Local Councils: Does Twenty-Six Go Into Six?

We’ve heard about the Review of Public Administration’s plans to dramatically reduce the number of local councils in the north from twenty-six to seven. In this article, Jude Collins proposes six councils, arguing that, if unionists can’t be trusted to share power with nationalists now or in the future, then the fewer nationalists residing in unionist-controlled councils, the better.

  • Pete Baker

    A quite bizarre argument from Jude Collins, based around the supposed fairness of the preferred 7 Council option of the British Government and Sinn Féin [which he doesn’t actually mention].. Francie Molloy excepted.. it could be worse says Jude!.. for Unionists! If it was a 6-Council model that is..

    There’s one obvious charge could be laid against this six-council proposal: it’s a nationalist version of gerrymander. But this arrangement would not penalise unionists: it would simply protect nationalists.
    Under the arrangement, 51 per cent of the North’s population would be living in majority unionist council areas and 49 per cent in nationalist council areas. That would be very close to the balance of voting figures in the last three elections here: in the 2005 Westminster election, the unionist vote was 51 per cent, in the District Council election of 2005 they got 49 per cent and a similar figure in the 2004 European election.
    Would unionists feel even more queasy in the face of this six-council model than Hain’s proposed seven-council model? You bet your granny’s snuff-box they would. Not having substantial numbers of nationalists to annoy within their non-power-sharing fiefdoms would be like having an Orange march with no taigs to upset: hardly any fun at all.
    Because it protects more nationalists, because its council areas conform more closely to natural communities, because it gives a power-balance that is closer to 50-50, it would be a very unattractive concoction. And given the expectation that the new councils will have seriously enhanced powers, including perhaps policing, it would be anathema to the not-an-inchers.

    Ah, that us-and-them analysis.. that’s the way to make progress…

  • The Beach Tree

    Pete

    In the face of the clear, continuing hatred, distrust and bile between the communities and their political representatives, that seems only to grow with every passing year, why not an us and them analysis?

    Perhaps there is no progress possible. Perhaps in the end it is a zero sum game, and only those who feel they are winning at any particular moment ever get sniffy about ‘us-and-them’.

    A few years ago, Peter the Punt was actively discussing repartition. Now it’s shinners. We only sniff when we’re winning, to misquote the song…

    I’ve rarely seen so many confirmed 32 countiers considering repartition. Even during Brookeborough’s reign they never argued for it.

    Perhaps the rotten truth is that we absolutely hate each other, we always will, its only getting worse, and the sooner we’re permenatly seperated the better for all concerned.

    Because if you can’t feel the slip towards anarchy in the air, Pete, I can.

  • Henry94

    The Beech Tree

    Re-partition is an option that will have to be looked at if power-sharing proves impossible. Joint Authority is another one.

    But there is no way in hell nationalists are going to live forever under British direct rule because of the say so of the securocrats and the DUP.

    There will come a time when consent to be governed on such a basis will be withdrawn.

  • Crataegus

    Insanity. You reorganise to produce workable cohesive units of administration. If you do it as an exercise in political engineering then you end up with farce. Just look at the Assembly!

  • The Beach Tree

    Crataegus

    Insanity. You reorganise to produce workable cohesive units of administration

    Not national borders you don’t. Because frankly Northern Ireland has been neither workable nor cohesive for a very long time.

    We’re not talking after all nationalist councils remaining in an aparteid Northern Ireland. We’re talking about them leaving that statelet altogether. Thus forming anew national boundry.

  • Pete Baker

    Beach Tree

    “In the face of the clear, continuing hatred, distrust and bile between the communities and their political representatives, that seems only to grow with every passing year, why not an us and them analysis?”

    My point, such as it is, was that Jude Collins ignores the reality of the 7 Council model in order to promote the idea of, in his mind, a worser case scenario.. in order to provide ballast for the 7 Council model.

    It’s a dishonest analysis and needs to be pointed out as such.

  • The Beach Tree

    Pete

    I’m not sure i follow. The 7 council model is up for consultation. As it stands it convenienty allows for both sides to have broad contiguous areas of control. The RPA legislative wheels grind slow. If the communities mutual hatred continues to fester, why not consider an even more ‘radical’ carve up. What’s the dishonesty.

    He says “Unionists think 7 bad” – they do. He says “6 might suit nationalists even more” – it would. He says “the 7 council model is unlikely to make DUP Happy” – it is. He says that it is important in the long term not to abandon nationalists into unionist councils. arguable, but hardly dishonest.

    where is the dishonesty?

  • Crataegus

    Fagus sylvatica

    But you are not setting up trans border organisations are you. Derry council won’t collect the bins in Donegal will it?

  • The Beach Tree

    Crataegus

    All it requires is one line in legislation to allow that, even if that legislation is only ‘council by-law’.

    Would Derry baulk at collecting Donegal bins?

  • loyalist

    Not one inch of Ulster soil. Jeebus, what do you think we fought and won the war for. Gerrymandering councils to be nationalists is pretty funny, are they going to paint the bins green? I’ll be painting mine red, white and blue.
    Not an inch!

  • The Beach Tree

    ps. Crataegus

    Sylvatica = BeEch

    I = BeAch, latin would probably be

    Arbor Oro

    or some such 😉

    (nice try though)

  • Pete Baker

    Beach Tree

    “I’m not sure I follow. The 7 council model is up for consultation. As it stands it convenienty allows for both sides to have broad contiguous areas of control.”

    At which point, Jude conveniently turns into a discussion about how worse it could have been for Unionists..

