Unionist Pact still possible

The saga of whether or not there will be a unionist pact continues with Mike Nesbitt suggesting that he may still be open to an agreement. He stated:

“Without a deal, without an understanding there is a real prospect there could be no unionist representing the capital city of Northern Ireland in Westminster on the 8th May,” he said.
“With a deal, who knows? Maybe three of the four could be unionist but they can’t all be DUP.”

The seats in question are of course North, South and East Belfast and outside Belfast but also relevant Fermanagh / South Tyrone.

As has been noted previously on slugger both sides of the political divide are quick to label any pact or hint thereof, as a sectarian campaign. The reality though is that, rightly or wrongly, most people in Northern Ireland vote with the candidates view on the constitutional position as the most important issue. This can be described as tribal, sectarian or whatever but it is simply a fact.

There are likely to be exceptions and variations on how committed people are to opposing “the other side”. This is often largely dependent on how unacceptable the “other side’s” candidate is but the centrality of the constitutional issue is overwhelming no matter how much the letsgetalongerists or other “progressives” would wish it to be otherwise.

North Belfast is clearly currently held by Nigel Dodds of the DUP with the threat coming from Gerry Kelly. Kelly has launched a pretty clear “them and us” campaign. It is highly unlikely that many (? Any) unionist voters would prefer Gerry Kelly over their less favoured unionist party. The Salmon of Data (can I digress to ask the Salmon if his excellent pen name is taken from Jakers?) has an excellent set of analyses of the population and voting statistics here.

It seems clear that despite a possible small overall nationalist / republican majority a single unionist candidate in the shape of Nigel Dodds would have a very high chance of holding North Belfast whereas a split unionist vote would run a significant danger of handing the seat to one of unionism’s chief bogeymen in the form of Gerry Kelly. For Kelly, especially after his latest leaflet, to try to tar a unionist candidate with the sectarian brush would be laughable even to many nationalists.

South Belfast is somewhat more complex. Again the Salmon’s data analysis is extremely instructive. As he notes the demographics in terms of religious opinion are similar. However, the constituency and the candidates are markedly different. South Belfast was one place where a unionist majority (now gone) was divided resulting in an SDLP win. Dr. McDonnell has held the seat since that split vote in 2005. In 2010 Sinn Fein stood aside and the UUP in the grip of the UCUNF folly / farce refused an electoral pact. This resulted in an easy win for McDonnell.

Now with a shift in the demographics to more Catholics than Protestants (though in South Belfast of all places the lazy conflation of religious belief with voting patterns is at its weakest) the ask is harder for any unionist. More importantly normally would be that with two electoral succeses under his belt McDonnell should be pretty safe. However, McDonnell’s public profile has not been especially high and when he does appear on the public stage he has a tendency to be tetchy and somewhat ill tempered. Furthermore as the Salmon notes Sinn Fein are running a good candidate for the area in Ó Muilleoir (the Salmon also notes that this might be part of a cunning plan to decapitate the SDLP).

The DUP are proposing a good though somewhat parachuted in candidate in Jonathan Bell from Strangford whilst the UUP are set to choose between Jeff Dudgeon or Rodney McCune. With good candidates from all four of the main parties (actually five dependent on Alliance’s choice) the race would be very open. With an agreed unionist candidate on the other hand it would look a tough but highly gettable ask for unionism.

East Belfast is of course an entirely different proposition. Here the unionist vote was utterly solid until the almost perfect storm of accusations against Peter Robinson (subsequently shown to be unfounded) along with an excellent Alliance candidate in Naomi Long and Dawn Purvis and parts of broader loyalism supporting Long. To cap it all the UCUNF selected a surreally dreadful candidate in the shape of the truly woeful Trevor Ringland whose post defeat political self immolation provided several years of levity until finally burning out last year.

Long has maybe not been quite as ubiquitious in the constituency as she had been as an MLA and there had been rumours of internal divisions within East Belfast Alliance largely silenced by the campaign against them after the Belfast City Council flag vote – though that vote will not have endeared her to loyalists. Long may also have annoyed some of the politically liberal religious set with her personal support for homosexual marriage. Overall though she has done a decent job and has incumbency on her side.

