Máirtín caught telling “porky pies” in his South Belfast #AE2017 campaign leaflet…

“Peace is not merely the absence of war but the presence of justice, of law, of order —in short, of government.”

Attributed to Albert Einstein

Thought I’d start this piece with a useful boss-quote, for a couple of small but intriguing items. First is the news that Sinn Fein’s former Finance Minister not only got his sums wrong on a claim in his election poster, but is going all Boris Johnson and pretending that there’s nothing wrong

In huge lettering on its first page the flyer states: “Since 2005 Sinn Fein’s vote in South Belfast has doubled. The SDLP’s has halved.”

However, a glance at electoral statistics shows that between the 2005 general election and the last general election two years ago Sinn Fein’s vote has indeed soared – up from 2,882 to 5,402.

However, the SDLP vote has not halved. In fact, the 10,339 votes for Dr McDonnell in 2005 had fallen just 7% to 9,560 votes in 2015.

One lesson they are clearly drawing from last year’s Brexit campaign is if you persist with something you clearly know to be untrue and keep pumping it into your social media echo chamber the more likely you are to gain from it. 

As Sam points out it’s not the first time Stormont’s latest Finance Minister has had trouble with figures:

Two years ago, the candidate took the highly unusual step of posting a video online while polling was continuing in which he confidently stated: “You will have heard by now that I am topping the poll in South Belfast.” When the votes were counted, the Sinn Fein candidate came fourth.

Interestingly Mairtin’s Vine account, which had 882 posts and 611 followers seems now to be private, so the incriminating 2015 message is no longer there for all to see.

ADDED via reader:

The modus operandi appears to be to throw as much mud at the wall and hope that some of it sticks. Which is likely what this other set this strange outburst from the SF candidate for Fermanagh and South Tyrone is all about:

There is no legal arrangement for this (US citizens abroad, for instance, must continue paying tax to earn their right to vote), but it might just blind voters to the fact that SF MPs are either effective retirees from or surplus to the requirements on the front line of politics.  

As Jean-Claude Juncker once famously said, “when it becomes serious, you have to lie…” [Ssssh, just don’t tell the voters the actual truth and we’ll all be okay… -Ed] That seems to be the general idea. Still a long way from “Peace” then?

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  • hollandia

    Well on a quick review of the figures, I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s telling lies – in fact that’s why politicians like figures – they can be ambiguous. In percentage terms the SDLP vote has halved from 32.5% in 2005 GE, to 15.5% in the last Assembly Election. (They had 41% on 2010 with no SF candidate). In terms of numbers, it’s nowhere near halved. Likewise SF’s vote has doubled in numbers terms, but not percentage (at the last GE), but doubled in percentage if you count the last Assembly elections.

    It’s like 51% supporting a border poll – nationalists will say it’s an endorsement of their strategy, unionists will say, it unionists wanting to put the question to bed for a few years.

  • The 50% drop in SDLP vote appears to be from the 2010 General election figure of 14,026 to the 2017 assembly figure of 7361 combined SDLP vote Mick

  • T.E.Lawrence

    To be quite honest I thought the shinners were running a pretty decent campaign in SB but this is a big cock up once again it is always figures that does the damage on them however I am also impressed by the campaign Pengelly is running she is eating up the turf at 2/1 best bet in NI Westies !

  • mac tire

    Are we pointing out porkies in campaign leaflets now? Good. All election leaflets should be scrutinized for inaccuracies. A Fact Check, so to speak. Very welcome.

    You missed an opportunity to start this last week though.

  • WindowLean


  • Concubhar O Liathain

    It seems slightly over the top to use the quote from Albert Einstein to set the tone for a post which seems to have been a little ‘loose’ with the figures itself.

  • lizmcneill

    The United States is one of only two countries (the other being Eritrea) that taxes its citizens no matter whether they reside, per Time. Not sure Ireland would want to join this enlightened company.

  • Katyusha

    One lesson they are clearly drawing from last year’s Brexit campaign is if you persist with something you clearly know to be untrue and keep pumping it into your social media echo chamber the more likely you are to gain from it.

    Sinn Fein have been doing that for as long as they’ve been in existence. They have nothing to learn from the crude, amateurish and nasty Brexit campaign in that regard, they are the masters of the game. Having said that..

    “If I am elected as MP I will be going to Leinster House & I will be demanding that I am given speaking rights as your MP” – @gildernewm

    G’wan Michelle. If she hadn’t already had my vote she’d win it with this.
    The perfect forward stance for an abstentionist MP.

