Northern Ireland Assembly Election: It’s all over #ae16

Pausing between flights in Heathrow on my way home, I have time to type up the overall results. Apologies for the slight messiness below, but I think the details are clear.

Democratic Unionist Party 38 seats (no change) 202,567 first prefs 29.2% (-0.8%)
Sinn Féin 28 seats (−1) 166,785 first prefs 24.0% (−2.9%)
Ulster Unionist Party 16 seats (-) 87,302 first prefs 12.6% (−0.7%)
SDLP 12 seats (−2) 83,364 first prefs 12.0% (−2.2%)
Alliance Party 8 seats (-) 48,447 first prefs 7.0% (−0.7%)
Green 2 seats (+1) 18,718 first prefs 2.7% (+1.8%)
People before Profit Alliance 2 seats (+2) 13,761 first prefs 2.0% (+1.2%)
Traditional Unionist Voice 1 seat (-) 23,776 first prefs 3.4% (+0.9%)
Independent 1 seat (-) 22,650 first prefs 3.3% (+0.9%)
UKIP 0 seats 10,109 first prefs 1.5% (+0.8%)
Progressive Unionist Party 0 seats 5,955 first prefs 0.9% (+0.6%)
Conservative 0 seats 2,554 first prefs 0.4% (+0.4%)
NI Labour Representation Committee 0 seats 1,577 first prefs 0.2% (+0.2%)
Others 0 seats 6,745 first prefs 1.0% (+0.8%)

Here's a statement that I did not believe I would be typing before the votes were cast, or indeed this time yesterday when the first preference votes had become clear: the number of seats held by the Unionist parties did not change at all. The DUP took a UUP seat in South Belfast; the UUP took a DUP seat in neighbouring Lagan Valley. Otherwise, that was it, apart from some shifting of personnel. I think it's fair to say that this was unexpected. On the basis of the Westminster and local elections, I (and many others) had expected the DUP vote to be vulnerable to the fringe Unionists – TUV, PUP, UKIP – and to the UUP. Basically, it didn't happen; Jim Allister kept his seat and that was it. Turnout was up in Unionist constituencies, but not necessarily for Unionist parties.

On the Nationalist side, the thesis of the demographic determinists ("we'll outbreed yez!") must now be in disarray. The Nationalist vote decreased for the fourth electorasl cycle in a row; the combined SF and SDLP vote fell by over 5%. Both SF and the SDLP lost seats to the People Before Profit Alliance in Foyle and West Belfast; the SDLP also lost a seat to the Greens in South Belfast; the SDLP regained the seat they should not have lost last time from SF in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, but lost to them in Upper Bann. The new Assembly will have only 40 members from Nationalist parties, the fewest since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

In between, Alliance had something of a damp squib, holding their own (with tight squeezes for eg the party leader in South Antrim); but the Greens surged to take a South Belfast seat and hold North Down. The PBPA success demonstrated that voters in Nationalist areas are not always concerned about voting for Nationalist candidates – or indeed about voting; turnout was down in all Nationalist-majority seats. And it was nice to see Claire Sugden, thrust into public life at a relatively young age, making a successful defence in East Londonderry with no party infrastructure behind her.

And overall, the lack of change among the headline figures masks a shift towards the younger generation and to a more diverse Assembly. If I have counted correctly, 31 30 women were elected in Thursday's election, compared to 20 in 2011 and 23 in the outgoing Assembly after co-options. In the first election to the Northern Ireland House of Commons, in 1921, two women, Dehra Chichester and Julia McMordie, were elected to its 52 seats, both Ulster Unionists. There was only one woman member of the Stormont House of Commons when it was prorogued in 1972 (Anne Dickson, later leader of the UPNI). Times have changed.

In terms of the make-up of the next Executive, Alan Meban has crunched the D’Hondt numbers, coming to the same conclusion as my back-of-the-envelope calculations in the studio yesterday. (Let me also recommend my local garage and roofer/plumber.)