She has recently been helped up to a point by the UUP selecting a non comedy candidate this time out. Chris McGimpsey as a pretty moderate unionist with strong left wing credentials will no doubt take significant support from the DUP but also from the working class unionist vote which went to Long last time. The Lower Newtownards Road might well go for McGimpsey whereas it is unlikely that Trevor Ringland was aware it was on the same planet as him (then again it was unclear which planet Ringland was on throughout that election – still is). That is, however, the problem for the UUP. Chris McGimpsey would have been an excellent candidate in 2005: he might well have done a Long and taken South Belfast for them. Of course that would have been impossible: McGimpsey would never have taken a Tory whip in the House of Commons and as such the UCUNF would never have selected him. That simple set of facts crystalises the folly that was UCUNF and although the disaster is now gone (to pharaphrase Galadriel) History must not become legend and legend become myth.

The problem for unionism is that McGimpsey standing must significantly increase the chances of Long holding her seat and if she can hold it a second time she is likely to have it indefinitely.

Fermanagh South Tyrone presents as straightforward an issue as North Belfast albeit with a lower chance of unionist success. It was lost to unionism on a split vote and with pretty clear electoral malpractice in Garrison in 2001. In 2005 a split vote resulted in an easy win for Gildernew. In 2010 there was a unity candidate in Rodney Connor who came within 5 votes of taking Gildernew’s seat. Whilst the sectarian balance might have shifted slightly in Gildernew’s favour and she has a longer incumbency she has been less active recently (to be fair her health has at times not been good) and remains another bogeyperson to most unionists. As such a unity candidate has a good chance.

Overall Nesbitt’s call for unity along with choosing good candidates in South and East Belfast is pretty clever politics. At a guess his price for a pact would be a free run in South Belfast and for Tom Elliott is F/ST.

The overall argument in favour of unionist unity is, from a mainstream unionist viewpoint, pretty overwhelming. As a republican commentator mentioned (I think Paddy Reilly) a few months ago unionism has lost a seat at each Westminster election for several in a row. Without a pact the chances of getting those back is relatively low: with a pact up to three could be regained. More than that, however, is what one might call the “Verdun effect”. During the First World War the Germans attacked the iconic French fortress of Verdun. Although some have recently questioned it, the accepted wisdom is that the Germans did not intend to take the fortress but rather to undermine the French Army which they knew would fight tooth and nail for Verdun, hence, losing excessive numbers of troops and bleeding away morale.

A pact in Fermanagh South Tyrone would force Sinn Fein, like last time, to deploy massive resources to try to hold the seat. That in turn would reduce the resources they can devote to North Belfast. It is one of the aims of political parties to maximise the options available to them whilst narrowing their opponent’s options. As such for unionism as a whole a pact is much the best option. I have suggested previously that Peter Robinson is tactically brilliant but at times strategically flawed. Both tactically and strategically on this occasion a unionist pact is likely to be in his and all unionism’s best interests.

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  • Jag

    You say that, but absent a UUP/DUP pact, Gerry Kelly is a serious contender in 2015 and a near certainty in 2020.

    Yes, some will hate his guts. So what? In a democracy, it’s the representative who attracts the most votes who gets elected.

  • Jag

    Ditto in south Armagh/Down and Derry. Growth in Catholicism/nationalism/Republicanism is quite visible, GAA is flourishing, you see so many Republic registered cars and the needling you get between the two traditions is dying down. Big dogs aren’t threatened by small dogs.

  • John

    Be interesting to see by how much the Irish Catholic population has increased. (Taking out the thousands that have came in from Eastern Europe) With so many emigrating i’d be surprised if the Irish Catholic population numbers haven’t remained stagnant. I dare say many more from a traditionally unionist/protestant family background would now consider themselves non-religious.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Generally the units of conformity in Northern Ireland are a)
    the school b) the Council Estate and c) the Church.

    There are reports of people who were historically Catholic but joined the UDA because they lived on a Protestant Council estate. Similarly we have the famous Catholic golfer who declared himself “British”, as he went to a mixed school in North Down.

    So Catholics from the Continent with names like Notarantonio
    have historically become identified with the Republican movement by association and intermarriage with the Irish Catholic population, through living on the same estates and attending the same Churches and schools.

