All quiet on the Assembly front?

It’s been something of a breakneck week, and I’m pretty much signed off for the weekend. As it happens, I had an analysis piece in the Daily Mirror at the beginning of the week… In it I argue that the council elections will probably be a more reliable indicator of party fortunes than the trench warfare of the Assembly elections…

The council results will also tell us something about the ongoing health of the parties. All face the problem of ageing representatives, and the councils will be a chance to bring on new blood. So don’t expect the earth to move on May 5th. But given where we’ve just come from, that’s probably the best news we can expect this early in the life of our new democratic institutions.

As our own FitzJamesHorse keeps reminding us, the whom and the where of council candidature will also have its own effect, and could be decisive in getting out what have been latent voters in past elections..

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  • Indeed Council positions allow the parties to develop ‘new blood’ which can then be developed into more public and important positions.

    Personally I feel this is of special importance for Sinn Fein, to continue their advance against the SDLP they need more central party figures who aren’t tainted with past actions during the trouble.

    Naturally side-lining past-provo’s would be a huge mistake, but a couple more Pearse Doherties would be an invaluable asset to the party,

  • I think it works both ways.
    The Council Elections will affect the Assembly Elections.
    The Assembly Elections will affect the Council Elections.
    And of course there is the cross over in people hedging bets as well as big hitters effectively “slumming” it at Council level. A few cases where candidates from smaller parties or “Independents” seemed to have entered the assembly contest as little more than an investment for their council chances.
    Just pay the deposit for an Assembly candidature and you look like the big lad in the big picture. You dont win the Assembly seat….you might lose your deposit….but you win the Council seat.
    Interesting to see Alliance for example putting up candidates in Limavady or SDLP pushing the boat out in Newtownards. Good of course in itself but presumably a lot of this is to boost Assembly performances.
    I am a firm believer that every party has a duty to stand in every DEA. I applaud those that make the effort to stand in “no hope” situations.
    I realise the difficulty in raising a head above the parapet in traditional hostile territory but raising the flag is no more expensive than paying a deposit and taking out a full page advert in a local paper……along the lines of “I realise this is difficult territory but I just want you to know we are on the ballot paper……..wont be causing any bother in your neighbourhood knocking on your door…..but its our duty to be on the ballot paper.
    I dont see why we should dismiss “paper candidates”. Its a service to the Electorate.
    It should be possible to organise a group of people maybe just 250 people from various parties who would facilitate the nominations (its only assent …..apparently!) to get unlikely people on the ballot paper.
    We could probably get a grant from some charitable foundation or Human Rights Commission type body to do it.

    Only then would I really look on the situation politically as healthy.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Presumably the turnout in the Councils will be around 60% and up considerably – the % share of the vote between the DUP and SF and Nats and Unionists will be interesting.

    ..and a good indication if Nat. demographics have still got any legs.

  • John Ó Néill

    At council level, what sort of success are the likes of Alliance, TUV, People Before Profit Alliance, Greens, BNP (?) etc realistically expecting?
    We’ve had lots of promos on here about micro-parties on the republican side of the house, but realistically, most of the other parties are either potentially looking at Assembly gains (e.g. Alliance, TUV and possibly PBP in Foyle) or have actually held a seat (Greens).
    At a council level is anyone able to point to likely gains or, at least, seats in play?

  • Politico68

    itwassammymcnally….

    The Unionist population is decreasing particularly fast west of the bann. According to the census the overall Unionist population in Fermanagh was 40% but the under 15 cohort was just 35%, Dungannon 38% down to 31%, Armagh 50% down to 45.5%. In the east the overall Nationalist Population is about 31%.However there seems to be steady Growth here; Belfast 47% up to 54%, Ballymoney 32% up to 37%, Banbridge 31% up to 35%.

    In every LG ward the Unionist Poulation is falling while the Nationalist is growing. At the moment it would appear that the overwhelming majority of both communities vote in accordance with their religious background. There is no reason to believe that this will change, certainly not in the short to medium term.

  • Mick Fealty

    John,

    We really could do with some working, thinking on the councils. 28 new threads between now and polling day is too much for Slugger to bear. But maybe if we were to group them in threes and fours we could use open threads to explore those races in finer detail.

  • “taking out a full page advert in a local paper”

    fjh, local papers seem keen enough to publish these puffs for free: just send in a photo with some words attached each week during the course of the election campaign – or earlier.

