LE2014: A quick glimpse at the nationalist parties

The elections to our new local government councils are only a few days away, but there are a number of observations that can already be made about the significance and likely implications for our political parties from the changing local government model which has seen our 26 councils amalgamate into 11 larger councils.

Firstly, the new council framework means this is akin to a baseline election, with parties knowing they are only really able to begin to get a feel for each constituency once the votes are cast, counted and analysed ad nauseam as the basis for future targets.

But it is possible to use the seat tallies gained in 2011 as a basis to project equivalent totals for each party, allowing us to create a framework to analyse whether or not parties have made relative advances or retreats on their electoral performances in 2011.


Party2011 Seats (/582)Equivalent seat tally in 2014 (/462)

In this article, I am primarily focusing on the history of political nationalism’s electoral advance at local government level, using the 1993 election as a baseline to compare with where Sinn Fein and the SDLP stood after the 2011 election.

Political Nationalism and Constituency Organisation

Both Sinn Fein and the SDLP have a frustratingly pedestrian approach to party development, and charting the history of the election performances of both parties at local government level bears this out clearly for observers.

It is very likely that this will be the first local government election in which either nationalist party secures representation on every local government council in the north of Ireland. That is a significant advance which will in time likely bear further fruit for nationalism as it gains a foothold and with that a sense of relevance to local politics across all parts and communities in Northern Ireland, including the overwhelmingly unionist coastal suburb communities of lower east Antrim and North Down which have no history of nationalist elected representatives at this level.



Party% VoteSeatsCouncils elected toDEAs elected to

The 1993 Local Government Election

21 years ago, the 1993 local government election saw Sinn Fein contest its third local government election since re-launching itself in electoral politics.

Of the 101 District Electoral Areas (DEAs) that made up the 26 local government councils, Sinn Fein ran candidates in only 52 DEAs (51%), with the SDLP fielding candidates in 69 DEAS (68%).

In contrast, the Ulster Unionist Party ran candidates in 95 DEAs (94%) and the DUP in 90 DEAs (89%.) Even Alliance had a wider spread of candidates than Sinn Fein, running in 55 DEAs (54%.)

The SDLP only fielded candidates in 21 of the 26 local government council areas, with Sinn Fein running in only 17 council districts, one less than Alliance.

In total, the SDLP claimed 127 council seats on the back of its 22.0% of the vote in 1993, with Sinn Fein taking 51 seats on 12.4%. The two main unionist parties claimed 300 of the 582 seats between them (51.5% of the overall seats), and when the 25 seats secured by the Conservatives and Independent Unionists were factored in, more than 55% of seats were held by that firmly pro-Union bloc of parties.

The SDLP secured representation to 68 of the 101 DEAs, but Sinn Fein did likewise in only 32 DEAs, less than a third of constituencies (3 less than Alliance.) The UUP saw councillors returned in 93 DEAs and the DUP in 73 DEAs.

There are good historical reasons explaining the contrasting organisational and electoral fortunes of the main unionist and nationalist parties, and they are linked to the reasons why most of our towns and villages will have either or both of a British military memorial or Orange Hall somewhere along one of the main drags regardless of the sectarian demography of the local populace. Put simply, the superior position in Northern Irish state and society of political unionism since the state’s inception has meant that unionist parties developed a culture of seeking and expecting representation across the state whilst organised political nationalism floundered under the strain of a sense of hopelessness, despair and betrayal.

Both Sinn Fein (in its modern electoral manifestation) and the SDLP were born out of the Troubles and have suffered from a limited electoral vision which continues to inhibit their electoral growth at local government level. (Ironically, it also feeds a narrative of continuing incremental nationalist growth as they get round to it in piecemeal fashion, an unintended but nevertheless positive consequence for nationalists.)

This is compounded by a sense of fear and apprehension felt by many nationalists residing in majority unionist areas which makes it difficult to get the necessary list of electors in each DEA willing to sign the nomination papers for nationalist candidates.


Party% VoteSeatsCouncils elected toDEAs elected to

The 2011 Local Government Election

Fast forwarding four election cycles later brings us to the 2011 local government election, with a contrasting picture emerging from that of 1993 as a result of almost two decades of nationalist electoral and political advance.

In 2011, Sinn Fein secured 138 seats on 24.8% of the vote, with the SDLP taking 87 seats on 15.0% of the vote, meaning that the combined number of seats and % of the vote for the two main nationalist parties had risen from from 34.4% to 40.0% from 1993 to 2011, and the combined seat tally was up from 178 seats to 225 seats.