    Up for consultations hides a multitude of sins btw..

    His argument is simply put.. IMO.. if you don’t support the same 7 Council model that the British Government and Sinn Féin – excepting Francie Molloy – support.. will be imposed.

    i.e. it [the 7 council model] may be sectarian.. but it’s not as sectarian as it could have been.

  • The Beach Tree

    loyalist

    If the war was won, (and its a big if) it was won by the british armed forces. The ragtag bag of psychotics, fantasists and delinquents you revere were frankly a foolish irrelevance in the bigger picture, used and abused as was seen fit by greater forces.

    In reality, if you believe that the massed forces of the Colombian Marching Powder Secretariat will have any serious say in a repartitioning, well, i look forward to seeing you try.

  • The Beach Tree

    Pete

    Are you suggesting the 6 model would NOT be ‘worse’ for unionists.

    I think the pitch is pretty honest. Keep behaving like sectarian monstors, and we’ll do our best to rob you of targets for your bigotry. Show good faith, we might give you a chance. Stark, certainly. Offensive to the (ever shrinking) centre ground. Yes. but dishonest?

    7 was chosen for a reason. Why not go to its logical conclusion.

    and as for consultations. I know all about them.

  • Pete Baker

    Beach

    I’m suggesting that it’s actually got very little to do with the actual issue.

    My point is that Jude collins only introduces that element to entice a sectarian-based support for his argument.. and to distract from Sinn Féin’s support for the 7 Council model.

    7 or 6 councils is of little relevance. No-one is debating that difference anywhere beyond Jude Collins’ column.. and for a very good reason.

    It’s not a relevant discussion.

  • The Beach Tree

    Pete

    What do you think the actual issue is?

    Why do you think unionists are broadly against it, and Sinn Fein strongly for it?

    My (very good) contacts on this are quite frank about it, that Repartition is NOT off the table. That it may be a last gasp measure, but it’s there.

    So what is not relevant, and why?

  • elfinto10

    Can’t believe that some who should know better are advocating grand Free Statism. Have they learnt nothing from the last 80 odd years? An Irishman in Ahoghill or Portaferry has the same rights as an Irishman in Ardoyne or Waterford. Shame to those who would argue otherwise.

  • Pete Baker

    Beach

    Discombobulation is the order of the game..

    You, unintentionally, play the same game in your framing of the question as Jude Collins does – “Why do you think unionists are broadly against it, and Sinn Fein strongly for it?”

    That’s not the breakdown of public opinion in reference to the 7 Council model – ask amongst others, Francie Molloy.

    And even if it was, it’s not countered by the reference to a 6 Council model that Jude Collins uses.

  • The Beach Tree

    elfinto

    Better that than impotent idealism. The last 80 years have shown me its better to be on the right side of the border.

    Pete

    Francie molloy is notable by his rarity, a shinner against these proposals.

    What is your evidence that the framing device you describe is inaccurate?

    And I’m not sure your last sentence actually makes any sense. Perhaps a few fewer ‘its’ would clarify your statement.

    I don’t see what is countering what?

    The frame is accurate, as a broad view of the news coverage will show.

    Jude is making a point that while sectarian, is arguably valid and accurate.

    I don’t understand what your problem with jude’s analysis is?

    Is it factually incorrect? which part?

    jude is flying a kite; he’s entitled to, and the kite he’s flying has strengths and weaknesses. But you don’t seem to be ‘playing’ the argument, but in some odd way, you’re playing his right to make it, on the basis that the discussion is embryonic, or sectarian, or both? Am I wrong?

    In which case, all new arguments begin embryonically and its no cause to refute them; and the North is so terribly sectarian as it is, and always has been, that one last flash of sectarian thinking to ‘finish’ the problem may be no bad thing – the sting of the needle that administers the vaccine.

    Now what do you think the ‘issue’ is?

  • Pete Baker

    Jude is not flying a kite.. which he would be entitled to do.. Jude is attempting to distract from the actual argument.. which is being replicated here.. i.e. whether the 7 Council model would in any way be representative of the people. And it would not.

  • “Perhaps the rotten truth is that we absolutely hate each other, we always will, its only getting worse, and the sooner we’re permenatly seperated the better for all concerned.”

    I think it might be a big assumption to make that any repartition would be a permanent and final solution.

    Pete has a point – what’s the aim of speculating about something which won’t happen? We may as well talk about the merits of going back to the gerrymandered wards of Londonderry for the next local government elections. It won’t happen because it would be ridiculous.

    All that Jude has done is fill columns of a newspaper with waffle that is deceptively unrelated to the matter he’s supposedly looking at in an effort to try and portray Sinn Fein’s victory on this matter as some kind of compromise.

  • abucs

    Pete,

    i don’t think HMG is looking for support from unionists for a 7 council model, it is simply being done over their heads, whether they like it or not. It may be tinkered with slightly, but it’s main emphasis is not up for negotiation.

    The DUP’s position of not powersharing, where it likes to think it is barring Sinn Fein from government, in reality, is barring itself (and unionism) from having much influence in decision making with HMG.

    Jude correctly points to the 7 councils system as a plan B for HMG. Whether the new councils’ powers are expanded signifcantly or not depends on unionists acceptance of powersharing (in the very near future).

    Plan B is a “stick” to the unionists, and Jude is simply putting forward the case that perhaps it should be a bigger “stick”.

    I don’t think his comments were aimed at unionists so much, as putting it up for discussion to nationalists and HMG.