    Judging from my nephew’s ‘friends’ on Facebook, all of them
    students of Aquinas D.G.S, the native Irish Catholic population is hosting and interacting with the bulk of Polish immigrants, as well as some Chinese. It would be strange if these only differently surnamed citizens embraced a different political tradition when in 3 years time, they have the vote.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Nothing is increasing Gerry’s vote though from last time, the anti-Kelly vote is doing Dodds the favour more than the anti-Dodds vote is helping Kelly.
    Sinn Féin need a new candidate. It’s also a more unionist constituency anyway.

  • aor26

    Thank you. I will enjoy it

  • Floreat Ultonia

    Paddy: here’s the size of each NI constituency at 2010 GE

    [URL=http://s827.photobucket.com/user/BillMcComish/media/politics/constituency-size_zps7ecrkqta.jpg.html][IMG]http://i827.photobucket.com/albums/zz196/BillMcComish/politics/constituency-size_zps7ecrkqta.jpg[/IMG][/URL]

    Belfast down to three seats in the next redraw looks likliest?

  • the keep

    I wouldnt hold my breath if i were you sad but true

  • the keep

    Good name magic film!

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Don’t be obtuse. There is no possible function of a pact other than saying that the need to have competing visions in politics is outweighed by the need to get another candidate out.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    that isn’t a pact.

    That said, none of the unionists are proposing voluntarily standing aside (which is what they would actually do if they cared badly enough about ensuring that the seat didn’t go to a non-unionist).

  • Catcher in the Rye

    People who are under direct attack

    People were under direct attack during the blitz.

    Restricting the number of days a flag can be flown on isn’t an “attack” – although it may be helpful to a grievance narrative to suggest that it is.

    This cuts both ways of course – closing St Mary’s teacher training college isn’t an attack either, but it suits some people to say that it is.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Nothing is increasing Gerry’s vote though from last time, the anti-Kelly vote is doing Dodds the favour more than the anti-Dodds vote is helping Kelly.

    Please provide evidence for both of these claims. Kelly’s vote has consistently increased since the 1990s.

  • aor26

    ”I personally would have to hear some really compelling reasons for a united Ireland.” Okay.

    Northern Ireland is part of the United kingdom and we make up roughly 1% of the population thereby hindering our ability to effect positive change within this country of the U.K. Northern Ireland has no political power as part of the U.K. Our small number of M.P’s are a virtual irrelevance in Westminster. As part of an All-ireland parliament we could have a quarter of the M.Ps. Our needs could not be ignored. As part of an all Ireland set-up we would become a quarter of the population of the country and would therefore have real political power which would win us real economic benefits from the central government in Dublin. In short let’s be a big fish in a smaller pond as opposed to a tiny fish in a larger pond.

    Secondly, for all the friction between North and South on the whole the people in the South understand us better and like us more than our fellow citizens in the U.K. Some English people literally do not even know that N.I is part of the U.K. I know many Unionists feel a cultural affinity with the U.K but the reality is that the perception of us in Britain is very negative. They view us as’ mad paddies’ who can’t stop fighting each other. Furthermore many perceive us as a massive financial drain on their treasury. In short, they don’t care about us and they do not like us. I find it peculiar that so many in N.I desire to be part of a country where so many of our fellow citizens loathe us.

    Thirdly, this a small island with a small population and the border creates duplication of public services that cost a fortune overall to people on both sides if the border, If we pull our collective resources and manpower and money then we could have more efficient public services in the long term.

    Fourthly, there is a wider economic costs of having two economies side by side competing against each other, (with their different currencies) rather than working together. Even just on a basic level of having to pay for currency exchange when you take a wee drive an hour down the road – it’s a little crazy. Also despite the recent financial crises south of the border there is a real economic recovery beginning to take shape. Economic growth forecasts are very high for the next couple of years. They have solid pharmacutical, tourist, agricultural, manufacturing industries. We are part of the U.K and all we have is a giant public service rendering us very lacking in self sufficiency.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Turgon,

    East Belfast skimmed the chance of an Alliance MP in 1979. Back then there were two strong unionist candidates who polled almost an equal vote, and 1000 more votes (about 2% of the vote) for Napier would have allowed him to nick it. I think it as traditionally done well in the constituency when it has had a candidate with a good personal vote and the unionists are busy fighting.

    With that principle in mind, Alliance need to focus on getting the vote up at around the 35% mark and the unionist vote will be chewed up by the UUP, DUP and PUP.

