“the task of the forensic historical psephologist is not an easy one”

A perennial ‘hot topic’ amongst Slugger’s more excitable commenters is the alleged demographic imperative.  At one point even some of the local political parties were endorsing what they regarded as the inevitable…

As a topic for discussion I find it neither enlightening, nor enlightened.  Culture and identity are not that simplistic.

I’ve previously noted Brendan O’Leary, from the University of Pennsylvania, speaking at the British-Irish Studies annual conference in Dublin, ahead of his appearance on the International Representative for west Belfast’s recent whistle-stop World Tour.

And, along with his predecessor, Bertie Ahern, current Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, has made his view clear.

“The genius of all of these agreements is that we are all on a common journey together where we have not decided on the destination. The problem with our ideologies in the past was that we had this idea about where we were going but we had no idea how anyone was going to come with us on the journey.

“We have now all decided: let’s go on a journey and forget about the destination – the destination isn’t really important in that respect. We can all work for what it is we would like ideally to see, but this is not something that can be forced or imposed upon people on either side of the island,” the Taoiseach [Brian Cowen] said.

But it’s always worth noting psephologist Nicholas Whyte’s thoughts on voting trends in the News Letter.

Seen from the vantage point of 2010, what looked 10 years ago like a sharp and possibly terminal decline for unionism now looks like the establishment of a new and stable pattern. The decline from 51.8 per cent of votes for unionist parties in 2005 to 50.5 per cent in 2010 is more than accounted for by the gains made by Alliance and smaller centre parties. European elections apart, the gap between Unionists and Nationalists has been steady at around 10 per cent since 1997.

The voters we don’t see: In this analysis I have left out the highest absolute vote for the Union in our electoral history. 591,820 voters came out and voted for Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom in the ‘Border Poll’ of 8 March 1973; 12,436 voted for a United Ireland or spoiled their ballot; and 425,828 stayed at home.

Three months later, in the election of the first Assembly, 447,085 voters (of a 722,191 turnout) supported unionist parties. Almost 150,000 of those who had voted in the referendum either voted for parties outside the unionist bloc for the Assembly, or else did not vote at all. (The combined votes of the Alliance Party and Northern Ireland Labour Party amounted to 85,000, which still leaves 65,000 unaccounted for.)

The fact is that the Union, as a constitutional arrangement, is more popular than unionism, as a political movement. This is borne out by successive opinion poll findings that between a quarter and a half of those who vote for nationalist parties (and the great majority of those who support centre parties) actually prefer the current arrangements to a United Ireland.

But they do not vote unionist, presumably because they do not see unionist parties as representing their interests in other, more important respects.

On that basis, my own prediction is that even if the margin between unionist and nationalist parties should slip still further in the decades to come (though I doubt that it will have changed much by 2021), the outcome of any referendum vote will remain securely on the pro-Union side, no matter how badly led unionism is in the future.

Read the whole thing.

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  • DC

    Martin, don’t resist the 2 billion planned cuts, go for an additional 10 billion and the united Ireland is all yours!

    (Thankfully air flights have reduced 28% or so and I will be outta here!)

  • Pete Baker


    I know you haven’t had time to do more than take a cursory glance at the original post…

  • DC

    You’re right, you’re right. I’m in humorous mood. I jest.

  • Alias

    While is sounds like a declaration of the blatantly obvious to say that support for the union isn’t the same thing as support for unionism or vice versa and that support for the ‘nationalist’ parties isn’t the same thing as support for a united Ireland both of those declarations appear in blind spots for one of NI’s two nations and only appear in a corner of one eye of the other nation because Trimble shoved the blinker slightly to one side to allow it to appear.

  • Crow

    It seems a stretch to conclude the likely defeat of a United Ireland Referendum on the basis of the 1973 Border Poll and some opinion polls. Especially given, as the article concedes, the continued erosion of the big ‘U’ unionism. I think the likely loss of the ‘Culturally British’ majority in Northern Ireland will be a highly significant milestone. The debate, at least for the new majority, starts to lose its epic, clash of the titans, life or death conotations, and becomes much more centred on the simple economics of the outcome. If and when the big day comes, big ‘U’ unionism would need to play its hand very carefully indeed. The actions they take to rally their own troops would almost certainly have an opposite effect on the very constituency who could swing the day. In fact, it will be very interesting to see what concessions big ‘U’ unionism is willing to offer the ‘Culturally Irish’ majority to support the union.

  • Those two paragraphs from Brian Cowen are in the “Never before in the field of human conflict” class.

    Bravo, Taoiseach . Who else Drivers the HyperVision?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    The missing link in many of the analyses of election results is the comparative turnout by community background – possibly becuase it is too hard to do – and a point I raised with the late, great Horseman a number of times.

    In this years Westminsters there seems to have been a distinct fall off in the Nationalist turnout e.g. East Belfast had a higher turnout than West Belfast- when was the last time that happened? . (The exception to this trend was North Belfast, a Horseman favourite – see below – where there was a serious chance of unseating Deputy Dodsy.)


    Perhaps nationalists, and SF’s voters in particular, like the proverbial Unionists, have also taken to the garden centres and prefer the politics of the trowel and the shovel to that of the armalite and the ballot box.

