Rogue ministers: Preparing for an election?

Not quite the morning after the night before, the Assembly sits tomorrow for the first time since Peter Robinson’s tactical, though perhaps not strategic, masterclass. The resignation of four DUP ministers on Thursday leaves many unanswered questions, literally, the most pressing of which in the short term is whether the current Assembly has a future as it descends into farce.

This morning the UUP announced they will attend the talks this week and appeared to also contradict, again, their stance of last week. Last Tuesday Mike Nesbitt had said the existence of the PIRA “is the issue and the only issue that we will speak on”.

“We will consider going into the session which deals with the IRA. We will consider it, but we need to see the papers and the terms of engagement.” Mike Nesbitt 8th September

Mr Nesbitt’s interview with Mark Carruthers on Thursday night was described as a ‘car crash’ by Professor Rick Wilford. The UUP leader said that the issue of the PIRA would be top of the party’s own agenda at the talks, even if it was not actually on top of anyone else’s.

The UUP statement released today goes further and states that the party, beyond merely attending sessions other than those dealing with the PIRA last week, actively participated in discussions on welfare, something the party said it would not do.

“We have imaginative ideas, including the pathway to unblocking welfare, which we proposed at the talks last week.” UUP statement 13th September

Despite the shifting sands, perhaps caused by the DUP’s unexpected Friday afternoon curveball, the Ulster Unionists will feel they have the DUP on the backfoot. The UUP may hope for an early election to capitalise on the pressure that is currently weighing on Peter Robinson, whilst the DUP are clearly committed to talks over suspension.

However, do not be fooled into thinking that the DUP do not have an eye on a future poll. Explicit in both Peter Robinson’s statement on Thursday and in Arlene Foster’s comments on The View was a clear nod to the DUP’s next election campaign.

“If anybody knows me and indeed knows the Democratic Unionist Party they know that I’m not going to put at risk to the people of Northern Ireland the possibility that rogue Sinn Féin or renegade SDLP ministers are going to take decisions that will harm the community in Northern Ireland.” Arlene Foster 10th September

Former SDLP deputy leader Brid Rodgers claimed the stand-in First Minister’s “mask had slipped” but in fact Foster’s remarks mirrored those the pre-written statement read by the party leader.

“I have asked Arlene to remain in post as Finance Minister and acting First Minister to ensure that nationalists and republicans are not able to take financial and other decisions that may be detrimental to Northern Ireland.” Peter Robinson 10th September

A major rallying point for the DUP in any coming election will be the ‘threat’ of Sinn Fein overtaking the DUP and Martin McGuinness becoming First Minister. Currently the DUP have nine more MLAs than Sinn Fein but it is likely that Sinn Fein will pick off additional seats. At a time when the UUP will feel they have Mr Robinson on the foot back, it is an effective, albeit cynical, attempt to reach out to hardliners and lay the foundation for a defensive electoral campaign.

Also speaking on The View, Gerry Kelly freely admitted that he trusts neither of the unionist parties. Hardly a surprise but it caused considerably less outrage than Foster’s remarks, which many, including Mr Kelly, were quick to condemn as bigoted. Indeed as things stand, and if the roles were reversed, nationalists and republicans would never allow unionists to govern alone.

The failure of the current Assembly to build trust through power-sharing is clear. Until both the inadequate political structures and the chronic lack of trust between unionists and Sinn Fein are addressed, progress outside of behind closed doors talks will stutter. As public disenchantment with the Assembly continues to rise, one wonders when it will first become evident at the ballot box.

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  • Nevin

    ” the DUP’s unexpected Friday afternoon curveball”

    The DUP has since ratcheted up the pressure on the Secretary of State:

    The DUP will not attend Monday’s all-party talks without more concessions from the Government. ..

    Mr Robinson (below) said he had six requirements he wished to raise with the Secretary of State. He confirmed one was the creation of the new monitoring body to report on the IRA and other paramilitaries. It is understood others include a clampdown on alleged republican involvement in fuel laundering, counterfeit goods and cigarette smuggling. .. source

  • Zeno

    The things you have to always remember.
    All of this is……….. and I mean ALL is……….
    Not about you.
    Not about me.
    Not about peace.
    Not about the IRA/UVF/UDA etc.
    Not about reconciliation.
    Not about Flags and Emblems.
    Not about Parades.
    Not about equality.
    Not about welfare reform.
    Not about a United Ireland.
    Not about the Union.
    It’s all about grubby little people grasping power. EVERYTHING that happens is about winning votes.
    Here is what you can do about it………. Don’t ever vote for any of them.