    An interesting thing to note in East Belfast is that the PUP vote appears to have come at the expense of the UUP, rather than the DUP; and I imagine that the UUP has taken votes from Alliance (it’s hard to say, as this began in 2001 when Alliance was imploding). This implies that the PUP won’t hurt the Robinson campaign.

    As for whether or not more unionist seats is good for unionism .. hard to say. If unionists go around saying how essential it is that there are as many unionist MPs as possible in Westminster, this does nothing other than give nationalists a target to shoot at. And since Westminster representation is pretty much insignificant these days, a calculating person might think that it’s a useful way to tie up senior Sinn Féin politicians neatly offside from the Assembly.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “Northern Ireland will be a nationalist/Republican jurisdiction very soon (on the basis that Catholic equals nationalist/Republican, which is more or less sound).”
    Less, it seems: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-21345997

  • Kevin Breslin

    1. Gerry Kelly’s vote slipped from 10,331 to 8,747 between 2001 and 2005 so the consistency is amiss, it was 12,588 at the last election but slipped to 10,671 in the last Assembly election. We could be seeing 12,500 being the saturation point here while Nigel Dodds seems to be stagnant. Gerry needs a 6% swing to win North Belfast,

    2. North Belfast is 51.86% Protestant and other Christians Community background, 44.93% Catholic Community background, since Gerry Kelly completely detaches himself from representing Protestant Community Background voters we can only assume adherence to sectarian stereotypes when it comes to voting.

    3. Sinn Féin’s vote in North Belfast declined in the previous election, losing a nominal councillor to the Alliance Party, the DUP lost a councillor to the TUV who will back Nigel Dodds in this contest, Alliance will not back Kelly.

    Gerry Kelly needs a unionist pact to win the seat, it’s the only way he’d get enough mud slung at the unionists to ensure Alliance and SDLP voters make up the difference for the lack of Sinn Féin/Gerry Kelly supporters. If the UUP feild a candidate, SDLP voters will vote SDLP and Alliance voters will vote Alliance, and Sinn Féin will be beaten.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Kelly’s share of the vote increased between 2001 and 2005. If you want to delude yourself by ignoring the figures that you don’t like and talking up the ones that do, it’s your own game, but the suggestion that Kelly is becoming increasingly unpopular is a lie.

    since Gerry Kelly completely detaches himself from representing Protestant Community Background voters we can only assume adherence to sectarian stereotypes when it comes to voting.

    It is not necessary for Kelly to win votes from Protestants; it is only necessary for him to win votes from other nationalists.

    As if Mr Vatican Enforcer Alban Maginness appeals to the folks living up the Ballysillan ..

    Sinn Féin’s vote in North Belfast declined in the previous election, losing a nominal councillor to the Alliance Party, the DUP lost a councillor to the TUV who will back Nigel Dodds in this contest, Alliance will not back Kelly.

    So what ? This is an FPTP election where tactical voting is paramount. The competition is between Kelly and Dodds.

  • Paddy Reilly

    I would go about it by starting at Newry then offloading some of that constituency’s land on Upper Bann, offloading a part of Upper Bann (Lurgan?) on Lagan Valley. North Antrim would donate to South and East.

  • John

    I would hope that these newcomers, unlike many in this country could think for themselves rather than having certain views forced on them by school friends/parents. And lets be honest these people come here solely to make money why would they vote in favour of a UI which would entail medical charges, fire engine call out charges and generally higher prices for basic goods. I work for a company that employs many Polish/Lith who work on the factory floor. The came here (uk) for the very reasons I stated above…when I pressed a few on the possibility of a UI they just laughed. No interest.

  • John

    Agreed. I don’t have much of a problem with the thought of a UI but because SF are the main drivers of it, I will be fully against it. They are the lowest of the low in my eyes…cannot understand how any right thinking person would vote for them.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Yes, that is what one would expect. There is also the added complication that they would not have the right to vote for seven years, I think. But those who were born in this country or came here at a very young age would not think like that. And despite higher charges in the Irish Republic, the standard of living is still higher: no lack of Polish/Lithuanian immigrants there.

  • Zeno

    As Seaan says below, getting elected.
    There are no concerns about the Union. The GFA offered it to Nationalists if they just vote for it, but in reality, few are interested in a United Ireland.
    We aren’t even close to getting a referendum.