    It is also possible that Nationalists are more interested in the Assembly elections – after all it is a quite a difficult pitch for SF to ask people to vote for them in an election in which they wont take their seats.

    So for those, who like Pete, find this topic “neither enlightening, nor enlightened” but still feel the need to talk about it, the Assembly elections followed by the census results will be eagerly awaited.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Anecdoteally, I believe Nicholas Whyte’s analysis to be broadly correct.

    Most Protestants who I know personally simply don’t vote — excuses range from Robbo’s expenses to ‘a plague on all their houses’, basically summed up as can’t be arsed. However to a man and woman they all consider themselves Unionists, and when I coyly question their intentions in the event of a border poll, it’s a matter of ‘damn sure I’d be out there voting.’

    The DUP and DUP lite (sorry the UUP under trusty Tom) have little appeal for many pro-union voters. A heady mix of Creationism and the OO often just doesn’t cut it and now that Basil’s crusade has been scuppered by a bunch of pensioners, it’s Alliance or nothing for many 21st century Prods.

    This doesn’t however mean that any of said Prods are marching or even shuffling towards the notion of a United Ireland.
    One interesting if somewhat controversial viewpoint I was treated to the other day went something like: ‘the south got their freedom from British rule in 1921 and proceeded to largely hand governance over to the Vatican. When that went horribly pear shaped they handed over to the banks and property developers who bankrupted the place overnight. Now with the EU money dried up, emigration rocketing again and nothing but fading memories of the church, the celtic tiger and republican myth to sustain them, they want us to join them. I don’t think so.’

  • HeinzGuderian

    Nail on the head !!! I made that very point last week. Certain posters are jumping up and down in glee,at the demise of the UUP………and as you rightly say,the duppers are anathema to ordinary Unionist voters…………doesn’t mean to say the Union itself is in peril !!

    Ordinary Unionists will not vote for Trusty Tom,or Perilous Pete………they will,however,vote to retain the Union………….I mean to say,it’s a no brainer !! 🙂

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    If Unionists continue not to vote and Nationalism continues to use the assembly to green Ulster and to increasinlgy run the Assembly shop then that will keep most of the people on both sides of the constitutional debate reasonably happy.

    In Westminster terms, we could have a majority of MPs not turning up to Westminter (when the SDLP come onside or lose their seats) and a majority of MPs at least having speaking rights in the Irish parliament.

  • Drumlin Rock

    on the otherside of the borderline it seems the demographics are swinging strongly the otherway, support for a united Ireland down south has fallen from 82% to 57% in 4 yrs, at this rate they will be rejoining the United Kingdom by the time of the centenary of independance!


  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    Are you saying the British couldnt give it away?

    Apparently James Callaghan tried to ply Fitzgerald with drink in County Cork and then asked him if he could take Norn Iron off his hands but Fitzy saw the hospital pass coming and politely declined. Some years later Fitzy had a word with Mrs T and offered to help run the place and the quare one accepted – though she still apparently wanted to offload a few troublesome bits which were again declined. So Ireland helps to run the show put doesnt have to pick up the tab (except for the odd road) – though I suppose some Free Staters might say Ireland should be paid for helping out.

    So Unionists cant trust the British and Nationalists cant trust the FreeStaters – a truly shocking state of affairs for the Plain People of Ulster on both sides of the fence.

  • Nordie Northsider

    Sammy’s point about the greening of the Assembly is a good one. Nicholas Whyte is undeniably right to say that a majority are unlikely to vote for the United Ireland option in a simple Yes or No referendum – not in our lifetimes anyway. But a Nationalist majority at Stormont is not so far-fetched and that has its own implications in terms of chipping away at the Union, adding new layers of ‘all-islandism’ and basically underming Unionist morale.

    And what would it do for Unionist morale if a majority of Westminster MPs from the North were of the Nationalist tendency (regardless of whether or not SF ever take their seats there)? As things stand, and counting Naomi Long as a lower-case unionist, all it takes is North Belfast to fall and we have parity. It’s a long way from the ‘two Unionist votes to every Nationalist vote’ stuff I grew up listening to.

    Demographics may not be the only show in town, Pete, but let’s not pretend it’s of no importance.

  • Drumlin Rock

    you funny Sammy, most of the petty cross border bodies are a farce and certainly dont justify any extension…

    as for the promised road (for which they will only pay around a third), they can keep it we dont want it.

  • Drumlin Rock

    nordie, I dont know what affect it will have on “morale” but from a practical point of view the current system at Stormont would mean things change very little, its a permanent stalemate, prob the only real difference would be ministerial faces.

  • Nordie Northsider

    “support for a united Ireland down south has fallen from 82% to 57% in 4 yrs”

    Wishful thinking, Drumlin. For a start, 50.1% would be enough to win the day, but there is no reason to believe support for an United Ireland is anything like that low. There is a consistent majority in polls and attitudinal surveys and even if the majority has been declining, well there could be any number of factors: the large immigrant population who couldn’t give a toss either way, for example. And if they couldn’t give a toss presumably they won’t be voting against.

