Belfast’s Delightful Dome (for SF, DUP and Alliance anyway…..)

Belfast City Council is shaping up to be very interesting.

Today’s results confirm the trend of former Ulster Unionist voters shifting decisively to Alliance. For example, Alliance has its own heartland constituency now, with 3 party councillors elected to Victoria- granted, it traditionally claimed two seats there, but a third is a phenomenal achievement in an overwhelmingly unionist constituency. 

The bolstered Alliance vote has meant that Sinn Fein’s Pottinger gain came at unionism’s expense instead of Alliance, with Maire Hendron holding on comfortably. The demise of the Belfast Ulster Unionist Party is starkly in evidence across the city, with the party wiped out in Oldpark and missing a seat in the predominantly unionist Pottinger.

Meanwhile, the SDLP have regained a councillor in Lower Falls, with the two Falls constituencies returning 8 SF and 2 SDLP councillors. The SDLP also held their solitary seat in Oldpark, with Sinn Fein claiming three seats.

Tomorrow will show whether the UUP’s Court candidate, Bill Manwaring  Bobby McConnell, can make a breakthrough and if Sinn Fein’s Mairtin O’Muilleor can claim a seat in Balmoral and, as importantly, at who’s expense. In addition, Castle DEA will show whether Sinn Fein can match the performance of the party’s candidates in the nearby Antrim Line DEA of Newtownabbey, where Sinn Fein captured two seats and the SDLP 1 seat.

  • Tomas Gorman

    Disagree with your basis that Alliance is not a Unionist Party. Absurd notion.

  • wysemann

    I actually live in Victoria – and the only canvassing I saw was by Alliance – I think the Unionists’ idea of canvassing is to give you a knowing wink outside the polling station…..

  • jeep55

    “Maire Hendron holding on comfortably” Understatement of the year I think because if you look at the results Marie wiped the floor with the rest of the cast topping the poll and increasing Alliance’s share of the vote from 8% to 20%.

    fjh1745 – if you are out there – please eat a very large dose of humble pie! Your predictions for Alliance in Belfast were seriously wide of the mark caused by delusional hatred over you D’hondt rant which has now shifted centre stage to the internal delberations of the UUP who are nothing but a bunch of disfunctional charlatans.

    Tomorrow Alliance will gain a seat in Laganbank – at the SDLPs expense. And there will probably be a SF gain in Balmoral – but not at the expense of Alliance but again the SDLP. I’m not sure what is going on in Castle but talk is not good for SDLP there either – possible SF gain

  • Chris Donnelly

    Tomas
    Alliance are nominally not a unionist party, though I would suggest that the relative success they are experiencing within the broad unionist electorate will make it harder to ignore/ conceal their unionist leanings on a number of matters.

  • Light23

    You can have a preference on the union without being unionist or nationalist. It’s almost impossible to be 100% neutral on the issue when being in the UK is obviously more beneficial to us than being independent.

    I’m not ideologically opposed to a united Ireland, but I don’t believe it will ever be in our long term interests. By “our” I don’t mean protestants – I mean everyone. I’m neither catholic or protestant, unionist or nationalist. That doesn’t mean I can’t engage my brain and have an opinion.

    There’s simply no need for this to be an issue in politics. If people want it, we can hold a referendum. It’s very dismaying that this crap is still infecting our politics in 2011.

  • And congratulations to Ms Hendron who did not lose her seat to a Nationalist. Someone else did.
    I dont actually have a hatred of the Alliance Party (well not yet anyway)……

  • New Blue

    Chris

    Can I please clarify that I did not put my name forward for Belfast City Council as I do not agree with the idea of standing for two mandates at the same time.

    I therefore am not a contender in the count for Court DEA tomorrow.

    Bill Manwaring

  • Valenciano

    I’d expect Sinn Fein to make gains in Castle and Balmoral, though it’s possible that the latter may come from a Unionist and not the SDLP. The SDLP should lose a seat to Alliance in Laganbank.