  • Gaygael

    Really interested to hear where you think Sinn Fein could pick off additional seats?

    Yes Upper Bann is a potential. But where the heck else? Unless they have a surge, not just recovering the slight slippage over the last few years,but scoring even higher than 2011?
    SF votes since 2007 have been;

    Assembly 2007 – 26.2%
    Europe 2009 – 26%
    Westminister – 25.5%
    Assembly 2011 – 26.9%
    Council 2011 – 24.8%
    Europe 2014 – 25.5%
    Council 2014 – 22.7%
    Westminster 2015 – 24.5%

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Maybe we shall see an unusal and enormous breeding of “Butterflies” ?

  • mjh

    Quite Gaygael. Indeed it’s equally possible that SF could lose seats as win them. West Belfast is vulnerable to People Before Profit. And East Antrim could also be at risk.

  • Gopher

    What will an election change? The Assembly can’t function in its present form. There needs to be a new agreement on its mechanics before we waste taxpayers money on elections to Groundhog Day.

  • Redstar

    Why not have another referendum on the entire GFA?

  • Sharpie

    Stock SF response (which is probably right): “we have to look at all of these things..”

  • Sergiogiorgio

    A lazy, self serving piece. What was being reacted to was Arlene’s use of the terms “rogue and renegade” which are insulting, at best, and just plain bigoted, at worse. You can’t trust those renegade or rogue taigs. To associate Arlene’s outburst to Peter’s “party line” is downright disingenuous. Bottom line unionists don’t want nationalist elected representatives to have a democratic voice – they don’t want them about the place – same old, same old.

    Calling the SDLP “renegade”…..come on, its like accusing yer Granny of being a crack wh**e.

  • Steve Larson

    The SDLP are the most compliant party that Unionism will ever have to deal with.

    Yet they are till rogue renegades.

    They are still natives who do not know their place.

  • barnshee

    Could not risk it -might lose it

  • Steve Larson

    What is needed is a larger devolution of power to Stormont to make it a proper working parliament.

    Add in fine tuning of how it works. Unionism also needs to accept that shared power will be the norm for a long time to come.

  • Mike the First

    Are you implying that unionists are “non-native”?

  • Alan N/Ards

    I’m not sure that unionists do not want nationalist reps to have a say. Arlene was rude and arrogant with her rogue and renegade remark, but being around Robinson and Dodds etc it doesn’t surprise me. As an ordinary unionist (who voted for a nationalist – Joe Boyle, SDLP ) at the Westminster election, I despair at the lack of grace shown by these people. I really can’t wait until political unionism wises up and starts to show a bit of respect to people who differ from them.

  • That’s fair comment. There’s a few seats they’ll be targeting but apart from Upper Bann the others are probably a long shot.

  • I’m not sure how you can’t see the parallel between the two statements. It is essentially the same thing, except Foster names the two parties. There is also no material difference in Kelly saying he doesn’t trust unionists either. None of them trust each other. Unionist politicians don’t trust nationalists or republicans with decisions, nor the reverse. It isn’t just identity politics, they don’t trust each other with economic decisions either. I don’t see how pointing any of this out is self serving.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    I suggest you read my response again, then read Alan’s also, and then come back. Stop drawing lazy parallels. What Arlene said was an affront, not only to non unionists.

  • I’ve read both and I really don’t see what you are taking issue with. Foster’s remarks were a step beyond Robinson’s and could be considered an affront, I never said suggested it was wrong to take offence to them but they are saying essentially the same thing. It also happens to be the same thing as Kelly said.

  • mac tire

    Arlene went further – “rogue SF and renegade SDLP”. I suggest it’s more in line with Adams’ “bastards” comment.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    The exact meanings and connotations around the terms “rogue” and “renegade” are clear for all to see, unless you choose not to see that associations.

  • SeaanUiNeill
  • Anon

    Houl on – surely not letting Irish nationalists have all the posts is the whole logic and raison d’etre of the GFA system? If it wasn’t for the mandatory power sharing there would be only unionist ministers. Nationalists wouldn’t like that, rogue might be the mildest of their characterisations.

  • Paddy Reilly

    On the contrary, you should all do your electoral duty and vote for someone, anyone: otherwise you will find that Zeno claims he is speaking on your behalf.

