“the line fed to him was plainly, well, bollocks”

O’Neill has something to say about Belfast media Group’s reporting of the Euro elections.

  • Mack

    Yes it was.

    I blogged a little about the supposedly superior NILT survey. It’s repeated use / misuse to reinterpret election results is discussed in the comments.

    I thought O’Neill’s use of it to assert that only Unionism could cross the sectarian divide (in direct contradiction of large electoral evidence that both sides are pretty poor in that regard) was pretty typical of the problems the survey causes in debate.

    http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/mind-the-gap-northern-ireland-life-and-times-survey-and-reality/

  • fin

    “Take as a base fact that a Unionist is someone who voted for a pro-Union party at the last election, a nationalist or Republican is someone who voted for the SDLP or Sinn Fein.
    Bearing that suggestion in mind, there seems a fair proportion of the population who are neither”

    I’d like to see those surveys he mentions about the “younger Protestants open to Irish Unity”

    I think he might be looking at the same surveys but reading them differently Michael, there was another on blogged here yesterday.

    If an individual sees themselve as neither unionist or nationalist, I would expect they could be open to ‘Irish unity’

    If you missed it yesterdays blogged survey showed younger “younger Protestants” not identifying with unionism,

  • Mack

    Unlikely, Fin. The NILT puts Protestant support for a united Ireland at around 3%.

    http://www.ark.ac.uk/nilt/2007/Political_Attitudes/NIRELND2.html

    By the definition of nationalist and unionist proffered, myself and a good portion of my family and friends who didn’t vote would be classified as neither.

  • Dec

    Unlikely, Fin. The NILT puts Protestant support for a united Ireland at around 3%.

    And it also puts Catholic support for an Independant state at 6% (as opposed to 4% of Protestants)…ho hum.

  • Dec

    By the definition of nationalist and unionist proffered, myself and a good portion of my family and friends who didn’t vote would be classified as neither.

    Nor this Nationalist/Republican who came home from work, sat out the back drinking white wine in the sunshine then couldn’t be arsed walking up to the Polling station.

  • fin

    Mack, wasn’t aware of the %, I found yesterdays survey results very interesting particularily the drop off in been classified as a ‘unionist’ by er young unionists.

    However, I’m always confused as to how a ‘do you want a united Ireland’ questioned can be posed with any seriousness, its a massively open ended question been asked in a massively closed manner.

    The arguement for the UK is always given (by nice unionists) as social and economical benefits, I think a worthwhile survey would be to offer a set of these benefits from each state to people polled ask for a choice and a reason for their choice.

  • I recall, somewhere, sometime, a scornful criticism of British science-fiction writers that they couldn’t get off the island, let alone off the planet.

    So here we go again on a thread which will not rise above the level of the muddiest, dungiest corner of Six Counties. Nobody will bother to consult or consider those who, by choice or not, left the sod, got off the island, and perhaps achieved a greater illumination. We don’t vote. We don’t count. Most of us have other considerations nowadays: only the obsessives like myself and Harry Flashman bash on with the old rhetoric.

    As for NILT: that was 2007. This is now.

    Surely, the only point of general agreement here is that the EU result was short-on-quorum. One generalisation I do recognise about elections is that fewer voters change parties than selectively exercise/neglect to use their votes. In other words, it’s almost always a case of getting out the core vote. That was the measure of success or otherwise last week. Perhaps a far more rewarding thread might be why even the NI electorate is suffering voter-fatigue.

  • Mack

    Fin, the survey results correlated very poorly with actual electoral performance – therefore I definitely don’t think you can read anything in to them, especially not at the fine level of detail you seem to be.

    The only ‘survey’ that really matters is the ballot, building an argument around a survey that doesn’t seem to quite match reality is a bit like sticking to a sales plan built around a market survey, even when actual market results (sales, or in this case votes) indicate a different approach would be more successful.

  • fin

    Mack, in leaping to my defence, sorry if I gave the impression of believing surveys, I scoffed at the number of people who claimed in surveys they would rush down to their local pub if smoking was banned, and how right I was (talking London here) possibly they only rushed down to see what their local looked like after been converted into flats cos us smokers couldn’t be arsed going anymore.

    However, what impressed me in very broad brushstrokes was the drop off in identifing with unionism the younger the person polled was, while identifying with been a nationalist remained steady regardless of age.

