“It is hardly the moment to press claims to the North which we have renounced..”

One of the “key speakers” lined up for the International Representative for west Belfast’s whistle-stop World Tour is Prof Brendan O’Leary of the University of Pennsylvania. We can’t know what he’ll say then, but the Irish Times tells us what he said to the British-Irish Studies annual conference in Dublin yesterday. From the Irish Times report

Also speaking at the conference, Prof Brendan O’Leary from the University of Pennsylvania agreed there was no strong appetite in the period ahead to pursue a united Ireland in the South. A united Ireland was a possibility in the long run and had been built into the institutions of the agreement. However, growth in the nationalist vote in Northern Ireland had stabilised and it was unlikely there would be a nationalist majority in the next 30 years to vote for such unity, he said.

Of course that’s only “a blink” in history. But what should the answer to Gerry Adams question – “United Ireland – How do we get there” – be? [Apart from not starting from here? – Ed] Indeed. Well, they could take Bertie Ahern’s advice. In the meantime, stop trying to operate a dysfunctional Northern Ireland administration through that semi-detached polit-bureau. And, to paraphrase Michael Longley, start civilising yourselves.

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  • Ulsters my homeland

    Hi Pet, We know you’ve got a mathmatical multi-functional (feminine) brain, but please cut out some of the links.

  • otto jaffe

    Pet? Are you married?

  • oracle

    Actually there was a comprehensive private study/report carried out by personel from UCD some time ago (UCD Lect/Prof and either student from UCD or volunteers from Nationalist backgrounds)
    The findings were in stark contrast to what the commisioners of the report had hoped for as it estimated a Nationalist voting majortity (not Catholic don’t get confused) was a minimum of 50-80 years away and the SF led commissioners of the report promptly buried it.

  • Paul

    So many experts….. so little time

  • Smug O’ Toole

    Fack me as Gordon Ramsey would say! UMH is dead right. 15 bleedin’ links each with links to links to links. More branches than a Deep Purple family tree!

  • slug

    One cannot predict the future as well as people think.

  • Dec

    The findings were in stark contrast to what the commisioners of the report had hoped for as it estimated a Nationalist voting majortity (not Catholic don’t get confused)


    When you reference studies like this a link would be helpful, lest people think you’re making it up. On a broader note don’t dismiss the potential impact of a ‘Catholic’ voting majority bearing in mind that the vast majority of them have no emotional attachment to Britain and certainly not to Unionism’s outward expressions of ‘Britishness’. It’s one thing putting up with coat-trailing and perpetual flag-waving when you’re the minority, another thing entirely when the opposite applies.

  • fin

    got chatting to a bloke in a pub one time, apparently he read somewhere that some university had done a survey about something like this and the results were that no would ever want a united Ireland, so thats good enough for me lets just forget about, I don’t want to talk about, is there anything on the telly, see the game last week, shut up, shut up , lalalalalalalala, I can’t hear you.

    I further understand that all studies done in the run up to the Iraq war proved conclusively that the Iraqi people would welcome the British and American forces as liberators

  • Mack

    Jeebus, too many links on the internet. Buy a newspaper then lads. If you don’t want to follow a link don’t click it.


    Do you have a link for that report / the names of some of the researchers involved (should be possible to find it from that). Worth bearing in mind that many of the trends that were in place up until around 2002 have reversed. e.g. Rising birth rates, net immigration.

    I agree with Slug’s caveat – the future is a different world. The demography of NI is changing quite rapidly due to immigration, who knows what way newcomers will vote!

  • oracle


    There is no link as the report was never published/made public.
    I was brought to the school of politics semminar as a guest of someone else there to listen to a totally unrelated matter.
    During a recess in the late afternoon we went for a break late lunch/early dinner it was during this social/private discussion/chin wag that the existance of the study was was brought up by another at the table.

    The report apparently dealt with the percived/anticipated/possible changes in northern demographics politically/religiously/finacially/socially

    It concluded that the rate of accelerated growth in the Catholic population would wane and eventually level off, factoring in more finacially sound Catholic families benifiting from the peace process and growing disillusionment with the the catholic doctrine on family planning would lead to smaller growth rates than would otherwise be expected.

    That the ageing unionist population with a higher death rate were having a contracting effect on the long term numerical gap between the two communities, however the higher rate of death due to natural causes/old age in the Protestant tradition would eventually level out as the protestant families average size had increased since the mid 70s (no longer 1.6 but 2.8 or whatever)

    Also facored in was the expected change in immigration as the quota opportunities for Nationalists within Government services police/civil service/ quangos/ are reached and past the easier right of passage in employment would be erradicated and opportunities further afield would be sought

    An expected boom in the numbers who would become A Political in the near/mid future due to a lack of inter-community conflict and less control from religious quarters added to the lack of singular goverment as a focus of grievance.