    The stern anti-Sinn Féin stance of politicians like Michael McDowell gave the wrong impression that the political establishment in the South had turned against unity. Not so: here is McDowell himself speaking at the McGill Summer School:

    “I make no apology for saying here that I favour Irish unity, and I believe, very much like Garret FitzGerald, that Irish independence was, and is, a good thing for the people of this State.”

    They haven’t gone away you know.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    I wasnt refering to cross border bodies – which will increase in importance, as Unionists as we have heard above, increasingly dont bother voting for the appalling candidates on offer – but all British government iniitatives in the north are agreed in advance with the Irish government e.g. GFA/STA/Hillsborough – that is de facto joint rule on major political issues.

  • Pete,

    A really interesting post / links. It foregrounds (for me, anyway) just how far NI politics is dominated by so many of the shortcomings in its democratic settlement. Even the more conventional politics that is found elsewhere – where communal issues run behind various ideological splits – the democratic decisionmaking is imperfect in lots of ways.

    The thing is, it is those imperfections that apply here: How far are political parties dominated by minority concerns? How far do the conclusions of elected governments really stray from ‘The General Will’ and how far is this the cause of a distrust between governments and their voters? How far does policy debate (when it moves into the public sphere) rapidly become dominated by simplified ‘outlier’ positions? How far are political parties dominated by people who know how to surf on this simplified message and this appeal to ‘active citizens’?

    I’d be interested to see ‘trade off’ polling both sides of the border. The figure (either Nicholas Whyte’s findings or the views in the south via Drumlin’s Rock – above) about what the view is on partition is, surely, of almost no real interest until you see it in the context of the trade offs that are necessary. I’ve a string of relatives in Mayo who would bang the table and let you know how much they object to the border, but I reckon (I don’t know for sure) that they’d probably be prepared to forget the whole idea if it meant that they could get their kids through University a bit more cheaply.

    The really interesting questions are like this: Marks out of ten? Do you want a united Ireland. >5 = yes. <5 = no. And then rank the importance of this question against other concerns.

    I've not read or done the research, but your links and my intuition tells me that a any weighted polling of this kind would be a cause of despair for Irish nationalists.

  • Drumlin Rock

    are you telling me George Osborne is at this very moment consulting Brian Lenihan on his big anouncment due on Wednesday? probably the biggest initiative to affect NI this century!

  • fin

    “support for a united Ireland down south has fallen from 82% to 57% in 4 yrs”

    And thats without a sniff of a referendum, what will happen when it comes and the nationalist drum is beating loudly, the supporters of NICE would have given their first born for these figures. Wonder how many West Germans were interested in unity the year before the wall came down?

    With regards to the rest of this thread an alternative heading could be, “Voltaire is alive and well and living in a garden centre in Antrim”

    The gist seems to be that unionists dislike their politicans but will vote to keep them all the same, this chimes well with earlier threads on education, we don’t like Tom or Peter but maybe the kids will when they’re old enough to vote!

    Could the distortion on voting in the border poll be due to ballot box stuffing by interested parties

  • fin

    Interesting to see one unionist theory blown away in the poll

    “it was notably higher among younger people (63%) and the Unemployed (73%).”

    just because times are bad doesn’t mean people don’t want a united Ireland, these are the two groups usually touted by unionists as not interested in the border question

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    Bypassing the fairly appling term “foregrounds ” I tend to agree that money would probably be a bigger deternminant of the outcome than ideology.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    I did say the Englezes got to do the paying – but you must remember that the money that Ulster gets is down to the overall package agreed at Hillsborough (something that the unfortunate Owen seemed to forget recently) and was used a carrot to the DUP to help them over the finishing line with Police and Justice – all part of Peace Processing which determines Ulster’s future.

    And you have to love the DUP ticking off the Englezes for vnot being as reliable as the Vatican controlled Southern Territories when it came to meeting their financial obligations.

    The foreign office will remind George to cough up.

  • Anon

    Your assumption is flawed. Any nationalist and republcian worth their salt would argue that over the medium to long term a United Ireland would increase prosperity.

    The best thing the South can do is return to good growth and a solid economy. The state of the South’s economy is the biggest barrier to a United Ireland rather than ehadcoutns.

    Still brilliant to see lots of Unionists telling us a United Ireland can never happen. Even if they were correct at this present second, past performance is no indication of future trends. But please, settle into complacency.

  • Greenflag

    Most people in the Irish Republic still favour a UI as the longer term solution for this island’s ‘constitutional’ problem. At the same time they know that it won’t ever come about until there is a voting majority of Irish Nationalists in Northern Ireland along with a significant number of ‘unionists’ who are if not for such an arrangement at least neutral or not willing to go for their ‘guns’ to oppose any UI.

    The late Horseman showed in some detail how the demographics were changing on the ground within NI and not just west of the Bann but even in predominantly Unionist areas with the exception if I recall of one or two.

    The current economic ‘crisis ‘ will pass just as earlier ones and just as the ‘unionist ‘ people of Fermanagh remained loyal to the dreary steeples after World Wars 1 and 2 so too will the majority of Irish people in the Republic and the vast majority of the NI nationalist and republican population remain loyal to a UI achieved by peaceful means .