  • Absolutely right Nevin. All local newspapers are useless and everything is a puff piece “Sarah passes driving test” and a report on the local cricket/GAA/football/hockey team which manages to say that everybody played brilliantly.
    Same at Election time. Hand in the press release…or twitter it I suppose and the local paper will faithfully report it as fact. No sense in offending people with the Truth.
    But an advertisement can be regarded by the readership as much more accurate and truthful than a press release. Straight from the horses mouth.
    Local newspapers dont need Journalists.
    An Advertising Department is enough. 🙂

  • Paynoattentiontome

    I see that the SDLP election Literature for candidates in Newry and Armagh contains individual photos of the candidates Cllr Pat Brannigan and Cllr Thomas O Hanlon with Irish President Mary McAleese. I seem to remember a whole row over Caitriona Ruane using a photo of herself and President Mc Aleese in a previous election. I know my good friend P J Bradley had plenty to say about it.. Are these candidates telling us that the President is endorsing them. A serious abuse and disrectful to President Mc Aleese and her position

  • Am I right in saying that An Tuachtarán has/had a home in Rostrevor in South Down which is the constituency represented by Ms Ruane and Mr P J Bradley.
    Im certainly right in saying that she does not/has not had a home in Newry & Armagh which is the constituency where Mr O’Hanlon is satnding.
    Nor does she have a home in Armagh District Council area where both Mr O’Hanlon and Mr Brannigan are seeking re-election.

  • “much more accurate and truthful than a press release.”

    fjh, I’d like to see press releases clearly identified as such; they are really forms of advertisement being passed off as news/journalism.

  • FJH. I don’t know when this co-opting on councils started, [as I was absent from these parts in 80s and 90s]but the practice is decidedly ropey and shows more reforms of councils should have taken place in the 70s shake up, than did. The demograpnic shifts will be interesting, especially as this picture will be frozen for three years as with Assembly. The west will undergo further greening, no doubt, and even east of the Bann will see a few holes open up in the unionist dykes, in areas that used to be considered as permanently firewalled against the green tide. Ken Reid said during the debate coverage on Thursday that ALL the parties expressed worries about apathy, but I can’t believe the shinners are worried about that as their voters are well enough motivated. SDLP and UUP need to worry most.

  • As Ive said….in specific circumstances….the death or serious illness of a sitting MLA or Councillor, I have no objection to co-option.
    It seems civilised in such circumstances and much better than the baying for a bye-election before the corpse is cold.
    It has however been abused.
    In preparing some constituency profiles for my own blog…I note the following “seeming co-options”.
    Derry 5
    Coleraine 2
    Limavady 0
    Strabane 1
    Omagh 3
    Dungannon 1
    Fermanagh 4
    Magherafelt 2
    Cookstown 2

    now theres a Health Warning here. Councils vary in size from about 15 to 30 AND I refer to these as SEEMING Co-Options. Cases where the councillors listed on Council websites differ from those shown in my records as elected in 2005.
    As only a medium scale rather than extreme anorak, I dont know the micro situation in these council areas.

    The greening of the West is an ongoing process. Its unlikely (Foyle?) that nationalists will lose a seat west of the Bann and likely that they will pick up at least one (in West Tyrone). Two Shades of Green of course.
    But I cant see any additional greening in the West. Any additional greening in East Antrim or Strangford may be balanced in Lagan Valley or North Antrim. But of course we must factor in Councils east and west of the bann.
    “Greening” is an ongoing process…incremental and possibly “stop and start” or even two steps forward, one step back.
    But inevitable.
    And in that context fear of the unknown weakens unionism more than it actually happening.
    Demographic Change can only really happen once.
    The “fear” of it can be used often.

  • The Raven

    “And in that context fear of the unknown weakens unionism more than it actually happening.”

    You assume that all of us let it bother us in the first place. I don’t say that in disrespect. I say because there are many of us who just don’t care or mind, given the democratic process. The vote is the vote, and demographic is the demographic, and that’s it.

    I’ve written before how the unionist parties would be better placed on copperfastening the “rights” of unionists as some sort of cultural minority, rather than wasting their time on who tops what poll. And I don’t mean that Ulster Scots nonsense. But I’m pissing in the wind on that one.

    “Presumably the turnout in the Councils will be around 60% and up considerably” I wouldn’t be so sure. People are still fairly annoyed over the scandals across the water, and the pretty piss-poor performance of elements of the Assembly here. Mud sticks. Doesn’t matter what level of politician we’re talking about – they’re all tarred with the same brush. There’s an ennui and apathy about the elections that is palpable. I’m not saying that a low turnout is inevitable – but I do think it’s very possible. I’ll not be looking at any particular party share, but I will be watching the turnouts with interest.

  • I think the effect of an out-of-date Register will be a factor. As I have said before only two people live in this house. We have FIVE polling cards.
    One person moved out of this house a year ago. Same constituency but different DEA.
    Two people moved out FIVE years ago. Same constituency. Yet another DEA.
    Wont actually make any difference to us on 5th May. Five people will be voting. But had they moved several miles away (as I presume many others have done) the number of people voting becomes fewer.

  • AGlassOfHine

    The *enevitable greening* doesn’t seem to hold water,when 40% of Nationalists would vote to retain The Union ?
    A fascinating Fortnight ahead,which will see little change.
    Waves to the great unwashed,on the steps of Stormnot,and off behind closed doors,to await the latest decisions from Westminster.
    All in all,much ado about nothing.