    Anyway from what I can remember the report basically said the chances of a Nationalist majority were 50-80 years away if at all

    the wording and phrases above should come with a health warning as it was in 2005 and this is from memory only

    but hell if it was wrong the SF would already be singing from the mountain tops how there’s going to be a Nationalist majority and when?

  • slug

    What I quite like about this is that there is an incentive for each political tradition to make itself attractive to people born into the other one. That is: love-bombs not fire-bombs.

  • Mack

    I’d treat that report with a good deal of sceptism Oracle. Though I am of the opinion a majority in favour of a united Ireland is likely to be good deal of time away (and nothing is certain), but probably not quiet that long!

    These are the reasons I’m sceptical

    #1 The Total Period Fertility Rate (TPFR), an estimate of the number of children a woman has in her life time (and thus family size) fell conistently for both communities up until 2002. Since then it has increased slightly in majority Catholic areas, and rather more significantly in majority Protestant areas. The TPFR is still higher in majority Catholic areas. It is still below the replacement rate in majority Protestant areas, slightly above it in majority Catholic areas. Average Protestant family size has not increased from 1.6 to 2.8.

    #2 The raw birth rate (births per thousand of population) has increased faster in majority Catholic areas since 2002 than in majority Protestant areas. As the differential in rates of population growth in both areas isn’t going to impact the birth rate that much, it is reasonable to presume this is due to women in those areas (majority Catholic districts) having more children. The difference in the rate of change in the TPFR is likely due to differentials in the age structure of the child bearing cohort, and differentials in how children have been temporally spaced in the past (women have been delaying child birth, perhaps this process has peaked earlier in Protestant districts). Far from falling, the Catholic birth rate now seems to be rising.

    #3 It would be incredibly difficult to predict the impact of all those factors you mention with any accuracy. Pretty much an excercise in futility, much like attempting to herd cats.

    #4 The only quotas in place are in the PSNI. Fair employment legislation should mean the proportion of Catholics or Protestants employed accurately reflects the distribution of the required skillsets within both communities.

    Anyway, it’s important to remember in predictions are essentially probability exercises. It’s impossible to say definitively what hasn’t happen will, but possible to assign probability estimates to particular outcomes.

  • Mack

    Another factor which might explain the divergence between the trends in raw birth rate vis a vis Total Period Fertility is out of date data. If NISRA use the 2001 census to build up a model of the child-bearing cohort, uncaptured migration into an area (perhaps by yound families migrating to new estates in the Belfast suburbs, but remaining registered at their old family doctors) could mean more children born correctly registered in an area but calculated against an inaccurate estimate of the structure of the child-bearing cohort. This may also push up the raw birth rate, but not as much.

    I would trust the trend in the simpler measure more at this stage (in the absence of up-to-date census data).

  • Bill

    Your right that the predictions are probability exercises so to add to the confusion:

    – The Catholic birth rate is generally rising only in ‘working class’ communities. As more and more catholic people enter the middle cash, this birth rate will decrease and level off.

    – Death rates are higher in catholic communities which offsets the higher birth rate. This too will decrease as more catholic people enter the middle class.

    Most recent estimates that I have seen actually expect the catholic/protestant populations to balance out somewhere close to the 45/55 split. Rather than this being held up as something like, ‘oh we’ve got more than you’ nonsense, it should be encouragement to all people and political parties to engage with the other. If we are ever going to survive together then there needs to be real engagement across these boundaries.

    There is no exact science which is why I get somewhat irritated at the constant catholic, nationalist, republican attitude presented by some people that someday ‘we’ will be more then you so you’re on the road to a UI. It’s unsubstantiated nonsense.

  • fin

    “it should be encouragement to all people and political parties to engage with the other”

    Bill, do you in NI or across the island. The confusing thing for nationalists is that this attitude never existed within unionism previously. Its all very well for unionists to say they’re excuse for not enjoying powersharing is because its with Sinn Fein, however that doesn’t explain not sharing power with the nationalist community for the previous 80 years. Similiarly the sudden desire to move away from ‘tribal’ politics why now?

    I think the last opportunity unionism had to have this change of mind was during the civil rights movement, however having the upper hand it was easier to have the former 1st minister and his gang out cracking nationalist skulls.

