that voted no in the May 1998 referendum was closer to 45 percent than 50 percent.

  • redstar2011

    Mick forgive me for going slightly off topic- although it is related to the numbers game.

    Could some of the wiser number crunchers on here give an idea of what the word on the street is for the overall make up of next Bcc- I am pretty confident it will be same again ( Alliance with valance of power) but I notice on various forums across the net definitive predictions of Nat outright Maj.????

  • redstar2011

    Typo- balance of power

  • Starviking

    Billy,

    “‘The reason for the formation of Northern Ireland was to accomodate Northern Unionists who had little hope of having their culture accommodated in a United Ireland. Hardly wicked.’”

    “This is only true if we accept that northern unionists regarded supremacy as their rightful cultural inheritance. It’s true, PUL supremacy would not (and will not) be accommodated in a sovereign Ireland. Nor should it. Any such accommodation would indeed be utterly wicked.”

    So you are saying that a Sovereign Ireland would accommodate people who wanted to remain a part of the UK? I’ll ignore the PUL supremacy diversion.

    “What aspects of PUL culture do you fear will not be accommodated in a UI, other than privilege, domination and supremacy?”

    I’m not actually PUL, but your response shows a complete lack of any understanding: to be able to be British.

    “‘Could be directed at a UI, or the Republic for that matter.’”

    “Except that it couldn’t. Not even remotely.”

    Of course it could: massacres in Cork, employment discrimination, Northern Protestants getting beaten at Bodensfield, Ne Temere, and the stuff southern Protestants keep quiet about: assaults and churches getting smashed up. We could even go back further and wonder at the majority nationalist and catholic church’s antipathy for the ‘All For Ireland’ party, who thought that conciliation with Irish Protestants was a worthy goal. Nationalist wished to replace unionist supremacy with their own, as was amply shown in their ‘not an inch’ stance in Home Rule negotiations.

    “Is this the best you can do? A variation on ‘that’s what you are, what am I?’”

    Please expand…

    “‘The sensible thing to do with things you find unjust in a state is to try and change those things – which is what Alliance trys to do.’”

    “Alliance are mistaken in believing the state can be reformed because they refuse to face up to what the state IS.”

    A part of the UK?

    As for your wife-abuse analogy, it’s one-sided, and very much in the mould of let’s not forget 1916, 1698, etc.

  • Morpheus
  • redstar2011

    Morpheus thanks very much. Excellent blog.

    It is a fascinating contest and sooooo close

    May I ask you to hazard a guess as to overall outcome?

    Thanks again

  • Morpheus

    My guess is that political unionism will pull out every dirty trick in the book between now and the election in an effort to portray The Alliance Party as the spawn of Satan (Willie Tazer has started already) but the Protestant people of Belfast have more intelligence that the DUP give them credit for so they won’t fall for any of this bollix.

    My prediction is that not much will change.

  • Comrade Stalin

    RoC

    I’d say Derry is half way out the door. UK money – yes. British flags, army, royals, nationality – no.

    The thing is RoC that this is in a nutshell the optimal configuration for NI nationalists. Northern Ireland will continue moving towards some sort of cultural parity internally. Nationalists will become comfortable with this and this makes them less like to vote to end partition, which as of right now would be a vote to end the NHS, end the British subvention and say hello to higher tax rates, higher health insurance costs etc etc.

    Mainland Ulsterman:

    I think it’s pretty ridiculous to argue that anyone who does not seek the dismantling of the union is automatically pro-union by default, but it’s hardly any of my business if that is what you wish to believe. To me, pro union is someone who will stand up and defend the union to other people. Alliance is unlikely to do that in the near future.

    The issue of the constitution is not black and white. There is a spectrum of views running from one end to the other and it takes in a variety of cultural and political concerns that go beyond the simple question of whether or not there should be a line on a map. The labels “nationalist” or “unionist” (or even “pro-union”) are not at all adequate to express these various nuances.

    I’d say that most Alliance members would probably vote to retain the union, yes.

  • David Crookes

    Tmitch (3.18 am): “…..if you look the percentage of unionists that voted no in the May 1998 referendum was closer to 45 percent than 50 percent.”

