Apathy: greater threat to Nationalism than Unionism…

Although it is sadly missing from our archives (due to a nasty accident on the server of a previous UK-based host) our first on-the-ground foray was the November Assembly Election in 2003. It was an awesome experience. Not least because of the way activists and voters turned out in such huge numbers. But it seems apathy is a growing factor here as elsewhere in the UK. American Student Patrick Lane says it’s an element that Unionist politicians (whose base has always suffered much more from apathy than nationalism) should forge a strategy to use it to their advantage…By Patrick Lane

Forget the armalite, try apathy…

A recent BBC report notes that apathy, unlike home prices, is on the rise and has been for some time across the UK. This trend proves especially true in NI:

“Sixty years ago, three quarters of those entitled to vote in Northern Ireland exercised their right. By 2005, the number staying at home had risen to more than a third…

Explanation for the growth takes several factors into account; with the end of the Troubles and, until recently, an improved economy, the emigration flow has slowed considerably with evidence that the “brain drain” of young professionals drifting overseas has been stemmed. In Northern Ireland over the past five years, there has been a huge influx of foreign nationals, particularly from eastern Europe.

In terms of age profile, Northern Ireland comes second in the UK with an average age of 36.8 compared with 42.6 in Cornwall and 41.7 in Scotland. At opposite ends of the spectrum, 6.4% of the NI population is under five, with 16% of pensionable age or over.”

While indifference has apparently permeated NI society, these apathetic people amazingly still find the time and the motivation to answer surveys.

As the social thermometer of NI, the 2007 Life and Times Survey reports, voter disregard for the political system varies little by religion, and therefore may indeed vary little by personal preference of the constitutional status of NI. So with an equal amount on both sides of the political spectrum indifferent to politics, what about utilizing the apathy of the electorate as a political tool?

For instance the DUP could propose an Irish Language Act to appease a segment of the nationalist populace, hopefully lulling a further percentage of nationalists into the ranks of the apathetic. Through the appeasement of several nationalist demands (i.e. ILA, P & J), the unionist parties could take the proverbial wind out the sails of Sinn Fein, further removing any pragmatic benefit of a shift in the constitutional status of NI. Of course one could argue that this strategy of appeasement leading to apathy will backfire on the unionist parties, which it very well might, but one could also argue that this strategy is currently in effect, albeit implicit, slow, and with conditions.

Apathy exists as a far greater threat to nationalism than unionism, as a small, but sizeable number of Catholics prefers the union to a UI. Since demographics and political realities favor unionism, nationalism must offer something beyond an ideology to convince those ‘garden center’ Protestants and disaffected Catholics that a UI will be in their best interests. Nationalists must act to stem the tide of apathy within the ranks of their traditional supporters, while hoping that those of a unionist background grow apathetic not only to NI politics, but also to the border.

If this trend continues perhaps NI’s major political parties will broaden their appeals to a greater portion of the populace, no longer catering to one half of the political divide, which of course relies upon Sinn Fein and the DUP undergoing a public relations transformation. I could just be a hopeful American who voted for Obama, but apathy might just change the nature of NI politics.

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  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Mick

    “In terms of age profile, Northern Ireland comes second in the UK with an average age of 36.8 compared with 42.6 in Cornwall and 41.7 in Scotland.”?

    Do you mean 2nd youngest?

    In terms of apathy the recent details released by the electoral office for the registartion of voters (which I didnt see a thread on Slugger for) showed some suprising reults with West Belfast lowest in the take up and the figures not obviously following the higher nationalsit demographics.

    http://www.eoni.org.uk/press_release_01-12-9.pdf

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s Patrick’s piece, not mine Sammy… If you want a thread, just drop us a line… But yes that is very interesting with a European election coming up…

  • kensei

    Inertia is probably the world’s strongest force. I’m not so sure that attempting to “kill unification with kindness” is a worthwhile strategy though; if you look at Scotland the dynamics seem much more complicated than that.

    And apathy has it’s own dangers. Apathy, as has been pointed out, is a general phenomenon and encouraging it risks a situation where you get a bad loss based on a low turnout. It also advantages your opponent if they can come up with better ideas. But perhaps more importantly, it in some sense weakens the dynamic process and stops people caring about important things.

    So no, I don’t think it’s a good idea for anyone.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    … the recent details released by the electoral office for the registartion of voters showed some suprising results …

    Could be due to the locations of the schools that the EONI targetted?

    Other things are wierd in that press release. They talk of 10,798 electors being removed from the register due to death, while the number of deaths in 2007 was 14,600 – almost entirely people over 18. So there are at least 3,800 dead people still on the register. Who will cast their votes next year?

    [http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/demography/publications/births_deaths/deaths_2007.pdf]

  • Dk

    Horseman – could it be that some of the dead weren’t registered. Might be more likely than mass voter fraud taht you imply.

  • eire

    Slugger webarchive, including entries from November 2003 available at:

    http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.sluggerotoole.com

  • eire
  • Dk,

    … could it be that some of the dead weren’t registered …

    Old people are notoriously keen on voting (usually they have the highest turnout), so while some may not have been registered I’d be very surprised if all 3,800 were not registered!

    I’m not claiming that there is (yet) any fraud, but there may well be 3,800 unused Electoral Identity Cards all across NI just tempting people to use them ….

  • An Lochlannach

    “…the recent details released by the electoral office for the registartion of voters… showed some suprising reults with West Belfast lowest in the take up…”

    Could it be that they began from a higher base? Hard to show much of an increase if there wasn’t a shortage to begin with.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    An Lochlannach

    “Could it be that they began from a higher base? Hard to show much of an increase if there wasn’t a shortage to begin with. ”

    These figures show newly registered voters – not just the ones that are part of the Norn Iron Electoral Office scheme (I think).

