Former NI21 deputy leader Councillor Johnny McCarthy joins SDLP

Johnny McCarthy NI21Interviewed on this morning’s Nolan Show, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood dropped into the conversation [towards the end of the second clip below] that Lisburn & Castlereagh City councillor Johnny McCarthy is joining the SDLP.

Johnny McCarthy was elected for NI21 in the 2014 local government elections, their only candidate to be elected (though Christina Dobson and David Cairns came close too).

During the party’s turbulent years, Johnny stuck with the party and became NI21 deputy leader in December 2014. However at the end of last year, he resigned from NI21 and has been sitting as an independent councillor ever since.

His new party membership will boost the SDLP’s presence on Lisburn & Castlereagh Council to four.

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  • chrisjones2

    Johnny who?

  • From one unionist party to another.

  • Dan

    Nolan made a mug of Eastwood this morning.

  • the rich get richer

    Hopefully its the beginning of a renaissance for the Sdlp. Northern Ireland and Ireland need a strong Sdlp.

    Sinn Fein will (have) already stagnated and need a kick up the backside. They also need desperately to get some younger faces at the top of the party.

  • Simon Salter

    So he joined a party who support discrimination against teachers on religious grounds and are against changing our outdated abortion laws……

  • Robin Keogh

    This is good news for the SDLP, a Unionist party losing a member to Nationalism in itself is a little boost for all of us.

  • Is that not the same discrimination faced by teachers who want to teach in a faith based education across the world? Have you a hatred for religion? Would you have a teacher with no qualification in maths or science teach that subject?? Since a catholic teacher with no RE certificate cant teach in a catholic school doesn’t that mean it isn’t about discrimination but about qualification? Are you just one of these people who think it looks good to throw out big words with no substance to back it up. Please…educate yourself.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Why is this certificate necessary though?

    My missus is a practising Catholic and taught in a Catholic private school in England without this certificate and i understand this was no handicap to her whatsoever.

    Is it time for a rethink on the certificate’s necessity?

  • Why is a certificate necessary to prove that you can teach a subject? Would you be happy to allow someone with any qualification teach your children? Would you be happy for someone with any qualifications in Irish teach someone how to speak it?

    Private schools are completely different to other schools as they can set their own criteria, employ their own staff (sometimes without teaching qualifications) though a “catholic” private school is something I haven’t heard off to be fair.

    In England (and in every country with a catholic school) all teachers in a catholic school must have an RE certificate and they are given time to achieve that, same as with Irish language down south. Every Uni where a teaching qualification is achieved also offer the option of taking the RE cert. Open to anyone. Catholic schools teach their faith in schools…. only logic to have those teaching it qualified to teach it.

  • Chingford Man

    Enjoy it: it happens so rarely.

  • Simon Salter

    I’m sorry I can understand the RE teacher having to have an RE certificate, however i’m not so sure it is necessary for a PE teacher for example.

    I never attended a Catholic state funded school, although I have been informed by others that religion was never mentioned during the teaching of PE for example so I don’t fully understand the current restrictions. Are my views wrong in anyway?

  • They don’t need an RE certificate to teach PE, but all teachers in a catholic school may be required to take an RE class so they would be required to have a certificate.

  • Chingford Man

    The guy is a political chancer. In 2014 NI21 marketed itself as squish unionists (my expression of course) and was led by 2 former UUP leadership candidates. McCarthy undoubtedly picked up many first preference votes and transfers on that basis. He got a significant transfer of votes when the UKIP candidate went out, as he himself acknowledged at the time. Now he’s suddenly discovered he’s a nationalist.

    McCarthy has broken faith with his electors. In an ideal world he would do the honourable thing and resign but of course he won’t.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Allow me to simplify it; if you are a maths teacher in a Catholic school then why do you need to have an RE certificate too?

    As I said my missus and her contemporaries were seemingly not at a disadvantage for not having this certificate.

  • notimetoshine

    I was involved in the whole NI21 project when it first began for a while (forgive my idealism) and it was meant to be a home for pro union voices as much as traditional political unionists as far as I am aware. So one could assume that it’s voters would for the most part be the same. It seems disingenuous at best and downright sleazy at worst for McCarthy to join a nationalist party, knowing what his base is likely to have been. Not to mention the fact that alliance would have been a more appropriate option.

  • Simon Salter

    Again this is something that needs to be assessed, as I don’t think it’s right to discriminate on a very slight chance a PE Teacher might have to take an RE class.