The DUP’s share of seats in 2011 was 175 on 27.2% of the vote, with the UUP securing 99 seats on 15.2% of the vote, making a combined seat tally of 274 seats, down from 300 in 1993.

Significantly, by 2011 the SDLP would have councillors in all but 2 of the 26 local councils (North Down and Carrickfergus) but Sinn Fein would still have no representation on 4 councils (Ards and Castlereagh in addition to North Down and Carrickfergus.)

At DEA level, though, the nationalist advance in the intervening years was markedly visible- though with an interesting caveat.

In 2011, Sinn Fein secured electoral representation on 65 DEAs, just over double the number of DEAs it had representatives elected to in 1993, but only one more than the SDLP’s 64 DEAs- a strikingly symmetrical figure when it is considered that Sinn Fein’s dominance within nationalism at overall vote level was such that the party at 24.8% was almost a full ten percentage points ahead of the SDLP on 15.0%.

This apparent anomaly is worth reflecting upon as it is illustrative of the failure to date of Sinn Fein to extend itself organisationally to capitalise on its superior position within nationalism.

In many constituencies with a middle-class nationalist or minority nationalist electorate, the republican party continues to be sluggish in its approach towards party development, confirming its over reliance and bias towards its core republican base constituency- thus parachute candidates from the base constituencies continue to be dropped in as cards to fill a space on the ballot without genuine hope of election.

There are deeper factors contributing towards this than I intend to dwell upon today, but the end result remains the same: unlike the DUP, Sinn Fein’s electoral dominance within its own community is not universal across class and geographical contexts.

But, as the party’s development in areas like Ballymena, Ballymoney and Coleraine over the past decade indicates, once an electoral foothold is established, the direction is clearly towards electoral growth and subsequent representation.

In this sense, the 11 Council model, with its 80 DEAs replacing the 101 pre-existing DEAs, will benefit both of the main nationalist parties by ensuring that representation on all councils is secured from the outset (though it is probable that one of the two main nationalist parties will miss out on a seat to the North Down and Ards Council, depending on the result in the Ards Peninsula DEA.)

Sinn Fein secured 23.7% of the 582 seats and the SDLP 14.9% of the overall seat tally with their 2011 performance, which would translate into 109 seats for Sinn Fein and 69 for the SDLP in the new council framework with its 462 total councillors.

This poses a challenge to Alliance, which has historically benefitted from the absence of nationalist candidates in many DEAs across the north.

It is worth noting that the 2011 local government election was not a good one for nationalism, as the malaise had well and truly set in with the SDLP’s demise failing to translate directly into Sinn Fein’s gains. The non-voting nationalist is now as significant a cohort as his/her unionist counterpart, and that will likely be confirmed once again after the latest electoral contest is concluded in the coming week. That, too, is for another day….

  • between the bridges

    “North of Ireland” , “Northern Ireland” and “Northern Irish State” are all unicorns as confused…

  • Charles_Gould

    Claire Hanna on Sunday politics did a great performance, showing that SDLP has very sensible arguments. She pressed through the living wage agenda on Belfast City Council. A very good example of socialist values in practice.

  • Charles_Gould

    I thought this piece didn’t live up to billing. Little analysis of SDLP.

  • SDLP supporter

    A reasonable enough analysis which is right on the core point that nationalist/’republican’ non-participation in the electoral process is as high, if not higher, than with unionism and is bad, and getting worse in former high-turnout areas West of the Bann.

    ‘Faha’ , of the Bangor Dub site, has all the gen on that.

    If the SDLP really ever got its act together and built up a functioning political machine, in Assembly elections it could win back seats in South Antrim, North Antrim and Lagan Valley, and even break new ground in places like Strangford (but with new, committed candidates). The key is at Council level, not coming up with a name as a candidate a few weeks before the election, but really putting a structure in place a couple of years beforehand, getting out newsletters, etc., working the registers, recording the data and going round the doors and not running dilettante candidates.

    I predict that a change of sovereignty as per the Good Friday Agreement is imminent when the SDLP wins its first Council seat in North Down.

  • Charles_Gould

    I think that sdlp should be looking at West Belfast.

  • Charles_Gould

    ….andNewryArmagh. and Fst.

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    Will Squinter be entering the fray from the comfort of the Andytown news.

    Just what has the shinner/provo cult done for west Belfast or any where for that matter. Oh they named a children’s play area after one of their hero’s who starved himself to death, so McGuinness the Banquet man could eat and toast the Queen at Windsor Castle.