  • PaddyReilly

    O’Neill isn’t much impressed by number-crunchers but there is one statistic that has to be borne in mind. Every year the Grim Reaper subtracts from the electorate 3,000 more Prods than Papes. At some point this continual leakage (for the next 40 years at least) of your potential voters is going to affect the Unionist vote: it may not show up at every single election: perhaps these last 5 years’ crop were an unusually non-voting or Nationalist leaning sort of elderly Prods: though we all know that the turn-out was the real clincher.

    One thing is certain though, that all of UCUNF’s posturings have not increased their profile an iota, as they won 9,000 less votes than the UUP did last time, even though UCUNF brought the massive Conservative voting block (estimated at 500) with them.

    We should also bear in mind that the Unionist 1st pref vote is still only 49% of the total on a good day. This may bring them 2 seats when there are only 3 seats going, but when there are 108 up for grabs the minor parties will get their fair share. So the shape of things to come is that there will be a new assembly, Unionists will lose the 2 seats necessary to put them in a permanent minority, and Marty will be 1st minister.

    What happens next will be a kind of Finlandisation I imagine. The DUP’s slogan for getting their way, “We are the majority of the majority” will not be available for Jim Allister to use. He starts off as a minority of a minority, and can never hope to be anything more than a majority of a minority.

    A castrated kind of Unionism will subsist, whose only hope of influencing matters will be by persuading Alliance to gang up with them to vote down SF, which Alliance will refuse to do except in such cases where SF is conspicuously out of order.

  • oneill

    Every year the Grim Reaper subtracts from the electorate 3,000 more Prods than Papes. At some point this continual leakage (for the next 40 years at least) of your potential voters is going to affect the Unionist vote:

    Paddy Reilly,

    Along with the two other Donkeys of the Impending Unionist Apocalypse (“Sammy MacNally did” etc and “The Horseman”)you were exactly who I had in mind when I mentioned the “ethno-nat number crunchers” and if that statement I’ve highlighted isn’t an example of “ethno-nat number crunching”… then I really don’t know what is.

  • PaddyReilly

    Oneill

    You remind me of a very poor football team that has lost so many matches that when it manages a draw it thinks it has achieved a big victory.

    Northern Ireland is founded on ethno-Nat number crunching so it’s no surprise if you get it thrown back in your face.

    It is fairly obvious that the UCUNF attempt to sell themselves to the Papes as a marvellous new non-sectarian brand has failed: they got the same percentage as last time, on less votes.

    So ethno-sectarian voting will continue as usual. Unless you can come up with some brilliant new plan, the Unionist advantage will continue to diminish. 30,000 votes is not a lot, when you consider that the entire vote was 60,000 down on 2004 and 190,000 down on 1999.

    The Unionist vote has come down from 67% or so at its highest to the current 49%. Do you really think it’s going to hover there forever just to please you?

  • oneill

    Paddy,

    “You remind me of a very poor football team that has lost so many matches that when it manages a draw it thinks it has achieved a big victory.”

    Me personally? Point out any example of triumphalism I’ve indulged in over the Euro result. Personally I think it was a good solid start considering. Lot of work still to do.

    “Northern Ireland is founded on ethno-Nat number crunching so it’s no surprise if you get it thrown back in your face.”

    And if you replicate the exact same bigotry that you believe led to the creation of the state… then that makes you what exactly?

    “It is fairly obvious that the UCUNF attempt to sell themselves to the Papes as a marvellous new non-sectarian brand has failed: they got the same percentage as last time, on less votes.”

    If the Consevatives and Unionists do what they’ve said they’re going to do, then they won’t be attempting to “sell themselves” on those old sectarian grounds, but my moving politics onto a new secular, civic level. Do you think you personally could cope with that?

    “So ethno-sectarian voting will continue as usual.”

    If that’s the case, are you content to live with that state of affairs? Should we not at least by trying to move things into the 21st Century? Not a rhetorical question, I want a simple “yes” or ‘no”

    “Unless you can come up with some brilliant new plan, the Unionist advantage will continue to diminish.”