    Suprised if SF have not been crawling all over these figures.

  • fair_deal

    “For instance the DUP could propose an Irish Language Act to appease a segment of the nationalist populace, hopefully lulling a further percentage of nationalists into the ranks of the apathetic. Through the appeasement of several nationalist demands (i.e. ILA, P & J), the unionist parties could take the proverbial wind out the sails of Sinn Fein, further removing any pragmatic benefit of a shift in the constitutional status of NI.”

    Nice theory shame that the electoral evidence of the last 20 years or so says the opposite. Nationalist concerns/issues/demands were repeatedly addressed and the result was a growth in the nationalist vote. It did not succeed in assuaging or mollifying nationalism rather fed a narrative of momentum towards unity.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Fair_deal

    The Nationalist Uncle Toms (NUTS) are an elusive and trickey bunch.

  • eranu

    NI still has a good bit to go to rediscover, feel ownership of, and be comfortable with its irishness, not a similarity with the ROI or its politics, just being from ireland. it also has a bit to go in being comfortable with its britishness, simply the irish bit of the multi country UK, sharing those hard to define common ‘things’ with the rest of the UK.
    i think once the mad extremes have calmed down we will have an identity that pretty much all are comfortable with, (a recent survey in the bel tel showed an increasing number of people finally figuring out that irishness and britishness arent mutually exclusive) at that stage who could be bothered going on about a UI? it must take alot of energy for nationalists to constantly make sure they dont accidently say Northern Ireland, and to make sure they dont let any feelings of association with NI things develop in themselves. its strange to watch NI nationalists talking on TV in a way to try and distance themselves from NI, when they are infact the NI people. i think people will eventually tire of using up their energy on such things. normal everyday life will rightly occupy peoples thoughts.

  • PaddyReilly

    A small, but sizeable number of Catholics prefers the union to a UI.

    There is indeed a tiny number of Catholics who vote Unionist, matched no doubt by an equal number of Protestants who vote Nationalists. But I suspect the reference here is to a more substantial number of Nationalist voters whom Unionist optimists, misusing the data drawn from opinion polls, have put down as expressing Unionist sentiments. The actual sentiment expressed is more likely to be that, following the GFA, the 6 counties should remain in the UK until such time as there is a Nationalist majority. Which is after all what everyone voted for. The polls make no attempt to find out how their “Unionist Catholics” intend to vote in such a circumstance.

    If you wish to know which side is going to win an election anywhere in NI, checking the census data for Catholic and Protestant is a usually fail-safe method, if you can work out what “No religion or religion not stated” really means.

    Since demographics and political realities favor Unionism

    This should really read demographics and political realities have in the past favoured Unionism. The Unionist majority in 2004 (EP), after receiving transfers from the centrist candidates, was about the size of the district of Carrickfergus. When this matter is decided again next year I imagine it will be down to the size of a very small village, if that.

    Apathy I find is soonest dispelled by the possibility of your vote making a difference. Back in the 60s County Armagh was about 48% Catholic but the Nationalist vote was much lower, and Unionists used to point this out as an example of Catholic Unionism. However the moment the %age passed 50 the vote shot up, and only the fact that the County had conveniently been abolished saved it from going green.

    In the US, nonagenarians who had never voted in their life registered and voted for Obama. Because he was black and so were they. Because this was the first time they believed their vote made a difference.

    In NI there are 3 constituencies where the vote is apathetically low: E Antrim, N Down and Stranford. The only way to cure this would be to redraw them with a major Nationalist component so they were in effect marginals. If something was at stake people would turn out. But I imagine that at European parliamentary elections, they do.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    PaddyReilly,

    “This should really read demographics and political realities have in the past favoured Unionism. The Unionist majority in 2004 (EP), after receiving transfers from the centrist candidates, was about the size of the district of Carrickfergus. When this matter is decided again next year I imagine it will be down to the size of a very small village, if that. ”

    What is puzzling is why your thesis above has not been examined properly by academics(most/all say it is too hard because of immigrants, Uncle Tomery etc). It the demographic growth between 1991 and 2001 were repeated up until 2011 – there were would be a Nationalist community Background of 46.2 and I think by now Belfast is probably majority Nationalist though that includes the under agers for voting.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it,

    … I think by now Belfast is probably majority Nationalist …

    No, Belfast (as it currently is – City Council boundaries, 2005 results) has a nationalist plurality: 47.7% against 43.4% unionist.

    In terms of ‘community’, Belfast is still slightly more Protestant than Catholic (in 2001 at least, but that is changing quite fast): 48.6% Protestant, 47.2% Catholic.

    Strangely, the electorate is more Protestant than the vote is unionist. The electorate was (in 2001) 51.6% Protestant, but obviously more Protestants either failed to vote or voted for the Alliance Party than Catholics.

    Still, Belfast s fast changing, so by 2011 it may be quite different compared to 2001 and 2005.

  • PaddyReilly

    What is puzzling is why your thesis above has not been examined properly by academics

    Why bother? I’m predicting the results of the 2009 election, which will be out in 6 months. Surely you can wait till then? It is an observable fact that since the inception of EUP elections, the Unionist vote has gone down by a fairly constant 1% every two years.

    If you want a censal explanation for this, then I would suggest that it is because Protestants vastly outnumber Catholics among the elderly, so every year there are significantly less Protestants and thus less Unionist voters around.

    In 2004 the Unionist vote was 48.6% first pref, boosted by 4% of transfers from the Centrist candidates. In 2009 I would expect 46.1%. If they can work the transfers they might just win a second seat, but by the narrowest of margins.

    As for Belfast Council, you can work it out for yourself.