    They did take the Union Flag down from Belfast City Hall on a number of days. But the fact remains, when the shinner/provo cult members go to bed in Northern Ireland and get up in the morning they are still part of the United Kingdom. Who’s laughing now Bobby, pass the HP sauce.


  • Morpheus

    Yeah, that doesn’t smack of desperation one little bit 🙂

  • Niall Noigiallach


    Even if they haven’t done much AU, they’ve done more for their electorate than unionist politicians have done for theirs. Hard lines big lawd. Ask the RUC, they’ll vouch for what the Shinners can do when they put their minds to it.

    “when the shinner/provo cult members go to bed in Northern Ireland and get up in the morning they are still part of the United Kingdom”

    Aye, keep telling yourself that our skid. Make no mistake about it, we’ll be campaigning for, voting for and then living in all-Ireland republic soon. Keep an eye on the TV next weekend at the election results north and south. Then think about how things will look in 30 years time.

    And of course no self-respecting loyalist can comment on a thread about nationalism without having a pop at Bobby Sands. He’s famous because of a hunger strike you know. what is it “Ardoyne Unionists” are famous for? Oh aye, throwing bombs and balloons full of piss at school girls. Oh, and swinging parties at Camp Twat-ell. You claim the victory so ya do

  • SDLP supporter

    Charles. the future of the SDLP in West Belfast lies in the hands of its members and supporters who actually live there. All too often in the past elections there were fought for the SDLP by people coming in from North Belfast, South Belfast and elsewhere. That doesn’t work, at least in the medium to long term.

    I agree about Fermanagh South Tyrone and Newry and Armagh and I would add targeting a third seat in South Down. If all that happened, and counting the constituencies I mentioned before, (South Antrim, Lagan Valley, North Antrim, Strangford) the SDLP would move up from its current 14 seats to 21 and it really would become competitive. They would also have a second ministry in the Executive and a lot of people think SDLP ministers are a hell of a lot more competent than most of the DUP, Sinn Fein or UUP lot.

    West Belfast is tough, but it’s not insuperable.

  • For once I agree with Charles Gould; this wasn’t a quick piece, and didn’t say as much about the Nationalist parties as I expected!!!

    A couple of weeks ago I posted my own extrapolation of the 2011 results based on geography rather than just multiplying seat totals by 462/582. Since then Faha on Bangordub’s blog has completed his analysis, which is close to mine with one exception. PartyNWFahaDUP145144SF115113UUP7777SDLP6774Alliance3436My feeling is that by counting all “census Catholics” as Nationalist voters, Faha has rather overestimated the level of support for the SDLP. I remember all too well how easy it is to spot certain gains for your party, and I hope I’ve got past that stage myself. But there’s a broader point here.

    The fact is that the places where Nationalist parties are not successful, such as North Down, “census Catholics” have never got into the habit of voting for the SDLP or SF, and indeed are getting out of the habit of identifying as Catholic at all, in the same way that their census Protestant neighbours are ceasing to identify themselves as Catholic.

    This is Nationalism’s long-term problem. If (as many claim) it’s a political project about uniting Ireland in a single state, where is the campaign to identify and convince swing voters? But of course it isn’t about that at all; it’s about communal representation. And where voters are not particularly interested in either uniting Ireland or in carving out specific communal spaces, communal politics runs into problems.

  • Darn it, that table didn’t work at all! Should have been more like:

    Party NW Faha
    DUP 145 144
    SF 115 113
    UUP 77 77
    SDLP 67 74
    Alliance 34 36

  • Charles_Gould

    To be fair to Chris he does point to the question of geographic and demographic reach.

    Without being partisan I think SDLPare the better party in terms of breadth of appeal. The socialist approach of the party can resonate with many different people including greater trust from people of different cultural backgrounds.

    That said while SDLP are broader … In geography and in social reach … they still are somewhat behind SF in number of elected representatives. That is where Alasdair McDonnells organizational drive will come in. I think there has got to be low hanging fruit for the SDLP in the big nationalist constituencies such as West Belfast. There has been for too long the assumption, which is defeatist, that SDLP can’t win there. I think that’s wrong. With SF holding the top job at Stormont and so many ministries, there is room for the SDLP to challenge SF on what they are getting done? The SDLPs socialist political analysis, allied to a new injection of ambition, could see a longer term aim of wining back votes lost to SF coming to fruition… With results in West Belfast, Newry Armagh, FST and so on.