  • Zeno

    If you enjoy picking between various clowns and morons, go vote. Then when they end up in power you can whinge about how bad they are. But don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault. You didn’t know any better.

  • Paddy Reilly

    The story about Martin McGuinness becoming 1st Minister is not something that will happen in any election held in 2015 or 2016, so I can only presume it is a ‘straw man’, a false prediction put in place so Unionists can crow when it does not come to pass.

    What should happen though is that the Unionist block will fall to 54 or lower, rendering all the power sharing and petition of concern apparatus unnecessary, as the balance of power will be with the Centrists.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Nicholas Whyte sees South Down’s DUP seat at risk to the SDLP.

  • Gaygael

    Did we not debate this a lot recently, and you were talking about a SF first Minster?

    I think the idea of the unionist block dropping may be right though. East Derry as an outside, north down more likely, and very outside of basil holding on and changing designation. That would be 3 loses if they all came to pass.

    However, we shall have to see how UUP recent moves may affect things.

  • Gaygael

    Cheers. I actually think east antrim is at risk for them. And potential gains are limited.
    Even a further sdlp drop will not necessarily benefit them anywhere.

  • Gaygael

    Where are you seeing that paddy? Be keen to see please.
    I think the battle for those 2 unionists seats will be very interesting.

    DUP at serious risk of being leapfrogged by UKIP. They were 400 away at Westminster, and only 900 away from the UUP. This must be one of 3 UKIP targets. Will John McCallister run? Adding to the mix.

  • Gaygael

    Indeed. I think that East Antrim seat must be one that alliance are hoping for. As an aside, this must be one of UKIPs other targets. 10.9% at Westminster was impressive.
    I see PBP taking the SDLP seat.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Not for 2016 I wasn’t.

    It requires 6 seats to change hands from Unionist to Nationalist to make McG 1st Minister, or 12 seats from Unionist to Centrist.

    So the losses you have enumerated would take us half way there in 2016.

    It would require the same degree of losses in the following election for McG to achieve his goal.

  • Paddy Reilly

    “If cast in a six-seat Assembly election, these votes would give the SDLP three seats, SF two and the UUP one.”

    Yes, looking at the 2015 General Elections results in South Down:-

    Margaret Ritchie (SDLP) 18,077 (42.3%)
    Chris Hazzard (SF) 12,186 (28.5%)
    Harold McKee (UUP) 3,964 (9.3%)
    Jim Wells (DUP) 3,486 (8.2%)
    Henry Reilly (UKIP) 3,044 (7.1%)
    Martyn Todd (Alliance) 1,622 (3.8%)
    Felicity Buchan (Conservative) 318 (0.7%)

    the SDLP has three quotas (for Stormont purposes) and SF two. End of. None of the other parties has anything like a quota, so they will all be scrambling for transfers. There are no longer two Unionist quotas in this constituency.

  • mjh

    Hold your horses there pardn’r.

    Looking at the figures Nicholas gives he could have made a similar comment about three seats for the SDLP based on the 2005 Westminster (SDLP 46.9%) and the 2010 Westminster (48.5%).

    In that context the 42.3% they scored this year is a serious decline.

    It is clear from Nicholas’s figures that at each Westminster election the SDLP in S Down put a significant squeeze on SF to keep the seat green and on unionist parties to keep the seat away from SF. And at each subsequent Assembly election those voters have returned home – leaving the SDLP Assembly performance down to 32.9% in 2005 and 35.7% in 2011.

    Applying a similar pattern to the 2015 Westminster would give SDLP 2, SF 2, DUP 1 and UUP 1.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Well, you may choose to believe that. But I choose to believe that South Down’s Unionists have realised that the SDLP are secure in this seat, so there is no longer any need for Unionists to lend them their votes to keep SF out.

    One significant development is that there was, between 2001 and 2011, a massive hike in the Catholic population of this constituency:-

    As this growth will have continued in the period 2011-2015, the percentage of Protestants in the constituency, 26.85% in 2011 and probably lower now, is now lower than the magic 2/7ths (28.57%) necessary to guarantee two seats at Stormont, and surprise surprise, the Unionist vote seems to have gone down in tandem.

    As mentioned, the 2011 census Protestant population was 26.85%, and as shown above, the sum total of the DUP, UUP, UKIP and Conservative vote in the 2015 General Election was 26.3% of the total. I believe that these two facts are related, and consequently we should not expect any of Margaret Ritchie’s vote to revert to Unionist candidates.