    In those given circumstances there is nothing else to do except continue to cooperate in power sharing in NI while the Republic focuses on it’s ‘reconstruction ‘ In a decade or so when the economic clouds have lifted it will be time enough to look again .In the meantime I’d advise ‘unionists’ at least those who are 100% committed to the Union to have a good long look at a ‘fair repartition’ of NI before if it becomes a political impossibility assuming it has’nt already.

    None of it is of course worth any more lives . Of course having 50,000 empty school places in NI says more about the demographic and economic future for both communities in NI than any political party’s policy .

    When people don’t see an economic or stable political future they stop bringing children into the world . This was not possible in the past in a predominantly RC country or in a province with an almost 50% RC population -but it is now . The ‘unionist ‘demographic i.e an aging population by itself will tend to keep emptying ever more of those school places .

    It seems that given the choice to prosper together in their present State or in any future constitutional arrangement the people of NI or at least a large cohort of them on both sides would prefer to hang separately . That I’m sure can be arranged ;)?

    I’m sure the big world out will be ‘bothered ‘ enough to take notice . To really attract world attention the NI folks have to speed up the ‘self hanging ‘ process by killing each other in ever greater numbers . That may attract the medias attention but it’ll do nothing to improve anyone’s lot within NI nor will it bring a UI any closer .

    What NI has now is as good as it can get for another decade at least and probably longer.

    In the meantime there is some ‘cutting’ to look forward to for NI residents 😉 ?

  • White Horse


    I have little doubt that the Horseman has an agenda and that it must be to keep bullshitting the Sinn Fein base so that they keeping propping up Gerry and co in the delusional belief that they will bring about a united Ireland without having to persuade a single unionist of its merits.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    Of course everyone likes to hear what they like to hear but his analysis was based on the available data and most of the criticism directed at him (including yours) was personal or ideological rather than dealing with with facts that he presented.

    His analysis of North and South Belfast provides pretty uncomfortable readng for Unionists – do you not agree?

    …and I tihink he was more SDLP than SF but I wouldnt swear to it.

  • White Horse

    Glad to see a post with a little common sense about the demographic argument that Sinn Fein secretly peddles as their strategy for achieving a united Ireland by 2016. They daren’t say it too loudly as they might hear it themselves and realise that it isn’t so much a strategy as the product of a hollow ideology that only appeals to the right and is essentially dependent on forcing their way rather than persuading their enemies of their bona fides.

  • White Horse


    “…more SDLP than Sinn Fein…”

    You’ve peddled that line before to me. If he was SDLP he must have been trying to keep Sinn Fein focussed on its strategy for as long as they can be kept preoccupied by this nonsense argument. But I suggest that he was most likely to have been linked to either government trying to do the same thing.

    You can fiddle around with the figures as much as you like but take a step back and you’ll find that they don’t add up to a united Ireland any time soon.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    “You can fiddle around with the figures as much as you like but take a step back and you’ll find that they don’t add up to a united Ireland any time soon”

    ..but they do point to increasing Nationalist political control of the North.

  • Drumlin Rock

    bet that Unemployed percentage would drop if their benefit was cut to match ours!

  • White Horse


    “Nationalist control”

    An extra Westminster seat doesn’t amount to control. It is typical of the cosmetic politics of Sinn Fein that you come out with such nonsense.

    Together with the DUP you offer the people the politics of green and orange ideology, such is your superficiality. The people want progress towards a just society, and they’ll not get it from your shallow musings.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    White Horse,

    “Together with the DUP you offer the people the politics of green and orange ideology, such is your superficiality. The people want progress towards a just society, and they’ll not get it from your shallow musings.”

    Are you referring to your own statement below perchance?

    “You can fiddle around with the figures as much as you like but take a step back and you’ll find that they don’t add up to a united Ireland any time soon”

  • White Horse

    A little too sharp, Sammy. Sorry.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    You are inded a fair minded equine type.

  • .but they do point to increasing Nationalist political control of the North.

    Interesting. Now how does this work in a power sharing executive?

    Unless by political control you are referring to bins and graveyards

  • increasinlgy run the Assembly shop

    yep. Definitely been sold something by the Shinners here alright…

  • the issue being of course that the RoI’s version of a UI is the annexing of NI. Hypothetically if they were told the real compromises that would need to be made they may in fact like it as much as having to mumble Ireland’s Call at the RoI rugby games, without so much a nod to their former anthem.

  • indeed. Perhaps the sectarian headcounters can be made to see the benefits of real opposition at Stormont after all 😉

  • But please, settle into complacency.

    is this a plea to stop riding?

  • the issue being what do the perma-disaffected within the Shinner ranks do then – Pat Ramsey coined a phrase ‘born-again provos’. You can see it happening all too easily.

    This is why any desperate NIO-themed nods and winks SF’s way in terms of what is allegedly a ‘strategy’ to a UI are effectively doomed – in the same why borrowing our way out of the financial crisis only prolongs the effect.

    We (NI society) need to rid ourselves of the blood-lust from within Irish nationalism. Pretending the ‘conflict’ has moved on permanently is a big gamble not worth the unwinding.

  • Pete Baker

    “We (NI society) need to rid ourselves of the blood-lust from within Irish nationalism. Pretending the ‘conflict’ has moved on permanently is a big gamble not worth the unwinding.”

    And that’s what Sinn Féin advocates have singularly failed to do.