  • chrisjones2

    I assume that is why Ireland refuses to tax US companies “resident” there

  • chrisjones2

    ..and shes not even blonde

  • Jag

    SF share of vote (or “vote” as the leaflet says) in 2005 was 9.0%;in March 2017, it was 17.7%, a 97% increase. SDLP vote in 2005 was 32.3%, in March 2017 it was 19.4% (that’s the combination of the two SDLP candidates), a decline of 40.0%.

    Did the SF vote double? It increased by 97%.
    Did the SDLP vote halve? It decreased by 40.0%

    The leaflet is basically accurate.

  • The Irishman

    What age are you?

  • hollandia

    It’s all down to how you interpret the numbers. In percentage terms, yes the leaflet is factual. Which was sort of the point I was making, but if you look at it the other way – actual number of voters (and on reflection, I maybe wasn’t clear enough about that in my first post) then it’s not as strong an argument.

    Which was really the point I’m making. How the numbers are presented is what makes them ambiguous. Mick has a point, but it’s a stretch to say MOM is lying, as you’ve rightly (and I, hamfistedly) have pointed out. I’ll edit the first post to be clearer.

  • Jag

    The leaflet says “Since 2005 Sinn Fein’s vote in South Belfast has doubled. The SDLP’s has halved.”

    It doesn’t say, SF’s VOTES (plural) doubled. So the “share of vote” interpretation is correct.

    It might be a first, but on this occasion the Shinners are arithmetically sound!

  • hollandia

    Lol. Percentages are great for discussing swings and so on, but raw numbers tell the real tale. But, in short, the leaflet is not telling lies, as you rightly point out.

  • Jag

    That’s debatable Hollandia. Over a 12 year period, there can be quite a difference in those entitled to vote, or those actually voting.

    In 2005, South Belfast had an electorate of just over 50,000 and 32,028 turned out to vote.

    In 2017, SB had an electorate of nearly 70,000 and 43,053 turned out to vote.

    I think % is more of an accurate reflection of what has happened between 2015-2017. And by saying “vote” rather than “votes” on the leaflet, SF covered themselves with the “vote share” interpretation.

    One thing that has declined (in numbers) by 50% between 2005 and 2017 is the circulation of The News Letter, now at at a measly 15,475 a day. No wonder if this story is representative of the quality of its offering.

  • mac tire


  • Korhomme

    Lies, damned lies, and statistics…

  • USA

    Porkie Pies? I do not believe there is a constitutional requirement that US citizens “must continue paying tax to earn their right to vote”. In the US voting is a birthright of every citizen, that right belongs to the people, not the government. There is no requirement to “earn” the right to vote.

  • Jag

    Yep, SF vote increases by 97% between 2005 and 2017 and SF claims it “doubled”
    SDLP vote decreases by 40.0% between 2005 and 2017 and SF claims it “halved”.

    Bad enough the News Letter rag (RHI reportage apart) produces this standard of journalism, but you expect better from Slugger.

  • Cináed mac Artri

    The Fermanagh candidate appears to be confused. If elected as an MP they are (supposed) to go to Westminster (in London). On the southern side of the line an individual who get the required votes in is elected as a TD and it is they who attend at Leinster House (that’s in Dublin by the way).

    Aren’t there instructions on the application forms filled out by potential parliamentary candidates in the UK that would clear up such a basic misunderstanding? If not it seems a cruel strategy by the British to catch out the less cerebral applicant.

    At Leinster House “Speaking rights” will be happily provided by the ushers. Any one of them will very courteously speak to the (then I presume) MP and facilitate a tour of the building as they do for other visitors, be they members of the Irish public or tourists.

    Speaking is rightfully permitted, questions are encouraged, a ‘cheerio’ on the way out gratefully appreciated.

  • Jag

    Speaking rights for MPs in Dail?

    Obviously an MP can’t take a seat on the ground floor of the chamber but nothing to stop them sitting in the gallery. So, they will be present in the Dail.

    They can give their speeches to SF TDs to read into the record. So, they will be speaking, through a proxy.

    They can ask questions through SF TDs. So, they can hold the government to account, particularly on Border © and Brexit issues.

    They can’t vote, but they can certainly make their presence known and influence the operation of the Dail.

    Ahead of reunification, might be the best that can be done.

  • mickfealty

    How so?

  • mickfealty

    And, utterly meaningless. (Thus the Einstein quote.)