  • Zeno

    “We are part of the U.K and all we have is a giant public service rendering us very lacking in self sufficiency.”

    And £10 billion a year.

  • Zeno

    It would be interesting to remove the pretense that they are all working for our benefit.

  • Kevin Breslin

    So Sinn Féin’s vote is down from local government, Alban’s voters appeal to a demographic within Irish nationalism that doesn’t like people who’ve killed prision officers as their most notable political achievement, and Kelly should not be interested in doing anything more than appeal to a minority of North Belfast residents, having done absolutely nothing to improve his candidature from the last election except kick up a fuss that unionists are voting for a unionist it seems.

    How reliant on 10% of DUP voters and or Unionist voters in North Belfast to stay at home do you have you to be?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Unfortunately Sinn Féin’s appeal to Northern Protestantism is just as bad as Unionist party appeal to Northern Catholicism.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Whatever demographic Alban appeals to, it is one that has shrunk at almost every single election since 1993.

    Whatever demographic Kelly appeals to, in the same period it has allowed him to leapfrog Alban’s share of the vote and get closer to taking the seat – less than 2000 votes – than any nationalist ever has done before. That demographic obviously doesn’t mind him being a convicted bomber and probably doesn’t mind it too much when he appears at the unveiling of memorials to later IRA bombers.

    As for the unionists, it depends to what extent you think Twaddell is relevant. I know some unionists are horrified by what goes on up there. I am not claiming that they represent a majority of DUP voters, but it stands to reason that they represent some of them. The risk being taken by Dodds, both in terms of motivating nationalists to hold their vote and support Kelly, and in terms of compelling softer unionists to abstain, is not a small one.

    The rest of what you are saying just doesn’t make sense. It is a stark reality that a combined nationalist candidate stands a strong chance of taking a seat in a split unionist vote. Deny reality all you want.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Just found a previous posting (by me) which deals with this very issue:-

    Every year the number of Catholics in Northern Ireland goes
    up, and every year the number and percentage of those Catholics who vote for the SDLP goes down (and that who vote for SF goes up).

    SDLP vote in Fermanagh & South Tyrone

    1998 11,007

    2001 9,560

    2003 7,507

    2005 7,230

    2007 6,483

    2010 3,574

    2011 4,606

    So with the SDLP vote going down by about 1,000 every two
    years, one would expect the SDLP vote in 2015 to be about 2,000. One should also note the irregular dip in 2010, caused by about 2,000 normally SDLP voters choosing to vote SF in the face of the Unionist unity candidate.

    Conclusion: at the next General election the SDLP vote in F/ST may be as low as 1,000, SF will have a higher vote than ever and the UUP has not a snowball’s chance in hell of taking the seat.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Alban’s vote has been consistent, Kelly’s vote has been consistent, Dodds vote has been consistent … This is all in favour of the incombent Nigel Dodds. Gerry Kelly has been in the area for years and if the swing he needs to change the seat hasn’t happened by now, it’s unlikely to ever happen. I do not see Gerry Kelly doing a Naomi Long because he’s actually doing the opposite by polarising the vote.

    And the only election post-Twadell was the supercouncil elections which saw the Sinn Féin vote go down in the North Belfast constituencies. Whatever Sinn Féin is doing on Twadell Avenue by your reckonings is that party’s Ace and if the supercouncils are anything to go by, Sinn Féin are not doing enough to get young non-voting Catholics to vote. Sinn Féin’s first preference vote went down in the 3 North Belfast wards while the DUP vote held firm, even if bad vote management cost them a seat to the TUV.

    Kelly has been playing catchup on Dodds for nearly a decade but nothing has convinced me that the game is changing I his favour. Young unemployed Catholics and Protestants in North Belfast capable of being the kingmaker in this seat owe him nothing, and the fact that Sinn Féin are losing vote share to Alliance seems to show as far as Gerry Kelly is concerned the local electorate are not getting any keener on him than they have previously.

  • tmitch57

    Maybe the unionists should name a park for Lenny Murphy to show how untribal they are.

  • tmitch57

    What is to prevent these pro-union Catholics/cultural nationalists from continuing to vote for nationalist parties/Alliance in elections but voting for the continuation of the Union in a border poll?