  • 1) Methodology: it may be a stretch, but these are the only numbers we have to go on. There is plenty of evidence that support for the continued link with the UK is far ahead of support for ‘Unionist’ parties; there is no evidence at all pointing in the other direction.

    2) Concessions: the problem for the pro-United Ireland camp is that they do not even have the support of all the ‘culturally Irish’. But turning your argument around, I would be interested to hear what concessions Nationalists would make to the ‘culturally British’ to tempt them into a United Ireland. Nationalism’s silence on that point has been rather telling.

  • Reader

    It was Sammy: If Unionists continue not to vote and Nationalism continues to use the assembly to green Ulster and to increasinlgy run the Assembly shop then
    So; ballpark estimate please – how many Assembly seats will nationalists need to win to deliver Ruane’s plan to get rid of academic selection?

  • “International Representative for west Belfast’s”

    Pete, you seemed to have overlooked the activities of West Belfast’s main ‘international representative’, the interim NIW NED, Máirtin Ó Muilleoir.

    He can be up to his ‘uxters’ in sewage in New York as well as swanning around in Hawaii.

    He can even solicit £20,000 from Belfast Harbour for a SF-related project without a twitch from the antennae of SF’s political opponents – or Slugger’s SF Watch 😉

  • PaddyReilly

    A common misconception among Unionists is the idea that the electorate of future times will in some way be bound by the GFA and thus subject entirely to an all or nothing referendum: which obviously they see as the secret weapon which will frustrate democratic change.

    Not at all. The GFA was an agreement between the different parties in the electorate of 1998. The reason it is still operative today is that we have no reason to suppose that the electorate of 2010 is substantially different in its requirements. But it would be a gross perversion of democratic process to attempt to impose strictures assented to by a 1998 electorate to a 2016 one (gross perversions of democratic process are of course what keeps Unionism in being). It would be the equivalent of ordering an 18 year parliament.

    So obviously, when it becomes apparent that there is no longer a unionist majority, there will have to be another agreement which will establish the contours of the Reunification Process. This will be a series of referenda at regular intervals to enable the establishement of an ever closer union.

    The first of these will logically be a unified Health Service. As the NHS is NI’s greatest employer, this should lead to a redistribution of Health Service personnel throughout the island, further reducing the Unionist element in the NI electorate. Police/Gardaí would come next: there has to be an outfit which can enforce a United Ireland.

    It is important that the sheet be pulled out from under the Unionists subtly. Protestants who were alive in the 26 counties tell me that in 1938, even at the beginning of 1948, they still thought they were still in Britain and prayed for the King in school. All to the good: in countries such as Australia and Canada, there is no clear independence day: there are acts of parliament decades apart which lead to the establishment of this independence.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    “Blood Lust”

    Usual old Unionist guff and denial. The British have gerrmandered the Provos a place in government and gave the Irish government a say in running Ulster becuase they belatedly recognised precisely the opposite ie that Republicans were reasonable people – and that is why they reached a compromise with them – something Unioinsts still have not come to terms with.

    Of course Unionists have no difficulty with the British ‘blood lust’ which drives them to invade other peoples countries and causes sirpatrickmayhem in them – whether it is Ireland or Iraq.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Unioinsts, fellow Irish countrymen,

    the simple facts are that if Unionists dont vote (as is being suggested by Unionists here) and Nationalists do the latter will run more Stormo depratments, run more councils and have more MPs.

    Carry on garden-centering.

  • fin

    Nevin, I’m curious, how is New York-New Belfast a SF related project, AND, if it is, given that its purpose is to drum up business for NI why would you oppose it?

  • Reader

    It was Sammy: the simple facts are that if Unionists dont vote (as is being suggested by Unionists here) and Nationalists do the latter will run more Stormo depratments,
    So, if SF gets another Department, they will bring in their next most capable minister after Ruane to run it, and then they will, erm, do what?
    Will the extra seat in the executive allow Ruane to get her way over education?

  • Reader

    PaddyReilly: So obviously, when it becomes apparent that there is no longer a unionist majority, there will have to be another agreement which will establish the contours of the Reunification Process.
    If you thought you could win a referendum why would you want another agreement? Your proposal seems to be an attempt to delay a United Ireland.

  • perhaps they’ll start to run education sometime soon

  • fin, if you read the blog you’ll see that the NYNB project is organised by Ó Muilleoir’s Belfast Media Group/Irish Echo. Belfast Harbour wouldn’t make out a cheque to BMG because of the political connection and that connection is clearly to Sinn Fein.

    If you read Ó Muilleoir’s ‘From The Balcony Blog’ you’ll see Máirtín having a dig at the ‘SDLP-leaning’ press re. NIW fiasco whilst failing to note that the interim board leant towards, er, Sinn Fein. SF cronyism good; other cronyism bad 😉

    Drumming up business for NI is good; the NYNB project looks like party political funding by other means. Would you be surprised if such partisan activities get a mention in the 2011 SF election literature? If SF is so convinced of the rightness of its cause why doesn’t it use its own/friends money?

  • Of course Unionists have no difficulty with the British ‘blood lust’

    Notably you left out Afghanistan there – I appreciate the distinction, even from an Irish republican. In reality of course there are many views on the war in Iraq. A weak attempt at deflection from yourself.

