Tribal, sectarian, personal and nasty scraps amongst political ‘friends’…

For those looking for my take on the 18 by elections taking place in Northern Ireland on Thursday it’s in today’s Irish Independent…  Almost everyone is trying to unseat parties with whom they already share power in the Northern Ireland Executive.

In summary, I don’t think FST will be the story this year. However many friends he has who are nationalist, Tom Elliott won’t have many nationalist friends actually vote for him.

The scum comments and his refusal to do what the DUP would do and go to a GAA match will motivate a coalescence around Michelle Gildernew.

We can expect North Belfast to be a win for Nigel Dodds, but even with Gerry Kelly’s shark jump act with gerrymandered figures and old nationalist style ‘remember you’re a Catholic’ rhetoric we’ll watch to see what effect (if any) it has on the electorate there.

I suspect that it only be East Belfast and South Belfast are in the mix this time, but we’ll be keeping an eye on Newry and Armagh for signs of vital life in the SDLP, not least since the Portadown Times claims that ‘private polling’ suggests the party is flatlining in neighbouring Upper Bann.

I’d argue that without real political arguments, the most closely fought constituencies have been tribal (Fermanagh and South Tyrone), sectarian (North Belfast), personal (East Belfast) or downright nasty (South Belfast).

For a full constituency rundown check out the full copy on the Indo..



  • Zeno

    “SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell has won twice but relies on tactical voting. DUP junior minister Jonathan Bell has the highest profile in a crowded Unionist field. Sinn Féin’s Mairtin O Muilleoir entry could gift the seat to Bell. Result: 2am.”

    That can only be the “plan”. Anyone voting for Mairtin O Muilleoir must surely realise that. A vote for him is a vote for the DUP.

  • Granni Trixie

    Aw cum on Mick. My dark side wants more about ‘the nasty’.

  • Granni Trixie

    Will be interesting to see if baggage the DUP is accumulating on Moral issues, even as we speak, take most effect in liberal SB.

  • Robin Keogh

    Good synop Mick but, “East Derry” might land you in hot water 😉

    I fear GK might have done himself an injury. Without the flyers it would have been interesting to see if SF could pull away natural SDLP voters, the leaflet could have the effect of severely stunting that opporunity in the end. Such a bad move; and a feeling shared by an abundance of Shinners across the country. It was also an unessecary move, on community background stats, nationalism simply does not have a majority in the over 18 category, even with a nationalist pact it was always going to be unlikely that SF could take this seat.
    Equally the Unionist pact is not sure to deliver for the DUP either (except in EB) it could turn out that many voters might decide to stay at home in the face of such unpleasant tactics.
    For me at least the exciting part of the election (apart from the glorious spectacle of the SNP wiping out all other parties in Scotland) is actaually Upper Bann, the BT reported the other day that the DUP and UUP are drawing neck and neck here, in previous polls SF seem to sccop about 70% of the available nationalist vote, if turnout is the same as the 2010 elections, SF could take that seat by a whisker. However, nationalist turnout in 2014 was pretty poor so we will have to wait and see if the SDLP and SF have done enough to rectify this. It will also be interesting to note if any SDLP voters in Upper Bann lend their vote to SF.
    Of course another element to all of this that might hamper SF is any fall-out from the scandals that have beset the party over the last year. Will any of their voters switch to SDLP or others as a result?

  • BetsyGray

    Please..pray tell Mick….come on dish the dirt…on the “downright nasty” (South Belfast)….your such a tease..!

  • Robin Keogh

    I agree with you there Zeno (odd i know but such is life) I am bricking it that MOM will take enough votes away to gift the seat to DUP ;-/

  • mickfealty

    I prefer the official East Londonderry, but I didn’t think the Indo would buy it.

  • mickfealty

    You want me to jump into the toxic sludge? No thanks. Look what one hastily worded blog has brought on my head this morning… 🙁

  • Zeno

    “nationalism simply does not have a majority in the over 18 category”

    Do they have a majority in the under 18 Category?