    2005 Results: by party
    SF: 30,531 (30.6%), 14 seats
    DUP: 25,722 (25.8%), 15 seats
    SDLP: 17,058 (17.1%), 8 seats
    UUP: 13,756 (13.8%), 7 seats
    Alliance: 6,808 (6.8%), 4 seats
    Green: 801 (0.8%)
    PUP: 2,713 (2.7%), 2 seats
    WP: 698 (0.7%)
    Soc: 338 (0.3%)
    Cons: 243 (0.2%)
    Ind: 1007 (1%), 1 seat

    The Independent was a Unionist. But still, for the two Nationalist parties (already on 47.7%) to reach a absolute majority, it needs, what, a thousand extra Nationalist votes? Do you think they don’t have this already, if there were an election? Belfast has an even faster turnover than the rest of the province, what with people moving to the seaside to retire, and moving in to work. Horseman’s data is correct for 2001 and 2005, and thus out of date.

  • Mack

    Sammy & Paddy – After the 2001 census the impression was created that unionism had “won” the census for a number of reasons.

    1. The 1991 census returns contained a large number who did not answer the religous background question. O’Grada and Walsh of UCD – used a number of techniques to estimate the Catholic not stated. They came up with an upper bound figure significantly higher than previous estimates. This led to exagerated estimates of the size of the Catholic population prior to the release of the 2001 census, and perhaps among those who were pushing this agenda to a sense of disappointment & a loss of credibility.

    http://irserver.ucd.ie/dspace/handle/10197/398

    http://www.ucd.ie/gsi/pdf/35-1/ethnic.pdf

    2. You can break population growth due to births into a number of abstrations.

    e.g.

    Total number of births
    Birth rate (1st derivative of number of births)
    Change in the birth rate

    In 2001 the score card looked like this

    Total no. of births : Approxiamte equality
    Birth rate : Catholic birth rate higher
    Change in birth rate : Catholic birth rate falling faster than Protestant birth rate.

    It’s difficult to project future demographics from past trends (just like stock market investments) as things change. It looks like the official analysis and projections took the second derivative (the rate of change in the birth rate) as being the most significant – and hence projected that Catholics would never out number Protestants in Northern Ireland. (Because the birth rates appeared to be converging – see narrative fallacy). Arguing this was a victory for Unionism. Even if birth rates did converge the Catholic population would increase for some time.

    However from NISRA stats we can guessitimate the current score card as

    Total no. of births : Approxiamte equality
    Birth rate : Catholic birth rate higher
    Change in birth rate : Catholic birth rate rising faster than Protestant birth rate.

    See comment #9 on this page as to how that guessitimate was arrived at

    http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/bertie-51-plus-one-is-not-enough/P50/

    For me, one of the most important aspects of the changing demography within Northern Ireland is that it reduces the possibility for one community excercising dominance over the other (even in the event of a UI, I don’t see southerners attempting to impose anything culturally on northerners – except maybe, like the mainland British respect for law etc). The process of change should also be slow enough, to ensure that there is enough time for progress in both communities in terms of mutual cultural respect.

  • PaddyReilly

    Strangely, the electorate is more Protestant than the vote is unionist. The electorate was (in 2001) 51.6% Protestant, but obviously more Protestants either failed to vote or voted for the Alliance Party than Catholics.

    No, the fault lies in your methodology in correlating a 2001 census with a 2005 election. I would expect at least a 2% decline in the Unionist vote for these 4 years: the results of the 1999 and 2004 EUP elections bear this out. Belfast may well be changing twice as fast as the province as a whole.

  • Mack

    Eranu – Most of the ideas in your comment are excellent. I would take issue with the idea that building a common identity to reduce the desire for the preffered constitutional outcome of nationalist / republicans is desirable / sensible / would work at all.

    A truly common Northern Irish identity should help nuetralise the intense constitutional fears felt on both sides. Meaning that any constitutional outcome (change or not) would be less painful for all concerned. Of course, there are many other options in the long term than just UK or UI, e.g. an empowered northern population might feel confident in running their own show themselves.

    I would regard some status for Ulster Gaelic as a pretty essential pillar in building such a common identity. I’m sure others have views on cultural artefacts that are equally important too.

  • No, the fault lies in your methodology in correlating a 2001 census with a 2005 election.

    Sorry, PaddyReilly, but that’s not correct.

    You can also correlate the 2001 local election resuls with the 2001 census, and you get a unionist total (2001) of 44.9% (nationalist total of 45.9%).

    So while Protestants were 51.6% of the 2001 electorate, unionists received only 44.9% of the vote. My point still stands.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Mark,

    thanks for that – have not had time to go through it fully bit one quick query. In relation to “In 2001 the score card looked like this :Total no. of births : Approxiamte equality ”

    According to census figures those at age zero are broken down as Cat. Backg 10,526 : Prod. Backg
    9081 Other 93: Non Declared 1986

    Are these the figures you are describing as “Approxiamte equality” ? But that is a 48% to 41% with 10% undeclared ? But as I dont do stats very well I may have missed something obvious.

  • Dewi

    You are right Sammy – I was wondering about the approximate equality bit.

    The next census is going to be complex to analyse however. As far I can understand only citizens (six year residence and a daft test) get to vote. The census counts all people not just those registered. So you will have “Of a Catholic background” maybe magnified by ineligible Eastern European non-citizens. Difficult.

    I also wonder about poulation movement from England. 6% of NI people born in England – are these primarily people of Irish extraction returning home? No idea.

    Paddy – it’s a strange phenomenon of the Euro elections that Unionist turnout seems to be historically low. As the Nationalist %age of the electorate rises I suspect the Unionist turnout rate will increase.