    The British have gerrmandered the Provos a place in government and gave the Irish government a say in running Ulster becuase they belatedly recognised precisely the opposite ie that Republicans were reasonable people

    Being ‘reasonable’ doesn’t require gerrymandering whatever way you look at it. The Shinners got the prisoners out and some of them a bit more localised power in return for an end to the bombing runs.

    And that’s what Sinn Féin advocates have singularly failed to do.

    Pete I’ve been following your narratives with great interest, in my opinion they are a hidden gem on slugger. Nowhere else has the ‘what happens if/when SF fail?’ scenario been articulated to such a degree. Good governance calls on Stormont – which is by the Shinner’s own definition of mandate – is bigger than any one political party, to have a backup strategy.

    What should it be? Does anyone know? People need to start acting like leaders. Robinson’s speech shows he can surprise us all yet.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    do you agree that in the Westminster election there was a narrowing of the differential in the community background turnout with the Nationlaist turnout falling and the unionist turnout either stabilsing or growing?

    ..and East Belfast turning out in greater numbers than West Belfast was a bit of a suprise even allowing for the Robinson factor – must have been a slow day at the garden centres.

  • Dewi

    A strange interpretation from Nicholas Whyte.

    “The decline from 51.8 per cent of votes for unionist parties in 2005 to 50.5 per cent in 2010 is more than accounted for by the gains made by Alliance and smaller centre parties.”

    I suggest that the fall in nationalist turnout to levels approximating to Unionist turnout is a more important factor.
    If you take the extremes firstly on the nationalist side
    West Belfast 64.2% to 54.9%
    Foyle 65.9% to 58%

    East Belfast 58% to 58.4%
    OK if East Belfast had special circumstances the next most Unionist constituency:
    North Down 54% to 55.2….and if circumstances there special..then the 3rd:
    Strangford 53.6% to 53.8%

    Whatever the issues this raises for nationalist parties the differential drop in turnout must mask significant demographic change or, all else being equal, the Unionist % would be increasing not falling…

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    I just requested a comment from Nicholas on this issue but one minute ago.

  • Pete Baker

    st etienne

    I’m just pointing to the gaps.

  • Greenflag

    Now that there is somewhat effective power sharing nationalist turnout is bound to drop particularly in ‘safe’ constituencies . Look at what happened in Fermanagh South Tyrone where only the ‘intervention’ of the SDLP candidate and the independent made the result a close call,

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    the funny thing about FST was that the trunout did not appear to be that great on either side.

    North Belfast is the interesring one, as I mentioned above in relation to Horseman’s analysis, where there was a real increase in the Nationalist percentage and in the numbers who voted – I think that was the only constituency in which that was the case.

    It seems likely, though not certain that the garden centre are becoming more cross community than previoulsy – at least during the Westminsters.

  • thus subject entirely to an all or nothing referendum: which obviously they see as the secret weapon which will frustrate democratic change.

    First time I’ve heard a referendum being referred to as anti-democratic. The source viewpoint doesn’t make it a surprising one however. Shall the rest of us just replace your use of the phrase ‘democratic’ with ‘SF’?

  • fin

    Now Nevin if you use the term ‘apolitical’ in the correct context, what happens? oh yeah, the plot falls apart,

    the interim board, would it include a certain Trade Unionist mentioned on slugger recently? WHICH incidently you need to take this information to your local MP as all members of the interim board had to declare any political interests and only one did (guess who, dang uppity Fenian agin)

    party political funding, eh? and how did you manage to get a peek at SF’s 2011 election lit., oh you didn’t, but having already made a story up in your head, you just decided to future it abit.

    Here’s the story Nevin, newspaper group with titles in Ireland and the US host a business conference to promote a ‘Top 30’ list (sponsored by KPMG) from US title, lots of businesses come along, Belfast Harbour gie sponsorship so they can promote Titanic Quarter. Everyone has good time and Belfast gets a bit of publicity. Later someone with too much time on his hands starts seeing Fenion plots everywhere, cos them uppity fenians shouldn’t be owning newspapers or businesses etc.

  • fin, here’s Belfast Harbour’s use of apolitical [definition: politically neutral]:

    “p4/26 Contracting arrangements – can’t write a [£20,000] sponsorship cheque to Belfast Media Group and need an apolitical solution. 01/12/09 9.00am

    p3/26 Contracting solution for these not-for-profit events – Make out cheque to our charitable arm Nuachtain Charities, to the Irish Echo, or directly to New York New Belfast Conference which will have its own bank account 01/12/09 9.29am”

    Belfast Harbour portrays Belfast Media Group as not politically neutral and as Ó Muilleoir’s other suggestions are from the BMG stable they aren’t politically neutral either.

    It’s also pretty clear from Ó Muilleoir’s rant against the SDLP leaning press that his colours are firmly stapled to the SF mast. Ó Muilleoir failed to note that Sam McBride produced the best newspaper coverage of the NIW fiasco – and the News Letter isn’t known for its support for the SDLP 😉

    When it quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck futuring is fairly straightforward.