    Unfortunately since then nationalism has become a lot more empowered (thanks to London and Dublin, and despite unionist wishes)

    here’s a quote from the Alliance Partys entry on Wikipedia.

    ‘The party’s founding principles were an attempt to “allay the fundamental fears”: namely, of Protestants being coerced into a united Ireland, and Catholics being condemned to a second-class citizenship within Northern Ireland’

  • Mack

    Bill –

    The Catholic birth rate is generally rising only in ‘working class’ communities. As more and more catholic people enter the middle cash, this birth rate will decrease and level off.

    I’m not convinced this is the case, I have only seen NISRA data at the council level however. Do you have a link? I know in the south, there is a trend towards larger family sizes among those who can afford it and a good standard of living.

    – Death rates are higher in catholic communities which offsets the higher birth rate. This too will decrease as more catholic people enter the middle class.

    I think Catholics may have a slightly lower average life expectancy, but because of the huge Catholic / Protestant differential in the older age cohorts (a 70/30 split in the eldest) the Protestant death rate is much higher than the Catholic death rate (number of deaths per thousand).

    Most recent estimates that I have seen actually expect the catholic/protestant populations to balance out somewhere close to the 45/55 split.

    This is incredibly unlikely. Ignoring the impact of immigration, there is a slight Catholic majority at each age, in the under 30’s. The Catholic birth rate is still higher, and all else being equal, we are entering a period of slightly more Catholc women having slightly more babies.

    For those predictions to occur, the Protestant birth rate would need to exceed the Catholic birth rate by a significant margin, very soon.

  • Bill

    Fin, my answer to your first question (and I’m assuming what it actually is because I think there’s a word missing) is that it’s both of those and more.

    NI will remain part of the UK so long as people within NI want to. Some people may not like it but that’s how it is. But within this place, towards the rest of the island, towards Britain, towards Europe, towards America (can I go as far as China?!), we have to engage. We have to engage because we have to find a way to exist together and with those beyond.

    For me this isn’t just about catholic/nationalist/republican and protestant/unionist/loyalist. There are many individuals, groups, parties etc. within the broad protestant/unionist/loyalist that I despise just as much as those I despise coming from the catholic/nationalist/republican. I personally have to hold my nose and get on with it. What’s the alternative? ‘Cause I sure as hell don’t want to see us fight again.

    Of this ‘sudden desire’ of which you appear so sceptical, there have always been bridge builders on both sides of this situation even if they have been quiet. I will match every sad story of protestant/unionist/loyalist action against others, unwillingness to engage, heavy-handedness etc. that you will give me with an equally horrible one in the other direction. This situation didn’t happen because one side is bad and the other can sit morally superior.

    The idea that things have suddenly changed because catholic/nationalist/republicans are empowered is not a true reflection of the situation. Nor does it mean that many protestant/unionist/loyalist are not empowered. It is not an either/or and it certainly doesn’t worry me.

    Even if I were to admit that catholic/nationalist/republican always wanted to engage but it has taken protestant/unionist/loyalists hundreds of years to be willing to engage (and I don’t accept that theory), is it not better that both groups are willing?

  • loki

    Oh dear God- it’s not about birth rates.
    if one side or the other manges to persuade a majority of the poulation that one ideal or another is a good idea let’s have a border referendum. Until then get used to the status quo and try democratice means to make your arguement

    Intersting- submit word is “hell”

  • Mack

    Loki – In a perfect world that would be true.

    When I put forward economic arguments as to why some Unionists would be better off in a united Ireland reactions ranged from derision, to a simple it’s the economics don’t matter. So, if it’s not about the relative size of each community, or economics – I’ve just no idea what it is about, but I’m all ears..

  • GavBelfast

    We should have a border referendum on the day of the next election – whatever election it is – to have this over and done with.

    When you read Slugger, you’re often left with the impression that some of the biggest self-confessed supporters / defenders of the Good Friday Agreement don’t actually believe in it at all.

  • fin

    thanks for the honest answer (and for filling in the missing word). It benefits noone to indulge inwhataboutry or point scoring. Can I ask do you believe that Sinn Fein and the SDLP want to build bridges, yes they want a united Ireland but not another troubles situation in the event of achieving it. I’m always struck that unionists don’t want to discuss the possibility, I’d like to see a serious shopping list from your community, I have a feeling that apart from the protection of your British identity it would be wery similar to a nationalist shopping list. SF are in politics in the South because they disagree with how things are.

    Do you not think that a united Ireland could get a big payout from London, the EU and/or the USA which with the right pressure from people with the right political outlook could be used to build something better than currently exists north or south

  • Dave

    “The Republic, is engaged in a major struggle to maintain, within the EU and indeed the euro zone, its economic viability and sovereignty.