Closest results:
West Tyrone: Declan McAleer (SF) beat Grace McDermott (also SF) by 20.92
West Belfast: Alex Attwood (SDLP) beat Frank McCoubrey (DUP) by 88.99
East Antrim: Oliver McMullan (SF) beat Noel Jordan (UKIP) by 104.7
Mid Ulster: Keith Buchanan (DUP) beat Ian McCrea (also DUP) by 160.62
Lagan Valley: Brenda Hale (DUP) beat Jonathan Craig (also DUP) by 168
Upper Bann: John O'Dowd (SF) beat Dolores Kelly (SDLP) by 168
South Antrim: Trevor Clarke (DUP) beat Paul Michael (UUP) by 211

On my way to Belfast City airport after hours of non-stop commentary, I bumped into a senior member of the UUP, who expressed their regret that UKIP had gained a seat in East Antrim. “Actually, that didn’t happen,” I told them. “Your voters didn’t transfer to UKIP in sufficient numbers, and Sinn Fein kept their seat.” Their face lit up with glee. Every vote counts, and not always the way you would expect.

  • Chingford Man

    “I bumped into a senior member of the UUP, who expressed their regret that UKIP had gained a seat in East Antrim. “Actually, that didn’t happen,” I told them. “Your voters didn’t transfer to UKIP in sufficient numbers, and Sinn Fein kept their seat.” Their face lit up with glee.”

    So s/he preferred a Shinner to a Kipper. Contemptible attitude, but not altogether surprising from a party that has done very well out of the EU. I suspect most UKIP voters transferred to other unionists and helped to get UUP people elected on the final count.

  • Gingray

    English parties have had very little success in Northern Ireland, with either the Unionist< Other or Nationalist voter. This is perhaps an example of it in action?

  • Vince

    Some of those winning margins would have been even narrower in reality – in the case of U Bann there were a couple of small undistributed surpluses that would have closed the gap.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Yes, and I spotted that in North Belfast the Alliance loss of 1000 vis a vis the SDLP would certainly have been reduced by 700 undistributed DUP surpluses.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    I think there’s something in that. Three of the bottom five vote-getters in this election were Conservative candidates; the various Labour groups failed to score either. As I’ve said before, I think people realise tha “English politics” is not a synonym for “normal politics”.

  • Gingray

    Northern Ireland is detached from Britain – does not make those people who are British any less but does make it difficult for national parties to operate here with any success.

    Interesting that as many parties with sitting TDs as MPs, tho plenty of caveats around that. But the potential for all Ireland, issue based parties not focused on the border should not be overlooked.

  • Gingray

    Nuala McAllister was a fantastic candidate, exactly what Alliance needed. Young, female, Catholic.

    Was a bit shocked to see Alliance have zero Catholic MLAs to be honest, more former Tories!

    Looking forward to the gender/age breakdown Nicholas, religion would be fab too to see if the Free Presbyterian numbers in the DUP continue to drop and how many non religious we have, hard to get that information.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Zero? As far as I know Stephen Farry isn’t practicing any particular religion at present, but he attended Our Lady and St Patrick’s in Knock.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    as many parties with sitting TDs as MPs, tho plenty of caveats around that

    What do you mean?

    But the potential for all Ireland, issue based parties not focused on the border should not be overlooked.

    I guess the Greens are already in that situation, which demonstrates that there’s a market for it, if not a big one.

  • Gingray

    I stand corrected. Its less about the practicing and more the background, so definitely not zero.

    My point still stands – Alliance need more candidates like Nuala if they ever want to broaden their appeal. Picking a former Tory in South was a mistake fir example given it was the only constituency held by a nationalist MP they have a chance of winning seats in.

  • Gingray

    SF, PBP, Greens all are represented in the Dáil and Stormont, with Dup, UUP and SDLP at Westminster and Stormont.

  • Cavehill

    Kellie Armstrong in Strangford is also a catholic, not that the religion of Alliance MLAs is of huge relevance.

  • Colin Lamont

    I was suprised how badly the UUP fared in Fermanagh South Tyrone, notwithstanding the Arlene factor and the long established figure of Lord Morrow, who is an understated vote getter for the party in Dungannon. Winning the Westminster seat has cost the UUP at assembly level.
    The party also lost easy opportunities simply by poor candidate number selections; take South Antrim as an example, two reasonably balanced candidates would certainly have been elected.