  • fin

    what you mean like the Irish News being SDLP leaning, the NewsLetter a bit DUP leaning, The Sun a bit Tory leaning, The Mirror a bit Labour leaning, etc etc etc.

    Belfast Harbour wanted to promote the Titanic Quarter at the event (also sponsored by KPMG) it is a public body, it has to be ‘apolitical’ so let me explain this slowly.

    Suppose, SluggerO’Toole was hosting the event, Belfast Harbour would have said, “Mick we need to be apolitical and can’t write a cheque to Slugger or some blogger with too much time on his hands will say we are favouring Slugger over other bloggers whereas we only want to sponsor this one event”

    Do you now understand the context of ‘apolitical’

    With regards to any ducks you might be seeing can I suggest you call it Harvey as you are the only one who can see it

  • “Do you now understand the context of ‘apolitical’”

    Er, I always did, fin. Belfast Harbour understood the context too yet it changed its mind and put its money into a BMG SF-orientated project.

    “what you mean like the Irish News being SDLP leaning,”

    It’s taken from an Ó Muilleoir rant: “Meanwhile, I hear the SDLP-leaning press in Belfast is having another pop at the Board of NI Water.” I presume he meant the Irish News [cf the SF-leaning BMG].

  • PaddyReilly

    It’s the way you use them of course. The Unionist hope is that the referendum would be held slightly before the electorate changes to a united Ireland mode and would then be followed by a ban on further referenda for seven years.

    There was a lot of criticism of De Valera’s Constitution because so many things were being voted on at once in a take it or leave it format. I am not proposing a ban on referenda but rather a series of separate, one issue referenda which deal with individual issues.

    It should be conceded that I have perverted the word ‘democratic’ somewhat by applying it to elections held in the 6 county area, which was set up in order to frustrate the will of the people, if they were the wrong people, but this is quite the reverse of a SF fix: SF voters are not, and will never be, a majority in the 6 county area.

  • fin

    Nevin, Belfast Harbour didn’t change their mind, they never could or would hand over 20k to one particular newspaper, because of the need to be ‘apolitical’
    Again with the SF sponsored event? Nevin, look at the website, personally I’d love to be able to call Co.’s like KPMG SF supporters but like your duck called Harvey it really is only you who can see these fenian plots.

    Nevin, you should mix with Taigs a bit more, the Irish News has always been SDLP leaning, actually a paper I use to buy but for years its been rubbish after page 6,

    But, its important that we understand that pretty much all papers lean towrds a particular political party, can we agree on that? if so are you saying that no newspaper should be allowed to host events or seek sponsorship or is it just the Fenian ones.

    Your whole arguement rests on this and you are pushing the fantasy that it was in reality a SF fund raising event and you’re just not putting down any facts to support this

  • “look at the website”

    I did, fin. It’s, er, a BMG website.

  • fin

    ok Nevin, now read the content on the website, and point out the Sinn Fein bits to me, to be honest you seem to be moving in ever decreasing circles on the fenian plots side of things Nevin, is your arguement now resting on the fact that the domain is registered to BMG therefore its obviously a Sinn Fein fundraiser? and of course you’ll be proved right in 2011.

    OK, its only a few months away, how about a deal, if its in SF lit for the election I never come near Slugger again, if its not then you (or Pigeon Toes) never ever ever post on slugger again.

    Is it a deal? you were quite confident earlier!

  • “ever decreasing circles”

    fin, you’ve played the sectarian card, the private company (KPMG) card, you’ll maybe try a few more but you’re still left with Ó Muilleoir and his SF joker.

    By the way, Ó Muilleoir is the mysterious additional NED in the ‘community confidence’ category, he didn’t make the “commercial and business acumen” category 🙂

  • JoeJoe

    Whyte’s analysis great, but perhasps he could reply to the points made on lower nationalist-area turnouts in recent years, as that seems to put a dent in the conclusions. It seems to me that nationalist/republican exuberence with the GFA, and a latter realisation that they don’t need ‘every vote’ to win most western constituencies caused an exceptional voter-turnout in early post GFA elections. Whyte shows that nationalist vote is constant despite latter lower voter turnout down in nat-majority areas.

    It seems very likely that the underlying long-term (v.slow) growth in the nationalist vote will continue, and that nationalists will eventually have a majority of seats in the assembly (& westminster). Further, that the new majority in the North will push for more x-border stuff, more culturaly-Irish stuff etc. and less Red White and Blue stuff than at prestent. What hasn’t been talked-about here, is the reaction of those in Britain to this scenario. Would they still pay for a union?

  • fin

    WTF, Nevin, that reply not only doesn’t answer my last post it doesn’t make sense, apart from you are now restating some of the same rubbish you refuse to defend, can’t be arsed rereading your posts (it makes my eye’s bleed) but I recall you mentioninf a SF leaning interim board, 1 in 5 is not leaning in any direction.

    And just stupidly repeating “its a fenian plot” isn’t going to make it any less of a fantasy

    This is boring now, I’ve asked you several times to clarify the mud you’re slinging around, lets just cut to the chase, are you accepting the deal?

  • fin

    WTF, just spotted

    “By the way, Ó Muilleoir is the mysterious additional NED in the ‘community confidence’ category, he didn’t make the “commercial and business acumen” category ”

    Is he not CEO of a media and owned several companies.

