The route to better government is clear. Why don’t the parties take it?

Nuff history  – Ed.  Thanks to Alan and Chris Donnelly for presenting significant data on how Northern Ireland is faring. The third CRC Peace Monitoring Report by Dr Paul Nolan reads  authoritatively, quite depressingly and utterly unsurprisingly. At around the same time, some polls have been published which broadly reflect the results but with the odd chink of light showing through.  This post as much as anything is a plea for better qualified analysis and fuller discussion about this evidence than anything around so far.

Broadly what I’m reading is this:

Political attitudes are still significant but  no longer decisive for defining the state of community relations and personal wellbeing.

 Satisfaction with the Assembly is not consistently dire – but Protestants are less satisfied than Catholics.

 Many poor Catholics are still poorer than most poor Protestants.

 Despite all the bad news, hope springs eternal and – here’s the thing –  the people  in general are  more advanced in their opinions than most  politicians. How can this phenomenon be exploited?

I understand the danger of conflating different polls and surveys and comparing apples with pears. Low opinion of politicians is hardly limited to NI and blaming politicians for everything is far too easy an option. But the purpose of surveys is to enhance understanding.  Thus my appeal for better and more analysis. It seems too much to hope for that this should come from the political parties  – publicly at least – though no doubt they comb the evidence  to help their positioning.


Next, to summarise key content. First,the Nolan Report’s “ ten key points”. Reading this there are no surprises, but there are hints of remedy  in 4 -5 and 8 and grounds for optimism in 9.

1. The moral basis of the 1998 peace accord has evaporated.

2. The absence of trust has resulted in an absence of progress

3. There has been some increase in polarisation

4. A culture war is being talked into existence

5. The City of Culture year presented a different understanding of culture

 6. Failure lies in wait for young working-class Protestant males.

 7. Front line police have been the human shock absorbers for failures elsewhere.

 8. The rebalancing of inequalities unbalances unionism.

9. At grassroots level the reconciliation impulse remains strong

 10. No one picks up the tab Failure in Northern Ireland comes cost-free.


 ( Quoted in Nolan) An August 2013 Belfast Telegraph/LucidTalk opinion poll delivered a massive vote of no confidence in Stormont politicians. With only 9.4 per cent of those expressing an opinion rating the performance of Stormont as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’, the Assembly’s net approval rating sank deep into minus figures to -59.9 per cent. Gerry Lynch, an analyst for the pollsters LucidTalk said “this is the sort of score which a politician could expect after being arrested on serious criminal charges.”

The Telegraph’s latest Lucid Talk poll of 16-24 year olds earlier his month, looks a bit brighter. Are kids naturally more resilient or just naïve?  On better relations and a good place to live the headline breakdown is about 60:40 in favour; on politicians nearer to 50:50. But when applies to Protestants and Catholics separately, the proportions are reversed: many more young Prods are more pessimistic and dissatisfied than young RCs.

A NICVA SURVEY  by Ipsos Mori at end of March.

68% of respondents said economic policy was important when considering what party to vote for, and 56% said constitutional issues were important.

In relation to who they would trust with the economy, respondents were most likely to trust voluntary and community groups (73%), followed by the business community (55%). Respondents were least likely to trust the Northern Ireland Executive (39%).


Lots of analysis. Now  where are the plans for action?


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  • Gopher

    Another Demographics bogeyman based report. There will be a Polish flag over Stormont before there will be a Tricolour. Apart from the atheists of North Down procreating faster than rabbits between 2001 and 2011 and 10,000 squaddies and their families going home my favourite one is the ageing population; as if you should be ashamed to take care of yourself play golf, give up smoking, watch your weight and drink moderately. Any serious report would survey age based on living standard.

  • Barnshee

    “Any serious report would survey age based on living standard”.

    Can’t go there

    Its all to embarrassing
    Read (carefully)’

    Majority-Minority Differentials: Unemployment, Housing and Health’ by Martin Melaugh

  • notimetoshine

    There will be no plan of action (no serious one anyway).

    The main parties in NI don’t have the ideas, the capability or the morality to put silly constitutional/cultural ideas aside to focus on social/economic development.

    At then end of it all NI is just one giant sectarian merry go round where symbols and ‘culture’ means more than jobs and education.

  • Politico68

    Its unlikely that any party will seriously take up the challenge on the basis that the North simply isent a normal polity. While the GFA marked a line in the sand where violence became pretty much a thing of the past it also sowed the seeds for a new form of sectarianism. In my view this of course was not intentional but it is I believe a side affect the consociational arrangements. Unionism is simply too fragile to take its eye off the constitutional ball. Arlene pointed out as much quite recently when she compared the disarray of six party political Unionism to the tight organised structure of two party nationalism. Moreover, PR is right when he talks of the dangers in ignoring the demographic realities. He is not referring to the possibilities of a UI, I think he is looking at the creeping growth of the Catholic population and how that plays out in terms of votes for the Shinners and the SDLP. On top of this Unionism has an irritated and aggressive Loyalist tantrum in full flight in the corner of the garden, not to mention the fact that Nationailsm just had dinner with the British Queen. My considered opinion is that Political Unionism is a bit lost at sea, weighed down by what appears to be too many changes too quickly.

  • Seamuscamp

    ” Many poor Catholics are still poorer than most poor Protestants.”
    This is not an enlightening statement. Many poor Protestants are poorer than most poor Protestants. Irrefutable statistical fact.

    “No one picks up the tab Failure in Northern Ireland comes cost-free.”
    Untrue if Point 6 is true.