  • Gingray

    Candidate selection surely plays a part in the fact that Alliance have not polled well right across Northern Ireland, predominantly winning in seats with mainly Unionist areas.

    Broadening the candidates put forward to better reflect Northern Ireland would surely help?

  • Granni Trixie

    A Problem and a strength with Alliance is that religion doesn’t play a part at constituency level candidate selection ..the chips fall as they may – which strategy wise may not be the wisest.

    it illustrates the point that Alliance tends to be religion neutral when an informed person such as Gingray doesn’t know that Kellie Armstrng local Alliance Councillor in Strangford has been elexted MLA hence his assertion of no Catholics in Alliance team is plain wrong.

  • Vince

    Perhaps a little. However her appeal to DUP voters may have been limited by the combination of strong pro-abortion views combined with her professed admiration for the Pope.

    Noticed something about the Alliance transfers on elimination in U Bann and wonder if this is unusual – nearly 40% of voters appear not to have expressed any preference between SF, UUP and SDLP candidates. Given that range of options, is this unusually high? Seems to have been much less in a similar situation in E Derry. Given that Dolores Kelly earned over 50% of those votes that did transfer, she may have been a little unlucky there.

  • Cavehill

    Do you know what the religion of the Alliance candidates in predominantly nationalist constituencies was? I don’t personally.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    those parties are national rather than just English parties

  • Gingray

    Did any of them get elected?

  • Brendan Heading

    I’m slightly confused by the theory that Alliance made a mistake when they selected the candidate who won the seat.

    The party lost out on a second seat in South Belfast because the Greens successfully challenged it. That’s a straightforward enough fact.

    On the issue of religion, as GT says, and despite suggestions to the contrary, the party really does not play the tribal system when it is making its decisions. If Alliance wanted to win votes tribally, it could just assert itself to be soft unionist, criticise the Pope and Cliftonville, vote to fly the flag at city hall, and take a run at the UUP’s base.

  • Gingray

    Brendan – my apologies. It is merely my view that Alliance have a major problem picking up the support of Catholics in areas where a Nationalist can win a seat.

    They do not need to behave in a tribal manner at all. That would remove their raison d’être.

    However, unless something changes then they shall remain a party only popular in constituencies with the highest proportion of Protestants. This election has shown that even with a collapsing Nationalist vote, Alliance did not benefit, going down in nearly every seat (bar Belfast East and Belfast North I think? As they are not top 5 party outside of the greater Belfast area BBC does not provide the change).

    They did not win a second seat in South Belfast for two reasons – they dropped from 20% to 16%, and they failed to be seen as a viable alternative for nationalist voters. I have no doubt that having a former Tory on the ballet hurt them on both counts.

  • Gingray

    As I said to Nicholas above, I don’t know any of that information, I think it would be useful. I voted for three Alliance candidates without being aware of religion, but I did feel that in East Belfast they could do with more people from my background. Not happening tho.

    I get that the chips fall as they may. My opinion is that is a stupid way for a party to be run, and as was seen with SF in FST or the SDLP 10 years back in WT, it only hurts the party, with no gain. Alliance had a great chance to grow, with nationalists in particular. Vote wise, the lost a similar proportion as SF.

    Unless something changes, Alliance will continue to be a constitutionally neutral, non sectarian, mainly Protestant (in terms of voters, elected officials and areas competitive) Party.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Yes, but nobody is calling for the SNP or Plaid Cymru to organise in Northern Ireland!

  • Kevin Breslin

    No complaining about the 19 SDLP transfers, 33 Alliance transfers and 50 Green Party transfers that somehow went to Noel Tompson, just the 65 UUP transfers than went to Sinn Féin?

  • Kevin Breslin

    You could probably add the loss of Tom Elliot into that senior figure head list in the first paragraph. Certainly both UUP candidates didn’t match Tom’s preference alone.

  • Kevin Breslin

    You mention religion but I was not aware that the Church of Ireland or any Protestant faith had any explicit views on IFA football or the flying of the Union flag.