    I’m sure every Catholic state funded school would have more than enough cover for an RE class without having to employ all teachers as cover for this subject.

  • Its not slight, they will have to teach RE. Your issue seems to be with teaching religion itself than the fact any teacher can attain a certificate for it after taking a simple 8 week course. Not all teacher down south have to take Irish but are still required to have a qualification in it. Is that also discrimination?

  • Lionel Hutz

    He really didn’t. Eastwood comes across very well

  • Dan

    He wriggled like a worm on the abortion issue. He knew his pal was a terrorist yet he never told the police.

    Man of honour.
    My backside.

  • Simon Salter

    I didn’t realize all Catholic state funded school teachers, regardless of subject, would have to take an RE class every semester.

    Surely it would be better to have a dedicated RE teacher(s) for these classes like every other subject?

  • Simon Salter

    I hope its not.

    We need a true, united, left wing party – Northern Ireland Labour Party.

  • Cavehill

    He would likely be more politically suited to Alliance or the Greens where he can be pro-choice, pro-cannabis and athiest without any hassel. The only reason I see him joining the SDLP is that his seat seems more retainable in the future as there is already an Alliance Cllr in Lisburn North DEA and the Greens don’t stand a chance.

  • TravellerJ

    Why does someone with a B’Ed need another cert? RE is covered within the degree. Therefore all B’Ed qualified teachers are perfectly capable of teaching RE. As an NQT in an English Catholic school I was offered a post after a years teaching, once they sorted things out with my Parish. I’m not a Catholic. A week later the job offer was withdrawn. Catholic teachers can take up a post within a Catholic school they just have to ‘promise’ to do their cert. The cert acts as a filter, its discrimination. As for other faith based schools, again, its discrimination. It only takes 1 teacher in an integrated primary school to hold the cert to enable the Catholic teachings, no one else needs it. Problem solved. Personally, I believe the church and schools should be as far apart as possible.

  • Lionel Hutz

    He was very clear on the friend whose coffin he carried. True enough the abortion issue isn’t one of those issues you can give the stupid black and white answers that Mr Nolan likes but only Nolan looked foolish there

  • Brendan Heading

    I wish Johnny all the best, but it’s a strange political journey, for sure.

    Was he really a closet nationalist all along ? It’s a tiny bit iffy for a person elected on a decidedly non-nationalist mandate to throw his hat in the ring with a party whose first policy priority is Irish reunification.

  • Brendan Heading

    Is that not the same discrimination faced by teachers who want to teach in a faith based education across the world?

    No, it isn’t. Northern Ireland is, as far as I know, one of the only (if not the only) place in Europe where there is a specific exception to discrimination legislation to allow schools to refuse to hire teachers on the basis of their religion.

    I was fairly sure that Johnny described himself as an atheist a while back (happy to stand corrected). I’m sure there are atheists in the SDLP, but it must be an issue for them that their party upholds the right of schools to discriminate them if they ever wish

  • Kevin Breslin

    What it reminds me of is Gerry Fitt’s Nationalist socialist or a Unionist socialist quote.

  • Brendan Heading

    kevin, you can’t be in the SDLP and not a nationalist. The previous party leader said so.

  • Mike the First

    Bit of an indictment on the vaucuousness of at least some of those who joined NI21, and the vacuousness of the party itself once it moved from its original launch position into an airy puff of trite social media guff.

    Can Cllr McCarthy explain what policies led him to join a liberal unionist party and stand for it in an election? What policies led him to become deputy leader of a not-unionist-but-pro-Union party? And then what policies led him to join a social-democratic (in name at least) nationalist party as a sitting councillor? All in the space of less than two years…

  • Mike the First

    Now Robin, do you really, honestly think Cllr McCarthy is some sort of convert from unionism to nationalism, rather than a bit of an empty vessel? (Which pretty much sums up NI21 once McCrea and his stick-a-picture-out-on-social-media lightweight acolytes moved the party from its founding raison d’etre)

  • Gaygael

    It’s an interesting move. I would have expected him to go alliance or green. There is the question of standing and getting elected for a soft pro union party, and then jumping to an overtly nationalist party.

    In addition, the social issues. I am sure Johnny has described himself as pro choice. Unless he hopes to change the SDLP from the inside? Conference on 12th of March. Let’s wait and see.