    After all, it is only with nationalists (OK, mainly Sinn Fein publicly) and HMG that the new councils plans has acceptance and support anyway.

  • Yoda

    And it would not.

    Why do you think that, Pete?

  • The Beach Tree

    Pete

    Who says that’s the real issue? You? Who else? You may want it to be. I want to be 6ft 2, 240lbs of sheer muscle and play for ireland on Saturday. Want means nothing.

    Beano

    I can categorically assure you, both in terms of logic, and authority, that the adoption of a 6 (or 7) council plan, followed within say 15 years be agreed repartition is exponentially more likely than a re-gerrymandered ‘Londonderry’.

    There is nothing remotely ridiculous about repartition. Unlikely, quite possible. ridiculuous, absolutely not.

    Thatcher seriously considered it, but baulked at the Spelga Dam. Major was no fan, but Mayhew at one point was, especially for Derry.

    If you seriously believe that nationalists will not consider, and if necessary demand, repartition and/or joint authority in the face of continued unionist intransigence, belligerance and arrogance, I think you seriously underestimate how much disgust and contempt nationalists hold unionism in at the moment.

    I’ve rarely felt more nationalist scorn for unionism and unionists than I’m hearing now. I actually find it hard to talk people down from it, although, believe it or not, I try.

    And you seriously underestimate how much Hain, Blair (and Brown) simply want rid of the problem once and for all.

    For many nationalists, unionism is now seen as irredeemable. The rise of the DUP confirmed for many nationalists what they had suspected but hoped against. That a real equal deal with unionism, and the broad unionist community, is impossible. You can see it in the postings on this and other sites. And it’s not emminating from SF (currently ideologically opposed to repartition), it’s grass roots.

    I’ve suspected a genuine peace and genuine deal was impossible for 15 years. I take no perticular joy that I’m being proved right.

  • abucs

    “The Beach Tree”, i have to agree with your comments regarding repartition and grass roots nationalist feeling towards unionism in the face of continued power sharing refusal.

    It is easy to see nationalists deciding to go their own way in the western councils at some point. There is only so long you can wait for the likes of Lisburn council to engage with nationalists. And if they won’t, more and more nationalists will feel little compunction to do so with unionist minorites in the west.

    My feeling is that gradually, economics, trade, transport and security of the west will join with the republic in the absence of genuine partnership eminating from the east. Whether at some point there is a breaking away from NI or just a continual drift is difficult to say.

    One thing is for sure though, if unionists do not share power then the British government has made it very clear that they will not try to rule over nationalists against their will. There will be devolution in one form or another.

  • Crataegus

    Beech

    Fagus sylvatica is the botanical name for European Beech as opposed to say southern beech Nothofagus. Just making assumptions as to the type of beech. Does this show racist tendencies I wonder?

    The Fagus derives from Greek phagein which is I think to eat. Suppose it refers to the nuts.

    The Beech is my favourite European tree! Thoughts of Autumn strolls.

    “Would Derry baulk at collecting Donegal bins?”

    Would anyone in Donegal baulk at paying rates to Derry council?

  • Cahal

    Just watched Nigel Dodds on Hearts and Minds.

    These people will not negotiate an internal solution.

    Repartition now.

  • Alan

    There was an interesting debate in Westminster Hall on Wednesday on the RPA. It was particularly interesting for Angela Smith’s support for the 7 Council model. Her argument was that the only people contesting the changes are the politicians, the implication being that it was party political rather than economic or administrative interest that drove the opposition.

    It was interesting too that Peter Robinson, in contrast to the DUP’s position with the Education reforms, was asking that a majority of responses to the RPA be ignored because they were unrepresentative. Horses for courses, I suppose.

    The debate is at

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmhansrd/cm060201/halltext/60201h05.htm#60201h05_head0

    I read Collins piece as an example of wearying and inconsequential journalism, rather than a serious attempt to discuss either the RPA or the search for devolution. The connection is tenuous and certainly forced. We can expect more green and orange hype before talks begin. Time for an alternative, surely?

  • aquifer

    I’m sick of armed sectarian chauvinism and the indulgence of difference. Lets pay councillors a salary that attracts more than flag waving muppets, and invite half a million immigrants to teach us how to get a life.

  • lah dee dah

    Why not follow the govts logic to it’s end and have one council or other form of authority? One administration couldn’t be argued with.

  • elfinto

    Cahal,

    Repartition now, eh? Where would you draw the lines? How would you divvy up Belfast? Who would you consign to the new Orange state?

    What a desparate, foolish and frankly amoral idea!

  • fair_deal

    Persoanlly think 8 is the magic number in terms of councils and they should just use the westminster boundaries to speed the process and make boundaries contiguous and thus more comprehensible to joe public.

    The 4 belfast seats become one council while the remaining 14 Parliamentary cosntituencies should be paired up.

  • The Beach Tree

    Crataegus

    I remain your admiring pupil 😉

  • smcgiff

    Abucs/TBT,

    While I share your belief re nationalist sentiment I don’t think it is deep enough in sufficient numbers to agitate for repartition. Repartition would be a disaster and no greater formula for a return to full scale paramilitary activity from BOTH sides could exist. Nationalists and both governments know this.

    I would also be against Joint Authority. JA would ensure a UI would NEVER come about. To my mind JA will, in time, be unionism last trump card to retain the union for all time.

    Cutting the councils to 6 or 7 makes sense in so many ways, most importantly, in the real world, from a finance perspective.