    A border poll in 2011 would be wonderful for geeks. Almost a good enough reason to hold one…..

  • Mack

    Sammy – it’s unclear how to interpret the young undeclared. Horseman on his site suggests they may be the children of mixed mariages, others have speculated that they are mostly Protestant (since they occur to a greater extent in majority protestant areas – see fig 2. http://www.ined.fr/fichier/t_publication/792/publi_pdf2_pop_and_soc_english_390.pdf)

    I had actually meant to write a proviso along the lines of that there may be a small Catholic majority beside the term approximate equality. The school census has tended to show around 50-52% stated Catholics for most of the last decade (you still have some problems with undeclared there too).

    But, if you are looking at NI demographics and take the least “positive for Catholics” interpretation of current demographic data – you’re still looking at growing Catholic numbers and an emergent majority.

    At the very least, this should spur unionism into trying to find a way to accomodate nationalist cultural concerns. Nationalists (still currently the minority) should be aware nothing is certain and be equally generous to unionists on their cultural concerns.

  • PaddyReilly

    Horseman

    So while Protestants were 51.6% of the 2001 electorate, unionists received only 44.9% of the vote

    No, Nicholas Whyte’s site

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

    gives the Protestant percentage as 48.59%.

    Mack

    It’s difficult to project future demographics from past trends

    This is not entirely the case. As there was a trend for Catholics to have larger families in the past and the outlawing of discrimination meant they no longer were forced to immigrate to the extent of their surplus, so there is now a huge number of elderly Protestants compared with a much smaller number of elderly Catholics.

    In 2001 there were 1,831 Catholics over the age of 90, and 5,305 Protestant, 4,569 Catholics aged between 85 and 90, and 11,468 Protestants.

    As there has been no change in the trend for persons over 85 to relocate to a different sphere, the number of Protestants on the electoral role will continue to diminish for the next 55 years approximately.

    But yes, there has been too much concentration on the falling Catholic birth rate and insufficient attention paid to the higher Protestant death rate.

  • Mack

    Paddy –
    ” Mack – It’s difficult to project future demographics from past trends

    This is not entirely the case”

    I agree, but things can change. Case in point

    “But yes, there has been too much concentration on the falling Catholic birth rate”

    The Catholic birth rate is rising! And probably rising faster than the Protestant birth rate (the unkown in the mix is immigration).

  • PaddyReilly

    it’s a strange phenomenon of the Euro elections that Unionist turnout seems to be historically low

    I see no evidence of this at all. There may be a higher than usual Nationalist turnout due to the fact that they are now placed in a super-constituency (the whole 6 counties) where every vote counts, as opposed to being placed in a Unionist constituency (North Down, for example) where there is no possibility of a Nationalist win.

    But it’s a different type of contest to Stormont or Westminster. There are only three seats which can only be won by a major Nationalist or Unionist party. The tendency of the percentages to be diminished by mickey mouse centrist and ducking the question parties is eliminated. You have to come down on the Nationalist or Unionist side or waste your vote.

    As the Nationalist %age of the electorate rises I suspect the Unionist turnout rate will increase

    As the Nationalist %age of the electorate rises the Nationalist turnout will rise as well. The Obama effect: when there’s actually a chance of your side winning you get off de rass and go down de poll station and register.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Mack, PaddyReilly

    the point I made earlier still stands – we do not have serious academic study of the 2001 census figures to project the Year of the Fenian in Belfast and Norn Iron as a whole. This seems strange allowing for the fact that it is trickey -trickeyness can normally be allowed for by the old chesnut of margin of error.

    The figures (registration of new voters) above for West Belfast are pretty incredible – with 1550 11 year olds (in 2001) yielding only 159 new voters and the corresponding figures for Foyle are 1819 and 1793????

  • PaddyReilly

    The Catholic birth rate is rising

    Well I’m glad to hear it, but I suspect it must be the Poles. None of my contemporaries have distinguished themselves in the reproduction stakes.

    But all of this is for the future. It will take at least a generation for Polish immigrants to be absorbed into the general Catholic population and take the slightest interest in local politics. Those born today can only effect elections in 2027. The difficulties Unionists will encounter in achieving a majority in 2009, 2010 and 2011 are much more interesting.

  • There may be a higher than usual Nationalist turnout due to the fact that they are now placed in a super-constituency (the whole 6 counties) where every vote counts, as opposed to being placed in a Unionist constituency (North Down, for example) where there is no possibility of a Nationalist win.

    There are also a number of Westminster constituencies held by nationalists that will never be won by unionists in a month of Sundays. Try again.

  • Mack

    Sammy – “we do not have serious academic study of the 2001 census figures to project the Year of the Fenian in Belfast and Norn Iron as a whole”

    I sort of agree. There were academic studies & projections coming out of QUB, but they are flawed. My opinion is that they suffer from the narrative fallacy (“the birth rates are converging”), the narrative now looks suspect.

    The day of the non-Ulster Protestant is probably very close given immigration levels into NI and the rising birth rate this decade.

  • PaddyReilly

    We do not have serious academic study of the 2001 census figures to project the Year of the Fenian

    Censuses record religious preference among those who are keen to disclose the fact. A substantial proportion do not, which spoils the whole game. They are not strictly speaking of any use in predicting political trends. Concentrate on elections, which are held almost every year in NI. Unless your interest is actually on uptake of the sacraments.

  • Mack

    Paddy – “Well I’m glad to hear it, but I suspect it must be the Poles.”

    That’s the great unknown. Birth rates are rising across NI. Has immigration been uniform?

  • dewi

    Mack – rising birth rates? Not sure about that – just more Catholics of a child bearing age. With all these distorting factors am not sure of the utility of the census as an indication of political intent. If a border poll could be held without violence and with nationalist participation it would be interesting at the very least.