    Good luck Johnny. I don’t understand his decision, but he made it so good luck with it.

  • Brendan Heading

    Sorry Lionel; Eastwood was generally very good (much better than his predecessor) but on this matter he just waffled. The SDLP’s line here seems to be to quote anonymous doctors, who apparently won’t come on the record, and restate that they are opposed to the 67 Act (the relevant proposed amendment in the Assembly was nothing to do with the 67 Act). It’s not like the SDLP to place their faith in the DUP, yet that is what they’ve done by publicly buying into the DUP’s delaying tactics.

    Eastwood’s lack of robustness on the matter probably reflected the fact that he knows that the party’s current policy is not sustainable, and I’d say he’s far from the only SDLP activist who feels that way.

  • Kevin Breslin

    On the committed democrats, I hate to criticise him but it’s a shame Colum did not say Sinn Féin do not represent their constituents in the here and now in Westminster. They could do this like the SNP to stop the British government from disadvantage to their constituents.

    They also ask other parties to stand aside because they are afraid the constituents of a region many elect an opponent of Irish unity. This damages their campaign for policies reflecting an Irish unity that can transcend the partition of communities among tribal political dogmas.

  • Zig70

    So a party that supports the union is soft and a party that supports a UI is overt?

  • Nicholas Whyte

    It slightly bolsters the SDLP’s chances in Lagan Valley – a constituency where it seems to me they have a chance at winning an Assembly seat in a good year (though they have been few of those recently).

  • Gaygael

    That’s quite the jump zig. Let’s not try and shade a nuance that isn’t there.

    Ni21 were implicitly soft unionists. Pro union without the baggage traditionally associated with the other unionist parties. Comfortable with the Irish language and Irish and northern Irish identity. It’s how they explicitly identified themselves and differentiated themselves from the other unionist parties.

    SDLP vision is of a reconciled United Ireland. Overtly nationalist. It’s their primary goal.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I was most enthusiastic about it too. I was in Australia at the time so I was more of a digital enthusiast than boots on the ground but I felt it had enormous potential.

    So it goes. …

  • Gaygael

    Yes I was curious about that legal and medical advice. Would love to see it.
    It’s not from Bernie Smyth and her cohorts is it? Or is it from the Bma or such like?

    And scaremongering around the 67 act. At least he didn’t utter ‘abortion on demand’

    I thought he was pretty good on marriage but poor on abortion.

  • Starviking

    One problem is that Catholics who want to teach, but are not fervently religious are excluded from the Catholic system, and not welcome in the State system.

    Would you have a teacher with no qualification in maths or science teach that subject?

    Primary teachers teach a range of subjects which I assume they do not have an official certificate for. “O-level” RE should suffice.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Completely unenforcable, likewise being in Sinn Féin and not a nationalist.

    I actually back the policies of his main competitor Conall McDevitt in being a Social Democratic and Labour party that supports Irish nationalism (i.e. North-South, and people’s right to campaign for Irish unity should they choose).

  • mjh

    Except that the SDLP have already chosen their candidate for Lagan Valley, Cllr. Pat Catney. However there’s certainly a very good chance that he could retain his Lisburn North council seat under the SDLP colours.

  • Granni Trixie

    So much for NI21 mantra of “fresh new politics”!

  • Granni Trixie

    He came out!

  • Granni Trixie

    i think to teach RE/RK for exam purposes does require some in depth knowledge of the subject as with any other subject.

    i do not thnk you need specialist knowledge other than what you know from being brought up a Catholic to teach RE to form classes (part of the curriculum in Catholic schools). Also bear in mind that the training colleges are/were obliged to prepare trainee teachers to teach in primary school as well as secondary level where they could be preparing children for th sacraments such as first communion confirmation (scary,eh).

    To me the certificate is a necessary hurdle to be overcome if one wants to get a job in a Catjolic school as it is an element in the essential criteria.

    I well remember a kindly wee nun ( fellow student) cramming my head two days before the certificate exam ( somethng about a John the Baptist,I seem to remember, thank you Mary,where are you?)

    Now how did we wander into this topic?

  • Reader


  • Granni Trixie

    To expand on what I have outlined above about the system – as RE is taught not only to classes taking an exam (O or A level) but ALL form classes are required to take RE several times a week hence most teachers in a school have to teach form classes RE. Teachers have little or no choice in this even should they express a wish not to do so it is expected.