  • Granni Trixie

    But can’t you see the problem? If ‘it doesn’t matter what you are’ is to prevail then you can’t start choosing P and C candidates strategically. What I think is more important than what you seem to be arguing for is that Alliance retains a culture which is open to everyone. Yes, we certainly have to learn lessons from this election but changing to select candidates on religious grounds is not one of them.

  • Brendan Heading


    Alliance have a major problem picking up the support of Catholics in areas where a Nationalist can win a seat.

    Well, no. Nationalists can win seats in South Belfast, Alliance did quite well there. Likewise South Antrim, East Antrim, Strangford (poor Joe Boyle) and so on.

    Let’s define the problem properly and fairly. Non-sectarian candidates, Alliance or otherwise, have problems picking up votes in rural constituencies, specifically, constituencies beyond the Belfast commuter/hinterlands. In my opinion, it’s little nothing to do with whether there is a prospect of electing a nationalist or not. It’s because Alliance has what you might call urban, or suburban, values that don’t translate well to the countryside, where voters tend to be relatively conservative and relatively unaffected by social and political instability.

    The Greens are going nowhere in the same constituencies where Alliance finds it difficult. The Greens spent the election just past targeting Alliance’s seats. They are not trying to supplant unionism or nationalism, they are trying to supplant Alliance. And as an initial effort, they made a pretty good start. But did the Greens register anywhere outside of these constituencies ? No they didn’t.

    How do Alliance and the Greens solve this problem ? I do not know. Introducing quotas or having candidates ostentatiously attending mass, tweeting about the Pope and being photographed at GAA matches would probably assuage those who want their local rep to be a Catholic, but would utterly discredit the party’s message of tribal neutrality.

    his election has shown that even with a collapsing Nationalist vote, Alliance did not benefit, going down in nearly every seat [..]They did not win a second seat in South Belfast for two reasons – they dropped from 20% to 16%

    That is not a “reason”, that is a symptom of the reason. The reason was that the Greens ran a candidate, who ran a good campaign and offered an alternative that many of Anna Lo’s voters preferred to either of the two Alliance candidates. This is why Alliance’s vote fell.

    , and they failed to be seen as a viable alternative for nationalist voters. I have no doubt that having a former Tory on the ballet hurt them on both counts.

    As I already said, the “former Tory” won the seat, and the not-former-Tory lost, so this explanation does not stand up. Having a Green on the ballot is what counted. They attracted votes that would have gone to the SDLP or Alliance.

    The Green candidates ran a positive campaign and are unquestionably able to attract votes that Alliance so far have not been able to. If you have a solution to this problem, I’d be very pleased to hear it. Anyone can say “you need to fix your vote problem”. If it was easy it would have already been done.

  • Declan Doyle

    The only opinion from an Alliance member we have in the public domain regarding the nationalist question is from Anna Lo. Transfer patterns suggest Alliance voters now transfer heavily towards nationalism, even SF picked up a few in this recent contest. I do not think Nicholas’ anti nationalist/ anti republican views are shared by all Alliance voters and members.

  • Chingford Man

    No. I commend their good judgment.

  • Ryan A

    It wasn’t just ‘s/he’. East Antrim seemed to agree too.

  • Gingray

    🙂 Let me guess, you are an Alliance party member from the Belfast area? Couple of other urban areas in Northern Ireland, Derry/Newry, also places Alliance does very poorly.

    From the 2011 Census, % from a Protestant background by NI Assembly Constituency, with Alliance vote and seats in brackets:

    Belfast East – 75.40% (28.7%, 2 seats)
    North Down – 74.44% (16.8%, 1 seats)
    Strangford – 73.13% (10.7%, 1 seats)
    Lagan Valley – 72.88% (9.5%, 1 seats)
    East Antrim – 70.11% (14.6%, 1 seats)
    North Antrim – 66.03% (3.2%, 0 seats)
    South Antrim – 59.80% (8.9%, 1 seats)
    East Londonderry – 53.27% (3.7%, 0 seats)
    Upper Bann – 49.99% (3.1%, 0 seats)
    Belfast North – 45.67% (7%, 0 seats)
    Belfast South – 43.65% (16.4%, 1 seat)
    Fermanagh & South Tyrone – 39.10% (1.1%, 0 seats)
    Mid Ulster – 30.78% (1.2%, 0 seats)
    Newry & Armagh – 30.59% (1.0%, 0 seats)
    West Tyrone – 30.16% (1.3%, 0 seats)
    South Down – 26.85% (5.4%, 0 seats)
    Foyle – 22.02% (0.6%, 0 seats)
    Belfast West – 17.95% (0.8%, 0 seats)

    In terms of solutions – it depends on what Alliance members view as the problem. If, as you seem to be, they are content with being popular in the most Protestant seats in NI, then keep on going.

    If they are genuine about increasing the non sectarian message to all of Northern Ireland, put in some effort West of the Bann.

    And think more carefully about candidate selection – Belfast South for example, Emmet McDonough-Brown outpolled both Clare Bailey and Duncan Morrow in 2014 yet was not selected to run. Long term members are overlooked for someone who only joined in 2010 when not selected as a UUP candidate.

  • Gingray

    Perhaps at the start you are correct, but Alliance is now in a position where, outside South Belfast, they only poll well in the most Protestant parts of Northern Ireland. There is a massive image problem, and that will not be addressed by pretending it does not exist. Hence my original post applauding the party for having such a fantastic candidate in Belfast North.

    In Belfast South my gripe is that the party has a plethora of long time party activists and successful candidates to pick from, yet has been giving preferential treatment to a carpet bagger who only joined the party when the UUP did not select her.

    Are you really telling me having Emmet McDonough-Brown, who outpolled Bailey and Morrow in 2014, would have been worse? Do you think Nationalists are all stupid when they she a Tory bumped in to replace the only pro UI alliance member I can think of?

    This election only reinforced my view that while the party has a fantastic selling point, in practice it is one which will win votes from middle class Protestants and Catholics in predominantly Unionist areas.

  • Paddy Reilly

    The thesis of the demographic determinists (“we’ll outbreed yez!”) must now be in disarray.

    Suspecting that I may be included in this category, I should clarify.

    Censal figures exist for the decline of the Protestant and growth of the Catholic population in NI between 2001 and 2011: they show the Protestant population declining by 1,966 and the Catholic growing by 7,997 per annum. Assuming that these rates are maintained in the period 2011 to 2021, we would expect the balance for these years to be:-



    However, these are only the religious figures: the census does not ask your opinions on politics or reunification. As to how well religion corresponds to voting patterns, I can only recommend Nicholas Whyte’s own site, on Ark.

    Here we find that in West Belfast 16.65% of the population were Protestants in 2011, (the number has risen since) yet the DUP notoriously cannot win a seat here, even this year, which only requires 14.28%. In Foyle 22% were Protestants in 2011, yet the Unionist vote was 18% and is, I think, coming down.

    In constituencies where the Catholic population is more than quota’s worth but less than 20% (Strangford and Lagan Valley) a Nationalist is not elected, the Catholic vote presumably going to the Alliance Party.

    Cases like these I attribute to apathy of the outnumbered, where for many, voting seems to be pointless. However, in the case of an important referendum, the apathetic voters may suddenly spring to life.

    One major blip is that the census only records religion, it does not give ethnicity. Some of the Catholics would be Poles and Timorese, who may not even have voting rights. This I think is the cause of the disparity in Fermanagh/South Tyrone, where 57.69% of the population is Catholic, but only 50.8% voted for SF and SDLP last year. (There is a large Timorese population in Dungannon).

    However, all in all I think it balances out: voting and religion are generally within a few percentage points of each other.

    So in summary I would say, in the matter of outbreeding, if religion is your category, it is proceeding apace. The schools and universities are majority Catholic, the workforce is majority Catholic, the under 40s are majority Catholic, and by the end of this year Catholics will outnumber Protestants in the entire population (though I think this discounts ‘others’.