    Maybe so. But whether or not that percentage is right, and even if (as we often hear) “the GFA would not secure a majority today”, we have to live with the original majority vote, and accept that a vote from one of their ones has as much standing as a vote from one of our ones. I fear that some of my own folk are able to accept the idea of majoritarian democracy only in terms of a majority constituted by themselves.

    If we had robust enough interviewers over here we should hear them asking Peter Robinson, James Allister, Mervyn Gibson and the flegarchs the following question. “If a majority of NI’s citizens vote in a referendum for a UI, will you abide democratically by the result? YES or NO?” But we haven’t, so we don’t. We don’t even get to hear local interviewers asking our unionist leaders if they will do everything possible to keep the Stormont show on the road when a non-unionist FM is appointed.

    Will unionist politicians walk away from the institutions of government as soon as the notional days of us-on-top are seen to be over? Will they revert to their natural mode of chaos? After the year that we’ve had to live through, all of us deserve to have those questions answered now.

    The disgust of ordinary civilized unionists may express itself at the next Stormont election in such a punishment of the unionist parties as will allow SF to supply the FM. That will be a ne plus ultra for unionism, and a signal for a referendum on UI.

    I’m surprised that there has been no discernible attempt to resurrect the old UUUC.

  • Morpheus

    “If a majority of NI’s citizens vote in a referendum for a UI, will you abide democratically by the result? YES or NO?” But we haven’t, so we don’t.

    That very question was asked in the NILT David and only 14% said they couldn’t live with the decision:
    http://www.ark.ac.uk/nilt/2012/Political_Attitudes/FUTURE1.html

    Personally I think that if there is a nationalist FM then the DUP/UUP/TUV will throw the toys out of the pram and pull the plug on Stormont so the British and Irish Governments should make it clear that if that is the case then both the British and Irish Governments will be calling the shots. I would welcome it because disgraceful decisions like the A5 (which was scuttled for party political reason and bollix to the people who need it) can be brought forward. The OO stranglehold would be taken out of NI politics, the £80m social development fund would be allocated on the needs basis on which it was intended and the much needed social housing in areas like North Belfast would not be postponed any longer.

    After a few years of stability they can look at Stormont again and if the unionist are not interested in the running of Northern Ireland then a border poll should be called.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks a lot for that link, Morpheus.

    If I was a betting man I’d put money on the toys being thrown out of the pram as soon as a non-unionist FM is appointed. Then if we get joint authority the unionist Bébé Lillys will say, ‘We didn’t let youse down. We held to our principles. We scowled and we growled. They didn’t fool us with their clever educated talk.’

    Any civil unrest that breaks out afterwards will be supported, if not whipped up in the first place, by the Bébé Lillys. Does the history of 2013 allow us to say that with confidence?

  • mjh

    Redstar2011

    If anyone tells you they know the outcome of the next Belfast Council election don’t believe them.

    At the last elections the total vote within the new 2014 boundaries was approximately CNR party candidates 49.6%, PUL 35.8%, Alliance and Green 13.8%, and 0.7% others. A strictly proportional allocation of the seats would give CRN 30, PUL 22 and Alliance 8.

    Those who project a CRN majority base it on the reasonable assuption that the number of Catholics of voting age will be higher in 2014 than they were in 2011.

    However in 2011 the CRN party candidates won 56% of the vote in Belfast but only 47% of the seats. There were probably three reasons for this:

    1) Population changes since the previous boundaries were drawn had resulted in higher populations in some District Electoral Areas with majority CRN voters. As a result it took more votes to elect a councillor in these DEA’s. This will not be a factor this time.

    2) Turnout was higher in Upper Falls (62.3%) and Lower Falls (58.4%) than in the other Belfast DEA’s (which averaged around 52%). So in these two plus Dunmurry, which will be joined to Belfast, the CRN parties have around 3,500 votes which could be said to make no contribution to their share of seats. Taking them out of the totals would give a strictly proportional seat allocation of CRN 29, PUL 22, Alliance 9.