    Sinn Fein will be hacked off at the SDLP re-establishing representation in the Lower Falls though the result was reminiscent of the Dromore by-election a few years back with Eirigi voters helping the SDLP to win the seat at Sinn Feins expense even though they’d more ideologically in common with the latter. While both the TUV and UUP were delighted with the Dromore result, it had no long term significance and I doubt this one will either, though it’ll certainly put the brakes on any dreams Sinn Fein have of greening the Falls.

    Eirigi did surprisingly well in Upper Falls though the IRSPs bombed.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Bill
    Sorry about that- sorted now- thanks.

  • Chris Donnelly

    put the brakes on any dreams Sinn Fein have of greening the Falls.

    Valenciano
    Erm….8 of 10 Falls council seats, 5 of 6 nationalist seats on Dunmurry Cross, 5 of 6 Assembly seats and the Westminster seat.

    If that hasn’t made the Falls a dark shade of green then nothing will, V!

  • Newman

    Well done to John Kyle for holding on in Pottinger…popular local GP, influenced by the common sense and vison of David Ervine and prepared to identify with working class loyalism even though he grew up in the leafy suburbs.

  • al

    Alliance will always be viewed by the Nationalist community as a Unionist party because they don’t spend time addressing the issue of Ireland. Instead they prefer to deal in real honest politics to help the people of Northern Ireland/The North become more selfsufficient and normalalised.

    Hopefully with progression of the generations more people will be interested in real politics rather the tribal nature of current and past politics.

  • ayeYerMa

    Completely absurd and illogical claims that “if you aren’t a Nationalist you must be a Unionist” are a symptom of the “peace process” mentality that many political commentators have in NI. The “Peace Process” model of over-simplifying the complexities of identities in NI into 2 polarised camps are plain nasty, short-sighted, and wrong, and have only led to increased polarisation.

    Identity in NI is a complex mix on non-mutually exclusive mixes of British (UK or British Isles), Irish (island or “nation”), and regional (Ulster or Norn Iron) identities. Most of us in NI have a mix of different levels of all 3 if we’re truly honest with ourselves – the differences are usually due to arguments we have are merely about very fine and minute differences regarding history or semantics or merely to disagree with those who we see as causing unjust to us in the past! The GFA had these 3 strands and it’s time we ditched the Unionist/Nationalist model and focused on the 3-stand approach to our identities instead. The “unionist” v. “nationalist” model is non-inclusive of a large section of people merely applies to a winner-takes-it-all border-poll and focusing on that is far from constructive.

  • Kevin McIlhennon

    Jeep, Sinn Féin are almost certain to take both of their seats in Castle because Tierna Cunningham is a highly-respected councillor on the ground and Mary-Ellen Campbell has been brilliant since she was co-opted for Tierna during Tierna’s pregnancy. I see Cathal Mullaghan losing out to MEC making it DUP 2, SF 2, SDLP 1, UUP 1 although McKechnie might take Browne’s (UUP) seat for Alliance.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    M’OM polling very well in Balmoral and should come in on first count.

  • John Ó Néill

    Alliance will end up being put on the spot over their own interpretation of their ‘other’ status. If they are perceived as taking too many seats off unionists, their nominal default position that they will respect the status quo of a majority becomes interesting. If they take too many seats off the likes of the UUP then, an electoral headcount may produce more nationalist reps and Alliance would have to then clarify their default position (if more people vote for nationalist parties they, the Alliance, would have to respect that). Hard to see unionists not using that as a stick to beat Alliance if it happens.

  • John Ó Néill

    MOM deemed elected in Balmoral.

  • john

    John o’Neil – Both Assembly and local elections are showing that the unionist vote is still ahead of the Nationalist vote. Other point you just have to look at the SDLP lack of a gain in Strangford and slight dip in South Belfast to realise that plenty of Nationalists are voting for Alliance too

  • Valenciano

    Chris D: “Erm….8 of 10 Falls council seats, 5 of 6 nationalist seats on Dunmurry Cross, 5 of 6 Assembly seats and the Westminster seat.”