  • DK

    smcgiff,

    You have hit the nail on the head – the seven council proposal is purely a money-saving wheeeze by HMG. Sinn Fein supporting it is just a bonus as it appeases them and might act as a stick against the unionists.

    If the nationalist councils want to repartition and join the Republic, even better for HMG as all the profit is made in the Belfast/North Down area – the rest is a drain by comparison. Would the Republic want the off-cuts from the N Ireland state though?

  • Shore Road Resident

    This article confirms that Jude Collins is the most overtly tribal supposedly ‘serious’ columnist in Northern Ireland. Depressing guff from a bitter old man.

  • George

    elfinito,
    “What a desparate, foolish and frankly amoral idea”

    The initial partition of this island was a desperate, foolish and amoral solution which has not surprisingly, 80 odd years later left us with an even more desperate, foolish and amoral problem.

    While repartition may not be ideal and is probably the last resort, at least it will take the majority of Irish people out of this desperate, foolish and amoral situation.

    If unionists don’t want to share power with the Irish minority in Northern Ireland then it is better that this Irish minority, or as many as possible, be given the power to rule themselves.

    It is certainly better than waiting another 85 years for unionism to step up to the plate.

    In the absence of devolution, giving the nationalist-controlled councils the power to forge ever-closer links south of the border with an eye on future cessession is becoming more and more attractive.

    If six councils means more nationalists live in these council areas then that should be considered.

    Let unionists stay in their union for eternity and let the Irish minority leave.

    I’d love a rosier solution where both sides exist in peace and harmony but that doesn’t look like ever happening.

    One thing is for certain the status quo is not going to remain and this boil is going to have be burst or it will burst itself.

  • abucs

    Hi smcgiff.

    I also don’t think there is sufficient support among nationalists for repartition at the moment and it’s not something i am advocating. I’m just speculating what options will be available to nationalists in the future.

    I do like the possibility of 3 well run western councils engaging with the rest of the country (oops sorry, island) without all the political simply British paranoia bullshit.

    I guess i am trying in a very unsuccessful way to get Unionists to realise that this is never going to be a solely orange state again, and they shouldn’t hold up shared politics in the forlorn hope that they are going to be back in control.

    About joint authority, i have to disagree.
    Sharing what has become NI seems an equal solution. I am thinking about the parity of esteem where both traditions can express their traditions. Although with Antrim politicians putting the Irish language on a par with Chinese recently, perhaps that too is a forlorn hope.

  • smcgiff

    DK,

    Want is probably the wrong word. I think accept would be more suitable.

    If a smooth transition were possible then the West of the Bahn would fit well into an enlarged Republic, and could probably be easier to assimilate than if all unionists were taken aboard at once.

    However, how smooth of a transition would be likely? You’d have the ‘not an inch’ brigade literally up in arms.* The relationship between the Republic and East of the Bahn (The new title of this state should have no mention Ireland in its title for unionism’s sake) would be at straining point. And that’s not even getting into the abandonment of the nationalists East of the Bahn to a situation that COULD resemble old Stormont.

    * Not that that would be a suitable reason to reject West of the Bahn in and of itself.

    Nope. Repartition that doesn’t include all of NI is an option to shift the problem not an outright solution.

  • smcgiff

    ‘I guess i am trying in a very unsuccessful way to get Unionists to realise that this is never going to be a solely orange state again, and they shouldn’t hold up shared politics in the forlorn hope that they are going to be back in control.’

    ‘About joint authority, i have to disagree.’

    How about repartition of West of the Bahn, and joint authority over East of the Bahn! 🙂

    That would almost be better than a full UI!!! 🙂

  • smcgiff

    ‘‘I guess i am trying in a very unsuccessful way to get Unionists to realise that this is never going to be a solely orange state again, and they shouldn’t hold up shared politics in the forlorn hope that they are going to be back in control.’’

    Meant to say – Good point!

  • abucs

    “How about repartition of West of the Bahn, and joint authority over East of the Bahn! :-)”

    i think you’re pushing it smcgiff. But OK then. :o)

  • mnob

    So we’re all agreed that the GFA is dead and everything is up for grabs again then ?

    Good to see a consensus amongst the Shinners and the DUP on this one.

    Maybe we can move on now.

  • jIM

    Will the repartitioned counties have a constitutional claim to the remaining counties of the Unionist statelet.

    Also just a thought but isn’t the IMC actually keeping the DUP from power…

  • barnshee

    George

    “Let unionists stay in their union for eternity and let the Irish minority leave. ”

    Here Here (or should that be there there”)

    Could no agreempore

  • elfinto

    The problem will only be sorted when the British tell the unionists in no uncertain terms that the game is up – the union is over and they must make their peace with the majority on the island.
    Until a British PM has the ‘cojones’ to do this we are doomed to perpetual insecurity.

    It’s worth remembering the apocalyptic threats of civil war made by the right in South Africa priorto the first democratic election in 1994. Their bluff was called and nothing happened. They could not hold back the tides of progress and nor can the unionists of Ulster.

  • Henry94

    mnob

    So we’re all agreed that the GFA is dead and everything is up for grabs again then ?

    The GFA was the last chance for this state. If it has failed everything is indeed up for grabs. The border (if we have to have one) should reflect the reality.

  • Cahal

    I assume SRR’s comments will be removed

    “This article confirms that Jude Collins is the most overtly tribal supposedly ‘serious’ columnist in Northern Ireland. Depressing guff from a bitter old man.”

    I think if you talked to a few nationalists, you would be surprised how many are in full agreement with him on many issues.