    3) In the last Council elections in NI as a whole CRN parties did not transfer as well between themselves as PUL parties did. When all candidates from their first choice party have been either elected or eliminated 30% of CRN voters did not transfer further – even to another CRN party. PUL party voters were only half as likely to drop out (15%). It also appears that CRN voters were marginally more likely to transfer outside the CRN group than PUL voters outside of theirs. It is about a 50% chance that this could tip a seat away from CRN to PUL – making CRN 28, PUL 22, Alliance 9.

    But of course all this is based on the votes in 2011. As Morpheus suggests the most important factor may be how recent events and the campaign itself may, or may not, change turnout and/or the choices made by voters.

    After one of the longest “Don’t Knows” on record – to those still reading “Good night”.

  • Mick Fealty

    Mjh,

    That last figure doesn’t account for where the notional CNR seat goes?

  • mjh

    Thanks for spotting that Mick.

    If looser transfering between CRN parties had cost one of them a seat it would probably have gone to PUL. I should have shown the totals as CRN 28, PUL 23, Alliance 9,

  • Comrade Stalin

    Morpheus,

    At the moment there are 56 designated unionists and 43 designated nationalists. In 2007 the split was 55/44 ie nationalists were actually one seat down on 2011; in 2003 it was 57/42.

    This should be food for thought; it has taken the best part of ten years for just one seat to flip from unionist to nationalist. As such, I don’t expect a nationalist first minister for quite a few assembly election cycles. Certainly not in the political lifetime of the present SF or DUP leadership.

    The biggest threat to unionist seats at the moment is Alliance and the Greens eating in, especially if pissed-off unionists abstain.

  • Morpheus

    CS

    I may be wrong but after tinkering at the St Andrew’s Agreement in 2006 the First Minister is now selected from the largest party so if SF get more votes than the DUP in the next elections then they get the First Minister position. I am open to correction though.

  • http://bangordub.wordpress.com/ Bangordub

    Morpheus,
    Quoted from the St Andrews document:
    “(4)The nominating officer of the largest political party of the largest political designation shall nominate a member of the Assembly to be the First Minister.
    (5)The nominating officer of the largest political party of the second largest political designation shall nominate a member of the Assembly to be the deputy First Minister.”

  • PaddyReilly

    MJH
    The abbreviation CNR is useful in some circumstances but not this. You mean Nationalist.

    Catholics also vote for Alliance and Green. Indeed, I seem to recall that in some constituencies the majority of the Green vote subsequently passes to the SDLP.

  • Charles_Gould

    “The biggest threat to unionist seats at the moment is Alliance and the Greens eating in, especially if pissed-off unionists abstain.”

    This is also the case if people believe the constitutional question is parked so no “need” to vote for parties on constitutional questions.

  • Morpheus

    Interesting bangordub, thanks for clearing that up.

    I see where you are coming from now CS.

    I wonder if that is one of the things which will make the SoS confident that a border poll would be successful.

  • Charles_Gould

    I think the SoS calls a border poll if and only if nationalist vote or nationalist number of seats goes over 50%.

  • redstar2011

    Interesting stuff so it certainly looks highly probable there will be no outright maj for either side.

    Just one other query- if by any chance there were to be a Unionist maj is it fact that the Equality Assesment ruling which started all this means that there still couldn’t be a return to 365 flag flying at Bcc?

  • David Crookes

    For a very long time unionist politicians have scared their electors into voting for them by saying, in effect, if youse don’t vote for us, youse’ll find yourselves in a UI before youse know.

    That is the green rag which up until now has persuaded many civilized unionist electors to vote for parties of which they dispprove to a greater or lesser extent.

    Suppose that the disgust of civilized unionist voters with the unionist parties allows SF to become the biggest party in Stormont after the next election.

    We shall have to construe their disgust with their ‘own’ parties as transcending their fear of a UI. What I’m trying to say clumsily is that in the minds of many civilized unionists, an agreed Ireland will have become something less to be feared than a NI paralyzed by parties which ally themselves with lawless violence.

    Civilized unionists are thoroughly fed up. After enduring month after month of lawlessness which the unionist parties either condoned or actually supported, they have had to endure the humiliation of being represented at the R&M talks by Mervyn Gibson.