    It’s hardly a “brilliant” or indeed that “new” a plan, but attempting to push our politics beyond the stage where people like yourself are obsessing over the ‘religion” of new-borns or who’s been despatched off to meet their Maker is the best way forward, I believe. Will that increase the “Unionist advantage” (why your obsession with such nil-sum concepts?)? I really can’t give you a 100% affirmative on that, but I’m confident that if people are basing their decision on their constitutional future on socio-economic (as opposed to the pure sectarian grounds you’re apparently enamoured with), then my grandchildren will be enjoying the exact same benefits of British citizenship that I do.

    “The Unionist vote has come down from 67% or so at its highest to the current 49%. Do you really think it’s going to hover there forever just to please you?”

    If you read my original post, you’ll see that I take the attitude that nobody or nothing should be taken for granted. If we are able to build a better case for the Union than we are presently managing, a case based on those factors I mentioned, then I’m pretty confident of our future remaining within the United Kingdom. That confidence is greatly increased when I see likes what you (and Doherty) have just posted- you’ve given up on any pretense of selling your vision on any other grounds than sectarian demographics.

  • PaddyReilly

    Obviously, the most utilitarian form of government is one where national units correspond to geographical ones. A United Ireland is an obvious convenience: one which places Tyrone in a different country to Donegal a damned inconvenience.

    The people of the North of Ireland do not have the same economic interests as those of rural England, any more than they do with those around Oslo or Paris. The area which most closely resembles the English stockbroker belt in quality of life is North Down, and even there the incumbent MP cannot bring herself to align with them.

    The only reason for this daft displacement is that a portion of the North’s population considers, for historical and religious reasons, that it has more in common with the Eastern Island. Fortunately that portion is in decline, and when that decline proceeds far enough, we will all be able to revert to normality.

    On another thread we are told that under the stewardship of the Parades Commision a 1000 non-contentious parades take place every year without any trouble at all. Result: the Orange Order is desperate to have the Commission abolished. This is the 21st Century that we are being invited to consent to.

    There just aren’t enough rich people in Ulster for a party aligned with the English Conservatives to get much beyond the 20% mark. If you want non-sectarianism and “secular, civic politics” within a six county context then you vote for Alliance or Greens.

  • oneil

    “Obviously, the most utilitarian form of government is one where national units correspond to geographical ones”

    So you’d argue that Spain and Portugal is one nation? You going to tell canadians that it would be much more “utilitarian” if they linked up with the US?

    “The people of the North of Ireland do not have the same economic interests as those of rural England, any more than they do with those around Oslo or Paris”

    My “economic interests” are to take just two examples, a decent social security system and a free at point of delivery health service, pretty universal ones I think you’d agree. I believe the UK government can help me with those interests better than the ROI.

    “If that’s the case, are you content to live with that state of affairs? Should we not at least by trying to move things into the 21st Century? Not a rhetorical question, I want a simple “yes” or ‘no””

    You haven’t get round to answering that one yet;)

  • PaddyReilly

    You haven’t get round to answering that one yet;)

    There’s a lady down the road- I haven’t seen her recently, maybe she’s moved away- nice lady, even though she was a member of the Conservative party- who was told, in court, to answer a question yes or no. Are these your gloves yes or no. Obviously there was no mark on them that would distinguish them from any one else’s plastic gloves in the world. They managed to badger her into saying yes when “I couldn’t say” was the only true answer. As a result she spent a decade in jail for a crime she didn’t commit.

    From this I have learnt never to answer yes or no when some Tory scumbag asks you to, if the facts require further comment.

  • oneill

    Paddy,

    “From this I have learnt never to answer yes or no when some Tory scumbag asks you to, if the facts require further comment”

    Now, now, Paddy that kind of flattery will get you nowhere!

    I think I’ve got my answer there anyway;)

  • PaddyReilly

    My “economic interests” are to take just two examples, a decent social security system and a free at point of delivery health service, pretty universal ones I think you’d agree. I believe the UK government can help me with those interests better than the ROI.

    Well you believe wrong. Social Security payments are way higher in the Republic, though as prices are higher as well, you end up with no money at the end of the week just the same.

    Visiting a GP costs you a nominal charge: I don’t object to that. It discourages people from abusing the system. It’s not like the US where the major cause of bankruptcy is inability to pay hospital fees. I don’t object to paying prescription charges in the UK: I think it’s part of the healing process to have to make some small payment.