    As for the whole repartition thing: yes it would break my heart. Thinking about the possible treatment of any remaining Catholics in the new orange state, well, it totally puts me off the idea. I guess we are all in this together somehow….hey, Elflinto, you changed my mind…temporarily.

    But everthing else has failed. The unionists have proved to consistently shun any kind of meaningful powersharing arrangement.

    The crux of the matter is, we need to start using our imaginations. Are we really going to attempt another powersharing deal. The history of the north is littered with failed attempts at the same thing.

    I for one, think it is pointless to wait another 85 years for the unionists to realize the game is up.

  • Crataegus

    Aquifer

    I’m sick of armed sectarian chauvinism and the indulgence of difference. Let’s pay councillors a salary that attracts more than flag waving muppets, and invite half a million immigrants to teach us how to get a life.

    Know the feeling the problem is we may end up with well paid muppets, Kermit is very popular with the electorate.

  • elfinto

    Re: re-partition

    There can be no justification whatsoever for a single confession state in Ireland in the 21st century. The only way to rid ourselves of the curse of sectarianism is to adhere to the principle of a 32 county republic.

    The unionist argument is doomed. The British want shot of them. The unionists will ask for re-partition when the numbers eventually go against them. Do not give them ammunition to support their supremacist beliefs. The current situation is extremely frustrating but the aim of an all-Ireland republic is one aim which can never and will never be abandoned.

  • Cahal

    “The unionists will ask for re-partition when the numbers eventually go against them”

    With support for the union currently standing at well over 60%, when do you think this is likely to happen?

    And until then, what do we do? Sit tight? I don’t see too many unionists changing position on the constitutional question.

  • loyalist

    If the war was won, (and its a big if) it was won by the british armed forces. The ragtag bag of psychotics, fantasists and delinquents you revere were frankly a foolish irrelevance in the bigger picture, used and abused as was seen fit by greater forces.

    In reality, if you believe that the massed forces of the Colombian Marching Powder Secretariat will have any serious say in a repartitioning, well, i look forward to seeing you try.

    Defeat tasting bitter is it? In reality nationalists tend to vastly overestimate their military strength. In a repartition scenario we would hold on to most of the sixth, as we did in 21/22. The IRA campaign only got going when London nobbled the B-Specials, and it was only stopped when local prods were given a license in North Belfast and East Tyrone. Everyone has finally learned the lesson from that. A Dublin/Monaghan a day should do nicely.

  • loyalist

    Oh and its nice to see the papes finally give up on the whole “outbreeding” argument which they used to assure would deliver Irish unity some time soon. Looks like their number is up.

  • Alan

    And three local councils do not a repartition make.

    The only way forward is to abandon these twin irredentist nationalisms and replace mistrust with the experience of working side by side for the benefit of all. Then we might find the political scenery has shifted.

    If, however, all we have to offer one another is mutual antipathy then we will just re-live this torpid nightmare, with two communities shaking their dead in the other’s face.

    It really is that twisted, it really is that basic. Hate and bitterness get you nowhere.

  • PaddyReilly

    “Under the arrangement, 51 per cent of the North’s population would be living in majority unionist council areas and 49 per cent in nationalist council areas. That would be very close to the balance of voting figures in the last three elections here: in the 2005 Westminster election, the unionist vote was 51 per cent, in the District Council election of 2005 they got 49 per cent and a similar figure in the 2004 European election.“

    So Jude Collins. But how accurate are his figures?

    In the 2004 European Election, the two Unionist parties won 48.6% of the first preference votes, but 51.77% of the vote after redistribution from other parties, (the 2 Nationalist candidates ending up with 48.23%). This remarkably poor performance confirms something that many have asserted, and others denied, which is that the Nationalist vote is steadily rising. I calculate that it goes up by 1% every two years, and the Unionist vote goes down by the same. Thus, if the same election were held under the same conditions, we would expect:-

    June 2004 Unionists gain 51.77% of vote
    June 2005 Unionists gain 51.27% of vote
    June 2006 Unionists gain 50.77% of vote
    June 2007 Unionists gain 50.27% of vote
    June 2008 Unionists gain 49.77% of vote
    June 2009 Unionists gain 49.27% of vote

    So the exact moment when Nationalist voters exceed Unionists in NI will be January 2008, one year and eleven months from now.

    Thus I would regard a second seat for Unionists in the European Elections scheduled for 2009 as improbable, in 2014 as impossible.

    Repartition, in 1925, was a very good idea, and would have prevented a lot of bloodshed. To delay it to the exact moment when Nationalists outnumber Unionists seems to indicate a wish to reset the sectarian clock and keep the troubles brewing for another 50 years. A horrible prospect.

    No, the answer is, just hang on for another couple of years and then negotiate from a position of strength.

  • lib2016

    Paddyreilly,

    Nobody knows and fears those figures more than the DUP, hence the rush to form a ghetto in the coastal strip. Moreover after the ‘Save Dave’ debacle they realise that British support, if they could get it would be a disaster – look at the Martin Ingram nonsense which was being posted here and the way in which it has been rejected by all the longtime republican posters. Frankly the Brits don’t understand this country. Never did! Never will!

    The moment unionists are in a minority, and it won’t be long now, they will shamelessly decide that they favored power-sharing all along. The question is whether the nationist electorate will continue to support it.

  • Cahal

    Paddy, even when the nationalist vote exeeds the unionist vote, do you think a border poll would pass? I mean, are there not quite a few SDLP voters who would…you know…accidently sleep in that day.