    ==================
    Yes but in 2005 SF will have had serious hopes of knocking out the SDLP altogether in the Falls, otherwise why did they run 5 candidates in Upper Falls? As it is they’ve lost a seat. SF have done well in these elections and the SDLP still look on life support but SF still haven’t worked out how to gain the residual SDLP vote.

  • Kadfoomsa

    Given the defections from the UUP, the anti Irish language stance and the fact that they are pro-union, I think we can safely declare Alliance as unionist, to suggest otherwise is just dishonest.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    “SF still haven’t worked out how to gain the residual SDLP vote.”

    Maybe it is impossible to knock it out. At the very best the SDLP will have 6 seats on Belfast CC, SF will have 16.

    Coming up to these elections analysts were stating that SF were approaching the glass ceiling in terms of further growth. The results of the past few days have shown that to be false and that there are areas to be targetted for future gains.

  • Kadfoomsa

    The lack of defections from the SDLP to Sinn Féin suggests to me that the SDLP will be with us for a long time to come.

  • Chris Donnelly

    The City Council results for day two are proving quite interesting.

    SF are hitting all of their targets comfortably, with Balmoral and Castle gains to match return in Laganbank.

    The story of the UUP voter defection en masse to Alliance is evident across the south/east Belfast terrain, with fascinating repercussions for the overall nominal unionist seat tally in the city.

    At this stage, it looks clear that SF gain in Balmoral will be at unionism’s expense, with the three SDLP candidates on 2 quotas.

    Also, in Laganbank the Alliance gain looks more likely to come from the UUP, meaning that constituency will return 2SDLP, 1ALL, 1 SF and 1 DUP- only one nominal unionist candidate.

    All of this will mean that the overall SF/ SDLP representation should be a number of seats ahead of the combined unionist seat tally, albeit with a strong Alliance kingmaker party even more conscious of its implicit unionist roots.

    Interesting times ahead….

  • John Ó Néill

    Alliance transfers now being distributed in Castle. Regardless of whether the SDLP fail to hold their second seat in Castle (which more or less hinges on those Alliance transfers), it looks bleak for them. A lot of residents along the Cavehill and Antrim Road are originally from (or have family connections to) Newington, New Lodge, Carrick Hill etc and the fact that Newington (up to Willowbank) is in Oldpark breaks across what would be the natural organisational lines for SF here (I suppose you need to be from there to understand what I mean by that).
    Psychologically. this is going to have played really badly for the SDLP since structurally, SF still have scope, structurally, to up their game further here.

  • SethS

    @Pat McClarnon

    From the current state of play looks like SDLP with have 7 seats with the possibility of 8 if they can get 2 in Laganbank.

    balmoral 2
    Castle 1
    Laganbank 1/2
    LF 1
    Oldpark 1
    UF 1

    Can’t say I knw much about the Castle ward but on the raw data a second seat there looks like an outside chance depending on where the alliance votes go, but I would expect that last seat to go the UUP. That would mean no change for the SDLP which given their current troubles would be a reasonable result.

  • jeep55

    Green Party transfers in Laganbank will make the second SDLP seat fairly secure. There are also a few undistributed surpluses which again favour SDLP. So it looks like a UUP loss to Alliance which was not what I expected!

  • Valenciano

    Castle is simply not going to happen for the SDLP.

    Their second runner is 300 votes behind the UUP with 732 Alliance votes to be transferred. If it was just a case of that, they’d have an outside chance, however there are 150 DUP surplus votes still to come which will only widen the gap. Plus there’s another SDLP runner and a Sinn Fein candidate still just below quota so they’ll also take any nationalist transfers from Alliance. UUP hold somewhat surprisingly.

  • Comhghairdeas/congrats to Máirtín Ó Muilleoir on his election in Balmoral. Irrespective of my feelings re Sinn Féin, I think Máirtín will be a good addition to the council after years in which it punched well below its weight. I look forward to the day when he will be elected as Ard Mhéara Bhéal Feirste when he will probably be Ireland’s only fluent Irish speaking Lord Mayor of a major Irish city….