    If you are actually that badly off, I suggest you need to move further left: Sinn Féin might be the party for you, they sit with the left-most parties in the European Parliament.

  • Mack

    O’Neill –

    Social security is streets ahead in Ireland (Republic) than in the UK. Economist Michael Taft did an EU wide analysis of welfare rates, the UK was the lowest of the rich countries. The dole is roughly 4 times more in the south than the north. State pensions more than twice as generous. PRSI is a fraction of national insurance.

    Health is free to those in the south who can’t afford to pay a smalll amount via the medical card system. (Anyhoo, I’d I’ve thought CUs would be more Friedmanite than Old Labour).

    Quick question – if it turned out that it was in NI’s best socio-economic interests to form a united Ireland outside of the UK (and a very strong argument can be made for this in the longer term) – would you still be a Unionist? Or is there a more emotional attachment to that philosophy?

    (BTW, I think the new direction is great – but anticipate you’ll face the same issues as other
    more established players. The SDLP have always been playing in this park for example).

  • Mack

    Paddy Reilly –

    Prices have been dropping in Ireland for a while now. On a trip up north this weekend, large differences we noticed on many items 6 months ago have all but disappeared.

    http://www.independent.ie/business/personal-finance/latest-news/big-plunge-in-prices-softens-tax-hikes-blow-1770926.html

  • PaddyReilly

    I’m glad to hear it Mack. If house prices would come down as well I might be able to transfer my centre of operations to Dublino.

  • oneill

    Mack and Paddy,

    In event of “Unity” what would be the Nordie Tax to bring our social security system in line with the ROI?

    I would be more Disraelian One-nationist that a Thatcherite in these matters, although I’m not making an argument that the kind of welfare dependence and reliance on the public sector in NI is healthy but if the will is there for it to be changed then the UK has infinitely more resources than the ROI to effect the necessaries.
    I will look at the report you mention mack and do a more detailed comment on here or post.

    “if it turned out that it was in NI’s best socio-economic interests to form a united Ireland outside of the UK (and a very strong argument can be made for this in the longer term) – would you still be a Unionist?”

    Yes, my attachment goes beyond economics, but if such hard evidence was provided then the job to convince the “neutrals” and “couldn’t care less”s. Strangely enough though neither SDLP, SF nor indeed the Republic’s parties have ever (afaik) commissioned the likes of PWC or Deloitte to provide an independent costs and benefits analysis of Unity. Instead it’s back of the envelope calculations prodiced for their own support’s benefit.

    Or is there a more emotional attachment to that philosophy?

  • eranu

    “Visiting a GP costs you a nominal charge”

    LOL! if 50EUR/42GBP is a nominal charge just to be seen by your doc, then i wish i had your bank account!!

    “Health is free to those in the south who can’t afford to pay a smalll amount via the medical card system”
    not sure what you mean here, medical cards are only for OAPs to get free treatment. everyone else pays unless they are on the dole. some treatment is free if you are referred from a doctors. thats why there is so much private health insurance down south.

    the dole is much better down south though. 210euro a week if you meet the requirements. they also get a free tooth cleaning at the dentist every 6 months. but loads of people go north for any major dental work as its much cheaper.

  • Mack

    ONeill –

    This link will be useful :-

    http://notesonthefront.typepad.com/politicaleconomy/2009/03/dear-sarah.html

    A united Ireland isn’t on the horizon – paying for such research would be a waste of money. BTW, have Unionist parties paid for that kind of research to debunk it? Obviously, we’ve got our own problems to deal with at the minute down here – Martin Mansergh was on the ball the other day.

    A couple of points generally though. In a united Ireland, Northern Ireland would be brought within the Republic’s tax structure, and legal framework. With it’s lower wages the NI economy could benefit from significant FDI. I’d imagine with the IDA on the case a great deal of success could be had in that regard. That would enable the scaling down of the public sector in NI (thus greatly reducing the it’s cost), and increase the number of workers working in the productive economy. In addition, Ireland tends to do quite well on the back of companies it attracts in terms of tax revenues. Despite having one the lowest corporation tax rates in Europe, tax revenues are among the highest. Also, over the long term, Ireland’s lower age structure will equate to a better dependency ratio and thus (all else being equal, which they aren’t at the minute with a higher GDP per capita in Ireland) should mean some combination of lower taxes, or better benefits and services.