    “No, the answer is, just hang on for another couple of years and then negotiate from a position of strength. ”

    Hope you are right. I am sensing a lot of anger and impatience in the grass roots right now.

  • PaddyReilly

    < >

    I don’t think Jude Collins on his own constitutes “the papes”. The argument, as far as I know, was first raised by Terence O’Neill, who deduced from the enrolment figures at Protestant and Catholic schools that the one would be outnumbered by the other within a lifetime. His solution was Liberal Unionism, designed to attract Catholic voters. He was thwarted by Catholic indifference and Paisleyite hostility.

    In those days the Catholic proportion of the population was barely a third, and pegged at that percentage by heavy discrimination: at elections, Nationalists didn’t even achieve that much. The outlawing of discrimination, which has been effective in most areas, allowed the Nationalist vote to start rising. It seems only a short while ago that it first passed 40%. To have exceeded 48% in 2004 shows which way things are going, and how rapidly.

    Equally, one should take comfort from the 2004 Unionist first preference vote: 48.6%. If anyone’s number is up, it is the intransigent UUP/DUP block. What this means is that all of NI, as an electorate, is in the same position as Belfast: the balance of power is held by Alliance. Unfortunately this party is so lacking in nous that, though it virtually dictated the GFA, it created a system which eliminates small parties. Nevertheless, this system, though it does not deliver change as rapidly as one might hope, cannot exclude it forever. As the Nationalist vote increases, we will move first into an era where there is a power sharing majority in the Assembly, as there is in Belfast, and not long afterwards into one where there is a Nationalist majority.

    So all in all, the GFA, after having an unsatisfactory first decade, will, given a little patience, finally deliver the goods in its second decade.

    < >

    I agree that a Nationalist vote of 50.01% would not guarantee a majority in a vote against partition. But with every successive augmentation of this percentage it becomes more likely. For this reason, it is better to do things in stages, the first being a vote for a fiscal union of Ireland, with petrol prices and corporation tax being brought down to ROI levels: this apparently enjoys cross community support. The next stage is to set up of the Council of Ireland, which falls far short of a United Ireland, and gradually devolve more powers to it.

    But I am curious as to the provence of this idea. If you really don’t want an United Ireland, why vote SDLP? Would not Alliance or the UUP be a better choice?

    I also suspect that in the end, Unionists will be voting for a UI, seeing it as way to exclude Sinn Fein is from power. There is no power sharing in the Republic, remember.

  • slug

    First off I’d like to thank Chris Donnely for a good first contribution to Slugger O’Toole. I think the discussion surrounding the seven councils is a bit repetitive, indeed Jude’s piece is more or less a repeat of ideas he presented 2 months ago. So perhaps I can throw in a few thoughts of my own, which I had driving back from Sainsburys this evening.

    First, there is the question of the size of the councils and here tere is an interesting benefit of larger council size (a benefit that has not been listed yet in this discussion). With the present 26 councils, there is a much greater chance of 1-party majorities. Over the last decade there have been councils controlled by the DUP, the SDLP, and the UUP. There has never been a SF-majority council – 2005 didn’t take them to that level of gain although it was close. With the 7 council model it is much more unlikely that a single party could dominate. That is a good thing, because councils with inbuilt party majorities are generally less democratic.

    Second, there is the question of how much power these councils will have. On the question of giving them more power, power that the Assembly would otherwise have, something to be said for decentralisation in a society with two main ethnic groups, such as NI. It helps to give each of the two groups a little bit of power in their own areas. It is a form of power sharing, an alternative to some of the methods that have been proposed and tried for the Assembly. Although there has been a tendancy for people to shout “balkanization” and “sectarian carve up” perhaps a better word is “cantonisation”. It doesn’t have to be seen as bad, which is possibly Jude’s point.

    Third, there are benefits in having the whole RPA discussion is going on at the same time as the Assembly discussion. This allows certain issues to be negotiated together. For instance, the parties might be willing to do a deal in which there is greater level of checks on individual ministers in the Executuve, in return for greater powers devolved to the Councils. Another issue that can be negotiated together is the extent of cross-community checks on council powers. For instance, these could constrain the power of the nationlaist or unionst controlled councils; such constraints could be negotiated as part of an overall package that decentralises power.

    In sum, there are plenty of details here which it is important to get right and which are best considered together with the Assembly/Executive discussions in a thorough and careful negotiation between the parties.

  • Elvis Parker

    Some desperately depressingly nationalist stuff on here. Repartition, Joint Authority, blah blah and then back to ‘we’re just about to outbred them’. I appreciate your frustration guys but it takes two to tango. You cant castigate the DUP with putting some of the blame on SF/IRA
    The voting and demographic figures – pt your caluclators away guys yer on a loser.
    Repartition/Joint authority – not on the agenda – any more than a return to an Orange State.
    3 Nationalists councils ‘aligning’ with the Republic – as someone points out they are the poor three and anyhow councils are the poor relations not real power.
    The most desperate bit was the idea that Blair and co will face the unionists down any day – Jesus he cant even control his own Party any more! Nationalists need to smell the coffee they have little time to cut a deal and get the Assembly going. They may well have to dance to the DUP tune (on policing,etc) as in another 6 months it might well be plain that Labour are on there way out and the Tories on there way in. Tories will not pander to SF like Blair

    Nope were are all stuck with each other in dear old NI/Six Counties. Gerry, Martin and all know this hence why they sued for peace and got the GFA
    A functioning Assembly would be best for all in NI – but that will require supporting the police and the final realisation that the ‘solution’ is equality and diversity for nationalist and unionists – but well and truely in the UK

  • PaddyReilly

    < >

    Well it’s obvious that you don’t use calculators, or spell-checkers for that matter. But for the benefit of the numerate and the literate, my thesis remains. As of two years ago, die-hard Unionists no longer constitute the majority of the electorate of NI. The beneficiaries of this transition will in the first instance be the Alliance Party, but after a certain period, Nationalist parties will predominate. The question is, would they then favour a United Ireland? If Sinn Féin is guaranteed participation in a NI govt, is it in its interest to vote for a United Ireland, where it can be excluded from office?