    Politics is something else. Sinn Fein and the SDLP are not really entities which can outbreed anything: a political party is not hereditary, young people generally have different views to old.

    However, I will venture to say this: where you have a Catholic majority, a Nationalist majority is probably not far behind.

  • Ryan A

    Worth noting Patrick Brown did a decent job in South Down and has taken the party from not being a contender to being one which others will be keeping an eye on in South Down from now on. Alliance were competing with John McCallister, someone with liberal unionist views that separates him from all other Unionists and Patrick still out polled him by over 1,000 votes. It’s one seat but it does slightly blow out your theory around perception outside predominantly unionist constituencies.

  • Granni Trixie

    I completely agree that Emmett is a representative who ticks all the boxes – articulate,Intelligent,committed to helping people, the fact is another was selected as the candidate whi as it happeshe was successful. Also, you based your original assertion on lack of knowledge – Kellie Armstrong is full of enthusiasm (and as I happens is an RC). Where we do agree is that Nuala is a brilliant representative – watch this space.

  • Gingray

    Declan – I think outside of Anna trying to grab a few votes in 2014, Alliance have done fantastically well in remaining neutral on the national issue.

    Not sure on the votes thing, as they win seats in mainly Unionist areas, hard to know. They also transfer well to the UUP.

    IRO Nicholas – he does a fantastic job, I think he is quite neutral most times (a little jab at the SDLP here and there perhaps?) but his contribution with ARK is to be applauded.

  • Declan Doyle

    Oh look, I would be the last person to criticise Nicholas. His Site is depended on at home and abroad for info on NI elections. A remarkably excellent site it is. He is very anti nationalist/republican and in fairness does his best to hide it.

  • Gingray

    Ha – thats 1 all after you forgot about the other UCUNF folk running for Alliance 😉

    I still think that Alliance is not representitive of Northern Ireland, and nothing you or the party has said convinces me that there is any seriousness in trying to address this.

    Also, in SB, it would be hard for Paula to have lost, given she was number 1 on posters at all the major junctions in the middle class areas. I have no doubt that was the price to bring her in.

  • Gingray

    I have not seen that side of him to be fair, and I have followed his blog now for many years.

  • Chingford Man

    Gosh, you actually believe this stuff! Drawing highly speculative and contestable assumptions from demographic stats is junk as political analysis. (What happens, for example, if birth rates start to converge or the Catholic rate falls below the Protestant one?)

    Your final sentence is fantastically speculative: designating small children just learning to crawl in 2016 as the demographic storm troopers of the future. Crankish nonsense.

  • Paddy Reilly

    As I only look six years into the future (> 2022), I’m afraid that today’s crawlers will have no active role to play in it.

  • Chingford Man

    Try moving beyond “Tiochfaidh ar la”, as even the Shinners are learning to do.

    At least you’ll never have problems sleeping. Instead of counting sheep, you can just count the Catholics and drift off content in your demographic certainty. Who knows, one day soon Catholic conservatives may be voting for the DUP.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Why would they? There are plenty of persons willing to stand for traditional Catholic values, like Susan-Anne White in West Tyrone:-

    It is not true that she only got 67 votes, she pushed it up to 85 in the recent election.

    I’m not interested in tiocfaidh anybody’s lá, but my senses revolt at the proposition that Fermanagh is in the North of Ireland while Donegal is in the South. If Sinn Féin unlearn rational geography, there are plenty of candidates ready and willing to displace them.

  • Paddy Reilly

    (What happens, for example, if birth rates start to converge or the Catholic rate falls below the Protestant one?)

    Didn’t notice this. It makes no difference because no-one born this year will be voting in 2021 or 2022. The current population shift is caused by the pre- 2nd World War generation (in which Protestants vastly outnumber Catholics), who are gradually dying off and the secondary school generation (the reverse, but less so), who are coming to maturity.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Go away!!!

  • Chingford Man

    Yes, your revolting senses are the problem. They seize on demographic data and twist it to the interpretation that you desire. Martin McGuinness told a Chuckie audience in 1998 that they only had to wait “until the children grow up” to win on numbers. Those children of 1998 are now on the electoral register and there are fewer nationalist seats in the Assembly than in 1998.