  • Robin Keogh

    Ya I know i was just teasing ya

  • Robin Keogh

    No they have a majority in the under 40 age group

  • Zeno

    Don’t worry It won’t last unfortunately.

  • Zeno

    Do you mean Catholics or Nationalists?

  • Robin Keogh

    I mean those who responded in the census as coming from a Ctholic Community background from where the vast majority of nationalist votes come from

  • BetsyGray

    Ok, fair comment….deal yourself a ‘red card’ for this mornings brain fade.

  • mickfealty

    I’m not sure GT, which makes calling South such a piece of electoral Astrology. People vote the way they do for a whole variety of reasons which stack differently against an individual’s values/interests.

    I suspect it is a case of how many unionist jenga bricks they can build a single unionist tower with, and how many bricks Mairtin can nick from the bottom of Big Al’s.

  • Zeno

    So they said they were from a Catholic Nationalist background and you think thats ok to count them as Nationalist voters?
    You don’t really want to go down the road of me proving again that all Catholics are not Nationalists, do you?

  • Robin Keogh

    Zeno I am not talking about those who described themselevs as Catholics in the census returns. I am speaking of those who say they come from a “Catholic Community Background”, there is a difference. I am from a Protestant community background but I am in fact a Catholic so no you dont have to go down any road with me. Hence the fact I used the term ‘majority’ rather than ‘all’. SF and the SDLP are nationalist parties, the majority of their votes come from those with a Catholic Community Background, so even if they are not ‘nationalist’ they are ‘nationlist voters’.There is no need to be splitting hairs after all the chats we have had about this in the past. I know where u stand, u know where i stand, never the twain shall meet etc etc.

  • Colin Lamont

    Agree with your analysis except regarding Fermanagh Mick. I think it will be very close and all depend on the election day ground operation.
    Also, Tom’s orange links should count for something, Michelle commented on this herself in the Fermanagh Herald only a few days ago.

  • Granni Trixie

    Does “toxic sludge” include behind the scenes rumours which “everyone” appears to know? I ask this as a serious question, given that in theory media reporting is a crucial element in a political party’s fortunes – not just in giving a platform to individual candidates but in framing public discourse,defining problems etc. I wonder therefore to what extent what people “know” behind the scenes impacts on how they vote.

    Maybe this election is a test of that?

  • salmonofdata

    On the betting markets Sinn Féin have been backed in from (I think) 100/1 to 5/1 in South Belfast, which means that either a) there are a lot of mug punters backing Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, or b) that Sinn Féin are going to poll very well indeed. If you told a time travelling political anorak from 2010 that the betting markets made Sinn Féin winning South Belfast as likely as Labour winning Glasgow East (majority: 11,840), they would have thought you were mad.

    If Sinn Féin poll anywhere near what their betting odds would imply, then it is likely that the DUP will nick the seat.

  • Granni Trixie

    I do not think that the argument promoted by SF “vote for MOM to keep the DUP out” will have much impact in SB (where I live and sometimes canvass).

    Yes, I think that there is an appetite to unseat The present incumbent even amongst SDLP core vote but many of them would vote for nearly anybody but SF. And as I said in a previous post, SF have not helped themselves with literature and hoardings which include Mary Lou , the Beardy one, all Ireland references and lots of green everthing – too scary for some. Like the DUP – ahem – SF misdemeanours are likely to impact on the party brand, so too GK sectarian leaflets might impact beyond NB.

    In theses circs could be that Paula Bradshaw is the dark horse to follow – APNI has built up a steady following in SB.

    But Even without my obvious bias, I am clear that the field in SB is more open than ever before – and the one to watch as more voters than usual are looking for a home.

  • salmonofdata

    How Alliance will get on is anybody’s guess. They’ve increased their vote in every election in South Belfast since 2003, but the party seem preoccupied with trying to defend East Belfast rather than trying to sneak through in South Belfast, which is understandable. They probably have a better chance than the 50/1 they’re being quoted at, though.