    As for an Assembly, it’s best to wait till 2008 before attempting to elect one, by which time power-sharing parties will probably be in a majority.

    As for the PSNI, this is a highly unsatisfactory body which certain Nationalist parties rightly regard as showing political bias. It is a recognized principle over much of the world that a policeman does not serve in his own province. The answer is to send Ulster born police to serve in Britain, and recruit the PSNI from England and the Republic on a 50/50 basis.

  • abucs

    “The only way forward is to abandon these twin irredentist nationalisms and replace mistrust with the experience of working side by side for the benefit of all. Then we might find the political scenery has shifted. ”

    Sure, but it seems more and more likely that it won’t be done on a 6 county gerrymandered basis.
    NI continues to fail in promoting anything along those lines.

  • abucs

    Alan, on the contrary. NI continues to promote the likes of Stoneyford. The mindset of “this is our place and you can bugger off”.

    Whether it be drawing boundaries, police, housing, politics, investment or antrim loyalists. That is the mindset that NI promotes.

    You have the leader of unionism now refusing to meet with the Irish government because he doesn’t want to discuss NI with a foreign government.

    Foreign government !!!

    50 years of one party misrule, 30 years of war and he comes out with that.

    Yes, we’d all like to live together in peace Alan but while NI creates this “us and them” mentality where WE DON’T EVEN TALK to the other side, how are we supposed to get along here. Nationalists have been very patient waiting, but we don’t see any coming together as equals. And we absolutely don’t trust any politics where unionism has the controlling say.

    What are we supposed to think ? Despite all the past misrule, TODAY you won’t even talk to us. And you think maybe we should get along and give you guys control ? Please, don’t insult my intelligence.

  • Cahal

    “the final realisation that the ‘solution’ is equality and diversity for nationalist and unionists – but well and truely in the UK”

    I don’t and won’t accept this. I, like many others, will not give up the aspiration of a UI within my life time. It is wishful thinking on the part of unionism to believe any different.

  • Cahal

    …and we’ve been waiting for this mythical equality for over 80 years. We’re hardly likely to see it within a state whose whole raison d’etre is INequality.

    First step: talk to the people who represent us.

  • Daugavas

    “In the 2004 European Election, the two Unionist parties won 48.6% of the first preference votes, but 51.77% of the vote after redistribution from other parties, (the 2 Nationalist candidates ending up with 48.23%).
    June 2004 Unionists gain 51.77% of vote
    June 2005 Unionists gain 51.27% of vote
    June 2006 Unionists gain 50.77% of vote ”

    Paddy Reilly, a spectacularly flawed analysis that is proof of nothing other than the old adage that their are lies, damned lies and nationalist wishful thinking.

    Four very big problems with your analysis
    1) Speculation about Unionists losing their majority at the next election was made as early as 1997 when the Unionist vote had fallen to 50.3% and here we are a decade later with Unionist support actually higher than it was then.

    2) The Euro elections have often tended to exaggerate the nationalist vote. In 1999 the Nationalist Euro vote was 45.4% and it was lower in subsequent elections including 2004 so if you’re right about these being a proxy border poll (a very dubious theory indeed) then support for a United Ireland has actually fallen since 1999. Of course we could also put an alternative and more realistic analysis on the figures ie that they are simply an election to a relatively unimportant parliament and voters did not view it as a border poll.

    3) Elections in 2005 ring any bells? There were Westminster and local council elections in that year. So you can replace your pointless speculation for June 2005 with the actual figures. The Unionist vote in the Westminster election was 51.8% against 41.8% for Nationalists. In the locals 49.6 vs 41.0. Which suggests (again using your flawed logic) that support for the Union is rising not falling.

    4) Your figures are just plain wrong anyway to the point of being dishonest.

    The end result of the Euro election was
    DUP+UUP = 284378 (51.77%)
    SF+SDLP = 253072 (46.07%)
    Non transferable votes 11827 (2.16%)

    So the nationalist candidates did not end up with 48.23%. Moreover of those non transferables 968 came from the DUP (the rest from the centre)so adjusting the figures and ignoring the centre candidates we end up with 285346 Unionist versus 253072 Nationalist. Or 53% versus 47%. Of course all of that ignores the significantly lower turnout in Unionist areas and so on so I wouldn’t start booking the party for January 2008 just yet!

  • PaddyReilly

    So I calculated that the result of a EU election in June 2005 would have given a 51.27% Unionist vote, whereas in the Westminster election it was a whopping great 51.8%! My predictions are out by 0.53%! I can handle that. The point is that Westminster elections give a different result to EU ones, because the votes are not transferable, and because the province is divided into constituencies, where the result is often a foregone conclusion. Equally, as there is no second preference voting, there is no way of telling how an Independent or Centrist voter would vote in a straight fight between Unionism and Nationalism. That is why the EU elections are so much more informative.