    What they have at present is not British. Why should they vote for its continuance?

  • mjh

    Hello PaddyReilly

    Whatever labels you use you are likely to displease somebody.

    I use the term “CRN” to include all candidates and parties who clearly transfer primarily with each other when they have the choice. This is helpful when the party or individual does not include the word nationalist or republican in their description.

    I do not wish to imply that all of those voters are Catholic. Indeed there is evidence of people giving personal first preference votes to CRN candidates (normally SDLP) before transfering to PUL rather than to a second candidate of the same CRN party.

    I use the same approach for “PUL” and for the third group which includes Alliance and Green. I know that these parties have their fair shares of Catholic and Protestant voters.

    For my own purposes I call this group “Non Designated” although this is anachronistic when looking at elections before 2001. If anyone has a better suggestion I would welcome it.

  • Morpheus

    CG: I think the SoS calls a border poll if and only if nationalist vote or nationalist number of seats goes over 50%.

    Well that is not exactly clear in the GFA Charles. That is your interpretation when in reality there is no line in the sand, no definitive set of criteria which must be met in order to call a border poll.

    redstar2011: “Just one other query- if by any chance there were to be a Unionist maj is it fact that the Equality Assesment ruling which started all this means that there still couldn’t be a return to 365 flag flying at Bcc?”

    If it goes back up it goes back up but Senior Counsel for Belfast City Council has made his feelings clear:
    “…in the absence of some good reason (which to date has not been articulated) there is a degree of risk that the flying of the Union flag at the City Hall on days other than designated flag days and at other premises even on designated days only, could be held to infringe the concept of a neutral working environment for those who work in those buildings.”

    “If the Council failed to give consideration to the question of whether flying the Union flag at the City Hall every day in the year might be excessive or provocative, it would, in my opinion, be at risk of being found to have failed to comply with the provisions of its Equality Scheme.”

    “It is likely, in the event of a complaint, that the Equality Commission would follow the judge’s lead in Murphy and regard a policy which was similar to that of the Flags Regulations as striking the right balance, while a policy which required or permitted flying of the Union flag more frequently, or more extensively than permitted for government buildings by the Flags Regulations as excessive and in disregard of the desirability of promoting good relations. By the same token a policy which banned the flying of the Union flag entirely would probably also be regarded as being in disregard of the desirability of promoting good relations.”

  • Son of Strongbow

    The SAA apparently says that the FM is nominated from the “largest party of the largest political designation”. If SF becomes the largest party but unionists are the largest political designation I assume that the DUP retain the FM post.

    If the demographics of the Golden Future Time that many nationalists obsess on come to be will the Alliance Party’s stance on designation be the subject of increased pressure from unionists in the battle to retain the largest political designation position?

    (Given many nationalists regard Alliance as unionist anyway will this too play into those pressures?)

    Given Alliance’s experiences on foot of being unfairly pilloried over the BCC flag imbroglio I hope the Party strategists are planning its defences already.

    The potential seems present for Alliance to be damned either way: if it continues to designate as other, abused by some unionists for allowing nationalists the FM spot; if they designate as unionists, abused by some nationalists for finally outing themselves.

    Whilst loath to ascribe vision to Peter Robinson and the DUP perhaps this squeeze of Alliance was considered when promoting the FM designation changes at St Andrews?

  • Morpheus

    Why would Alliance change it’s designation just to keep either nationalists or unionists happy? I think Alliance will do its own thing rather than worrying about that sort of nonsense.

    Your last sentence made me smile because it implies that there is some sort of strategy behind the DUP rather than blindly stumbling from one disaster to another sticking fingers in different parts of the dam as they go.

  • Son of Strongbow

    Morpheus,

    I don’t think Alliance should try to keep other parties “happy”. However the party should be ready to articulate robust arguments about such “nonsense” (the same “nonsense” – the FM role, that does seem to exercise quite a lot of folks).

    At times during the ongoing BCC “nonsense” Alliance has appeared to have had its voice drowned out by more strident players.