  • Reader

    Steve Larson: The SDLP are the most compliant party that Unionism will ever have to deal with.
    You forgot Alliance.
    Not that anyone round here can truly be said to be compliant.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Given contrasting hypotheses:

    1) All 108 MLAs are clowns and morons;
    2) Zeno is a clown and a moron.

    You will forgive me if I choose the latter and simpler option. I don’t see the current or any previous messes as arising from their particular negative talents, but rather from the dead hand which placed them in the same artificial entity, imposing a border where there is no border.

  • Zeno

    When you can’t play the ball. Play the man. Honestly Paddy. #
    There are more people here who don’t vote than there are who vote. Join the majority and stop the nonsense that is Stormont.

  • Paddy Reilly

    In the 2011 Stormont election, Alliance won 15.5% of the vote; in the 2015 General Election 15%.

    A quota is 14.28%. Two quotas is 28.57%. Can you explain how Alliance intends to stretch its 15% so it does the work of 28.57%?

  • Steve Larson

    No but their attitude is the same as the Afrikaner, who still sees themselves as distinct from the natives, above them.

  • mjh

    It’s not a question of what I believe, Paddy. I am simply observing the pattern of previous elections, and in the absence of any convincing evidence to suggest that there will be a major disruption to that pattern, assuming that something similar will apply again.

    You suggest that demographic changes means that the pattern will not be seen at the next Assembly election. However the correlation between changes in the demographic statistics and changes in the electoral statistics in the last few years appears to be weak at best, and is maybe no longer a reliable factor on which to base short term predictions for an election in few months time.

  • Gaygael

    Hi Paddy – as In the previous discussion I also had Nats losing seats. East Antrim for SF but also, north belfast, south belfast, west belfast and potentially foyle

  • Gaygael

    Unionist (UUP, DUP, TUV and UKIP) combined scored over the last few elections in South Down is;

    Westminster 2010 – 19.4%
    Assembly 2011 – 28.7%
    Local 2011- 27.9%
    Local 2014* – 27.4%
    Westminster 2015 – 24.6%

    *Taken from FAHA on bangor Dub. Link here

    To translate Westminster FPTP elections and expect them to be replicated in STV is amateurish understanding of electoral trends.

  • Gaygael

    Paddy do we have to rehash this again?

    Alliance results in East Antrim

    Westminster 2010 – 11.1%
    Assembly 2011 – 15.5%
    Local 2011 – 19.1%
    Local 2014 – 13.82%
    Westminster 2015 – 15%

    If you understand the vagaries of STV you will know that its not about reaching 2 quotas on first preference votes, but rather keeping ahead of the opposition to benefit from their transfers.
    In 2011 – When the SDLP candidate was eliminated, 34% went to SF compared to 48% to 2 Alliance candidates.
    Additionally, the 2nd Alliance candidate was eliminated in the 8th round – she was 68 votes behind the UUP candidate and 537 behind the SF candidate.
    Her running mate was ahead of both of these. All alliance need to do is up their vote enough have both their candidates ahead of the SF one.

    SF need to hold their vote from 2011. As i have articulated before, that looks unlikely.
    At the last assembly in 2011, Nats combined had 12.8% of first pref votes. This combined into a seat although not a quota (not the magic 14.28% you refer to)
    Alliance will be aiming to stay ahead and benefit from those transfers to bring in both their candidates.

    I also expect that looking at the patterns, Alliance gained a 4.4% hike from WM2010 to ASS2011. If that hike is repeated from WM2015 to ASS2016 they are assured of the second seat.

  • Gaygael

    Do you want me to link to the article where you were predicting an Nat 1st Minister before 2020?

  • Paddy Reilly

    I was predicting a Nationalist 1st Minister when Corbyn was Prime Minister in England.

    That is something inherently unlikely in 2015 and 2016, while the Catholic population is still less than the Protestant one, but becomes increasingly more likely as the Catholic population pulls ahead in 2017 and increases its lead in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

  • Gaygael

    Here is your direct quote.

    ‘Well, by the time of the next UK election, Martin McGuinness or his successor in title will be 1st Minister in NI and England’s prime concern regarding NI will be how to get rid of it’

  • Paddy Reilly

    That would assume a Stormont election just before the UK General Election. The way things are going at present, we may be looking forward to an era of frequent Stormont elections.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Well you may think of a People Before Profit win as a Nationalist loss, but they are actually an All Ireland Trotskyist Party. What if they redesignate?