  • SethS

    @ John O’Neill.

    Don’t know the Castle area. Are your predicted troubles for the SDLP due to SF voters moving into the area, or SF upping their game further?

  • SethS

    SDLP get their 2 in Laganbank

  • Gingray

    Looking like 16 SF, 15 DUP, 8 SDLP, 3 UUP, 6 Alliance, 2 PUP and 2 other – an interesting days counting. SF and Alliance up 2, DUP and SDLP no change and UUP down 4.

    Anyone any idea what impact Local Government reform would have on Belfast? Am assuming wards would be added from Lisburn, Castlereagh and Newtownabbey councils, presume this would make it more unionist, is this correct?

  • John Ó Néill

    SethS – a lot of people have moved up along the Cavehill and Antrim Road from the area that falls under the Oldpark electoral area into the Castle area (over the last 20 years or so). My point is that in this part of North Belfast the seat of SDLP organisation would have been towards the Castle area and SFs towards Newington at the lower end (most of Castle would barely have been canvassed 15 years ago).

    As a SF base shifts further up the Antrim and Cavehill Roads, the more it will move directly over what the SDLP would have taken for granted as core support. Even they had held that second seat I think they would have been feeling very squeezed, as it is they must be concerned at the result here.

  • Kevin McIlhennon

    The SDLP are haemorrhaging support in Castle. Not once did I see the SDLP anywhere near my door whereas Sinn Féin called twice before the election and twice on election day itself. The SDLP are trying to bank on the fact that Pat Convery is Lord Mayor as guaranteed votes. It’s not a guarantee of votes. I live a matter of yards away from Pat Convery and not once has he even bothered to speak to me – and that’s on the rare occasion that I see him. Tierna Cunningham on the other hand always chats to you if she sees you in the street. That’s the difference between Sinn Féin and the SDLP: Sinn Féin have councillors that work for and in the local community. The SDLP seem almost insular. It’s a shame. But it’s re.ality

  • @Gingray
    Anyone any idea what impact Local Government reform would have on Belfast? Am assuming wards would be added from Lisburn, Castlereagh and Newtownabbey councils, presume this would make it more unionist, is this correct?

    I wouldn’t have thought so. From Lisburn the plan I think would be add Colin, Dunmurry?, Kilwee, Lagmore, Poleglass and Twinbrook. When they are added and the existing boundaries are rebalanced to take latest population shifts into consideration it’s unlikely to become “more unionist”.

  • SethS

    @Kevin McIlhennon and generally

    The SDLPs heir second candidate was only 80 votes behind the SF and 90 behind the UU, so you’d think with a bit of effort they could ahve held that seat

    Is this symptomatic of the SDLP’s approach in general?

  • granni trixie

    For the record, I have seen with my own eyes that Allliance transfers votes to and from SDLP(and boy must Connall McDevitt be glad of that fact). So there is no voting basis for people such as Chris Donnelley trying (unsuccessfully) to confine Alliance into a unionist box.

  • Comrade Stalin

    John Ó Néill :

    Alliance will end up being put on the spot over their own interpretation of their ‘other’ status. If they are perceived as taking too many seats off unionists, their nominal default position that they will respect the status quo of a majority becomes interesting. If they take too many seats off the likes of the UUP then, an electoral headcount may produce more nationalist reps and Alliance would have to then clarify their default position (if more people vote for nationalist parties they, the Alliance, would have to respect that). Hard to see unionists not using that as a stick to beat Alliance if it happens.

    The unionists already tried using it as a stick, have been doing so for years. The dirtiest tricks were played when Alliance voted for Alex Maskey as Lord Mayor. This led to a firebomb attack on the party HQ and a motley bunch of thugs hanging around outside the homes of certain councillors and jeering at them while they took their kids to school.

    During the last Westminster campaign the DUP made a last ditch attempt to bring up the supposedly disloyal elements of Naomi Long’s tenure as Lord Mayor. I can’t remember what the details were, but I’m sure it was something about not hanging a Union Jack somewhere, or not paying appropriate respect to Lord Carson or something daft like that. It did not work.