    Getting its message across is part and parcel of any political party doing “it’s own thing”.

    My last sentence was an open question using words such as ‘perhaps’, oh and indicated by a ‘? at the end’. I leave what it “implies” to your own interpretation.

  • Sp12

    “The SAA apparently says that the FM is nominated from the “largest party of the largest political designation”. If SF becomes the largest party but unionists are the largest political designation I assume that the DUP retain the FM post.”

    I don’t think that’s how it works anymore.
    It did in the GFA, not with the SAA, I guess the DUP counted on everyone falling in behind them and always being the biggest party.

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/47/section/16C

  • David Crookes

    If at the next Stormont election many ex-DUP and ex-UUP voters deliberately abstain, by way of saying NONE OF THE ABOVE, and if by so doing they help to bring about the appointment of a non-unionist FM, it may be fair to regard them as unionists-in-transition, or as unionists-in-process-of-transmutation.

    It’s very hard to know how the AP will fare, even in East Belfast. Will all those who turned out for the flags protests bother to turn up at the polling stations? So as to vote for the DUP? I shouldn’t put money on it.

    It is possible that the DUP have been keeping Bryson and Frazer sweet with briefings about the R&M talks in the hope that they will not stand for election as vote-splitters.

  • Morpheus

    Articulation is not necessary. The Alliance are currently designated as ‘other’ and I see no reason why they wouldn’t continue to designate as ‘other’ because there is absolutely no reason for them to change it, especially not to ensure that one ‘tribe’ or the other gets FM position. Their designation will be consistent and respected.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Sp12. The DUP may soon fall into the GFA ditch that they dug themselves.

    Habakkuk asked, “Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee?” The biters may do their work on polling day simply by abstaining. Mervyn Gibson was the last straw for many civilized unionists.

  • Son of Strongbow

    Sp12,

    You may be correct. Although the alleged quote from the SAA at 10:33 am on this thread suggests largest party + largest political designation = FM.

    Mr Crookes,

    As to “civilized unionists”, I suspect you claim to be one of that cadre: “in any case civilisation has made mankind if not more bloodthirsty, at least more vilely, more loathsomely bloodthirsty”. So at least Fyodor Dostoyevsky seemingly didn’t think that “civilized” folks were much of an advance on those they dissed as barbarians.

  • Sp12

    “You may be correct. Although the alleged quote from the SAA at 10:33 am on this thread suggests largest party + largest political designation = FM.”

    I know it’s considered bad form to link to wikipedia ;)
    But the wiki page’s somewhat clearer explanation squares with that given by many at the time, that the DUP were so concerned with securing the FM position for themselves based on the notion that they would remain the largest party but not necessarily members of the largest designation.
    I guess they didn’t consider the idea that SF could take the largest party position even whilst being part of the smaller designation, and get all that uhmm extra power? that being first, as opposed to deputy first minister entails.

    From wiki

    “However, if the largest party of the largest designation (currently the DUP) were not the largest party overall, the appointment procedure would be as follows:
    a First Minister nominated by the largest party;
    a deputy First Minister nominated by the largest party of the largest designation”

  • Son of Strongbow

    Wiki is a rather dubious source. Hell it refers to Richard Haass as “an accomplished diplomat”.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, SoS, and let me explain. I take the word ‘civilized’ to indicate a person who wants to live an urbane life, unmolested by gangsterism, lawless violence, road-blocks, primitivistic all-day paramusical parades whose 21st-century organizers refuse to supply their votaries with toilets, mythopoeic gable art, and gratuitous expressions of hatred.

    Sorry, but I do see such a person as representing a considerable advance on violent lawless gangsters, road-blockers, unsolicited suppliers of liquid garden manure, hagiolatrous muralists, and so on. Of course Dostoievski would have seen through the consentient SUPPORTERS of barbarity, with their well-pressed dark suits, clamantly white shirts, well-polished black Oxfords, and false protestations of loyalty to the Bible.

    One of Dostoievski’s lesser-known works is entitled Униженные и оскорбленные ( = Humiliated and insulted). Some people on my side of the fence are trying to kid themselves that they have been seriously humiliated and insulted by Belfast City Council, or by the parades commission. In fact, they have not.