  • Granni Trixie

    I don’t think that you are right in this assertion. I am basing this view on my experience of being unable to “get out of” teaching a form class RE. Its about use of resources.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Ah. Ok. Good answer Granni!

  • Kevin Breslin

    Intermediate editing isn’t great for punctuation. I’ve altered it, so thanks for reading it Reader.

  • Kevin Breslin

    New personalities into a party facing a generational shift can only be a positive in my view.

  • Zig70

    Ask some of your nationalist friends if they would call SDLP overtly nationalist. Especially any SF voters, would give them a laugh. Granted the mood has changed a little from Eastwood but overt? A soft nationalist party surely. Unless the sight of a tricolour turns you.

  • Paddy Reilly

    The whole NI21 project was designed to be a break off to the left of Unionism, an extreme centre party which would attract both Protestants and Catholics. As such it was most resented by Alliance members, whose province it was perceived as muscling in on.

    The dream was that it would thus attract, in significant numbers, the votes of Catholics. It is an enduring Unionist fantasy that as long as Unionists keep the reins of power in their hands, Catholics can be induced to join pro-Union parties which actively solicit their votes, thus saving the Union.

    However, there was always an implied Plan B, which was that, in the event of the Union not being saved, the party in its entirety could move seamlessly into an alliance, or possibly a union with, some suitably anti-Republican party in the new Dáil, without being perceived as having significantly changed their stance. Johnny McCarthy is thus taking as an individual the path which was already mapped out for the party as a whole, if the enterprise was unsuccessful.

    McCrea must have calculated that his stand would have lost him the votes of a couple of thousand Unionists, but that he could recoup this loss with the aid of transfers from the SDLP, whose votes in Lagan Valley, having failed to elect one of their own kind, would be going to waste. McCarthy is sensibly moving to where the spare votes are.

  • Cavehill

    That wasn’t the process in my Christian Brothers school. There were 6 or so RE teachers and about half of those had multiple duties/subjects and only taught RE from 1st to 3rd year. The other 3 were RE specific and they were the ones who taught it at GCSE and A-Level as well as 1st to 3rd. This might not be the set up elsewhere, but was my experience.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    My point is that having one more local councillor gives more than one new pairs of boots on the ground, and also does no harm in giving an impression of forward momentum. I certainly didn’t imagine for a moment that the SDLP would run McCarthy for the Assembly three months after he joined the party!

  • Paddy Reilly

    Just noticed in Wikipedia: “The party (NI21) won 1.8% of first preference votes and, in the local elections, saw one councillor, Johnny McCarthy, narrowly elected with reliance on Nationalist transfers”

  • Gaygael

    I’m a bit bored with Flags and our continual descent into that tired old debate. I’m born and bred in nationalist north Belfast. I don’t need to ask.
    I don’t really care about how you or others perceive that party. Eastwood was explicitly calling himself republican. Their rasion d’etre is reunification. It’s their vision. The may not be nationalist or republican enough for you, but they are an overtly nationalist party.
    I take much exception to them calling themselves progressive. Just like I do with SF calling themselves socialist.

  • Chingford Man

    Do you have any evidence of an “implied Plan B” or is that just another of your fantasies?

  • mjh

    If the SDLP had not already selected a candidate, running him for the Assembly could have helped the party by adding any personal vote that he may have built up over nearly two years plus the novelty and attention that his candidacy could be used to generate.

    But if we are only talking an additional canvasser for the Assembly elections and possibly some extra SDLP mentions in the Lisburn Star its hard to see that pushing the SDLP very far up the steep hill they have to climb to win a seat in Lagan Valley.

    Based on the last election, to capture the Alliance seat they would need a swing of 2.4% of the total vote – taking 857 first preference votes from Alliance. (To put that into context that would up the SDLP vote by a shade under 40% of its 2011 total.)

    To capture one of the unionist seats it would need a swing of 4.7% from unionists (adding 1664 to the SDLP 2011 total – or almost doubling their vote.)

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Lagan Valley is 19% Catholic and votes 9% Nationalist. That suggests to me that there is room for growth in the SDLP vote in a good year. Of course it’s far from being the only seat where that is the case.

  • mjh

    All that tells us is that religious affiliation is not a useful guide for political analysis in Lagan Valley. Only the study of electoral history will do.

    Good news in your Profession I would have thought.