    Hitler predicted the Soviet Army losing battles all the way from Stalingrad to the walls of Berlin, and perhaps occasionally they advanced too far, but in general the flow only went one way.

  • Paddy Reilly

    There may be some constituencies where religious demographics and electoral statistics do not match perfectly, but South Down does not appear to be one of them. As I say, 26.85% Protestant in 2011 and 25.3% voting on the Unionist side in 2015 does suggest a correlation.

  • Paddy Reilly

    So, in short the answer is magic?

    Listen Alliance may translate 26% of the vote into 2 seats, it might translate 20%, perhaps even 18%, but 15%?

    I would as much expect David Ford to be spotted by the ferry walking over to Larne.

  • Paddy Reilly

    I think it may be time to enunciate Reilly’s 10th electoral law, which is:-

    In times of peace, the vote for Centrist parties expands. In times of stress, it contracts.

    So a revenge shooting in West Belfast, if followed by a Unionist threat to suspend Democratic institutions, will lead to people climbing back onto their traditional bandwagons.

  • Gaygael

    PBP are indeed an all island party. As are the Greens.

    Gerry Carroll has been exceptionally clear that he will designate as ‘Other’ if elected to the Assembly. That’s -1 to nationalism.
    As to the ‘hitler’ nonsense. I have provided rationale on other threads why I think those SDLP seats are at risk. It’s based on years of following and predicting trends, analysing transfer patterns, and projecting forward results.
    I don;t see you doing any of that to counteract my assessments.

  • Gaygael

    Love to see the other 9 laws – which one has a SF first minister before 2020?

  • Gaygael

    As you choose not to respond to my earlier post re unionist scores, here it is again;

    Westminster 2010 – 19.4%
    Assembly 2011 – 28.7%
    Local 2011- 27.9%
    Local 2014* – 27.4%
    Westminster 2015 – 24.6%

    So 26.85% in 2011 yet 28.7% voted for unionist candidates? these are patent non sequiters.

  • Gaygael

    So in short the answer is transfers. Are you being deliberately stupid?
    They (Alliance) almost did it in 2011. They were just behind the UUP and SF. Did you even look at the spreadsheet of assembly results?
    I just don’t think you actually understand it? Am I wasting my time?

  • Gaygael

    Re-read what I wrote! And try to understand it.

  • Gaygael

    So unionists scores went up when compared to Westminster 2010 where they scored to 19.4% compared to Westminster 2015 when they got 24.6%

    Technically they are up 5.2%.

    A year after Westminster 2010, unionism bounced right back with a combined share of 28.7%.
    What might their bounce be in the next assembly election compared to this years 24.6%?

  • Paddy Reilly

    To be perfectly honest, it may take till 2021. Just as a Catholic plurality was predicted for 2016, but will not be visible before 2017.

    Time to let Corbyn find his feet before dealing with the Irish mess.

  • Paddy Reilly

    The problem with your predictions is they all rely on the Centrist vote expanding exponentially, and that just isn’t feasible. Why should it? Why would it? Politics moves very slowly in Northern Ireland.

  • Gaygael

    Fair enough. First minister is not the magic trick you hope it to be. Yes it’s hugely symbolic, but a nationalist majority in the assembly looks ever more unlikely.

    We are a collection of minorities. The sooner everyone (particularly unionism) realises that, the better.

  • gendjinn

    The key is transfer toxicity. Alliance has done a good job shedding it’s Unionist mantle and living up to it’s professed ideals since the GFA. This has resulted in increased transfers from Nationalists and moderate Unionists. With the last few years actions of the UUP/DUP I expect those transfers to increase in the next election, and to continue doing so.

    NI21 was Unionisms best last hope, those votes are likely to find a home in Alliance or other non-designating parties.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Makes no odds. The largest minority (technically a plurality) takes the 1st Minister’s post.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Can you point to anywhere in the system where a party which won 15% of the (1st pref) vote managed to translate that into 2 seats?

    The system is quite kind when assigning the last seat, you can win one when way short of a quota, but when there are two candidates short of a quota it keeps transferring votes to the first of these until it makes its quota. In this case that would leave your second Alliance candidate with 0.7% of the vote.