    You may have seen a rugby team-captain work his mates up in the changing-room before the start of a match. They all beat themselves hard on their chests, while the captain shouts, ‘Come on, boys! Get angry! These men have insulted us! Get angry!’ And so on, and so on. That species of lunacy endangers a maximum of thirty-one persons (plus the subs), but when it is transported to the political arena, it may endanger the stability of the state. Language can be dangerous in itself. You recall how the climax of the orgy in ‘Karamazov’ is created by a single unmentionable word.

  • redstar2011

    Bangordub

    Your blog and associated stats make fascinating reading.

    Would you or any other poster be able to post or point us towards previous stats for make up of Bcc and across NI generally for say late 70s early 80s?

    The reason I ask is I am 51 and I always remember growing up with the feeling that the breakdown across the North was generally about 65/35- no where near as close as today. Is the closing of the gap both in Bcc and across the North a very recent phenomenon or when roughly did the surge towards even numbers begin . Thanks

  • PaddyReilly

    The figures are here:-

    http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/lgbelfast.htm

    However, Belfast is atypical of Northern Ireland because of the large amount of immigration.

    Also, the city boundaries are prone to tinkering with, so the final outcome will not be representative.

  • redstar2011

    Thanks a million Paddy.

    Jeez the UU in particular have withered on the vine over the years

  • looneygas

    Mr. Crookes,

    1 dart, 1 laurel and 1 question for you

    a)”Thanks, SoS, and let me explain. I take the word ‘civilized’ to indicate a person who wants to live an urbane life, unmolested by gangsterism, lawless violence, road-blocks, primitivistic all-day paramusical parades whose 21st-century organizers refuse to supply their votaries with toilets, mythopoeic gable art, and gratuitous expressions of hatred.”
    Your verb-object disagreement makes it seem as though the OO refuses to supply its followers with gratuitous expressions of hatred. (Everyone knows the truth. No worries.)
    b)I like the bit you wrote earlier about the closing of the partition chapter of Irish history. Much better way to look at it than “Oh No. The End is Nigh.”
    c)Please refresh me re the unmentionable word that created the climax of the orgy in Karamazov. Is it when Katya(or whatever the pure/innocent/proud one’s name is) turns on Mitya and reverses her testimony? What is the word?
    Thanks.
    Someone put me on to Dostoevsky when I said that I was big on Jesus but not so thrilled with Christians. He said that if I wished to know the mind of Christ, I should read Karamazov.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, looneygas. Well done for the dart, and thanks for the laurel. The Russian word in question is used in the course of a song. Three cheers for whoever suggested reading Dost to you as a help to knowing the mind of Christ. A friend from a very loyalist background said to me in church not long ago that he wondered how many thousands of people had been put off Christianity for life.by professing Christians. I ask myself the same kind of question in relation to certain celebrated atheists.

    As for THE END IS NIGH…… If we are in the final period of human history, as many of my Protestant friends believe, then why are they at pains to preserve a particular form of constitution, in a tiny part of the world, for all eternity? Do they expect the Beast of Revelation to preserve the borders of Our Wee Country?

    Stay with Karamazov. There’s always more to find out.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The election of the first and deputy first minister is part of the St Andrew’s Agreement and is enshrined in the Northern Ireland (St Andrew’s Agreement) Act 1996. You can read the relevant section here.

    The specific rules are :

    (4)The nominating officer of the largest political party of the largest political designation shall nominate a member of the Assembly to be the First Minister.

    (5)The nominating officer of the largest political party of the second largest political designation shall nominate a member of the Assembly to be the deputy First Minister.

    This replaced the previous system, where two candidates were nominated to run jointly for the office and were confirmed by a cross-community vote in the Assembly.

    The principle reason for doing this was, I suspect, to make it impossible for anyone other than a unionist to be first minister for quite a long time.

    The other effect is to discourage unionists from voting for parties who do not designate as unionist. More Alliance or Green members taking seats from unionists would result in the size of the designated unionist grouping falling to a level that could result in a Sinn Féin first minister.