    Bugger, forgot, he’s a taig, obviously any success was through criminality,

  • “And just stupidly repeating “its a fenian plot””

    Mud-slinging? Stupid rubbish? 😉

    And yes, he’s a CEO but, as you know, he wasn’t selected in that category.

  • Sammy,

    Sorry to be late in replying – I have been on the road.

    Frankly I’m not sure of the answer to your question. Turnout was down all over, and the increased vote for Alliance makes it more difficult to generalise.

  • OK folks, I had missed the last bits of commentary due to recent travels.

    My first reaction, though, remains that turnout differential may not tell us all that much. Nationalist votes in 2010 were down from 300,000 to 282,000; Unionist votes down from 372,000 to 340,000. That’s a 6% drop for nationalists and an 8.6% drop for Unionists. If the Unionist vote had dropped by the same 6% as the Nationalist vote, it would have been 350,000 rather than 340,000, a difference of 10,000 between the counterfactual situation and the reality.

    The Alliance Party got 12,500 extra votes in reality. So I stand by my initial statement that the drop in Unionist vote share is more than accounted for by Alliance gains. But I agree that some more analysis would be helpful in illuminating that, and I will try to find time to do it.

  • I’ve now done some number-crunching and have posted the results here:


    Basically, it seems to me that that i) the relatively greater drop in Unionist turnout is very marginal and more than accounted for by the East Belfast result alone; ii) we’re now seeing a lower turnout from both Catholic and Protestant voters in the rural areas where a high turnout was once accepted as inevitable; and iii) voters, like commentators, will pay more attention if the race appears to be a close one.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    Thanks for that further analysis. I have to say I was suprised that the Natilonlaist % drop was actually greater than that of Unionism given the large drops, particualrly in the West.

    The question I originally posed to you “…do you agree that in the Westminster election there was a narrowing of the differential in the community background turnout with the Nationalist turnout falling and the unionist turnout either stabilsing or growing?…

    Do you not think an analysis which looks at the % turnout by each constituency and allows for the % of each community background (based on 2001 census figures) would give a reasonable picture of the community backround differential turnout and these figures could be compared between 2005 and 2010(accepting boundary changes may have some impact).

    Also what is your estimate of the change in demogrpahics – the increased demogrpahic Nationalist percentage is presumably masking the % drop in Nationalist turnout and the increased Alliance turnout is masking the improvement in ‘Unionist’ (ie Unionist community background turnout) as you in fact are pointing out.

    Would you agree that with the late Horseman, that there is considerable demographic change in South and North Belfast?

  • Sammy,

    You’re welcome to try the number crunching yourself, and I can supply you with what figures I have (my email address is easy to find), but I really don’t think the data are strong enough to support that sort of analysis – it’s not only the boundary changes, it’s the fact that the census data are now almost ten years old, and that the changes we are talking about are awfully small and vary considerably from seat to seat. The fundamental point is that there is not a lot of difference in the decrease in vote from the two sides.

    When you say that “the Natilonlaist % drop was actually greater than that of Unionism given the large drops, particualrly in the West” I’m not quite sure what you mean. The Nationalist percentage vote went up very slightly; the decrease in absolute votes was smaller than that for Unionism.

    I simply don’t buy the demographic argument. I think that the relative population share of Catholic community background vs Protestant community background has probably stabilised, just as the relative vote share of Nationalist parties vs Unionist parties has stabilised. It seems to me a bit much to believe that just as the Catholic population is supposedly rising the turnout is falling at just the necessary rate to keep Nationalist vote share the same. Surely Occam’s Razor suggests that everything is probably holding steady.

    With all due respect to the late Horseman, I don’t think one could describe the demographic change, whatever it may be, in North or South Belfast as ‘considerable’. It may be ‘significant’ in that we may see Nationalist vote share exceed Unionist vote share in North Belfast next year as it did in South Belfast this year, but i) the changes are rather small – a ‘significant’ effect but not really a ‘considerable’ change – and ii) the 2011 Assembly elections will probably be the last fought on the current constituency boundaries: North Belfast will probably expand to include more Unionist areas and South Belfast probably won’t survive, so I’m not going to get too excited about it.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    thanks for that.

    I would like to look at the figures so I will drop you an email.

    Regarding your statement “I think that the relative population share of Catholic community background vs Protestant community background has probably stabilised” Not quite sure why you say that? Do you not agree that under the age of 35 those of a Nationalists backgound are in the majority in all age groups?

    The signifcance of North Belfast and South Belfast is not in the seats themselves which may disappear/change but the manner in which the gap between the number of Nationalists and unionists has narrowed clearly showing the continuing effect of more favourable Nationlaist demographics in Belfast. How else can the figures be interpeted?

    (Probably best to ignore my confusing statement regarding the ” Natilonlaist % drop was actually greater “etc.)

  • Did I note a reference to the Irish News being SDLP leaning?Where is the current evidence for this? On Wednesdays we have Brian Feeney s column whose column is rarely pro SDLP and on Thursdays we have that well known Sinn Fein activist Jim Gibney who never deviates from the party line.The only columnist with any SDLP connection is Tom Kelly who is as likely as not to give his former party a belt of the crozier!