  • Kevin Breslin

    How about not naming Playparks after anyone, if people like Barry McElduff put as much effort into advocacy for young unemployed as he does canonising a Hunger Striker, the nationalist vote would stop emigrating, instead he’s happy to ignore the obvious decline in the nationalist population for the republican pensioner vote.

  • alexbr

    How do you form the questions you ask when carrying out polls. Does whoever pay the money choose or is it your responsibility?
    Would Ireland be better off united or better off partitioned?
    How much of a difference, if any would it make to your previous united Ireland
    polls if you changed the question.

  • LucidTalk

    Good question. All our poll questions are agreed with our clients, and usually collated, edited, and re-collated and re-edited several times. They are then passed to the British Polling Council for verification as being neutral and balanced – although this is not a requirement of any poll, it is good practice. NB There is a high degree of subjective judgement in terms of collating poll questions, and you’re quite correct in saying that the way they are formulated can have a significant effect on the poll results, especially with referendum type questions like at the recent Scottish referendum. E.g. Never mind the actual question wording, it is well accepted that it is better to be on the ‘Yes’ side of a referendum question, like the independence campaign in Scotland and the pro Good Friday referendum in NI in 1998. People sub-consciously like saying ‘Yes’ rather than ‘No’ – though the extent of the impact of this is debatable.

  • alexbr

    If Kelly gets the same increase this election as he did at the previous election he’ll win the seat even if Dodds vote holds.

    ‘Young unemployed Catholics and Protestants in North Belfast capable of being the kingmaker in this seat owe him nothing’

    Obviously they’ll thank Dodds for being uemployed and vote for him? Makes a lot of sense.
    Many more young people jobless in Derry. I take it they owe the SDLP nothing and should vote SF?

  • Kevin Breslin

    The increase in the Sinn Féin vote between Westminster and local government was actually negative, the increase in between Westminster and the Assembly was negative. Dodds vote was positive. The number of non-voters is increasing at Sinn Féin’s expense more than the DUP’s.

    The fact that the turnout is suffering a turnoff is what is costing Sinn Féin the seat this time, not the SDLP or unionist unity pacts, but that the contest is aspiring to be an uninspiring sectarian headcount for Kelly and Dodd’s sake … Not North Belfast.

    Seriously sending Dodds on the dole and Gerry Kelly doing the job he does anyway without a mandate, how many peace walls will that break down?

  • aber1991

    I would see the closing of St Mary Teacher Training College as an attack on Catholics – an attempt to increase Prod power over Catholics.

  • salmonofdata

    Thanks. I hadn’t actually come across Jakers, but can confirm that the name was indeed a homage to the story of the Salmon of Knowledge.

    In South Belfast, the DUP would be wise to take advantage of the fact that a strong Sinn Féin campaign could deliver them the seat in a crowded field. The presence of a unionist unity candidate would be likely to dissuade any potential SDLP -> SF switchers. Have seen a few times that South Belfast is considered by some to be a UUP seat. I can’t understand the logic of that, the UUP vote has been in freefall for years, and the DUP are a lot stronger in the constituency, so can’t understand what the logic would be for the DUP to stand aside.

    Another item of perceived wisdom that I’m dubious of is the perceived invincibility of Michelle Gildernew in Fermanagh & South Tyrone. If you look at the chart of Nationalist, Unionist & Others votes cast in the constituency since 2003, the total unionist vote in 2010 (21,300) was actually the lowest out of the last five elections since 2003, and the total nationalist lead in 2011 (2,728) is actually lower than it was in 2005 (2,943). Sinn Féin aren’t safe in FST, and I have a hunch that agreed unity candidates poll slightly fewer votes than either UUP or DUP candidates (where one has stood aside).

    If I were the DUP, the deal I would be interested in making would be for the UUP to stand aside in North and East Belfast, in exchange for a free UUP run at Fermanagh & South Tyrone. The DUP are holding all of the cards, so are in a position to drive a hard bargain.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I felt Connor was a poor and indeed weak candidate. I know too many who struggled to vote for him and indeed even more who refused to vote for him. Lacking Orange credentials in a place such as Fermanagh is a significant issue, Stuart Brooker the current person being championed is the correct choice. The key for Unionism is not so much beating Sinn Fein but to increase their vote in real terms and not % wise from 2010.