  • PaddyReilly

    There are also a number of Westminster constituencies held by nationalists that will never be won by unionists in a month of Sundays

    But they don’t give up trying do they? Also at Stormont there is only one constituency (W Belfast) where Unionists cannot win at least one seat, and yet even here they seem blissfully unaware of the fact.

    No, I see no evidence of Unionist apathy at Euro elections.

  • ggn

    “If a border poll could be held without violence”

    Why do you think that loyalists are keeping their weapons?

    Why are the British government content with that?

    Why are unionists not calling for a crackdown on loyalists paras?

    Let us not forget that the security forces have admitted that they know where the weapons are.

    Its a joke. And it aint democracy.

  • dewi

    On hand held Paddy – when I get home I’ll get the figures on Euro elections – I’m not querying your thesis but maybe council elections a better parameter?

  • Patrick Lane

    Sammy

    “In terms of age profile, Northern Ireland comes second in the UK with an average age of 36.8 compared with 42.6 in Cornwall and 41.7 in Scotland.”?

    ‘Do you mean 2nd youngest?’

    That can be blamed on your friends at the BBC as those 2 paragraphs explaining this growth in apathy came from their report,they should be indented. Thanks for the comments.

  • But they don’t give up trying do they?

    The parties or the voters? Why would a Unionist voter in say West Belfast be more or less apathetic in a Westminster election than a Nationalist voter in say N.Down? After all SF and the SDLP still put up candidates in N Down, so surely that defeats your thesis about the difference between the Euro and Westminster elections?

    No, I see no evidence of Unionist apathy at Euro elections.

    If I’m not mistaken, the % Unionist vote has increased vis-a-vis the total nationalist one over the last 2 Euro elections.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    PaddyReilly,

    “Concentrate on elections, which are held almost every year in NI.”

    Elections do the past they dont do the future – as there is a very strong correlation between the Nationalist vote and the Nationalist headcount then it makes sense to use the best avaialable data ie the latest census to predict the future. I think there is also a strong correlation between the difficutly of work required for this and the scarcity of academics lining up to do it. Lazy feckers.

  • Dewi

    BTW Sammy:

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=YWRf3qTjygo

    Me and mate Neil at the Rugby – skewiff bobble hat and dopey grin…

  • Mack

    Dewi – “Mack – rising birth rates? Not sure about that – just more Catholics of a child bearing age. With all these distorting factors am not sure of the utility of the census as an indication of political intent. If a border poll could be held without violence and with nationalist participation it would be interesting at the very least. ”

    Yes, rising birth rates – fertility per thousand. I think the last number of decades saw a number trends – reduced family size, increased age of motherhood that reduced fertility per thousand. I suspect that both those trends have bottomed out – particularly the latter which has an upper bound. You’re right, there are a ton of factors that affect the birth rate (such as participation rates – which were the lowest in Europe for Catholic women not that long ago!). But, as measured by NISRA – they are rising.

    Sectarian demography gives a good proxy for future voting patterns (not just a referendum, but more importantly at all elections). As such it will hopefully alert the pols (on both sides) to the fact the future is different place (and may not even work out as they expect) – defining yourself by obstructionism or dogmatism isn’t neccessarily going to led to the results you’d like in the long term.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Dewi,

    excellent stuff – and how clever of that quareone to position herself in front of you knowing the cameraman always seems to seek out male supporters.

    You will no doubt be suprised to hear that I think Wales are actually a good team ( as opposed to being the best of a bad lot for last few years). They should be clear favorites for 6N.

    I will have to content myself with Munster winning the HC for third time.

  • PaddyReilly

    Dewi

    Maybe council elections a better parameter?

    No, quite the worst parameter, given the large number of independent and ratepayers candidates.

    Oneill

    If I’m not mistaken, the % Unionist vote has increased vis-a-vis the total nationalist one over the last 2 Euro elections.

    As I calculate it, the Euro Unionist vote was:-

    1979: 60.8
    1984: 58.0
    1989: 57.8
    1994: 55.4
    1999: 52.3
    2004: 48.6

    There was an unrepresentatively high drop in 2004 due to a strong showing by a Centrist candidate, and the tranfers from that candidate took the Unionist percentage back over 50% and secured the second seat for the UUP. But there is a fairly uniform downward trend. In 2004 the SDLP candidate finished about 31,000 votes behind the UUP one.

    Sammy

    it makes sense to use the best available data ie the latest census to predict the future

    Well the last census (2001) is out of date and the next is not due out till 2012. Also, as a significant number of persons decline to answer the religious question, it does not provide accurate data.

  • Objectivist

    Also at Stormont there is only one constituency (W Belfast) where Unionists cannot win at least one seat, and yet even here they seem blissfully unaware of the fact.
    Even that is not true. They are still in serious contention for one seat in West Belfast Diane Dodds’ loss the last time being due to a combo of suboptimal unionist turnout and hyperefficient SF vote management.

