With no power comes no responsibility – Northern Ireland sleepwalking towards an electricity crisis

When Kilroot power station failed to win an auction to supply the all-island Single Electricity Market (SEM) held in December last year, its owner AES announced that the facility was to close. Despite announcing that the power station was to close in May 2018, at the time of writing it remains open. The closure of Kilroot, and the already scheduled closure of part of Ballylumford power station, means that Northern Ireland will lose over 900 MW worth of electricity generating … Read more

Would a United Ireland be affordable?

Given recent polling that suggests that a border poll on the question of Northern Ireland joining a unified Irish state could be a close contest, there has been a renewed focus on the question of whether a unified Irish state would be affordable. There is a gap of roughly £10bn between tax revenues and public expenditure in Northern Ireland, an effective subsidy from Great Britain to Northern Ireland that is often referred to as the “subvention” or the “block grant”. … Read more

How has opinion in Northern Ireland on the border question changed since the Brexit referendum?

It is perhaps ironic that, given politics in Northern Ireland has revolved around the border question since its inception, there is a significant amount of uncertainty regarding whether the people of Northern Ireland want to stay in the United Kingdom or become part of a united Ireland. There have been a number of opinion polls and surveys on the question since the Brexit referendum in June 2016, which have yielded significantly varying results on the question of support for Irish … Read more

Is Northern Ireland dramatically poorer than the Republic?

Before Ireland was partitioned in 1921, the six counties that were to become Northern Ireland were the powerhouse of the Irish economy. Two thirds of Ireland’s manufacturing capacity was in the six counties, Belfast was Ireland’s largest city, and the economy was focused on high value manufacturing, unlike the largely agricultural economy in the rest of the island. Today, the economic situation in the two jurisdictions has flipped. The Republic of Ireland is now one of the world’s richest countries … Read more

Irish general election forecast – Fine Gael set to recover many of their 2016 losses

Fine Gael retained their status as largest party following the Irish general election of 2016, but were unable to put together a coalition after a collapse in support for their coalition partners, Labour, and an increase in the number of independent and Sinn Féin TDs in the Dáil. Since then, they have required a confidence-and-supply arrangement with the second largest party, Fianna Fáil. The deal is due to be reviewed later this year, and many commentators are expecting that there … Read more

What would a 32 county Dáil Éireann look like?

Public support for Irish unity amongst the Northern Ireland electorate has increased in recent years, with a recent Lucid Talk poll suggesting that a third of the electorate would vote for unity were a referendum to take place. There has been scant discussion, however, on what the politics of a new 32 county state might look like. Would the two largest political parties in the South, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, dominate an all-Ireland Parliament? The Constitution of Ireland states: … Read more

The Conservatives have a mountain to climb to challenge Labour’s social media dominance

In the wake of this year’s snap general election, it has become apparent that age, not social class, has become the new fault line in British politics. Analysis published by YouGov highlights the woeful electoral performance by the Conservatives amongst younger voters. Amongst 18 and 19 year old voters at the 2017 general election, Labour were ahead of the Tories by a staggering 47 points (66% to 19%), and were 40 points ahead of the Conservatives with voters in their … Read more

Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey suggests slight increase in support for Irish unity and cross-community support for abortion reform

The Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey for 2016, which was carried out last year and the results of which were released today, suggests that support for a united Ireland has increased in the wake of last year’s referendum when the UK voted to leave the European Union. Support for Irish unity amongst the Catholic community was up three percentage points, from 31% to 34%. Whilst this is the highest it has been in this decade so far, it is … Read more

Our Friends in the North? The DUP and the Tories aren’t ideologically close

Following the shock result of Thursday’s General Election, the Prime Minister has announced her intention to form a government with the help with her “friends and allies in the DUP”. The DUP and the Conservatives are aligned in their commitment to Brexit and Northern Ireland’s place in the union, but they are far from ideological twins with regards to other issues. Much has been made of the incompatibilities between the DUP’s hard-line stance on same sex marriage and the Conservatives, … Read more

Will YouGov’s election model be vindicated when the results are in?