    I’m just interested what people like you say and do when you finally realise that you have led yourselves up a demographic blind alley.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    My point was you can’t call Labour and Conservatives just ‘English’ when they have significant presence and history in Wales and Scotland, current travails notwithstanding. Pedantic perhaps but it matters in terms of the potential relevance of national parties to NI. If they were genuinely uniquely English in nature I wouldn’t equate them with “normal politics” in NI; but as they are really UK parties, I would. I don’t expect them to ever take over completely, but they could and should be part of the mix as they are in Scotland and Wales, even if here they play a smaller part.

    Not so sure about Tory potential but a proper Labour effort, based on the party giving NI people the same rights and opportunities as the rest of the UK, could eventually get to a decent vote share – 10 per cent quite doable within 10-15 years, if Labour gets serious about doing the right thing by N Ireland. Who knows, even an MP or two? Times are changing in NI and Labour can be part of that and benefit from it, if they play their cards right. But Labour will need to return from its current cul-de-sac first and re-discover itself as a mainstream party.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Firstly, Christ Almighty. Is that what nationalism’s really all about?

    Secondly, on the matter of religious affiliation:
    (1) lots more people – and it’s increasing a lot too – don’t believe in God any more and/or have emotionally moved away from the churches. Look at what’s happened in the Republic there over the last 20 years, and in mainland Britain before that. Religious affiliation means less to a lot of people than cultural affiliation. And there, the designation of ‘Catholic’ or ‘Protestant’ is no longer as indicative of a person’s wider attitudes to things like sovereignty as it used to be.
    (2) you’ve underplayed that in the Census figures, ‘Catholic’ includes incomers from Poland, the Philippines etc – the estimate I’ve seen is that it is 2-3 per cent out of the current 45 per cent of the population designated Catholic. The Irish Catholic part of the population has remained fairly static at 42-43 per cent of the population.

    It may be that immigrants from Catholic countries stay and adopt a traditionalist Irish nationalist line on Irish nationality; but I wouldn’t have said it was guaranteed all or even most will. On the contrary, from what I can work out, new arrivals tend to rather buy into the idea of the new peaceful Northern Ireland, a multi-ethnic place where nationalistic squabbles are put aside – they tend to be more divorced from it than we might be. I don’t think they are man, woman and child motivated to get more involved in the politics of resentment and ethnic grinding favoured by SF.

    Immigrants tend to want to get on with building their new, better lives and making money for themselves and their families. I’m not sure banging on about collusion in the 70s or attacking Orange parades have much resonance or relevance to many there. My in-laws and many of their friends emigrated from Eastern Europe a few decades ago and I’m familiar with the mindset. It’s not an automatically Irish nationalist constituency I wouldn’t have said.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Just an addendum there: church attendance in the Republic is below 20 per cent now. Religious affiliation is still part of the ethnic mix but it’s so much looser now and I think many younger people don’t feel as defined by their religion as even my generation did (I’m a 46-year-old lifelong atheist). The way things have gone in other parts of Europe are also happening to us, even if strong group and family loyalties in NI mean the atrophy has been delayed and will continue to be stymied somewhat. It only takes 10 or 20 per cent of people to break away from that binary identification system to make relative Catholic/Protestant numbers no longer the be-all-and-end-all it once seemed to be. It’s not that those people are switching allegiance, it’s that they are choosing to eschew allegiance and eschew ethnically-based politics completely.

    There are enough other people of course not changing that ethnically-based parties will have a big share for some time yet. But the writing is on the wall – what they represent increasingly jars with where the new generations coming through are at. It’s those generations who will change N Ireland, but I’d say evidence suggests not towards some resurgence of united-Irelandism. They seem to be more about making N Ireland work and finding their purpose in life in something other than tribal politics. Eventually a space will open up big enough for a non-aligned political party to really prosper from that constituency. It is coming, I think. I think the united Ireland brigade have their work cut out in convincing kids coming through that it is any kind of answer to their needs and desires. It just seems irrelevant and of the past.