  • gendjinn


    the unionist parties have about 28% of the first prefs there (UUP/DUP/UKIP/ALL/CON). If SF have 2 quotas on 12k votes why don’t Unionism have a shot with 12k votes? With the numbers that close, doesn’t it come down to transfers and turnout on the day?

    SDLP’s 3 quotas are in danger, where are the transfers coming from to push their 3rd candidate over the line? If SDLP does not get the 3rd seat it goes to Unionism.

    Your prediction may not be the next assembly election, but certainly the one after that.

  • Gaygael

    Ok so this.

    NATS (SF and sdlp)
    OTHERS (Alliance, Green, PBP, NI21, Socialists, workers)

    Assembly 2007 – 41.4% – 47.6% – 7.5% (lots of U independents that time)
    Europe 2009 – 42.2% – 49% – 8.8%
    Westminster 2010 – 42% – 50.7% – 7.3%
    Assembly 2011 – 41.1% – 46.3% – 9.7%
    Local 2014 – 37.2% – 47.7% – 9.9%
    Euro 2014 – 38.5% – 50.9% – 10.5%
    Westminster 2015 – 38.4% – 50.4% – 10.9%

    This is the data that I work off. Pure facts, from which I make educated guesseL

  • gendjinn

    Nationalist turnout was depressed last election relative to Unionism. Dangerous trend to rely on, relying on continued apathy of the other side. Do you think the recent antics in Stormont will impact Nationalist turnout and in what direction?

  • Gaygael

    Yes, but that is not necessarily the trigger for a border poll. Maybe the creative ambiguity was deliberate as to what the exact trigger is but it’s hardly likely to be a Nat first Minster in a plurality.

    A Nat majority in assembly, yes.
    A Nat majority of the Westminster 18, yes.

  • Paddy Reilly

    You arrive at these erroneous figures by redesignating Alliance as Unionist. Many Alliance voters transfer to the SDLP and many don’t transfer to anyone.

  • gendjinn

    1/3 go to U & 2/3 to N (at least in the 2011 assembly election)

    Thanks for just quibbling instead of seriously engaging, it really helps your cause.

  • mjh

    Hi Gaygael
    I had missed the Gerry Carroll statement – although it does not surprise me. The question I have is whether he made the statement before the Westminster election, in which case the PBPA vote could be counted with the Centre totals.

    There is so little good evidence on how their voters transfer. I have currently got them in the CNR column largely on the basis of their standing predominantly in strongly nationalist areas (apart from 2011 Councils in some Belfast and Castlereagh DEA’s).

  • Gaygael

    Not to hand without a huge slog, but here are some nice example of why it’s about transfers.
    Say alliance split their votes as well as they did in east belfast in 2011 and each of their candidates in East Antrim get 7.5%. I will give some examples;

    Julie anne Corr-Johnston got elected in Oldpark with 7.3%. A six seater.
    Ross row now ton elected in rims ton with 6.4% a seven seater.
    Graham Craig got elected in Botanic wit 8.5% a five seater.

    In portadown, the UUP got 2 seats with 19.4%

    I have premised my alliance gain on good balancing and staying ahead of sinnfein.

  • Gaygael

    He was very clear on his election as a councillor in that he is not a nationalist or unionist but a socialist.

    I would concur re where their votes come from, but that may change. Maybe not this time, but in future.

  • Paddy Reilly

    It isn’t a quibble in this instance. If Unionists had 28% of the vote in South Down they would win 2 seats. With just 25.3% of the vote, their support has slipped to the level where this is something they can no longer rely upon.

  • Paddy Reilly

    In 2011 in East Belfast Alliance got 26.3% of the 1st pref vote and won 2 seats. There was also a Green vote of 1.8% which would have had to be eliminated and which would have helped them. So we have a combined Centrist vote of 28.1% yielding 2 Centrist seats. No miracles here.

    As I pointed out already, you can turn 7.5% into a seat, if it is the last one, but you cannot hope to do this with the 2 last seats, because the system keeps transferring votes to the first of these till it reaches a quota.

  • gendjinn

    When the numbers are this close it comes down to transfers and turnout. Are Unionism guaranteed 2 seats? No. Are Nationalism guaranteed 5 seats? No.

    It seems that the three of us are all saying slight variations on this truth.

    South Down may not yield 5 Nationalist seats in 2016 but it will in 2021. I South and North Belfast constituencies as other candidates for adding an additional N seat in the coming elections, do you have any insight into the 3 other constituencies an additional N could be gained?