    Personally, I do not count Alliance voters as ex-unionists. They may well still be unionist, or they may have had a rethink and decided that there are more important things in life. Either way, they know Alliance’s position on the matter and accordingly they do not expect the party’s reps to start singing “God save the Queen” in order to keep their support. The votes are won by having an active and efficient constituency organization of people who campaign on, and solve, local problems.

    I see a couple of people hearing, and then rejecting, the idea that Alliance are non-unionist. This whole argument has been explained in depth over the past couple of days. I don’t want to bore everyone by doing it again. Suffice to say the people who are still parrotting this rubbish are probably either too thick, or too prejudices, to understand the nuances behind anything that doesn’t have a brightly-coloured flag wrapped around it, so it makes sense to leave them to wallow in their own ignorance.

  • lamhdearg

    Alliance have 3 years in which to attract sdlp members to join them, or they will become unionist lite in most minds.

  • Mr Crumlin

    My view is that APNI are a mixture (like most parties) of differing views. There are integrationists, catholic unionists, liberal unionists, liberals – mostly middle class and upwardly mobile.

    However I still maintain they are unionist – granted it is a small u and not the thing that drives them. I also believe this direction towards soft unionism is driven by David Ford who is obviously a unionist.

    I have a scenario for APNI supporters. Over the city hall the union flag has flown everyday of the year for all my years on this earth. It is blatantly a symbol of domination in a city of equals. As a republican I would like to see the Irish (foreign!) flag fly beside it but I am pragmatic enough to know that will not happen anytime soon. I also accept (relunctantly but still accept) that the union flag will fly on certain days of the year, as at stormont and other govt buildings. However I believe that the Belfast City flag should be flown on every other day – particularly in a city that is obviously now equal.

    Would APNI councillors support this, in fact would the APNI be willing to bring such a motion before the council?

  • Mr Crumlin

    BTW – how ggod was Belfast City Council’s result info compared to others, particularly BBC. Well done BCC – you have shown others how it should be done.

  • Valenciano

    Gingray: “Anyone any idea what impact Local Government reform would have on Belfast? Am assuming wards would be added from Lisburn, Castlereagh and Newtownabbey councils, presume this would make it more unionist, is this correct?”

    ==================
    No Newtownabbey bits coming in at all. Belfast was to go to 60 wards with the Shankill losing one, the Falls gaining one, 4 Poleglass/Twinbrook/Dunmurry wards coming in on one side of town and 5 Castlereagh wards coming in on the other side.

    Roughly then a PUP loss in Shankill, 4 SF and 1 SDLP in West Belfast and at least 1 Alliance and 4 Unionist on the south east side of town.

  • IJP

    Granni

    Spot on.

    Look at the Assembly Election. A 41% Nationalist vote last year became 35% this year; a 15% Alliance vote became 20%.

    By the above logic, that makes Alliance a Nationalist party!

  • jeep55

    As I understand it committee places (mayorships?) will now be decided in Belfast City Council by D’Hondt. The seat allocation finished SF 16, DUP 15, SDLP 8, Alliance 6, UUP 3, PUP 2, Ind U 1. Applying D’Hondt, SF have the mayorship in year 1 and DUP in year 2. But then it gets interesting. Because SDLP and SF/2 are both 8 it goes down to share of the vote. Here SF are more than twice SDLP so year 3 goes to SF and year 4 SDLP. So a broadly neutral city will in a four-year term split the role of mayor 3 Nats/I Unionist. Alliance advised against a move to D’Hondt but were out-voted. Apparently, on reflection, the DUP were sorry they had agreed to this. I’ll bet they are really sorry now! If by any chance LG reform is further delayed and it goes to a six year term, the balance is somewhat restored. DUP notionally get Year 5 and Alliance Year 6.

    As the DUP vote share is not quite twice that of SDLP, they would have to recruit at least two other unionists into their ranks to gain two mayoral positions within a 4 year term.