    I think the SDLP have a lot to aim towards, and can be proud of their history and approach. There is a great party to be proud of, and the cause is one that is really worthwhile, the politics of the SDLP capable of exciting so many young activists today just as they did 40 years ago the likes of Sean Farren, Seamus Mallon and Alasdair McDonnell..

  • Charles_Gould

    Nicholas I am pretty sure we have agreed before!

  • Charles_Gould


    Regarding your point on census Catholics. I think that I agree with you there.

    There are actually now very big numbers of not stated and no religion people in the census, and Faha I think goes on “religion brought up” which covers more. But in such a secular world I don’t think it’s viable much longer.

    There has been a rise in centre parties. Initially that’s been at the expense of SDLP and UUP. The challenge for SDLP is how to respond. That process has begun

  • Zeno

    Nicholas Whyte
    “This is Nationalism’s long-term problem”

    The last NILT Survey I saw showed that the population identified themselves as being……..
    28% Unionist
    23% Nationalist
    49% Neither.
    Just under 23% of the Electorate vote for Nationalist Parties and 25% identified themselves as Irish in the Census.
    The largest problem for Nationalists and their goal of UI is there simply is not enough of them and there is no evidence to say there ever will be.

  • Morpheus

    “With SF holding the top job at Stormont and so many ministries, there is room for the SDLP to challenge SF on what they are getting done?”

    Serious question # 1 – 16 of the 20 most deprived wards in Northern Ireland are Catholic but is that greater indictment on the nationalist politicians for not doing enough or the State for not treating its citizens equally and allowing it – possible even making it – happen?

    Serious question # 2 – should 16 out of every 20 million spent on addressing social deprivation in Northern Ireland be spent in Catholic wards?

    The problem I have with articles like the one above is that different authors will use different datasets and come to different conclusions. For example if we were to look at the local council election results from 1985 and compare them to 2011 then we can see that the SF/SDLP vote has INCREASED by over 73k. But if we were to look at the assembly elections from 1997 and compare to 2011 we see a 48k DECREASE in the nationalist vote. Which is it – is nationalism on the up or the down?

    My point being that we can pick and choose stats to suit what we want and chose to ignore the rest. The realty in Ni is that we don’t have a fecking clue.

  • Charles,

    The proof of the pudding will be in the eating! Let’s see how the SDLP do now, particularly in the two new districts where they have a chance of catching SF to become the largest single party – specifically Derry / Strabane and Newry / Mourne / Omagh. In local government that’s where I’d look for the fightback to start.

    I do caution you against thinking that the SDLP’s commitment to socialism is a particularly unique or useful selling point. I don’t see how it really differentiates them from SF, who are also nominally left-wing. If I saw the SDLP making a big play of their links with the British Labour party, or of the importance of the unions, it would be a different matter. Genuine question: Have they been promoting Martin Schulz’s candidacy for President of the European Commission in Alex Attwood’s election literature?

    Back in 2011, for what it’s worth, I actually endorsed Alasdair McDonnell here on Slugger precisely because I liked his ideas on the internal organisation of the party. Not being on the ground any more myself, I have no notion of whether those ideas have been followed through in practice. (Just as a matter of interest, was there ever a special conference on party organisation as he promised?) But we will know how effective it has all been this time next week.

  • Charles_Gould

    Morph Inadvertently makes an interesting point. The data are consistent with the following hypothesis: When SDLP leads nationalism, as in 1998, nationalism is stronger. But when SF leads it, people withdraw from it, and it is weaker.

  • Morpheus,

    I tend to stick to percentages myself, on the basis that turnout tends to affect everyone more or less equally. The Nationalist parties’ vote share in 1985 was about 31%, and in the 2011 local elections about 40%, a fairly clear increase. In the 1998 Assembly elections it was about 40%, winning 42 seats of 108, in the 2011 Assembly elections about 41%, winning 43 seats of 108, which is barely a twitch of the pendulum.

    Those who believe in demographic determinism argue that this shows that although “of course” there are lots more Nationalists of voting age, they are stubbornly refusing to come out and vote and it’s all down to differential turnout. I tend to believe that it simply shows that Nationalist support has plateau’d, for reasons I hint at above. (Actually I agree that it should in general be rising, if rather slower than some anticipate, and the 2011 figure was depressed by an exceptionally poor SDLP campaign.)