    < >

    Well if you are right, I am out by 1%: but in terms of relative decline in the Unionist vote that is only two years. What all these election results show is that the Unionist vote is hovering just above the half way mark and the Nationalist vote just below. Precisely how long can this state of affairs continue? 47% is a very significant growth: how long is it since it turned 40: about 13 years isn’t it? How long then till it turns 50?

    Equally, a majority of 30,000 voters in an electorate of over a million isn’t exactly unassailable. Especially since 5 years previously it was more than twice that. So as I say, 2 seats for the Unionists in 2009 is improbable: in 2014, impossible.

    As for the lower turnout in Unionist areas, which is supposed to correct itself in a border poll, all this could signify is a Nationalist controlled Assembly with the Province remaining for a few more years in the UK. Perhaps a good thing: it means the Republic will inherit less of a problem.

    Actually, both of us are overlooking the untransferable Centrists. I counted them as Nationalists, but you are treating them as spoilt votes. They still are capable of influencing events.

    So January 2008 retains its significance, because this is the date on which it is predicted that first and second preference Unionists will fall below 50%; this remains the case. That they will not then be exceeded by Nationalists, but only by first and second preference Nationalists lumped together with untransferable Centrists, doesn’t really matter: I wasn’t recommending a border poll in that year. What it means is that there is a chance, mounting with every succeeding year through a likelihood to a certainty, that any Assembly election held will give Alliance the balance of power. After about one session of this, there should be votes enough to bring about a United Ireland.

    Thus 2008, if not exactly the date of the end of the world, must be accounted the beginning of the rapture.

    The moral dilemma is this. Your grandfather is 98. You are desperate to inherit his land. One doctor says he has cancer, the other says he hasn’t. Do you just hang on there, or do something unethical?

    My take is, what’s the big hurry? Building a United Ireland depends on a lot of little, insignificant acts, registering to vote, bringing up children, making sure you don’t get burnt out, starting businesses, surviving. The heroic freedom fighters, the eloquent politicians, all these are a side-show.

  • daugavas

    hi paddy,

    i still think that much of it is speculation and we will have to wait and see. i think ultimately transpolating euro election results or westminster results into some sort of spurious border poll may be fun as a parlour game but is of a limited value as a pointer as to how things will go in the future and the problem with stats is that you can read them whatever way you want. for example the euro elections and last assembly elections arguably represented a strengthening of unionists versus nationalists. the former gained a seat in the assembly elections while the latter election saw nationalist first preferences decline.

    i would also say that there are a number of other factors to be taken into account. both anecdotal and empirical evidence (local govt. and assembly transferred votes) raises question marks over the committment of sdlp voters to a united ireland as frequently they prefer to transfer to alliance or other centre candidates rather than sinn fein. i think there are other factors such as a changing political landscape , greater focus on trans-national issues etc etc which may cloud the picture.

    ultimately i,d say that we are more likely to reach a sort of glorified no overall control situation similar to belfast city council where a dwindling centre vote holds the balance of power between the two blocs. the sooner the better really!

    ps excuse the grammar as the caps lock is screwed!

  • PaddyReilly

    Well yes it is speculation, but such psephological analyses were remarkably accurate in predicting the outcome of the last election in England and Wales: no shocks there. NI is if anything even more predictable, if you count Unionist and Nationalist parties as a solid block: though much slower moving.
    The point about a 50.3% Unionist vote in whichever election it was in 1997 is that the relevant outcome of that election was not percentage, but number of seats won. Unionists therefore voted optimally to win the election, remaining in bed when they were not needed: I’m sure they didn’t get only 50.3% of the seats. Equally, when Martin McGuinness first stood for Mid Ulster, I suspect a lot of Unionists voted SDLP, and then reverted to voting Unionist when they found this was unsuccessful: which would give the appearance of the Unionist vote rising.
    But in a EU election, where there is only one constituency, overall percentage matters.
    It is only to be expected that SDLP voters would favour Alliance over Sinn Féin for their 2nd prefs: this indicates an antipathy to Sinn Féin, but I don’t think this translates into an antipathy for a United Ireland. Some UUP voters may have given their 4th or 5th prefs to the SDLP: but I wouldn’t count them as Nationalist.
    Sinn Féin could easily become the largest party in the 6 cos, but in a UI its influence would be much smaller. A vote for a UI is thus a vote to diminish the influence of Sinn Féin.
    Perhaps any SDLP voters who are reading would kindly inform us what their intentions are in such an eventuality.
    Yes the Belfastisation of the entire province is on the cards: any time after Jan 2008 by my calculations. But how long will it last? Alliance has held the balance on Belfast Council for some time now, longer than one would have expected, given the tiny number of seats that they hold. The reason for this is I think that Belfast is already fully built up and fully occupied. Homeless inhabitents are thus shipped out to the adjoining districts, leaving the sectarian geography and balance of power intact. But NI under no-overall-control would not operate under these conditions, so one would expect that Alliance would soon lose the balance: but to the SDLP, not Sinn Féin.

  • lib2016

    “…Belfast is already fully built up and fully occupied. Homeless inhabitants are thus shipped out…”

    Up until recently there were very few areas within Belfast for upwardly mobile nationalists to move into. Hence the quiet takeover of certain formerly unionist-dominated villages as noted by Mr. Molyneux last year.

    We’re now in a situation where the sectarian troubles are winding down, especially in owner-occupier territory, so I wouldn’t give up on Belfast becoming nationalist at the next election.

    The ‘Love-Ulster’ success in drawing attention to the fact that unionist areas were getting more than their share of goodies like funding and housing will help of course.