    If the only politically palatable option for NI, is to continue it’s dependency on soviet style subvention then the UK is the best option. But that is a depressing vista, economically, and socially, as it will entail the continuing export of your brightest children.

  • Mack

    eranu –

    Wages are generally much higher in the south, so while €50 isn’t cheap by any means – it isn’t the same burden to southerners as it is to northerners. I should point out that those on less than €20k per year (or so) don’t pay any tax at all in the south. In contrast to those in the UK who pay for the privilege via taxation even if they never visit a doctors in a single year.

    There are advantages and disadvantages of private health (generally get seen to quicker privately – certainly my experience for routine GP, dental appointments can be made the same day in the south often took a little longer on the NHS). I agree, it’s tougher on the less well off. I wouldn’t quite have expected a Tory to have been advocating public health though…

  • Mack

    Also, if you are lucky enough to pay tax in the south you can claim back a portion of your med expenses.

    http://www.citizensinformation.ie/categories/money-and-tax/tax/income-tax-credits-and-reliefs/taxation_and_medical_expenses

  • Mack
  • Driftwood

    Mack
    I suspect that a lot of inertia has crept in and many in NI would be quite happy for the subvention to float our boat. Secure public sector jobs, final salary schemes etc, I think many regions on the mainland would be jealous.
    But the Republic now has a huge Public Sector. Can it afford it?

  • Mack

    Driftwood –

    By European standards Ireland’s public sector is quite small, just very well paid (certainly in comparison with the UK). But.. I think given the fiscal imbalance, some cutbacks are required. Still waiting for An Bord Snip Nua to report..

    In the long term, as well as good job opportunities, I’d be concerned about my children heading off across the globe (or even just to Britain). Make for a much less fulfilling old-age , I imagine. If the south were to return to the bad old days of 1980s emigration – I think I’d agitate the missus for us to leave ourselves. Better to go together, than wait for the children to leave!

  • Driftwood

    The reason I ask, Mack, is that I perceive (maybe wrongly)a divide between public and private sector workers opening up. With the latter increasingly embittered at unfairly taking most of the recessionary ‘pain’. Given that NI is so reliant on public sector jobs and Westminster, the same isn’t happening up here as much.
    But David Cameron might have the balls to tackle the public sector in a way that Cowen or Kenny (or Stormont) couldn’t/wouldn’t contemplate.

  • eranu

    Mack, public health care is a mark of a civilized country i think. Michael Moores ‘Sicko’ is good viewing on the subject. yes its a dramatic michael moore doc slant on things, but its definitely worth the download time on bit torrent.

  • eranu

    as regards your kids, now is the perfect time for them to go away for a few years. i left the sinking ship ROI a while back for sunnier shores. i really wish i had done it years ago. Don’t worry, as the parents you’ll be able to holiday with them for months on end 🙂

  • oneill

    Mack

    Thanks for the link.

    “A united Ireland isn’t on the horizon – paying for such research would be a waste of money. BTW, have Unionist parties paid for that kind of research to debunk it?”

    I think especially on sites like Slugger we tend to forget that, even in NI, there’s a very large minority (certainly large enough to tip the scales towards the UI) who have no great emotional attachment to either the Union or a UI-both NI Unionism and Irish Republicanism to date has ignored that fact in favour of consolidating the base. But the Union is “in situ” and so the onus is on those who want to change the status quo to show exactly that group how we collectively could benefit from a switch in the sovereignty.

    The problem is (and it’s exactly the same one faced by the SNP in Scotland) is proving that such a switch would not only keep the society as a whole in the manner to which it has become accustomed, but would lead to a quantifiable higher standard of living.

    “If the only politically palatable option for NI, is to continue it’s dependency on soviet style subvention then the UK is the best option. But that is a depressing vista, economically, and socially, as it will entail the continuing export of your brightest children.”

    Agree 100%, it’s got to change. But as I said in my previous comment if the will to change is there (and the change of that mindset, I think, is one of the main targets the Conservatives and Unionists need to be concentrating on) then the UK has the greater means to effect that change.

  • PaddyReilly

    Though the United Kingdom National Health Service is agreeably free, it is, I find, less than efficient because of long waiting lists- so long in fact that you are at risk of perishing from your ailment before you are seen. The service could do with an extra injection of cash, and charging people 50€/£42 to visit a GP might be the way to raise this.