  • mickfealty

    Chris, I’ve just barred someone for something pretty close to that. You’ve been warned before.

  • mickfealty

    No speaking rights in the Gallery Jag.

  • mickfealty

    That was clumsily worded. So apologies. But as a citizen or an alien with residential rights you pay your taxes to the US regardless of where overseas you live. It’s a reason why US citizenship comes attached to that inalienable right, and Irish citizenship doesn’t.

  • Vince

    Mairtin O’Muilleoir does have a lot of form here. His main goal last time around seemed to be to gift the seat to the DUP – same again this time although perhaps without the dark stuff, who knows?
    Numbers are clearly not his strong suit – even though the Assembly only collapsed in January he managed to leave us without a Health budget from April, contriving to add further stasis to a situation already in need of urgent intervention and repair. Well done!

  • Jag

    When you’re present in the chamber (even in the Gallery) and your speech, which you’ve written, gets read out and entered into Dail record, and then, you’ll then go out on to the plinth to elaborate on “your” speech so the media will link you to the speech. Is there much of a difference between that and “speaking rights”?

  • Katyusha

    Confused in the same way that Sinn Féin in 1918 were confused. No doubt if we were in 1918-20 you would be urging the members of Sinn Féin in the first Dáil to take up their seats in Westminster and stop fooling around with abstentionism and revolutionary parliaments. Maybe you’d have seen the rightful seat of power in Ireland as Dublin Castle rather than Mansion House.

    Michelle’s stance is totally consistent with the rational behind Sinn Féin’s abstentionist policy, and the fact that it will inevitably be kicked back makes it a zero risk strategy. I look forward to Fine Gael trying to justify their objections while trying not to appear like the partitionists they are. The only disadvantage is that we will lose Gildernew’s talents as an MLA as Stormont is the only forum where NI parties have any grasp of the levers of power.

    (By the way, she is the honourable member for FST, not Fermanagh, and is a Tyrone lass herself. The shenanigans that went on in the constituency in recent years bear testament to that).

  • Katyusha

    All general elections in Northern Ireland are utterly meaningless.
    When was the last time an MP from NI formed part of the government?

  • mickfealty

    See Einstein? I’ve been read into the Parliamentary record several times, and I’m still not a public representative. To claim you are is both bonkers and demeaning of the democratic principle of public representation.

  • Katyusha

    I don’t believe that is accurate, Mick. Most European countries allow overseas citizens to vote as a fundamental right of citizenship. Were those French citizens who voted at the recent presidential election in Dublin and Cork paying taxes to France?

    The fact that US taxes overseas citizens and Ireland doesn’t is neither here nor thre. Ireland cannot allow overseas citizens to vote, as if you included both the North and the diaspora, it totally overwhelm the resident vote and distort the makeup of the Dáil. Most countries don’t have anywhere near the emigrant population we have.

  • mickfealty

    Go back and read Einstein. A really tough nut like this needs a big, extra strong set of pliers.

  • Robin Keogh

    I think as ‘lies’ go we can probably survive this one.

  • Vince

    The Major government of 1992 was sustained for some time by the Ulster Unionists.

  • mickfealty

    I thought I’d replied to this on the phone earlier, so apologies if that earlier one turns up and duplicates this.

    It was something to the effect that although my own words/work has been read into the record of several parliamentary chambers it does not make me a public representative.

    You perfectly illustrate the precise way in which representative democracy is traduced by such tokenistic (but in the end meaningless) gestures.

    It’s the old Provisional war folly of pretending NI majority don’t matter/ don’t exist and treating them as aliens who should have no say in the country’s future.

    The long war is long over, the long peace must be fought by other more imaginative means…

  • mickfealty

    It’s not just that Ireland has a lot of emigrants (it does) it’s the number out of territory citizens that’s enormous.

  • Nap McCourt

    SF is a multi-million pound machine, run by multi-millionaires, using limitless resources to infiltrate all aspects of society. Their foot soldiers are now in every organisation, committee and club. They are dictating the agenda. They know that no other organisation has the resources to stop them. So do you think they are worried about the facts being on their leaflets. They are going to buy power but keep a close eye on what they will do with it when they get it. And it will have absolutely nothing to do with a united Ireland

  • james

    Past experience shows that your average Shinner voter is profoundly indifferent to their political reps lying to them. In the same way they pliably swallow the Socialist man-of-the-people crap even while senior shinners are laughing all the way to the bank. The front rank of Sinn Fein seem to regard their voters, perhaps understandably, as little more than useful idiots.