    It is hardly the moment to press [b]claims to the North which we have renounced[/b], and it has to be said, the advantages and flexibility of joining up with a small sovereign state in the present global turmoil are for the moment a lot less compelling today than they were two or three years ago.” – Martin Mansergh

    Plain speaking from the Mr Mansergh regarding the formal renunciation of Ireland’s territorial claim to Her Majesty’s dominion of Northern Ireland (and the reciprocal renunciation by the people of that territory of their former right to national self-determination as members of the Irish nation). It’s odd that he speaks so plainly now when he was so careful not to speak plainly when he was authoring the wording of the relevant section of the GFA and the British-Irish Agreement.

    His comments acknowledging just how big a threat that the EU presents to the Irish sovereignty is also odd – accurate, but odd that he should speak so plainly now.

  • Greenflag


    ‘however that doesn’t explain not sharing power with the nationalist community for the previous 80 years.’

    Can’t blame Unionists for that or at least for 54 of those 80 years (1920-1972)- power sharing was unknown and unheard of in these islands and indeed across most of the democratic world . There were probably a few voluntary coalition governments during wartime emergency etc but on the whole the party that won the most seats ruled and the opposition had to wait their turn .

    You can stick a boot in some unionists well perhaps most for collapsing the Sunningdale Agreement . That IMO was the biggest political error made by ‘unionism ‘ since 1920 . THe eventual outcome of not being prepared to share power with the SDLP meant having to share power with SF . One wonders exactly who Allister will be sharing power with if he climbed to the top of the Unionist party house of cards ?

  • Bill

    [i]Can I ask do you believe that Sinn Fein and the SDLP want to build bridges [/i]

    Hard to answer in reality. I want to believe it but there is lots of history to see through to trust that they do. I do believe that they know that they have no choice, both within NI and an aspiration to a UI. History has already shown that if the protestant, unionist, loyalist people are not brought along on the journey then the will ultimately revolt, arm themselves etc.

    As regards a UI, it would be my view that people right across the island want the same things – food, clothing, housing, health, education etc. – but then so do people in Britain. How and where we get those things should be what the debate is about.

    As regards payouts, I don’t think any country or countries could actually afford it in the near future. NIs economy is like a 1970s socialist state and that is going to take a long time to change. Even when it was ‘rich’, Ireland could not have afforded to allow 70% of the working population to be in public services but neither could they afford they dole payments! Heck Germany struggled when it was unified and the Republic is, and never was, in a position similar to the old West Germany.

    And finally….the history of some SF members might irritate me no end (though I will definitely ‘hold my nose’, as I am sure they will do with me, and work away with them if I can), but I wouldn’t give them a vote in a million years because the kind of socialist republic they aspire to would be about as useful as a punch on the nose. The SDLP…well I don’t even know what their economic policies are!!

  • Greenflag

    Fin ,

    ‘I’m always struck that unionists don’t want to discuss the possibility,’

    I would’nt be -not in the least . It’s not on the near horizon and the very mention of the ‘possibility’ would weaken the ’cause’ of the union . So I would’nt waste my breath 😉

    ‘Do you not think that a united Ireland could get a big payout from London,’

    No . Not a cent if they can possibly avoid it . There might be a ‘resettlement ‘ grant for that section within unionism that could no more abide living as a minority in Ireland than I could living as a minority in Serbia .

    Despite some wishful thinking by some commentators that the border issue is over -It isn’t . But it’s unlikely to cause as much grief as it’s done in the past and for this we can thank the efforts of the British , Irish and American Governments who for a decade kept up a constant pressure on the parties in NI to ‘negotiate ‘ a messy compromise . It was either that or another generation of bloodshed .

  • Mack

    Dave – It was clear as day that Ireland renounced her territorial claim over Northern Ireland, you could even see it on the internet via the CIA worldfact book that chronicles these disputes.

    Article 2 of the constituition states it is the birth right of every person born in NI to be part of the Irish nation. There is a pragmatic recognition in the acceptance of the principle of consent, of the reality that Ireland is partitioned, with a mechanism to end when majorities in both states wish it.

    Fin – There will be no payout in the event of reunification. In fact Ireland will become liable for NI’s share of the UK national debt! (The Free State was absolved their share in exchange for accepting the disgraceful recommendations of the boundary commision which in turn led to subsequent problems in NI).