  • Paddy Reilly

    I have led no-one nowhere. The demographics are created by the drawing of an imaginary line on the face of Ireland which puts Donegal in the South and Fermanagh in the North. Neither Martin nor I am responsible for this. I would get angry, but strangely enough I sense more anger on your side, which suggests I may be onto a winner.

    Why does it annoy you that I have contributed to tricking the poor benighted Fenians into giving up their dynamitard ways in the hope of reaching the pie in the sky? Surely this should be in your interest?

    Leaving aside the question of flags which can be eaten by no-one, has not the process led to tangible benefits in the form of employment?

    By the end of this year Catholics should be equal in number to Protestants. In 2017, they will exceed them by 1,448, from then on the majority grows as follows:-

    2018 : 11,411
    2019 : 21,374
    2020: 31,337
    2021: 41,300
    2022: 51,263

    Whatever the outcome, I see it as positive. And indeed some of the higher figures in this list may be sufficient to stir the quagmire which is Stormont.

  • Chingford Man

    I’m not angry at all. I just think your determination to use demography for the purpose of ethnic wind-up is pathetic. Still, I think you republicans can get up to a lot worse, so don’t let me stop you.

    You lot bang on about the future just as you are being relegated to the past.

  • As somebody who is definitely included in the above category 😉
    May I add that the “religion brought up in” question being reflected in the pro – reunification parties actual voting strength argument, only holds value if the correllation between both is measured and consistent.
    I have consistently made this point on my own blog.
    Due to the age profiles of the two broad groups and the fact that the older age groups tend to be the more prolific voters. I would expect an acceleration over the next few years in the swing.
    Of course, there is undoubtedly an issue within nationalist parties in terms of the increasing lack of engagement by their potential voters.
    As we all know it is actual votes that matter.

  • Paddy Reilly

    I see myself as more of a Democrat than a Republican: if people want a monarchy, I am happy to go along with it, but most countries in the world have republics.

    The uniquely Irish usage of Republican does not fit either, as this refers to an impatient band of people, who embraced violence where I would counsel patience.

    Equally, if NI Catholics want to spend all eternity in a political entity specifically designed to disenfranchise them, I don’t see how I can stop them: I merely make it my business to inform them that in a very short while, this fate is not the only choice they have.

  • Paddy Reilly

    The ‘brought up as’ description is, I agree, not entirely an accurate predictor of voting patterns. For example, I imagine that a significant number of the 16.65% ‘brought up as’ Protestants in West Belfast are actually now married to Catholics with Catholic children, and wouldn’t vote for the DUP in a million years: this explains that party’s failure to win a seat there. Nevertheless they came quite close to getting their required 14.28% this time: only 90 votes behind the SDLP. So Religion > Voting Patterns is basically correct, if you allow it an error margin of a few percent.

    Upper Bann has a 44% Catholic population and 3 quotas is only 42.86%, so one would expect that, with careful restriction of the number of candidates, 3 Nationalists could be elected here. Yet last week’s election was 2,347 votes short of this goal. Only 2 SF candidates got in under a quota, the SDLP candidate was eliminated for want of over a thousand votes. But the Ark website mentions that “Upper Bann has the highest proportion of Polish speakers (1.99%) and Portuguese speakers (0.70%) in Northern Ireland”, so the actual percentage of Irish Catholics is less than 3 quotas.

    The corollary of this is that SF and the SDLP must have very nearly the totality of the Irish Catholic vote here, with none of the supposed ‘lack of engagement’.

    The effect on the incipient Catholic majority is this. The predicted majority of 1+ this Christmas will not be sufficient to guarantee a Nationalist outcome to any poll. Neither will next year’s predicted majority of 1,448. But with the majority in the succeeding years, the possibility of success becomes much more likely:-

    2018 11,411
    2019 21,374
    2020 31,337
    2021 41,300
    2022 51,263

    At some point we will have reached the error margin where success is guaranteed.

  • Cavehill

    You brought up an Alliance candidate that wasn’t elected in North Belfast.

  • Gingray

    Um yes?

  • Cavehill

    So I brought up other non-elected catholic background Alliance candidates.