  • Charles_Gould

    Its an interesting thought, but if both SDLP and UUP were to designate as “other” then the larger of them could be First Minister. As far as I can see, there is nothing to stop “other” having the FM.

  • Charles_Gould

    CS

    I think the present system was designed so that the DUP didn’t have to vote for a SF person to be DFM (or FM) … it just happened automatically.

    Under the GFA system, a cross community vote was needed. And the persons proposed just had to have cross community support (similar to how justice minister is now elected) – so it could have been David Ford and Chris Lyttle (just imagine how that would annoy FJH) if DUP refused to vote for a nationalist person. :)

  • Comrade Stalin

    Charles – thank you – of course you are right. I forgot clean all about that angle.

  • DC

    Although if that is possible, attempts at progressing issues out of the ‘other’ bloc would be shot down as the two designated blocs ‘unionist’ and ‘nationalist’ would use community veto, not available to ‘others’, to stall any progress the ‘others’ would like to make.

  • Charles_Gould

    Yes DC – though if the “others” designation grows much relative to its present size then the legislation could be challenged as discriminatory in the ECHR.

  • DC

    Could?

    Could is no use Charles, the only way to overcome the veto is to get into the blocs that use it or have it at hand and fill it up in such a way with MLAs that use the system to defeat the system.

  • Charles_Gould

    DC I think the system becomes impossible to maintain if the “Other” block became large.

    I can’t see it changing for a while but it might change long term if the other group grows.

  • Comrade Stalin

    DC,

    I’m not too worried about that. If the “other” parties become a significant force the British government will have to legislate to change the designation system.

  • David Crookes

    OK, let’s get physical with some wildly putative figures for 2015.

    The assembly contains 108 seats.

    DUP, UUP, TUV, and independent unionists get 55.

    DUP gets 31, and SF (well ahead of SDLP) gets 32.

    Do we automatically get a SF FM?

    One hour after the last election result has been declared, DUP, UUP, TUV, and independent unionists combine to form a new monolithic unionist party called (say) the UUUC.

    Do we still get a SF FM?

    As far as I can see we do, because the party label under which you stand in 2015 will denote you for the next four years.

    Somebody intelligent tell me if I’m wrong.

    The balance may have become so fine that a large number of disgusted unionist abstainers will be able to play a major part in 2015.

    It is possible that by wilfully joining themselves at the hip to OO-and-fleggers, the unionist parties have already delivered the FM’s position to SF.

  • http://bangordub.wordpress.com/ Bangordub

    Redstar 2011,

    Thanks for your kind words regarding the blog.
    David,
    I’m currently working on projections for the new Belfast CC and assembly elections based on wards. All contributions gratefully received!
    To be honest, local knowledge is invaluable as the census results alone can be misleading. As always, only actual, valid, votes cast actually count. Nationalist parties will not be concerned in the slightest by a higher turnout in a safe DUP seat. Peter Robinson may be however.
    My own interest is in the marginals.

  • redstar2011

    David surely in your scenario Dup get FM

    They would be the biggest party in the biggest designated group

  • Morpheus

    I think CS has already shown that the St Andrews Agreement changed legislation so the largest party in the largest designation gets the FM position.

    The largest designation is unionism by a country mile

  • http://bangordub.wordpress.com/ Bangordub

    Morpheus,
    “The largest designation is unionism by a country mile”

    Lol, I’m presuming you’ve met the same farmers I have when asking directions?

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, bangordub, redstar, and Morpheus. Talk about a slow learner!

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    Comrade, Morpheus

    The St Andrews Agreement did, yes – but the subsequent legislation didn’t.

    In fact, the legislation gives the First Minister position to the largest party. Full stop.

    That’s the problem – every Assembly election the DUP simply says “We have to be bigger than SF or SF gets the First Minister”. They’re right, if that sort of thing floats your boat – which, in many cases, it does.