  • edward

    Why do you call them bobble hats

    We simply call them toques pr: tooks

  • Objectivist

    Some more stats from NISRA:
    The figures are Population,Catholic percentage, percentage of pop less than 16, percentage of pop greater than 60

    First the 20 most Catholic-predominant towns:

    Crossmaglen 1459 98.97 27.01 14.8
    Camlough 911 98.79 27.55 12.63
    Derrymacash 628 98.25 28.02 9.71
    Carrickmore 611 98.04 28.32 14.89
    Waterfoot 505 98.01 26.15 12.86
    Glebe (Strabane LGD) 671 97.92 30.1 10.44
    Lettershendoney 504 97.83 28.96 8.93
    Clady (Magherafelt LGD) 595 97.65 28.57 13.27
    Mayobridge 841 97.5 25.93 11.31
    Rosslea 553 97.48 24.95 16.81
    Dunloy 1070 97.1 31.4 11.13
    Cushendall 1241 96.93 26.12 16.84
    Hilltown 900 96.89 27 14.45
    Dungiven 2993 96.79 29.34 11.66
    Draperstown 1638 96.7 24.35 15.01
    Aghagallon 823 96.6 32.32 11.66
    Greysteel 1226 96.58 25.37 11.74
    Toome 724 96.26 27.21 10.9
    Coalisland 4917 95.81 29.57 12.39
    Feeny 542 95.75 29.34 6.65

    Now the 20 most Protestant-predominant towns:

    Portballintrae 734 0.95 11.98 33.39
    Ballywalter 1416 0.99 18.50 26.98
    Cullybackey 2405 1.21 19.45 22.29
    Kells/Connor 1745 1.32 24.97 14.73
    Cogry/Kilbride 1199 1.51 26.27 7.25
    Doagh 1130 1.68 19.73 18.93
    Carrowdore 816 2.09 24.28 15.32
    Bushmills 1319 2.20 19.87 22.15
    Macosquin 597 2.35 21.79 16.75
    Portavogie 1594 2.44 20.38 18.38
    Ballycarry 980 2.85 23.06 15.10
    Millisle 1800 2.94 19.00 25.50
    Ballynure 677 2.95 22.30 15.81
    Tobermore 579 3.11 19.86 20.55
    Rich Hill 2818 3.37 26.77 13.05
    Ballinamallard 1340 3.44 24.84 14.93
    Ballystrudder 781 3.58 26.37 14.48
    Comber 8933 3.69 19.75 18.04
    Glynn 641 3.74 23.71 19.82
    Parkgate 648 4.01 26.70 14.81

    This all seems to indicate a relatively higher percentage of the younger age groups, and by implication birth rates, in the Catholic towns and a higher percentage of those of mature years in the Protestant towns.

  • Objectivist

    The issue of birth rate differentials has been raised here. The following NISRA table gives a clue:
    http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/demography/publications/annual_reports/2006/Table2.3_2006.xls
    A tendency will be noted towards a higher birth rate (and incidentally a lower death rate)in the Catholic towns.

  • Dewi

    Objectivist – summarise mun – what does all that mean?

  • PaddyReilly

    Even that is not true. They are still in serious contention for one seat in West Belfast Diane Dodds’ loss the last time being due to a combo of suboptimal unionist turnout and hyperefficient SF vote management.

    Your statement proves the truth of my statement. The 2001 census, after much rejigging, decided that 16.22% of the population were of Protestant Community background though the number who actually stated they were was more like 13.5%. I do not like equating religion with politics, but I think we can agree that there aren’t many Catholic Unionists or Protestant Nationalists in West Belfast.

    By the time of the 2007 either the 16.22% had fallen by about 700 votes, or that was an overcalculation. A quota, I think you should know is 100 / 7 = 14.2857143%. So your West Belfast Unionists have actually fallen below a quota, but they continue, as you demonstrate, to imagine that they are only suffering from a “suboptimal turnout”. The reason for the suboptimal turnout is that the voters who would make it into an optimal turnout are dead or have moved away.

  • PaddyReilly

    Even that is not true. They are still in serious contention for one seat in West Belfast Diane Dodds’ loss the last time being due to a combo of suboptimal unionist turnout and hyperefficient SF vote management.

    Your statement proves the truth of my statement. The 2001 census, after much rejigging, decided that 16.22% of the population were of Protestant Community background though the number who actually stated they were was more like 13.5%. I do not like equating religion with politics, but I think we can agree that there aren’t many Catholic Unionists or Protestant Nationalists in West Belfast.

    By the time of the 2007 either the 16.22% had fallen by about 700 votes, or that was an overcalculation. A quota, I think you should know is 100 / 7 = 14.2857143%. So your West Belfast Unionists have actually fallen below a quota, but they continue, as you demonstrate, to imagine that they are only suffering from a “suboptimal turnout”. The reason for the suboptimal turnout is that the voters who would make it into an optimal turnout are dead or have moved away.

  • PaddyReilly

    One of my favourite authors is called Lord Frederic Hamilton, an aristocratic gentleman of the middle Victorian era. In one of his books—Vanished Pomps I think—he describes an election in Belfast. This Unionist/Nationalist contest is very tight, and may hinge on one vote. (The electorates were much smaller in those days of property qualification.)

    But that voter, a Nationalist, is down in Dublin for the night, and is coming back by train. The signalman is a good Orangeman and accordingly he halts the train in its tracks until after the polls have closed, allowing the Unionist candidate to take the seat.

    What this demonstrates is that the Unionists are and always have been the most skilful users and abusers of the electoral system, probably on the planet. Indeed, the whole province was created as an act of electoral abuse. Only the fact of prolonged proximity has brought Ulster’s Nationalist population to a poor second.

    So when someone tells me that a poor Unionist showing in a EU Parliamentary or West Belfast Assembly election is due to “suboptimal turnout”, then I’m afraid I don’t believe him. They never miss a trick, God bless them, they never do.

  • Objectivist

    1. ‘’The Catholic birth rate is rising’’
    Well I’m glad to hear it, but I suspect it must be the Poles. None of my contemporaries have distinguished themselves in the reproduction stakes.
    But all of this is for the future. It will take at least a generation for Polish immigrants to be absorbed into the general Catholic population and take the slightest interest in local politics.