  • Morpheus

    “The last NILT Survey I saw showed that the population identified themselves as being……..28% Unionist, 23% Nationalist, 49% Neither. Just under 23% of the Electorate vote for Nationalist Parties and 25% identified themselves as Irish in the Census. The largest problem for Nationalists and their goal of UI is there simply is not enough of them and there is no evidence to say there ever will be.”

    Ohhhh, how is that for timing? This is exactly the sort of predictable behavior I am talking about. Above we Chris’s take based on his stats and and then along comes zeno with his take based on his stats. Both are based on verifiable facts but both have completely the opposite conclusions. Who is right?

    I’ll say again, we don’t have a fecking clue

  • Charles_Gould

    Nicholas Whyte

    Martin Schultz’s endorsement of the SDLP was certainly valued by the SDLP. He visited the SDLP and there was a joint press conference. In Belfast I think. Some candidates have mentioned his endorsement of the SDLP. I have the impression that the SDLP youth wing is especially committed to the link with PES which suggests a large degree of ideological agreement among young activists – the party’ s future.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Nicholas/ Charles
    Poor choice of title to the piece to blame for over expectation on your behalf. My apologies.

    I was more interested in charting relative growth of political nationalism over the 20/21 year span (’93-’14) and giving the context of the poor approach of nationalist parties to expanding organisationally in a manner that can tap into a residual support base.

    I’ve seen it done first hand in Lagan Valley with Paul Butler, and the successes of Sinn Fein in north Antrim/ Coleraine direction also show how quickly the ‘right’ candidate can connect.

    Neither nationalist party has ever given any attention to North Down or Ards in any serious manner. This will change once the parties are elected to the council and are called to work across the new boroughs. I confidently expect either the SDLP or Fianna Fail to be represented on North Down council with a Holywood councillor next time around.

    Similarly, losing the Colin area will be beneficial ultimately to both nationalist parties in the new Lisburn/C’reagh Council as they will be forced to treat seriously the need to organise and gain representation from the DEAs across the new council area without the crutch of the core base community that was Dunmurry/Lagmore/Poleglass/Twinbrook.

  • Morpheus


    I totally take your point on percentages, I was merely suggesting that if I wanted to I could pick out a verifiable stat and run with it, the point being that anyone can paint a picture showing the increase in nationalism over the past generation but equally others can come along and paint a much gloomier picture based on their stats of choice.

    Even the stat above saying that “just under 23% of the Electorate vote for Nationalist Parties” isn’t prooff of anything one way or the other. Zeno can say that a pro-UI mandates were put to the entire electorate and only 23% chose to support pro-UI parties, others can argue that the size of the electorate is meaningless because only valid votes are counted and in the assembly elections 41% voted for pro-UI parties. Which is a more realistic gauge of nationalism – 23% or 41%?

  • ArdoyneUnionist
  • ArdoyneUnionist

    How do the views articulated in the link, stack up with the shinner/provo cult position, and with their supports or members who work in the maintained education sector????


  • Zig70

    There is no nationalist candidate in 3mile water Antrim so most of the catholic voters there won’t bother voting and scenarios like this could have an impact on the euro vote. Especially combined with the SDLPs pale euro campaign.

  • Zeno

    “I was more interested in charting relative growth of political nationalism over the 20/21 year span (’93-’14)”

    Interesting Chris that the Nationalist vote (SF/SDLP) has dropped by over 48,000 since the GFA. Unionist votes are down by double that. And at a time when the electorate is growing every year.
    The electorate are finally getting completely disgusted with tribal politics.

  • Zeno

    “Which is a more realistic gauge of nationalism – 23% or 41%?”


    23% is the absolute maximum support for UI. Every single poll (and they are not all wrong) says it is much lower.

  • Charles_Gould


    The SDLP are not having a pale campaign!

  • Morpheus

    See what I mean? 🙂

  • Zig70


    Not sure which party Bishop Trainor is telling us to vote for.

    Charles, when was the last time I heard the SDLP mentioned on the news? I seemed to have missed Alec’s publicity.

