David may not want to go there, although ‘idealistic’ wasn’t the first word that sprang to mind. [Was it another word beginning with ‘i’? – Ed] You might very well think that… ANYhoo…
Gerry Kelly’s Sinn Féin colleague in north Belfast, and the Northern Ireland Culture Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, MLA, should, perhaps, have other things on her mind. But, on Thursday, the Minister was on Twitter defending Sinn Féin’s use of the 2011 census’ breakdown of the constituency by religion in support of the party’s claim that Gerry Kelly can win. Here’s that tweet
@tomp81 Its on our Literature because its a fact. Electoral commission vetoed using last election figures. Gerry Kelly can take that seat
— Carál Ní Chuilín MLA (@CaralNiChuilin) April 30, 2015
It prompted the noted psephologist, Nicholas Whyte, to ask a pertinent question of the Electoral Commission.
— Nicholas Whyte (@nwbrux) May 2, 2015
Hopefully Nicholas will let us know if/when the Electoral Commission responds…
It does, however, raise the question of which “last election figures” Carál Ní Chuilín is claiming the party wanted to use, but were prevented from doing so?
Logically, the first choice would be the 2010 Westminster General Election. But when we look at the results for North Belfast in 2010 we see the following [All figures from the indispensable Ark]
Designated Unionist parties (DUP(40%) + UCUNF(7.7%) [UUP/Conservative]) – 47.7%
Designated Nationalist parties (Sinn Féin(34%) + SDLP(12.3%)) – 46.3%
Other (Alliance(4.9%) + Independent(1.1%)) – 6%
Not quite the result Sinn Féin were implying by using those 2011 census figures for Catholic v Protestant…
Perhaps Carál Ní Chuilín meant the 2011 Assembly Election? Here are those results
Designated Unionist parties (DUP(37.1%) + UUP(8.2%)) – 45.3%
Designated Nationalist parties (Sinn Féin(31.9%) + SDLP(12%)) – 43.9%
Other (Alliance(6.3%) + Independent(3.5%) + Workers Party(1%)) – 10.8%
Again, not quite the result Sinn Féin were implying by using those 2011 census figures for Catholic v Protestant…
Rather than risk being accused of sectarianism – as Sinn Féin was when an industrial tribunal found that the then NI Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy, appointed the chairman of NI Water “because he was not from a Protestant background and because he was known to the Minister and his ministerial colleagues” – by using the 2011 census’ breakdown of the constituency by religion in support of the party’s claim that Gerry Kelly can win, the party could have pointed to other, perhaps more relevant, figures from that census. As the ever indispensable Ark notes for North Belfast
In the multi-option national identity question, 48.66% said that they had British identity (10th of 18 constituencies), 29.88% said that they had Irish identity (9th), 27.28% Northern Irish (15th), 1.26% English, Scots or Welsh (14th), and 3.09% something other (7th). [added emphasis]
[That wouldn’t support the party’s claim! – Ed] Indeed, but neither does the Catholic v Protestant figures…
Update Progress! Of sorts…
Apologies to @eoni_official for error in my tweet on North Belfast leaflet "election commission vetoed using last election figures" 1/2
— Carál Ní Chuilín MLA (@CaralNiChuilin) May 3, 2015
Meanwhile, some political reaction. From the BBC report.
Ulster Unionist Tom Elliott said the leaflet was blatantly sectarian.
“Sinn Féin are engaged in the worst and most blatant kind of sectarian campaign yet exhibited by a political party during the general election,” he said.
“In their headlong rush to try and win the Westminster seat of North Belfast, they have resorted to the lowest common denominator – sectarianism.
“They will have offended many people across the denominations.”
Nuala McAllister of the Alliance Party said there was “nowhere else in these islands where it would be acceptable to target people on the basis of their religion”.
“This would be equivalent to a city in the north of England where a party puts out letters highlighting the percentage of the population that is Christian versus the percentage of the population that is Muslim,” she said.
“The more that we talk about this divide, the more that we talk about this sectarian headcount, it just perpetuates the divide more. This is lazy politics.”