    This one is worth teasing out. At present (as per NISRA: http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/demography/population/migration/In_Mig0607.xls) most immigrants to N.I. are from countries with a traditionally Catholic background (Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia etc.).
    This raises the interesting issue of what will happen when Grazyna from Gdansk (or the daughter of parents from Gdansk) gets hitched to Fergus from the Falls. The effects will really kick in with their offspring.
    The Poles are like Southern Irish Catholics back in the 50’s in terms of their fanatical devotion to the faith. Thus Grazyna will most likely eschew contraception and have loads of kids. Grazyna will tend to pass on her *spiritual* Catholicism to the next generation, with the continued tendency to large families, while Fergus passes on his *political* Catholicism. The second generation moreover will tend grow up as *NI* Catholics subjected to all the formative influences (which admittedly may not be entirely benign), such as the GAA, denominational schools etc. that go along with that. Essentially they will go native N.I. Catholic in every sense.
    The result:
    Lord Brookeborough doing a Watusi in his grave.

  • PaddyReilly

    Fergus and Grazyna: very nice. But this is one for 2027, not now.

    I may well be around in 2027, but I would not wish to try to make up the Almighty’s mind for Him.

    Also, I don’t know of any Poles with more than one child.

    And what if Grazyna marries Billy from the Shankill and he converts her?

  • Dewi

    “The Poles are like Southern Irish Catholics back in the 50’s in terms of their fanatical devotion to the faith. ”

    No they ain’t – not in Cardiff at least – not very religious at all.

  • Objectivist

    She could convert him.

  • PaddyReilly

    Back to West Belfast and the disappointed Unionist candidate. There is not a full quota of unionist voters in this constituency.

    Unionist candidates gained 13.95% of the vote in 1998, 12.8% in 2001, 13.8% in 2003, 12.9% in 2005 and 12.5% in 2007. A quota is 14.28%. In any other consituency this would not matter, but there are very few transfers for the DUP in West Belfast.

    Diane Dodds got in by a fluke in 2003 without achieving a quota because there were too many Nationalist candidates.

    I would suggest that the actual number of Unionist voters in WB is only 12.5% of the total, and this is the same as the number of Protestants there. Unionism in WB is a headless chicken which is still running around, not realising that it is dead.

    Stories of apathy among Unionist voters have been widely exaggerated. And this result shows there isn’t much apathy among Nationalists either.

  • Mack

    On attempting to separate out the effects of in migration on the birth rate. I’ve reposted part of my post on birth rates from another thread. You can see below that the birth rate has risen just as fast in areas with relatively light in migration (Derry & Strabane) as in areas with heavier in migration (Newry & Magherafelt). I would argue, this suggests that in migration is not the main cause of the rise in birth rates.

    From Objecvtivists link : http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/demography/population/migration/In_Mig0607.xls)

    —– Previous post

    Based on the figures from Q2 2008, and taking administrative areas recomended by academic expert Youssef Courbage as being differentiating, we can estimate current birth rates as

    Catholic : 15.4 per 1000
    Protestant : 12.88 per 1000

    With Catholics already making up a majority of the younger age cohorts.

    Take a look at the figures below. In purely sectarian terms, nationalists may be able to pick their moment. If that’s the case a good stab at trying to persuade people rather than blundering in to 50% +1 makes a lot more sense.

    2008 figures are for Q2 (annualised), 2006 & 2004 are annual rates.

    birth rate year 2008 2006 2004

    Newry & Mourne 16.5 15.1 15.6
    Derry 15.2 14.2 13.9
    Omagh 13.7 13.5 12.9
    Strabane 15.0 13.9 12.5
    Magherafelt 16.6 14.7 14.3

    Average 15.4 14.28 13.84

    Newtonabbey 15.2 13.4 13.0
    Castelreagh 13.1 11.4 10.8
    Ards 13 11.3 11.6
    North Down 11.5 11.3 10.9
    Carrickfergus 11.6 11.9 11.3

    Average 12.88 11.86 11.52

    http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/demography/publications/qtr_report/qtr2_2008.pdf
    http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/demography/publications/annual_reports/2006/RG2006.pdf
    http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/demography/publications/annual_reports/2004/Appendix2.pdf

  • PaddyReilly,

    Sorry to come back to this so late, but I have another life!

    [Me] So while Protestants were 51.6% of the 2001 electorate, unionists received only 44.9% of the vote

    [You] No, Nicholas Whyte’s site (http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/lgbelfast.htm)
    gives the Protestant percentage as 48.59%.

    Whyte gives the proportons for the whole population. I am giving them for the electorate (i.e. those aged 18 and over). Two different things. Hence my figure is correct.

    I think you should use the actual census results, rather than second-hand information from Whyte’s site, which is, incidentally, riddled with errors.

  • PaddyReilly

    I have learnt several things from this thread. One of them is that the estimate for “Community Protestants” in West Belfast exceeds the observable Unionist electorate by several percent, whereas the actual stated percentage of Protestants corresponds to the Unionist Percentage exactly.

    What I imagine happened is that given say 12% not stated, the censors assigned a reasonable number (say 3.5%) of these to the Protestant Community, ignoring the fact that Protestants are extremely thin on the ground in this area. The correct figure was more likely to be 0.3%.

    West Belfast being a part of Belfast, then it follows that this misestimate has been incorporated in Belfast’s statistics as well.

    Just another reason why citing the religious figures for the Census is folly. Firstly, we have no right to assume that Protestant = Unionist, Catholic = Nationalist. Secondly, the religious data have not been supplied by a significant part of the population. Thirdly, the community of the non-staters has been calculated and miscalculated by the censors.

    So, when doing politics, stick to the electoral returns. There are after all enough of them. Censal data is at best ancillary.