  • redstar2011

    Morpheus why in gods name did the Shinners agree to that

  • Morpheus

    To be honest IJP that is what I originally thought but the SAA text convinced me otherwise. I don’t know what to believe anymore :)

  • http://bangordub.wordpress.com/ Bangordub

    “Morpheus why in gods name did the Shinners agree to that”
    Because they know that the situation is changing due to the demographics.
    Simples

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, IJP. I wonder how unsinkable the DUP boat is.

  • boondock

    Mega confusion over this FM position but if IJP is correct then that brings us back to David Crookes intersting hypothetical situation.
    In fairness largest party being agreed by SF/DUP makes sense as they can both use the situation to try and squeeze further the other unionist and nationalist parties

  • David Crookes

    Pretend that you’re a civilized unionist who wants NI to stay in the UK for centuries to come. (When I say ‘civilized’ I mean you detest murderous arson, and you detest unelected morris-dancers telling your politicians what to do.) Next year you and people who think as you do vote in such a way as to bring about the appointment of a SF FM.

    Suddenly the DUP and the UUP realize that their hegemony has been destroyed by arsonists and morris-dancers. They shake themselves loose from OO and fleggerism, form a new truly British party, and supply the FM in 2019 after attracting the support of you and people who think as you do.

    Impossible?

  • http://bangordub.wordpress.com/ Bangordub

    David,
    Impossible? No
    Odds- 5000/1
    You on?

  • David Crookes

    Sorry, Bangordub, there must have been something in my green tea. Mind you, if I put down a tenner and won, I’d be able to put up the most splendiferous workshop.

    Maybe the best way to fight the parading thing is to fight like with like, humorously. Imagine five hundred men and women in werewolf masks and wolfskin plaids marching along Royal Avenue for sheer fun, accompanied by three lycanthropous bands. Harland and Wolff might support the venture financially.

    Medication time.

  • redstar2011

    So just to be clear, the general consensus is no change at Bcc after this years poll , and ( early days for predicting I know) similar no change situ at the assembly next year as regards FM.

    Makes you wonder what all the fuss is about…..

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    Morpheus

    Even the entire text of the legislation is consistent with SAA except one late inclusion (16c, if memory serves), which essentially says “Oh, if the largest party in the largest designation isn’t also the largest party, the largest party gets it”.

  • David Crookes

    Wonder what odds Paddy Power would set on a SF FM…..

  • Charles_Gould

    Its actually pretty “normal” that the largest *party* provide the FM of a country. Hence I’m pretty happy with how the legislation went.

  • Charles_Gould

    Don’t see where SF seats are going to come from. If anything they’re going to lose a few to the revitalised SDLP – think FST, think Newry Armagh. And over two electoral cycles and a dynamic candidate, think WB.

  • Morpheus

    OK guys, I found this this document which on page 6 states:

    “In addition, the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) 2006 made a number of amendments to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 which gave legislative force to the Belfast Agreement. It decoupled the election of the First and Deputy First Minister, so that the elections are conducted separately. There is power to review this arrangement after 2011. The largest party within the Assembly has the right to nominate to the post of First Minister, even if that party does not represent the largest designation within the Assembly (expected to be Unionist).

    The DUP MEP Jim Allister warned that Sinn Fein might be able to take up the First Minister post in future, should the Unionists be represented by a series of parties in the Assembly, all of which were smaller than the main Nationalist party. Lord Trimble raised this point during the passage of the Bill in the Lords, in relation to Clause 8, which inserts a new 16C into the Northern Ireland Act 1998.”

    It references a piece in The Belfast Telegraph called “Senior DUP man warns of ‘time bomb’ in Agreement” from 17 November 2006 but I can’t find it online.

    I also found this from 2010 which seems to be pretty conclusive:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/election_2010/northern_ireland/8639237.stm

  • Morpheus

    Here are Trimble’s comments from The House of Lord from November 2006
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200607/ldhansrd/text/61122-0008.htm

  • Tochais Síoraí

    A key question could be how many seats per constituency in the next assembly elections? Its been up for discussion but has there been anything further on this?

    If it remains at 6 then there mightn’t be too much change next time around. If it goes to 5 then there could be fun because a cursory glance seems to suggest that the sixth seat in the bulk of constituencies at the moment seems to be Unionist. If its not there…………