  • Paddy Reilly

    “In Portadown, the UUP got 2 seats with 19.4%”

    May I refer you to my statement, Alliance may translate 26% of the vote into 2 seats, it might translate 20%, perhaps even 18%, but 15%?

  • Gaygael

    You never respond. You just jump to a new point!
    In East Antrim, between Non unionists; SDLP, all, green SF and others thereare2 quotas. Again, alliance must ensure that they split evenly and stay ahead of the SF candidate.

  • Gaygael

    After the next election we shall drop to 5 seaters instead of 6 so everything will be different.

    The outside additional seats for Nats are in upper ban and east Derry. But realistically that’s it for these set of elections.
    As I have said before, Nats are at risk in North Belfast, West Belfast, South Belfast and Foyle as an outside.

    It may take this reverse for nationalism to pause and recalibrate a its project. Namely the southern parties coming north, pluralism of choice for nationalist electors, rather than 2 parties broadly of the left (huge caveats to that) and both a social conservative Nat party and a economic Conservative party.

  • Gaygael

    May I refer you to my statement ‘not without a huge slog’ and I provided some immediate examples.
    I am off out shortly but I will dig around when I get a chance.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Every 5 years in Northern Ireland there are 40,000 more Catholics and 10,000 less Protestants.

    Even those who deny there is any correlation between religion and voting patterns must see that this will have some effect on the balance of power.

    So the electorate of 2016 will be different to that of 2011, and that of 2021 different again. Where they are all going to be packed in is the question: might this not lead to a need for change in constituency boundaries? So, so many things would have changed between now and 2021, now is not the time to start predicting where the changes will occur.

  • gendjinn

    I know all this. I do my own census, electoral analysis.

    We are at the tipping point, and at the tipping point turnout is #1 and transfer management is #2. Avoiding the splintering of the Nationalist community is #3.

    You are correct that predictions not relevant, I didn’t ask for predictions, I asked for insights and discussion.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Well, Belfast is steadily becoming more Catholic and Nationalist: might there be gains here? Not in West Belfast, obviously, but more Catholics are moving into East Belfast. Will they be tempted by the SDLP, or stick with Alliance?

    Several constituencies formerly had a SDLP MLA but lost it in boundary changes: Lagan Valley, South Antrim, North Antrim. Will they recover it? Will Strangford finally get its long predicted SDLP member?

    On the other hand, might not those constituencies which are already overwhelmingly Nationalist become more so? South Down is the first one expected to do so, but may there be others?

    My conclusion: There will be no Nationalist gain in West Belfast.
    Similarly I can see no sign of one being possible in North Down.
    East Antrim, slated by some for loss, seems unlikely to see a gain. All the rest are up for grabs. In most cases it only requires a couple of thousand votes.

  • mjh

    Or a coincidence.

    Seriously there is obviously a correlation at a macro level between Catholic numbers and nationalist votes, and likewise with Protestant numbers and unionist votes. We don’t use the acronyms PUL and CNR for nothing.

    The problem comes when this is used to underpin a deterministic model of voting patterns which predicts that relatively small changes in crude demographic numbers will replicate themselves more or less exactly in voting shares – and that consequently other factors can be ignored.

    When real life fails to follow the pattern predicted by the theory – as it has not for at least the last 15 years or so – maybe it is time to re-evaluate the theory and accept that there is clearly more going on in the electorate than revealed by the answer to a census question about religion.

  • gendjinn

    I’d say E Bel is the likely the last to see an N increase. The census/electoral figures indicate that the Ns in W Bel are moving into N & S Bel.

    What is troubling is that as the CNR electorate draws closer to a majority, their turnout is decreasing and the vote is splintering to parties such as PBP, which are electing Nationalist individuals but not designating as Nationalist. This is a great thing in one respect, but hurts in delivering the criteria for SoS to call the border poll.

    Lagan, N & S Antrim still seem another 1 to 2 elections away from delivering an additional N seat. In that 10 years, N turnout could decline enough to prevent the additional seats swinging to SF/SDLP.

    Maybe the best strategy us to trade the local assembly for a border poll alongside the every Euro and/or WM elections. I think we will have the votes for a UI long before we have a majority of seats in Stormont/WM.

  • Paddy Reilly

    The best strategy, imho, is to demand a non-binding opinion poll given out at every election to ask whether folk want a Council of Ireland, Customs Union, full United Ireland etc so we can chart the progress of public opinion on the National Question without being deceived by mercenary partial polls, bought by a party which specifies the desired results.