  • Jag

    Sounds like Nap here just put on his “special” glasses

  • mickfealty

    The false vet, ahem, typo story? Yep. I didn’t have time to bless myself last week (as you’ll see from my scant posting schedule).

    But I thought the continuity here from 15 was noteworthy just the same. it appears to be a pattern more than a one off.

  • Ciara 007

    No matter what the party. If this is to be the greatest sinn féin offence of the campaign to date. One can only suggest that the DUP wishes it was SF right now.

  • Ciara 007

    Ní reps could be ‘invited’ to ‘address’ the Dáil on a regular basis, even weekly perhaps? That might square the circle.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Do you think this is something which is a trait only of Sinn Fein voters or do you think DUP voters are equally indifferent to their political reps lying to them?

  • james

    Not sure – I’ve never voted DUP. I think the difference is that most DUP voters will punish the DUP (most of the time) at the ballot box. SF seem to have trained their supporters to simply toe the line no matter what.

    Either way, your question is a fine example of the useful idiot mentality

  • Dan

    Yes, a rotten Mafia

  • Cináed mac Artri

    1918? Really? The only way I’d be “in 1918-20” would be if I was gifted ‘The Time Machine’ curtesy of H G Wells. But that is fantasy/sci-fi, a genre I suspect you have more than a passing acquaintance with.

    Still, ‘hello’ from 2017.

    A Google search informs me that a Tom Elliot is the “honourable member for FST”. Google eh? The lying, anti- Sinn Féin, partitionist bas……………

  • Ciara 007

    You underestimate the will power of the Sinners somewhat maybe. If this latest flag indicates a direction mood within SF, we could be In for a colourful summer.

  • NotNowJohnny

    How can you be so sure about Sinn Fein voters but so unsure about DUP? CAn you give an example of when DUP voters punished the DUP at the ballot box as a result of DUP political reps lying to them?

  • mickfealty

    Why not go back to 1997 and you can really hammer them then? 😉

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Clutching at straws BD ! Leaflet was badly presented, similar to Kelly’s wonderful bar chart between Orange and Green in his North Belfast presentation. My suggestion for you guys and gals is keep away from figures on election literature you just ain’t good at it !

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    I think saying Máirtín was telling ‘porkie pies’ is over egging it a little. He said the SDLP vote halved in between 2005 and 2017 and it did, The vote went up between 2005 and 2010 and halved since then, more or less. Máirtín’s point is borne out, it seems to me. Whether it’s 2005 or 2010 he uses his starting point, the fact is that the SDLP vote did drop by half during the 2005-17 period. It remains to be seen if it will drop again this time out and let Mairtín in as MP. I think he would be wasted in Westminster as it really doesn’t appear to be relevant as far as NI is concerned especially if you’re a SF MP. I think that the next Taoiseach should pick all the NI MPs, those who are willing at least, as his/her senators in the next Oireachtas period. That might satisfy Michelle Gildernew. (It’s unlikely but is possible and in some way precedented in that northern figures have previously served as senators with distinction thanks to the Taoiseach’s pick.)

  • mickfealty

    What puzzles me is that Mairtin doesn’t need to play such tricks to make progress. As you say, he really doesn’t need to win a Westminster seat. The point seems to be to destroy Al.

    If you stir up enough mud then no one gets to see anything useful: “All you need to know is that ‘I’m topping the poll’ (even when I’m not)”.

    It’s a propaganda ploy, which is fine if you can get away with it. But isn’t there a little voice telling you that if someone can mislead on such trivial matter, what else is he hiding?

    This is why I went in with the Einstein hammer, because some degree of honest common currency is necessary to built a stable and shared future.

    Too many have bought into a socially and politically corrosive two narratives frame, which grants us licence to dissent from each other without ever confronting our shortcomings.

    To be charitable, using a twelve year term to justify a plainly misleading statement near term politics is a trick of the light. And claiming to top the poll when you’re destined for fourth?

    Thanks to one of our careful readers, the incriminating evidence is there for all to see…

  • Old Mortality

    Politicians make untrue assertions all the time. It’s particularly annoying when they do it on broadcast media and the interviewer is either too lazy or too ill-informed to challenge them. They should be harried relentlessly and publicly embarrassed. That’s the only way to put them in their place.

  • npbinni

    The modus operandi appears to be to throw as much mud at the wall and hope that some of it sticks…
    Completely off topic, but that’s exactly what the media is doing with Trump.