  • Paddy Reilly

    One should always keep an eye on religious affiliation: the history of NI furnishes many cases where Catholics appeared to be content with the Unionist status quo, but when there was some change in the voting system, either a boundary change or the imposition of proportional representation, they suddenly proved that they weren’t.

  • mjh

    Religion is obviously a key macro-indicator. You won’t go too far wrong if you use it as a rough rule of thumb when comparing the relative proportion of support for nationalist parties plus those independents or other parties who share votes with them on the one hand, and unionist parties plus unionist-orientated independents on the other. And since those are the two biggest currents in the electoral stream that is important.

    It is no help at all with the support for centre parties and centre-orientated independents, or how that third stream interacts with the other two.

    As a micro-indicator (i.e. when looking at changes in party support in individual constituencies from one election to another) it is only one factor among a number of others.

  • Paddy Reilly

    I find that the presence of people who profess to have no religion often indicates that Centrist parties will receive a similar percentage of the vote in that constituency. I think I am correct in saying that Alliance is the party most likely to approve abortion, gay marriage and other non-religious policies, so this would make sense.

    Equally, religion seems to determine the 2nd and subsequent preferences of people who give their 1st to Alliance and Greens.

    But as Nicholas Whyte correctly says or implies, for Nationalists to receive less than half of the 1st preference Catholic vote (in Lagan Valley) is an unusual situation which must be regarded as subject to revision. If less than half of persons professing to be Catholic give their first preference to Nationalist parties, then it could be that this is because they do not believe that a Nationalist candidate has a chance of getting in. A surge in SDLP representation at the council level could possibly (with the stress on possibly) lead them to conclude that the SDLP is on the up, and revise their voting strategy. I should qualify that there was no sign of this in the 2015 General Election.

  • Granni Trixie

    But if having an RE certificate is part of the essential criteria in primary school job selection then as the law stands a teacher has to have it.

    If however it were recognised that obtaining the certificate impacts unfairly on Protestants this would be discrimination where it not for current Acceptance that such a rule is a GOR (genuine Occupational requirement).

    This is the change that is necessary to create a level playing field. There would still be attitudes based on belief that only Catholics are the right teachers to sustain a catholic ethos but a Change in the law would ensure there was a discrimination remedy and attitudes would follow.

  • Paddy Reilly

    The implied plan B of Unionist parties in the event of losing a vote for the maintenance of the Union is as follows:-

    TUV: boycott all proceedings and reinvent itself as a religious grouping, on a line with the Reformed Presbyterians, Jehovah’s Witnesses and certain Brethren, which holds voting to be sinful;

    DUP: possibly the same as TUV, though they may surprise us: after all the Apartheid party in South Africa ended up merging with the African National Congress;

    PUP: might end up with People Before Profit, or some similar left wing Irish party;

    UUP: after much humming and hawing, will probably merge with Fine Gael, who have happily absorbed quite a few Southern based ex-Unionists.

    As for proof, I can only advise you to wait and see: in the case of NI21, I can do nothing, because they will not exist. Basil is now on plan C, which is fight off the challenge of the 9 women who have alleged sexual harassment.

  • Discuscutter

    I could see the DUP and FF merging in well together in a coalition in a national parliament.

    Not much difficulty in it.

  • Gaygael

    Paddy. You are not correct on marriage re Allaince. The greens have been the only party to achieve 100% every time. SF are not far behind, with some members missing votes due to being out of the county or at other business.
    Alliance members, despite policy in favour have voted all over the place in five attempts. At one vote in 2013, only one member of alliances eight, voted in favour.

  • mjh

    “I find that the presence of people who profess to have no religion often indicates that Centrist parties will receive a similar percentage of the vote in that constituency”

    I don’t find that figure tells you much, Paddy.

    For example I’ve just looked at the four Belfast constituencies.
    According to ARK the 2011 census shows EB was 12% in total for non-Christian plus brought up in no religion. But that year centre candidates actually took 29% of the vote. The increase to 46% for the centre in 2015 was accompanied by no other overt signs of an eruption of atheism.

    NB had 7% non-Christian/no-religion. Compared to 10% centrist voters.

    SB’s 12% of non-C/no-religion managed to produce a 23% vote for the centre.

    WB had 3% non-C/no-religion but could only manage a 1% centre share.

    Not much of a pattern there.

  • Brendan Heading


    Completely unenforcable, likewise being in Sinn Féin and not a nationalist.