    A big problem for them, I think, is that Clare Bailey of the Green Party has a decent chance of keeping her deposit, and both the Greens and Alliance are going after the same pool of non-aligned voters. So whilst Paula Bradshaw could be within a couple of thousand votes of the winning post given favourable conditions, it’s hard to see how she could actually win.

    It’s going to come down to whether the Alasdair McDonnell gets his traditional Westminster electoral bump, and how Sinn Féin do. If Máirtín Ó Muilleoir polls over 6,000 votes, then the SDLP will be in trouble.

  • Gingray

    I largely agree with you Mick, although turnout in FST could be key. In North Belfast the sectarian pact and Sinn Feins get out the catholics will not impact on the outcome – too many young voters on the nationalist side who turn out at lower rates.

    Still, lots of unknowns this time round, I could see a surprise in either east or south antrim tho don’t expect either.

  • Zeno

    “Sinn Féin have been backed in from (I think) 100/1 to 5/1 ”

    Bookmakers are in the business of persuading people to bet on losers. He should be 500/1 not 5/1.

  • BetsyGray

    Agreed…if MO’M starts to polls over 6000 votes with the ongoing tally well before declaration…invisible AL is in a dog fight for sure…!

  • Kevin Breslin

    Almost everyone is trying to unseat parties with whom they already share power in the Northern Ireland Executive.

    I suppose “almost” is there to cover North Down and possibly the TUV in North Antrim.

  • Kevin Breslin

    You are engaging in one of the most common statistical misassumptions about conservation of votes.You cannot have conservation of votes within a variable turnout.

    In other words Máirtín Ó Muilleoir could do less damage to reduce the SDLP margin of victory with 6,000 new first time votes than he could do to McDonnell’s chances with only 600 SDLP swing voters. It also will probably have little impact on increasing Jonathan Bell’s tally either who faces the challenge of Bob Stoker and Rodney McCune.

  • salmonofdata


    I don’t agree that Sinn Féin polling 6,000 wouldn’t impact the SDLP in South Belfast. If you look at the combined nationalist vote since 2005, it has been:

    2005: SF 2,882 + SDLP 10,339 = 13,221

    2007: SF 3,996 + SDLP 8,127 = 12,123

    2010: SDLP 14,026

    2011: SF 4,038 + SDLP 7,718 = 11,756

    The nationalist vote grew by 805 votes between 2005 and 2010, and even if Máirtín Ó Muilleoir attracts a significant number of first time voters and previous nonvoters, it is hard to see the combined nationalist vote in 2015 growing by much more than 2,000 votes since 2010. Under such a scenario, SF would poll 6,000 and the SDLP would poll 10,000, which would probably see them neck and neck with the DUP. The UUP only polled 4,382 in 2011, and haven’t really made a serious effort this year. I can’t see UKIP having much of an impact at all.

  • Kevin Breslin

    All the things you are saying are ad-hoc not statistically interconnected.

    For one, there’s 30000 non-voters in South Belfast who may or may not vote, the electorate has gone up by 2,000 from the last election. The actual electorate itself changes between elections, we don’t know how much regional migrations occur.

    This is based completely on three unproven hypothesis … Constant turnout, Fixed number of SDLP/SF votes. Fixed DUP voting levels. All in a fixed inter connected relationship.

    20 years it would be hard to see an SDLP member winning this seat, on the basis of your assumptions. SDLP had less votes than Sinn Féin had now. 6 years ago it would be hard to see Alliance winning East Belfast.

    We’re talking about a region were people are moving in and out. We’re talking about a region with 57% turnouts, unlike say 70% turnouts you really can’t call who’s going to come out and who won’t.

    You can’t say any vote has been exhausted, you can’t say how many people will vote to keep a candidate out, how much each candidates vote will be split and on what issues. We don’t know if the turnout will drop.

    This isn’t Fermanagh South Tyrone where a high turnout will ensures more clarity, this is a region with the highest ethnic populations, highest student population, relatively high elderly population, high mobility, and plenty of regional deprecation in areas that don’t always get much attention paid to.