  • Greenflag

    Dave ,

    ‘His (Martin Manserghs)comments acknowledging just how big a threat that the EU presents to the Irish sovereignty is also odd – accurate, but odd that he should speak so plainly now.’

    Nonsense man . Mansergh is just telling it like it is in the wake of the biggest financial crisis to have hit the western world since the 1930’s .

    He’s also reflecting the reality that there are now probably another 10 countries lining up to join the EU including Moldova , Serbia , Iceland , Ukraine , Turkey , Azerbaijan, Georgia , Armenia etc .

    All of the above countries have seen to a greater or lesser extent how having a national currency exposed to the financial predations of Wall St and the City of London hedgefund gangsters and rip off shadow banking underworld can undo 10 years economic growth in a few days. Latvia is on track to being the next Iceland along with Hungary .

    The world economy needs the Euro more so than it needs the pound sterling if only to reduce the barely concealed gangsterism at the back of the international financial ‘mafia ‘!

    We should welcome as many of these new applicants to the EU as possible and we should encourage the UK to adopt the Euro and say goodbye to the pound so as to protect the purchasing power of it’s people’s earnings and not allow them to be gambled with by the currency hedge fund manipulators . The UK may be a bigger target than Iceland but if George Soros could take a Tory Government to the cleaners for a billion pounds in relatively stable economic times world wide who wants to guess at what the payoff could be for driving down a stand alone pound in these frenetic times ?

    The world can’t afford for the USA to go belly up with it’s dollar . I would’nt say that with the pound !

  • fin

    haha Bill, you’re forgiven. However I think my point is the population of all of Ireland is 5m compared to 70 odd in the UK, so its a case of steering a speedboat or a oil tanker, the possibilities for change in Ireland are endless.

    But you’ve added to my constant disappointment with unionism (which Greenflag touched on) unionism will not discuss or even explore the possibilities of a future united Ireland, but insist that the possible future handouts from London will see them through.

    England depends largely on what London achieves, GB relies on England and NI on GB.

  • Bill

    fin, where in my post did you detect this unwillingness to explore the possibilities of a future UI?

    And I’m certainly not insisting that the handouts will see us through. I am saying that at this point in time the UK (London?) can afford NI while Ireland couldn’t. What I want to see is a NI where people get off benefits (that’s dole, ‘disability’ etc.) and get into the private sector. That’s the wealth creator. And as we grow then maybe the possibility of a UI will be just that, possible.

    Is that any better? 🙂

  • Nigglepoo

    More clutching at straws. What part of ‘you lost’ don’t you republicans get?

    You indulged in a murder-fest for God knows how many years and ended up in a Northern Ireland that remains part of the UK and will do long after slugger otoole and all its contributors are dust.

    Live with it, take up gardening or go play on the M1 during rush-hour.

  • Scamallach


    Are you claiming that all republicans are murderers, in particular certain posters on Slugger’s message boards?!

  • As a nationalist, I’d rather wait for a UI delivered by the votes of those from a unionist background than a UI delivered by a narrow nationalist headcount. Better all round for everyone methinks.

  • Märsta

    ahh..if only Unionists thought the same way in 1921!

  • Mick Fealty

    Congratulations to all on what must be the most civil and educative thread on demographics we’ve had in 7 years…

    Mack is right about the unpredictability of demographics. The 91 census gave false hope to those nationalists who thought 2016 would make a significant step towards their ‘release’. That false hope in turn gave rise to false expectation in December 2002 when the religious breakdown (remarkably close to last week’s election breakdown of Unionist, Nationalist and Other) of the 2001 Census were finally release.

    Only a fool would predict, on the basis of demographics alone, what lies ahead either way.

    The point about differentials in birth rate between different Catholic areas was something Sammy Morse’s constituency profiles were particularly useful in highlighting. Newry and South Armagh, IIRC, retains close to traditional Catholic birth rate patterns even as they are falling everywhere else.

    It’s a shame Oracle can’t find that report, because whilst the reading of the raw data may be contestable, the widening of the Catholic middle class (north and south) is not. What the Republican leadership once imagined could be achieved by force will now only be arrived at through a genuinely popular decision.

    Thus the character of ‘the project’ needs to change. The political psychosis, as Pete has rather brutally put it in the past, of the ‘count the taigs’ stratagem is a passive response to this socio political god of demographics.

    What actually happens at Stormont is, I suspect, way more important than is currently perceived within the wider nationalist community. Talking about the importance of cross border bodies, for instance, is fine, but when a cross border crisis hits, like the dioxin scare, we rudely discover that there is no practical means of communication between the north south bodies under the purview of a nationalist Minister, then it’s a fairly good indication that it is all talk and no walk.