    I have no idea what makes you think that the SDLP and SF don’t enforce their policy positions. Justin Cartwright described himself as an “economic unionist” and was made to publicly retract by the party leader.

    I actually back the policies of his main competitor Conall McDevitt in being a Social Democratic and Labour party that supports Irish nationalism (i.e. North-South, and people’s right to campaign for Irish unity should they choose).

    I just checked the SDLP’s website (again). The first policy priority, at the top of the list, is a united Ireland. There is no suggestion whatsoever that being pro-union is compatible with SDLP membership. None.

  • Chingford Man

    So you have no evidence, just a fantasy list. Better get back to counting the Catholics, chum.

  • Brendan Heading

    The legal advice probably came from the Attorney General and I expect it was circulated to all MLAs.

    The medical advice probably came from a group of Catholic medical professionals. But citing expert opinion is worth nothing unless the experts are willing to make their views known publicly where other experts can critically review their comments. It’s not long ago that a respected medical professional named Alasdair McDonnell publicly suggested that FFA was impossible to predict and was immediately slapped down by a senior specialist in fetal medicine.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Yes, and because I believe in a United Ireland, I don’t believe in tribal politics, (I do believe tribal politics will never deliver a United Ireland) I don’t believe in designations, I don’t believe in petitions of concern other than in the protection of democracy, I don’t believe Irish nationalism and Southern Ireland nationals exclusively define what Ireland is. I believe in individuals making the economic case and the case of political franchise both for and against while representing all their constituents in the here and now.

  • Starviking

    I don’t think that any educational sector should have the power to demand that not only must their teachers be of one religion, but that they must pass a religious test, which is what this certificate amounts to.

    Personally, if they want “proper” religious education of children in the CMS, the local clergy should provide it.

  • Paddy Reilly

    I instinctively know that if S. sets off for town and the bridge on the road is washed away by a flood, then his implied plan B will be to spend the evening in the nearby pub. This could not be termed a ‘fantasy’: it is based on my knowledge of S. and the available places of liquid refreshment.

    A politician of Basil’s ilk, though having set out to save the Union by getting thousands of gullible Fenians to vote for him, would, on the failure of this scheme, still be in an excellent position to integrate himself into the new United Ireland polity by boasting of his ‘non-sectarian’ credentials.

    However, as I said, the poor man is now on Plan C.

    But as for the rest, it’s que sara, sara. One would not expect the TUV to accede willingly to a United Ireland and join up with Sinn Féin (that would be fantastic), nor would one expect Alliance to lead a campaign of guerrilla resistance. As with S., it’s a matter of past form and available choices. This is local knowledge, not fantasy.

    P.S. I’m also counting the irreligious.

  • Croiteir

    As Groucho would say – Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have other.

  • Gaygael

    Urgh the Attorney General. His record of interventions could be construed as letting his personal prejudices impinge on his role.
    Any SDLP members on here wish to share their medical evidence and where it came from?

  • Brendan Heading

    The Attorney General’s remit appears to permit him to pursue his personal agenda. Which really means that OFMDFM need to tightly redefine it. Legal advice should be given only in confidence and he should act only when instructed by a minister or department, not when he fancies it.

  • Brendan Heading

    I’m very pleased for you Kevin, but I’m not sure how it is relevant. The SDLP is 99% Catholic and 100% nationalist. Those who wish to represent the party in elected office are required to support its policy objective of a United Ireland.

  • Granni Trixie

    Point of information: Alliance Has not a policy of support for abortion. It has a policy of considering the issue a matter of conscience. And whilst there was consensus to support FFA MLAs were also free to follow their conscience on this. Such are the range of views within APNI on abortion generally I doubt consensus will ever be reached whch will change the policy of personal conscience.

  • Granni Trixie

    Your last sentence is the most accurate of your statements in that it demonstrates that gradually some Alliance representatives and activists changed their views on SSM. Sounds positive to me.

  • Gaygael

    Granni. Let’s not pink wash this.

    Here is David ford trumpeting it as an equality issue. After your MLAs had voted against or abstained on it. I can dig out the original when he announced policy.

    The alliance party treat equality as a conscience issue. That says enough.

  • Paddy Reilly

    This does not however alter the thesis that there is a link between No Religion on census and Alliance voting, as not every irreligious person will want to abort their children and marry someone of the same sex.

  • Paddy Reilly

    But as I said, one should always keep an eye on religious affiliation. The results for West Belfast in 2015 show a near exact correlation of No Religion and Alliance + Workers’ Party.