  • Politico68

    Many people comment on the fact that the nationalist vote is ‘stuck’ around the 42% mark, but thats exactly where it should be at the moment and bang on with the 2011 census figures, Those figures tell us that Catholics of voting age (over 18) make up 43% of the population so i wouldnt expect a vote for SF/SDLP any higher than that. It wont be until 2023 until Catholics have a voting majority. Turn-out is falling in both communities for many reasons but one reason is the fact that each year 14,000 older people pass away(35% Catholic and 60% Protestant). The turn out in the over 60 age group is approx 70%. Their younger replacements of approx 25,000; have a turnout rate of only 20% so in the last 3 yrs since the last election Nationalist parties will have lost about 70% of 14,000 potential voters (10,000)and gained 20% of 37,000 potential voters (7,000) net loss 3,000.. Unionism will have lost 70% of 28,000 potential voters (20,000) and gained 20% of 30,000 potential voters (6,000) net loss 14,000. This means that the rise in Nationalisms overall percentage share of the vote should continue at a very slow pace until the 18 to 40 yr old age group get older. If my calculations are correct we should see SF/SDLP at 45% in 2019 and then 48% in 2024.

  • Reader

    Politico68 – so basically your analysis is based on people having a 20% turnout rate until their 60th birthday, at which point their turnout jumps to 70%.
    Perhaps a bit of ramping up might make for a more realistic, but less optimistic, analysis?

  • Zeno

    Where did you get the figures for Turn Out by age group?

  • Politico68

    Reader, obviously there is a gradual progression thru the ages from 18 up to senior. My point is however that only 20% of new voters vote. While a much higher percentage of voters are lost due to seniors passing on. I read those turnout percentages in the bel tel last year If memory serves me right.

  • Politico68

    Here are some turnout figures for British Elections around 2005

    18-24 37%
    25-34 49%
    35-44 61%
    45-54 65%
    55-64 71%
    65+ 75%

    I can find the article i read last year but the above figures i think show the huge gap in turnout between the lower age and higher age voters, the older voter turn-out is higher than i thought. I am crap at explaining these mathematical things but I hope u get my point.

  • Politico68
  • Politico68

    Her is my guess at what the results might be…….

    TUV Jim Allister – 7
    Sinn Féin Martina Anderson – 27
    SDLP Alex Attwood – 15
    Conservative Mark Brotherston -1
    Green (NI) Ross Brown -3
    DUP Diane Dodds – 22
    Alliance Anna Lo – 6
    NI21 Tina McKenzie – 3
    UUP Jim Nicholson -14
    UKIP Henry Reilly- 3

    If SF and SDLP can take 45% of the vote between them I reckon SDLP will get the third seat.

  • Reader

    Politico68: Reader, obviously there is a gradual progression thru the ages from 18 up to senior. My point is however that only 20% of new voters vote. While a much higher percentage of voters are lost due to seniors passing on.
    I was aware you had a grip on that. However, the gradual change isn’t built into your numerical analysis, where you are counting as future gains some voters that have already been cashed in.

  • Politico68

    ugh, dunno what u mean sorry

  • PaddyReilly

    The last NILT Survey I saw showed that the population identified themselves as being……..
    28% Unionist
    23% Nationalist
    49% Neither.
    Just under 23% of the Electorate vote for Nationalist Parties and 25% identified themselves as Irish in the Census.
    The largest problem for Nationalists and their goal of UI is there simply is not enough of them and there is no evidence to say there ever will be.

    No, the only problem for Nationalists is that they will never win the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey. Not surprising: it is not intended that they should do so. In real life elections they are doing all right.

    The elections which give us the best guide of the state of play on the national question are those of the European Parliament, because here any local and personality politics are sidelined; besides it is the only province wide election.

    Unionist 1st preference vote

    1979 59%
    1984 58%
    1989 56.9%
    1994 55.5%
    1999 52.29%
    2004 48.6%
    2009 49%
    2014 ??%

    Of course it is not the first preference vote that matters, but in fact the final tally. Looking at this superficially, one might imagine that there was a Unionist rally between 2004 and 2009, but in fact the number of transfers received in 2004 was considerably in excess of that received in 2009. All that this means is that a number of Union minded people gave their first preferences to Centrist parties in 2004 but did not dare to do so in 2009. So the overall downward trend for the Unionist vote is going to continue.

    In 2014 it is still possible that Unionism will, after counting the 2nd and 3rd preferences, limp home with two out of the three seats, but with such a reduced vote that all but the stupidest will realise that the end is nigh. I don’t see that happening in 2019.

    Local Elections are not useful for providing information about the progress of the National Question, because 1) they are local and 2) there are a large number of independent candidates.

  • Trapattoni


    One less Stoop in derry as Jimmy Carr’s party withdraw support. Apparently 8 outta 10 cats think he did it.

  • Zeno

    “No, the only problem for Nationalists is that they will never win the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey.”

    Why not? I’d say they just don’t have the numbers. But why do you think they will never show up in the NILT figures?