  • Mack

    Paddy Reily – “Secondly, the religious data have not been supplied by a significant part of the population”

    Paddy it’s actually only 2.7% or so that we have no community background for. There were two questions on religion / community background – the second caught a lot of people who were undeclared on the first.

    The completely uncategorised are distributed differently across age groups – with a much higher proportion of the young being undeclared than the old.

  • PaddyReilly

    It’s actually only 2.7% or so that we have no community background for

    That may be an average but it varies greatly from constituency to constituency, urban areas being particularly high.

  • oneill

    As I calculate it, the Euro Unionist vote was:-

    1979: 60.8
    1984: 58.0
    1989: 57.8
    1994: 55.4
    1999: 52.3
    2004: 48.6

    There was an unrepresentatively high drop in 2004 due to a strong showing by a Centrist candidate, and the tranfers from that candidate took the Unionist percentage back over 50% and secured the second seat for the UUP. But there is a fairly uniform downward trend. In 2004 the SDLP candidate finished about 31,000 votes behind the UUP one

    Very interesting I’m sure, although I thought we were talking about first choice votes, so why yo’
    ve introduced “transfers”, I’m not quite sure.

    Also, if you look again at my point which you have kindly quoted, but presumably not read:

    If I’m not mistaken, the % Unionist vote has increased vis-a-vis the total nationalist one over the last 2 Euro elections.

    Crucial phrase there in emphasis.

    Also I notice that you’ve left my slightly more challenging question well along, why would a nationalist voter in North Down be less likely to vote than a Unionist one in West Belfast in a Westmister election. It’s a toughie, I know.

  • PaddyReilly

    Why would a nationalist voter in North Down be less likely to vote than a Unionist one in West Belfast in a Westmister election.

    This is indeed a a difficult one. It seems to be partly a matter of tradition. Unionists continue to vote Unionist in West Belfast because Unionists once held WB and they have not yet updated their consciousness to the fact that they don’t even have a single Stormont quota now. Nationalists have never held even a Stormont seat in N Down and so do not believe that they are capable of winning one. (Probably, they aren’t).

    The Census believes that 11.68% of the population of North Down is Catholic yet Nationalist parties receive precisely 4.7% of the vote, the rest of the Catholic vote presumably going to Alliance and the Greens. However, in European elections, they might add to this a subsequent, and effective preference for the SDLP, which would give the appearance of an increase in the Nationalist vote.

    As for the question of the Euro elections, what I think is happening is that you are falling into the common error of failing to adapt your thinking to multiple choice elections and confusing the 1st preferences with the effective vote.

    I may give my first pref to the Greens, but this does not mean that the Nationalist vote has diminished. The Greens are not going to win a Euro seat, so my giving them a 1st pref is a bit of encouragement, nothing more. It is my 2nd (or 3rd) pref which is the effective vote, the one which helps to elect.

    The vis-a-vis qualification comes from thinking in this erroneous way. There is only one thing at stake in a Euro election, and that is whether the UUP or the SDLP get the 3rd seat. Thus the working of this election forces us to make up our minds whether we are Unionists or Nationalists. There can be no ducking the question. So any diminution in the Unionist vote is an increase in the nationalist.

    Gilliland in 2004 as the centrist candidate put on a creditable performance and got far more votes than the Alliance candidate in 1999, but he only had the loan of those votes. Presently they were taken away from him and divided between the UUP and SDLP.

    So when you say vis-à-vis the Nationalist vote, you probably mean vis-à-vis the Nationalist 1st pref vote, which is not the same thing.

  • edward

    Just for my two cents

    IT WAS SNOWING UIN ANTRIM THIS MEANS THE DEATH OF REPUBLICANISM AND THE END OF SINN FEIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    yeah whatever

  • PaddyReilly

    Very interesting I’m sure, although I thought we were talking about first choice votes, so why you’ve introduced “transfers”, I’m not quite sure.

    I counted transfers because they’re what decided the outcome! You seem not to have noticed that this is a transferrable vote election, not a first-past-the-post one.

  • dewi

    Paddy – I’m away from data but it’s useful to compare results from Euro and other elections at around the same time. From memory overall turnout higher in other elections as is Unionist performance. Not exactly a syllogism but does tend to indicate a lower Unionist turnout in the Euro elections.

  • PaddyReilly

    Does tend to indicate a lower Unionist turnout in the Euro elections

    Or a higher Nationalist turnout, due to the fact that for some of them this is their only chance of influencing the outcome of an election? Or is this because Deeny and the likes do not stand for Euro elections?

    As far as I can tell, the Euro elections set a pattern which is confirmed by the other types of election a couple of years later. Thus the 48.6% first pref for Unionists in Euro 2004 (first time the Unionist vote has fallen below 50) was repeated by a similar figure (I haven’t encountered anyone who has worked it out exactly, due to the enormous number of Unionist parties and candidates, but I’m fairly certain it’s between 48 and 49%) in Assembly 2007.

    So I expect a 46.1% first pref for Unionists (plus approximately 4% of transfers)(with a generous error margin) in next years Euro election, followed by a similar result in the Assembly and Westminster elections which follow.

  • Erasmus

    “Thus the 48.6% first pref for Unionists in Euro 2004 (first time the Unionist vote has fallen below 50)”

    Not quite
    2001 Local Elections can be tabulated as follows -combined unionists (including unionist-inclined independents)
    49.7%, combined nationalists 40.6%.

  • PaddyReilly

    Well the problem with local government elections is that local government and politics tend to get mixed up in the issue, as politics sometimes does in Assembly and Westminster elections. The joy of the Euro elections is that, as soon as the piddling rivalry of UUP and DUP and SF and SDLP is dispensed with, it turns into a pure sectarian headcount: in effect, a substitute referendum. Nobody ever dreams of mentioning how they intend to run Europe.