Today was to see David Trimble joining the interparty talks at Stormont for the first time since they began. But in light of the news of the leaked documents in Dublin yesterday, he walked out. However the underlying reason may be that in the absense of moves on the long awaited decommissioning of the IRA, he may feel he is leaving himself vulnerable to political counter moves whilst caught inside the negotiating chamber. The Sinn Fein negotiating team, for instance, … Read more
Despite recent headlines to the contrary, Gerry Moriarty in the subscription only Irish Times, believes the actual figures are good news for ‘Protestants’: “The 53/44 figure will provide some reassurance for unionists who were confronted with a number of recent media reports suggesting that the Catholic population would be as high as 46 per cent and the Protestant/unionist population would be under 50 per cent.” “Such figures would have signified a dramatic rise in the Catholic population of 4 per … Read more
Uh oh! Someone in the Republic’s government has sprung a very awkward leak. Embarrassing details were released to the press when a dossier was inadvertently left behind in the press area at yesterday’s meeting of the the Republic’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Alan Cowen and Paul Murphy. More in the subscription only Irish Times.
David McKitterick reports a rise in the numbers of Catholics in Belfast. In the Examiner, Dan Buckley focuses on population changes in Belfasts, that have practical effects: “Many Catholic districts of Belfast are now bursting at the seams, while some Protestant zones are half-empty, illustrating a demographic change which may have huge political consequences.” In the Newsletter, Suzanne Breen returns to the the partition of the historic 9 county province of Ulster to find context for the magnitude of the … Read more
The key figures are now available. The introduction and table of contents here may help with navigation.
Unionist commentator and advisor to David Trimble, Steven King suggests that the All-Ireland corks may have been popping too soon. He points out: “Department of Education figures show that the proportion of children educated at Catholic primary schools is below 50% and is falling year on year by 0.2%. Looking at the youngest section of the population, the number of children admitted at P1 level last year at (Protestant) controlled schools was 11,675 but just 10,931 at (Catholic) maintained schools.” … Read more
To those of you puzzled as to why so much political focus is being put on the religious make-up, this study conducted by three academics and funded by the Community Relations Council in July, might throuw some light on its relevance: “By the ages of five and six large differences were also found among Catholic and Protestant children regarding their preferences for certain first names, colours and football shirts.” “Overall, just over half (51%) of all three years olds were … Read more
Earliest indications from the BBC suggest that the final figures will be more like 53% Protestant and 44% Catholic. Other reports from RTE and UTV concur with this estimate.
Aside from the issue of total in the religious populations before they were announced this morning, Sinn Fein focused on the rising numbers of Irish speakers, they expect to be demonstrated in the figures.
Interesting poll in the Guardian suggests that while British is an increasingly unpopular term, the group that most closely relates to the term are the ethnic minorities in Britain. Alison Walker, the principle researcher: “…the biggest divergence from the national trend was among people from the ethnic minorities, with 57% of this group asserting their British identity, 37% claiming “other” nationality and the rest choosing English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish.”
Gerry Moriarty. Northern Editor of the Irish Times is the first to hint (sub only) that the figures in census currently being bandied around, may prove to be hugely exagerating the final numbers of Catholics in the Province: “Some reports have suggested the Catholic population could be as high as 46 per cent, but this may be too high. It is understood a figure in the lower mid-40s may be more accurate.”
Though Brian Cowan and Paul Murphy are expected to issue a joint communique agreeing that the recent legislation in the Dail, is only a temporary arrangement, this may not be enough to steady the nerves of many unionists, who view the move as an infringement of UK sovereignty in NI. Such scepticism has it’s roots in the private assurances that David Trimble received at the signing of the Belfast Agreement that Sinn Fein would be excluded if the IRA failed … Read more
After David Trimble’s recent overtures to the British Conservatives, this letter from David Wylie to the Belfast Telegraph that seems to speak a major dilemma within the Ulster Unionist party, and indeed most of the NI political parties: “…the UUP, like most other political parties in Northern Ireland, remains a single issue organisation; more a lobbying group at Westminster than a Party able to make a valuable contribution on a wide variety of social, economic and political issues affecting all … Read more
The UUP MLA Robert Coulter has called on the Republican movement demonstrate its committment to peace, but it’s clear that the simply taking their seats on the Policing body will not be sufficient to prove good will to mainstream unionists.
According to Bimpe Fatogun, Mark Durkan has tried to allay Unionist fears of being pulled into a United Ireland by suggesting that getting local institutions into a functioning and agreed state is more important that questions of sovereignty: The SDLP has made it clear in the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation that we want to develop a clear understanding that the agreement, with all the arrangements, assurances and accommodations that it offers, will endure whatever the outcome of any future … Read more
Roy Garland questions the motives of the DUP in bringing in Andrew Hunter, and suggests his candidature in Jeffrey Donaldson’s Assembly constituency demostrates that the DUP will targeting the ‘anti-agreement’ wing of the UUP as much as what is left of the ‘Trimblistas’.
Rosie Cowan goes on to quote some apparently sobering facts: “Four of Northern Ireland’s five cities, Belfast, Derry, Armagh and Newry, now have Catholic majorities – only Lisburn does not – and last year there were 173,000 Catholic schoolchildren, 146,000 Protestants and 22,000 others.” It should be noted that of these cities, only Belfast has changed in the course of the last 40 years. And in any case it masks the fact that the largely protestant Castlereagh Borough Council, controls … Read more
Rosie Cowan has a piece on the forthcoming census. It seems to be beginning to concentrate minds. As if in answer to Mitchell McLaughlin yesterday, Jeffrey Donaldson replies that forcing protestants into a united Ireland would be counter productive and went on to suggest that: “…because the suspended Stormont assembly requires separate majorities of both unionists and nationalists to pass legislation, the dual consent principle should apply to any vote on a united Ireland.”
Chris Thorton reports that Mitchell McLaughlin warns unionists that the demographic trends should not simply be a source of fear, but suggests instead that they: “…they would serve their constituency best by encouraging discussion and debate on how a united Ireland would guarantee equality and human rights for all traditions.” Put like that, it’s an offer that few Unionist are likely to want to be seen to accept.
I am not sure what has prompted this sudden outbreak of civil and intelligent discussion at Debate Central, but here’s a thread worth following for a while on what Thursday’s census results might give rise to. And this one.