    That it’s the Unionist Minister of Health who picks up the alarm and wakes up the government communications may be ironic, but it also serves to underline the fact that the public discourse within nationalism has not yet advanced to where we actually are, never mind come close to sketching out an achievable vision of the future.

    PS, Mac, great reposte to (paraphrasing Geo Osborne’s speech writer) those analogue commenters stranded in a digital world who hate Pete’s hyperlinks…

  • IJP

    Well said, Mick.

    The point is no one can afford to wait for demographics simply to fall their way while household debt rises, job security diminishes and public finances are ravaged.

    We have issues to be getting on with.

  • RepublicanStones

    Nigglepoo has a grasp of history like his buddy…Igglepiggle !

  • Mack


    The changing demographics may open up new opportunities, for both sides – if we’re willing to think outside the box. The danger both communities in the north face is a continued battle of wills which may result in one side or the other winning out in NI as a whole, but which will almost certainly leave local majorities in place East and West of the Bann (storing with it the potential for future problems no matter what the outcome). I have an emotional / romantic attachment to the idea of a united Ireland (as I’m sure others have to Britain and the Union) – the constituitional umbrella is probably much less important than the democratic, legal, economic and cultural instituitions (which could exist under either framework) on their impact on daily life.

    As the Catholic population approaches 50%, surely the fear of Unionist domination will subside significantly?

    Would that make Independence a viable alternative as an agreed compromise? (A state that would be as Irish and Independent as the state to the south, but also just as British as Irish in character)

    If absolute Independence is a bridge too far, would status similar to the Isle of Man, under pooled British and Irish sovereignty suffice?

    (Pooled sovereignty works very internationally, Greenflag, as I’m sure, er, Dave will agree 😉 ).

  • Mack

    Makka Pakka Akka Wakka Mika Makka Moo
    Makka Pakka Akka Wakka Ika Akka Oo
    Hum Dum Makka Pang Ing Ang Oo
    Makka Pakka Akka Wakk Mika Makka Moo

    Young kids then RS?

  • RepublicanStones

    Indeed I do Mack…I’ll be happy once they graduate to Asterix and Tintin books intead 😉

  • Congal Claen

    Hi All,

    Using the timeframes mentioned above does anyone seriously think the EU is sttill going to be on the go? I don’t. The only countries clambering to get in are countries who think they’ll get more out than they’ll put in. As the size of the beast increases so it’ll be harder to feed and eventually will die. At that point the Republic will have serious choices to make. Who knows that may well be heading back into the Union. It’s been mentioned a few times on the propertyPin.ie

  • Mack

    Congal Claen –


    I think the EU will still be around in some form 30 years from now. This crisis is a big test, if the Euro survives, then I imagine the Euro will probably be around in some form then too.

    Given the results in the UK – SNP 43% in the UK, English nationalists taking a Mayoral seat will the UK be around in 30 years, or 80 years?

  • Mack

    Oops. 29.1% for SNP in Scotland, don’t know where I got that 43% figure.


  • Greenflag


    ‘What I want to see is a NI where people get off benefits (that’s dole, ‘disability’ etc.) and get into the private sector. That’s the wealth creator.’

    I suspect that probably 95% of the people of Northern Ireland would wish the same . The economic reality of NI is that whats left of the private sector is excessively dependent on the public sector and cannot compete with the public sector in terms of wage levels -benefits etc.

    Thus the problem is NOT the economic objective itself but the economic policies which would assist in achieving that objective . From a Northern Ireland perpective that becomes even more difficult as the local economy is a regional subset of the larger UK economy despite the rising influence of the Republic’s economy on the local NI situation in recent years .

    We now ‘live’ in politically changing times or so it would seem . It’s ironic that the next UK Government probably Conservative is ‘ideologically ‘ committed to the ‘private sector ‘ uber alles . We heard the same from Thatcher in the 1970’s and 1980’s and the outcome of that ‘revolution’ is now finally being realised in the USA , UK and the Republic .

    So while it’s all very well to promote the ‘private sector’ and to encourage FDI etc etc any objective look at economic history will show that those states which climbed to prosperity out of the industrial age did so with varying degrees of State assisted promotion .

    The ‘taxpayers’ of the USA, UK and the Irish Republic may look askance at the the neo revival of the ‘private sector ‘ elixir of wealth creation under the Cameroonians . As they look around and see the ‘private sector ‘ across the western world from banks to car manufacturers to insurance companies ‘ prostrate themselves in front of the taxpayers for public sector bail outs and support they should be asking why this is necessary if the ‘private sector’ is the solution ?