  • Paddy Reilly

    I remember—it must have been 5 years ago or more—looking at the political map of Northern Ireland and thinking that the only deviation from my demographic based predictions for MLAs was in West Tyrone, where Kieran Deeney, an Independent had been elected.

    Well KD eventually retired, and was replaced, just as one would have predicted, by an SDLP man.

    Anomalies, where they occur, are often the result of working from an out-of-date census.

    MPs are much as one would have expected: where anomalies occur, such as the premature election of a Nationalist in South Belfast, it can be the result of a more moderate candidate on one side being put up against an extremist on the other. Electoral pacts on one side, but not on the other, also affect the representation, but not the vote.

    Where a demographically unforeseen candidate does get in, it is seldom by more than a couple of thousand votes. So Northern Ireland is still predictable.

  • Gaygael


    There is a long way to go before demographic change brings a nationalist chance of a seat in East Belfast. So that’s not happening at the next assembly election so let’s discount it as a not relevant distraction.

    Boundary changes certainly had an impact, but additionally these were compounded by the continued decline of the nationalist vote. It would take a resurgent SDLP to gain seats in South Antrim or North Antrim. They would need to score better than 2011. And that looks unlikely.

    Lagan valley had Paul Butler of Sinn Fein. He lost after boundary changes. And it look so unlikely that any Nat will break through here.

    The overwhelmingly Nat constituencies may become more so, but I am not yet seeing anywhere that will gain an extra assembly seat. South down may do, but not this time round.

    West Belfast current has 6 Nat. It’s going to lose one to an Other.
    North Down does not look like a Nat gain. For a long time. However, Unionism could lose one here to alliance. It’s outside, and if they run 2 men it’s unseemly.
    East Antrim, we have debated. It’s a potential SF lose.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Gendjinn asked for insights and discussion of what might happen in 2021 and I obliged, so your attempt to change the question is rejected.

  • Gaygael

    It’s not the only information I am relying on. Of course I am very conscious of turnouts too and their impact. I’m just trying to get paddy to see.

    They may. However, I think that we are slowly starting to the drift away from these constituitional blocks. That is accelerated among younger people who then don’t turn out as much as older people.

    I think the lack of choice in nationalism contributes to it. unionist votes may be up due to the wide choices. PUP/TUV/UKIP/DUP/UUP with the residue of NI21 and soft unionist Alliance to choose from.

    Nats have SF and SDLP.

  • Gaygael

    It’s wild speculation to go to 2021. So much can happen between then and now. And we have some elections between now and then that will help us make informed guesses in 2021. And besides, we shall be down to 5 seats by that stage so we shall have to recalibrate everything. We also may have more Nat offerings to choose from. Imminent assembly is our focus.
    We then have council and euro in 2019 and Westminster 2020. That’s providing Westminster holds that long.and we have the EU referendum and the impact it may have.

    I entered into this discussion to challenge the idea that SF will make gains. I don’t really see any except maybe upper ban and an outside East Derry. I see potential losses for Nats in East Antrim, north, South and west belfast. And potentially foyle.
    If all those came to pass that would be up 2 but down 5. Total -3. A serious setback for the narrative that nationalism is an inevitable majority.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Chickens I find are best enumerated after their eclosion.

  • Gaygael

    I’m not saying that’s the result paddy. I will do that a few days before the election. This is my hunch now.

    The caveat, which I introduced early was that recent UUP moves may have an impact.

  • gendjinn

    Exactly. Sometimes people on the same side get caught up in definitional misunderstandings, or nit picking. I think the 3 of us are saying the much the same thing about future outcomes.

    Your points about younger people drifting away from the barricades of old (and this is a good thing!) when it comes to their representatives but I’m not sure that will hold in a border poll.

    Southern parties coming north are important in increasing turnout and providing a greater range of options.

  • mjh

    If the SDLP wins 3 seats in South Down while SF retain their 2 I will certainly drop my scepticism towards the doctrine of historic demographic inevitability.

    But if their votes fail to rise by the amount the doctrine predicts will you abandon your faith?

  • Paddy Reilly

    South Down, it should be remembered, used to be represented in the Palace of Westminster by Enoch Powell, and now we are discussing whether it can muster more than one Unionist MLA at Stormont. If you haven’t noticed by now which way the wind is blowing, you are immune to instruction.

  • mjh

    I’ll take that as a “No” then.