    The system in the Irish Republic seems fair enough if you are unemployed or an OAP, and so have to pay nothing, or making a wage large enough not to be bothered by a 50€ charge, but I fear there may be some people who fit into none of these categories: the tendency would be to force them to go onto the dole, which in the long term is not a good thing for the economy. However the same applies in the UK with regard to taxation, where the badly off but not unemployed are disproportionately hit by taxation, while the Irish Republic apparently has a more favourable fiscal system.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The service could do with an extra injection of cash, and charging people 50€/£42 to visit a GP might be the way to raise this.

    You’re evidently not familiar with the massive bribes that New Labour granted to GPs, upon which the GPs (and dentists) delivered fuck all in response.

    Get the salaries of the medical professionals under control first.

  • Erasmus

    Dear PaddyReilly,
    I have read your comments with interest. At first glance the last election would appear to have been pretty uninspiring from your perspective; there was only a very marginal erosion of the absolute unionist/nationalist voting differential with a dramatically lower turnout. Two points must also be factored in:
    1. Eamon McCann’s vote in 2004. Leaving aside the candidate’s own views, his voters would certainly have tended to have been of a nationalist bent.
    2. The dyslexic DUP vote. You could definitely subtract one percentage point from the Ian Parsley’ total and assign it to the general unionist camp.
    There are admittedly a number of confusing factors:
    1. The drastically reduced turnout which makes psephological inferences extremely difficult.
    2. There is nothing like a good old *intra*-tribal (as opposed to *inter*-tribal) spitefest to get out the vote through energising the relevant factions. There was plenty of this on the unionist side with the arrival of the TUV.
    On the nationalist side it is possible that a sense of ennui has set in with the issue of who is top dog being pretty well settled and the two parties, policywise, increasingly converging. This being the case the Euro election made have been seen as increasingly irrelevant – as opposed to assembly elections where ministries are at stake. It is true that nationalist areas tended to have bigger turnouts but this is par for the course. What we may have seen is a coutervailing differential turnout attenuating the predicative differential turnout (my late father always said you could argue anything from statistics).
    3. It is possible that nationalists are becoming increasingly comfortable with a Green vote because of their all-Ireland structure; especially as, unlike the other all-Ireland party, their southern wing has got a foothold in government. However because their votes were distributed along with Parsley’s we have no accurate read on their second preferences.
    Your thoughts please?
    This is not a rhetorical question. Nor am I throwing down the gauntlet; I actually respect your powers of staistical exegesis.
    Best wishes.

  • For all the abuse and misrepresentation heaped on the NHS, it still remains one of the most cost-efficient health-delivery systems in the world. Its operating on-costs are substantially below private health-care systems.

    That’s my top and bottom line. Detailed debate does not easily fit in this tight comment box.

    On a more personal level (and one of which my close acquaintance has bitter experience), what happens in the private sector (where on-costs about twice those of the NHS) when the case becomes too complex or the patient terminal? Deliver the problem to the NHS, prontissimo. And too late.

    Then there’s the curious way An Roinn Sláinte agus Leanaí manipulates statistics. The UK uses the more general measure of comparison, and quotes health expenditure as 8.5% of GDP. The RoI statistics are more likely to be cited as 7.5% of Gross National Income. This is because the GNI does not include the repatriated profits of multinationals, and so gives a better dividend.

    The other statistic quoted is that health expenditure, 2007, in the RoI is $2,926 per capita, against an OECD average of $2,759 (note that for this favourable comparison, we have slithered back to GNP figures). The alternative method of quoting that is to use calculations based “purchasing power parties”. In which case the RoI suddenly leaps to $3082 per capita, against the UK figure of £2760 per capita. Since the US figure ($6714 per capita) dwarfs us all, that should be a measure of how effective these numbers are.

    Comrade Stalin @ 11:23 PM has a point which I would not significantly contest. However, the OECD comparison of medical specialists’ remuneration, in 13 countries, shows that six of the seven lower places are taken by salaried specialists (i.e. those employed by a national provider) and all six top places by self-employed specialists. The “UK” (see below) entry is the one on the cusp there.

    It might also be a point of passing interest that the OECD seems to quote figures specific to “Great Britain”. Hmmm … now who’s excluded there? And why?