  • mjh

    What you have there, Paddy, is a coincidence – not a correlation. One election in one constituency. And even then the figures can only be got to match by counting the Workers Party as a centre party.

    To be clear I have taken a more conservative view and have not included either the Workers Party or the Conservatives in the centre stream ( although both do exhibit relatively high levels of transfers away from nationalist and unionist candidates respectively). However were one to do so there would be an even greater divergence between the No religion and centre vote in the other constituencies I quoted.

    In order to claim that the proportion of No Religion often indicates that centrist parties will receive a similar percentage of the vote you will have to establish a consistent pattern. If the pattern is not there the proposition must be wrong.

  • Paddy Reilly

    2011 Census: North Belfast. No religion 6.36%.

    2011 Election: Alliance 6.3% of 1st pref vote. Greens did not stand.

    The correlation is absolute. Yet you claim 10% centrist voters. How do you get that figure? By claiming McCord as a centrist? He is an independent. As he does not have a Stormont seat, he is unable to designate as anything.

    I’m sorry but your citation is selective. You choose the two most unusual constituencies in the province, quote them, and then add 2 neighbouring ones and misquote them.

    The correlation is this. If you put yourself down as having No Religion you probably will not feel happy with either Unionist or Nationalist and will look around for something else, which you may find is supplied by Alliance or Green. This is reflected in the election returns. However, in certain Middle Class, inner-city or suburban areas, there has been a snowball effect, with even people who regard themselves as Catholic or Protestant joining the burgeoning Centrist movement.

  • mjh

    OK I’ve looked at all 18 constituencies – and no matter how one defines a centre candidate it is clear that the proposition that the levels of No Religion often indicates a similar percentage of the vote does not stand up.

    I have categorised as centre those parties which designating as “Other” plus any independents or other parties whose transfers showed a similar pattern.

    I have adopted the same approach with nationalist and unionists, leading me to place the Workers Party and PBPA in this election with the nationalists.

    I accept that the categorisation of the WP could be open to further discussion. The placing of PBPA is particularly difficult, but what is clear is that if one were to categorise WP as centre (as you propose) then PBPA would certainly have to be so too.

    There was one constituency where the percentage of No Religion matched the percentage of centre voters almost perfectly. In North Antrim No Religion was 4.8% and the only centre candidate (however defined) was Alliance on 4.6%. Although these are not necessarily the same people the ratio of the two figures is 1 to 1.

    That ratio for North Belfast depends on definition. With McCord the ratio is 1 to 1.5. Excluding McCord but including WP (as you proposed) gives a ratio of 1 to 1.1.

    In the constituencies where our different definitions of centre have no practical effect the ratios are:
    East Antrim 1 to 2.1
    East Londonderry 1 to 1.3
    Fermanagh South Tyrone 1 to 0.7 (i.e. the centre vote was lower than the percentage of No Religion)
    Lagan Valley 1 to 1.7
    Newry and Armagh 1 to 0.6
    North Down 1 to 2.2
    South Antrim 1 to 1.9
    South Down 1 to 1.4
    Strangford 1 to 1.7
    Upper Bann 1 to 1.2
    West Tyrone 1 to 1.5.

    East Belfast is 1 to 2.7 on my categorisation, and 1 to 2.8 on yours.
    Belfast South 1 to 2.5 my cat. or 1 to 2.6 including WP and PBP.
    Belfast West 1 to 0.4 mine, and 1 to 3.2 including WP, PBPA and Socialist.

    without McFadden (independent) as centre 1 to 0.4 mine, 1 to 4 including PBPA.
    with McFadden it would be 1 to 2 mine and 1 to 5.8 with PBPA

    Mid Ulster:
    without McCann (Independent) as centre 1 to 0.3 (Alliance only). With McCann 1 to 0.7

    I don’t see a consistent pattern there.

  • Paddy Reilly

    You consistently distort the figures. In 2011, Fermanagh and South Tyrone had 2.6% of No Religion and 0.61% of Non-Christian background. In 2011 Alliance won 1.8% of the vote and in 2015 1.3%, with Greens winning 1.5%.

    Generally the rule is, where X% of the population is of No Religion, we would expect the Centre to get at least X% of the vote, except when X is such a trivial amount that the No Religion voters don’t even bother to vote.