    The term ‘private sector ‘ is probably as much abused as a prescription for economic recovery as ‘socialism ‘ . In the ‘real ‘ world there are vast differences between strata within the entire private sector spectrum from your local plumbing contractor or corner shop at one end and RBS , Anglo Irish, Merril Lynch , Lehman’s and Haliburton at the other .

    No prizes for guessing which end of the spectrum is providing the mass media with lurid examples of how the ‘private sector ‘ left to itself, will not only fail to regulate itself, but will actively continue to attempt to accumulate ever vaster profits regardless of the social, political, economic or environmental consequences on others .

    While many would hope that the State would/should /or could through legislation restrain or prevent the worst aspects of laissez faire, the harsh truth is that it is only an informed electorate when it is prepared to vote on these ‘real ‘ issues which can make a difference .

    Which brings us back to the NI conundrum where even in the midst of a European Parliament election the only ‘issue ‘ which seemed to fire up the electorate was the Allister v DUP stand off as to which ‘hates ‘ SF the most 🙁

    Of course for the future of the NI economy it won’t matter a damn who wins that debate . It will matter more than a damn if a public sector cutting Tory Government in a fit of ‘efficiency economics ‘ kills off whatever is left of an NI private sector and that’s before counting the cost of the political fall out .

    No easy options .

  • Mack


    On the 1991 census, it is worth pointing out that most of the inflated claims of an imminent nationalist majority were due to research emanating out of UCD. The researchers there attributed proportionally much more of those who did not declare a religion as RC than northern researchers did. They estimated that Northern Ireland’s RC population was 43% way back in 1991. That stat implied not only a higher base, but also a higher growth rate than that implied from research by Edgar Jardine or Paul Compton. The researchers responsible – Brendan Walsh (and Cormac Ó Gráda!).


  • ecthelion

    Travelled a bit a few years ago and as usual the question of nationality often came up, I had no prblem saying I was British when it suited, Irish when it suited, Northern Irish, even European! (ok that wasnt that often), even used Ulster-Scots a couple of times,
    What I’m saying is we can have something special here with our dual/mutliple identities, we are all British and all Irish whether we like it or not, lets make the most of it and let the border rest, maybe it will fade away over time, maybe not…

  • Bill

    Greenflag, I understand entirely what you are saying but there can be no doubt that the NI economy is too dependent on the public sector. I guess my favourite word in relation to most things is balance, and that can be applied to economics. We are too much out of balance.

    Relating that to fin’s questions about NI I was simply trying to say that I am willing to consider a UI as a possibility. For various reasons, it is unlikely to be something that I will choose but convince me it is to my benefit, and that my Northern Irish loyalist identity can and will be secure within it, and I will consider it. [Although this is not a particular issue for me, to put one example on this connected to another thread – what if a UI exists and protestant/unionist/loyalist people want the British Army to come on a parade? These things will be no more simple in a UI than in GB and NI.]

    Having said that, with the economic situation in NI the ROI couldn’t afford NI now and never has been able to while, to a large extent, the UK has done and will continue to do so. Our economic situation must, and is, changing. As this change progresses (assuming it’s not completely buggered up by the soon coming cuts in public expenditure) then the possibility of a UI becomes just that, possible.

    Again, it may not be something I would choose but my children might (if I ever have any!). Indeed I might even be willing to choose it for my children but I think I have too much history to put an ‘X’ beside ROI in a referendum for myself.

    As to your final point, Greenflag, that sounds to me like a reason to vote UUCNF. That way we might, just MIGHT, have some little degree of influence. Maybe.

    But you’re absolutely right, there are no easy options and, as was being discussed before, some population change won’t make it any easier.

  • OC

    Posted by Exile1 on Jun 11, 2009 @ 05:48 AM, quo he:

    “As a nationalist, I’d rather wait for a UI delivered by the votes of those from a unionist background than a UI delivered by a narrow nationalist headcount.”

    And conversely, it’s up to the “unionist” community to nurture an environment where “nationalists” don’t really care about a UI.

  • oldruss

    A couple observations.

    Bill mentioned voting UUCNF, and opined, “That way we might, just MIGHT, have some little degree of influence. Maybe.” [emphasis in original]

    I have not understood why the UUP cut its ties to the Conservative Party. I think I know the history surronding the Sunningdale Agreement, but without any ties to the Conservative Party (like the new UUCNF provides), unionists in the north have been totally excluded from mainstream politics at Westminster. They have had no say in choosing a Tory leader, or of being offered ministerial positions should the Tories gain a majority in Commons. Most queer, it would seem, for those who profess such loyality to the Union.