Opinion polling firm YouGov have raised eyebrows in the run up to Thursday’s poll with the results of their forecast model, which at the time of writing is forecasting that the Conservatives will only win 307 seats. This would deprive them of their parliamentary majority, and leaves open the possibility that Jeremy Corbyn could become Prime Minister if Labour could secure support from the smaller parties in the Commons. The YouGov model is out of line with other election forecasts, … Read more

Over the cliff edge – what would happen if exports to the EU were subject to tariffs

The continuing deterioration of relations between the British Government and the European Union has led to a renewed focus on the possibility of a hard Brexit, where all trade between the UK and the European Union would be subject to tariffs in line with WTO rules. Previously, I had written about how Northern Ireland would bear a disproportionate cost of a hard Brexit, due to cross-border exports of dairy playing a substantial segment of the local economy. Under WTO rules, … Read more

Labour facing real risk of wipeout as their polling slump continues

The past days have seen a number of opinion polls released ahead of June’s General Election, and they continue to make grim reading for the Labour Party. The ComRes/Sunday Mirror poll gave the Conservatives a 50% share, double that of Labour on 25%. The last fortnight has continued to give Tories a vote share in the high forties, whilst Labour have been languishing far behind on the low to mid twenties. Were these results to be replicated in the election … Read more

The problem with the Lib Dems’ anti-Brexit strategy

The snap General Election called for June 2017 would appear to be a significant opportunity for the Liberal Democrats. In contrast with Labour’s mixed messages on Brexit, the Lib Dems are offering a much clearer stance on Brexit, positioning themselves as the party who will stop a hard Brexit and keep the UK in the single market. Could this year’s election provide an opportunity for the Lib Dems to become the party to speak for the 48% of the UK … Read more

If #AE17 had been fought on the proposed new electoral boundaries

Unless there is a snap Assembly or Westminster election called within the next 18 months, this month’s Assembly Election will be the last Northern Ireland election to be fought under the existing 18 constituency map. Under the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act of 2011, the number of Westminster constituencies will fall from 650 to 600, and as a result of this there will be a reduction in the number of Northern Ireland constituencies by one, from 18 to 17. … Read more

Constitutional recoupling – the rise in the Nationalist vote in context

The increase in the Nationalist vote at last week’s Assembly Election came as a surprise to many commentators. However, it is worth bearing in mind that support for the SDLP and Sinn Féin amongst the Catholic population of Northern Ireland was at a historic low in 2016, and therefore the increase in the Nationalist vote was starting from a low base. After last year’s Assembly election, I wrote about how the support for the SDLP and Sinn Féin amongst Northern … Read more

It’s Groundhog Day! Looking ahead to a potential second 2017 Assembly Election

The clock is ticking. Following the seismic results of last Thursday’s Northern Ireland Assembly elections, the rules state that the local parties have three weeks to form a government before the people of Northern Ireland are asked to go to the polls for the fourth time in a year. Previously, I had discussed the forecast model that I had created for the election, based on the results from 2016 and polling published by Lucid Talk. Overall, the accuracy of the … Read more

Running to stand still – how the move from six seats to five seats could hurt the UUP much more than the DUP

Previously, I looked at what might be expected from next month’s Assembly election if the current polling, showing a fall in support for the DUP with a corresponding rise in support for the Alliance Party and the UUP, is indicative of public support. The forecast model anticipated that the UUP could expect to receive 14 seats under such a scenario, which would be a respectable result given that they won 16 out of 108 seats in the previous mandate. However, … Read more

Forecasting the 2017 Assembly Election

The snap Assembly election called for the 2nd of March 2017 will be the first to return 5 MLAs from each constituency, reducing the total number of MLAs from 108 to 90. This, combined with indications of a fall in support for the DUP and a rise in support for the Green Party and People Before Profit, makes this year’s election less predictable than is usually the case for Northern Ireland elections. I have built a forecast model in an … Read more

Dublin Airport – Northern Ireland’s gateway to the world

Yesterday’s announcement that Brussels Airlines are withdrawing their route from Belfast City Airport to Brussels is the latest in a series of setbacks for Northern Ireland’s aviation sector, following the controversy surrounding the termination of United Airlines’ route from Belfast International to Newark. The habit of throwing government funds at airlines to coax them into flying to Northern Ireland, only for them to pack their bags and leave when the subsidies run out, has become routine. Serious questions must be … Read more

UK exports have boomed since the Brexit referendum, but mostly to the EU

In the immediate aftermath of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union on the 23rd of June 2016, the pound fell sharply against other major currencies. At the time of writing, £1 will buy €1.19 or 1.25 US dollars, down 8.5% and 14.7% respectively $1.47 and €1.30 on the eve of the referendum. It has been claimed by various sources that a fall in the pound, whilst obviously bad news for importers and holidaymakers, will prove a … Read more