    This distortion is also visible with religious voters: in constituencies (North Down, East Belfast) where the number of Catholics is insufficient to elect even one MLA, the Nationalist vote falls to much less than the percentage of Catholics, and in places where the number of Unionists is small (Foyle, especially), the percentage vote for Unionist candidates is considerably less than the percentage of Protestants.

    If we had constituency returns for Euro elections, where every vote counts and the distortion brought about by constituencies is not present, we might see some diminution of this distortion taking place, but we have no such data.

  • mjh

    Let’s keep the discussion fact-based. There is no need to descend to suggestions of bad faith – “you consistently distort the figures”. If you interpret the figures differently all you have to do is to set out your interpretation and demonstrate how the pattern fits your proposition.

    All the figures for No Religion are drawn from the report of the 2011 census given in ARK for each constituency. The voting figures used are those for the Assembly election in the same year.
    There is no difference between the figures you quote for FST and those I used – so I fail to see where the accusation of distortion has come from.

    I note that rather than deal with the constituency by constituency analysis in my previous posting which demonstrates that there is no pattern to support the proposition that “the presence of people who profess to have no religion often indicates that Centrist parties will receive a similar percentage of the votes in that constituency” you have merely changed to a totally different proposition.

  • Paddy Reilly

    To put it another way.

    Alliance (and Greens) win seats only in 7 contiguous constituencies. In order of percentage of persons of No Religion living in the constituency they are 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th.

    North Down: 11.83% (1st) Alliance + GRN elected

    E. Belfast: 10.47% (2nd) Alliance + Alliance elected

    S. Belfast: 9.54% (3rd) Alliance elected

    Strangford: 8.65% (4th) Alliance elected

    E. Antrim: 8.53% (5th) Alliance elected

    Lagan Valley: 8.96% (6th) Alliance elected

    S. Antrim: 7.46% (7th) Alliance elected

    (8th to 18th in order of presence of persons of No Religion: no Centrist elected.)

    (Figures for 2011 Stormont election)

    No coincidences here! The bulk of the No Religion vote must be going to the Centrists. And in the two constituencies with the highest number of persons of No Religion, two Centrist MLAs are returned.

    One would not expect that all the Centrist support comes from the irreligious. Some is coming from people of non-Christian religion. I imagine that people in mixed marriages also supply support (but there are no available statistics for this): I also think that people who appear on the census as Catholic but live in constituencies where the overwhelming majority of the population are Unionist give their first or second preferences to the Centre.

  • mjh

    So Paddy, we are now onto the third version of your proposition – a long way from your first.

    If I have understood you correctly, it can be paraphrased as: The constituencies where the centrist vote is big enough to elect an MLA are also the constituencies with the highest proportion of No Religion and therefore “the bulk of the No Religion vote must be going to the Centrists”.

    In logic there is no “must” about it. This is leaping from an interesting observation straight to a conclusion without considering whether there is any evidence to support that conclusion, or whether the observation can be explained in any other way.

    To illustrate how misleading this approach can be consider an alternative proposition. Compare the level of No Religion by constituency with the percentage turnout in 2011. The eight constituencies with the highest levels of No Religion were also the eight with the lowest turnout. So it must be that the bulk of people of No Religion do not vote and therefore centre candidates can get very few votes from No Religion. That conclusion is equally valid (or invalid) as your own. It has been reached by exactly the same method.

    And yet both propositions cannot be true.

    To return to your observation. It presents four possibilities:
    1. There is an absolute causal link between No Religion and Centre voting. When they vote people of No Religion back centre candidates.
    2. There is no causal link. People of No Religion are no more or less likely to vote Centre than others, there just happen to be a higher proportion of them in constituencies with a higher centre vote.
    3. There is a third cultural phenomena or set of characteristics which lead both to a higher level of people stating that they have No Religion and independently to a higher centre vote. In this case the proportion of No Religion voting centre could be lower, the same or higher than that of other voters.
    4. There is a less than absolute causal link. Voters of No Religion will, when they vote, back centre candidates to a higher level than other voters. How much higher will depend on the strength of the link.

    In order represent just 51% of the centre vote the causal link would need to have been extremely high. The turnout of No Religion voters would have to have been at least as high as other voters, and the proportion of those voting centre would have had to be either 92% (according to how I defined centre) or 97% (as you defined it).

    If you have any evidence or know of any published research on the matter I would be very interested to see it.
    Thank you for an interesting discussion.