    Second observation, this on the border question. Does the success of Jim Allister and his TUV open up a division within unionism, such that the pro-Agreement unionists will be forced towards some sort of realignment? Could this realignment eventually lead to an “arrangement” whereby the nationalists (SF and SDLP) and the pro-Agreement unionists take the six counties out from under the control of Westminster with complete devolution of authority to the local assembly and executive (in whatever construct they may then be). Leave the Queen as the head of state, but all governmental authority otherwise devolved.

  • Greenflag

    Bill ,

    ‘but I think I have too much history to put an ‘X’ beside ROI in a referendum for myself.’

    Perfectly understandable -I’d have the same problem if I were in your boots ;).

    ‘what if a UI exists and protestant/unionist/loyalist people want the British Army to come on a parade?

    Even in a prospective UI people from the Republic and from the ‘former ‘ NI will continue to join the British Army and relations between the peoples of these islands will continue their natural course . It can’t be otherwise given geographical proximity and the increasingly common ‘culture’ or ‘lack of culture ‘ across these islands ;)?

    ‘These things will be no more simple in a UI than in GB and NI’

    I disagree . With the hump of political unionism out of the way my guess is it would be a whole lot simpler and much less contentious . The attitude of Dubliners to the presence of uniformed British Army colleagues at the funeral of the Dubliner who was killed in Iraq with the BA shows that we (at least in the Republic )have moved on

    Your point re economics is the key one . In that area the local NI economy given the upcoming UK election must be considered uncertain under any prospective Conservative Government particularly one which seems to be adopting a stronger anti EU stance than it’s predecessors.

    ‘that sounds to me like a reason to vote UUCNF.’

    It might sound like that. I’d have no problem throwing a preference towards Reggie’s mob it’s the conservative link that would stop me . Of course I realise that ‘real politick’ leaves the UUP no other option if they wish to climb back to being a significant player in NI . But I have little faith in conservative economic policies to cope with this ‘recession’ . There is a reason they have not been enunciated in any great detail by Conservatives as was mentioned by Malcolm Redfellow in a pre election earlier thread a few weeks ago. In these circumstances it seems that we can expect that the UK conservatives will revert to what they know best and what ‘worked ‘ for Maggie, with consequences for NI and other regions of the UK outside the South East , which could destabilise what little stability has been achieved within NI mo matter if some aspects of that stability have a whiff of waste or incompetence .

    We see the same absence of alternatives with the opposition parties in the Republic, so to an extent the Tories can be accused of just politicking . However when you look at the ‘big ‘ picture beyond NI & the Republic , you see that incumbent governments from Washington DC to Westminster to Dublin have all been ‘blind’ to the havoc wrought on the world economy by the shadow banking sector this past few years , which they, including previous administrations, did little to hinder. Even worse some did much to promote the frenzy of the white collar financial criminal class .

    I don’t see any evidence yet on the part of governing parties or their main oppositions in the USA or UK or Ireland or NI that any ‘real ‘ lessons have been learned. All we’ve had is stop gap measures which ‘hopefully ‘ will/may /could address the situation ? Our ‘rulers ‘ are running blind . Those who would take their places in government appear to me at least just as sightless.

    ‘that way we might, just MIGHT, have some little degree of influence. Maybe.’

    Your use of mights and maybes and little above is so convincing that I have no option but to agree;)

    ‘The trouble with some voters is that they get all excited about nothing and then vote for it’

  • Erasmus

    I see the demographic stuff has made a predictable appearance here. Here’s my tuppenceworth:
    I think the crunch will come about 2030. There are two probable scenarios:
    1. The nationalist vote keeps rising leading to a pro-UI majority. I can’t see the unionists being any more likely, in this context, to respect to a majority in N.I. then their ancestors were an all-Ireland majority in 1912. They would demand, and in all likelihood get, repartition.
    2. The vote plateaus out and fall short of delivering a pro-UI majority. Nationalists in NI then realise the waiting game is over, cash in their chips when they are at maximum value, and push for repartition. When you think about it those who have propagandised for ages about the logic behind the original partition could not very well resist the same logic being thrown back in their faces in this event. Repartition would then probably come to pass.
    That why I think a lot of the blog wars on the demographic issue are just futile dog-chasing-tail stuff when both of the relevant Robert Frosts roads arrive at the same destination.
    This being the case why not save time, energy, blogosphere space, and general angst and just go straight for it.
    Take a bow, Greenflag (I’m not his sock, BTW).