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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Unionist High Water Mark?

A snap Westminster election has resulted in a minority Conservative UK government dependent on a "supply and confidence" agreement with the DUP. Having secured 10 seats in the North it is enough to bring the Torys over the 326 seats needed for a majority.

As always this blog is concerned about the impact in Ireland and the Nationalist strength in the north of the country. There was almost identical turnout among the two communities in the March Assembly election which brought an end to a period of Nationalist voter apathy. Unionists responded with a surge in turnout, an additional 50,000 votes bringing their total to 395,000 votes.

Given that the March Assembly result left only 1,200 votes between the DUP and SF and some 20,000 votes between Nationalism and Unionism this election was portrayed by the DUP as a vote for the Union. If Unionism could not bring out it's voters in mass in this election it never will. And this is why I believe this is the high water mark for Unionism. 400,000 votes is required to beat Unionism on their best day.

The SDLP and UUP have been left with no seats. SF won 7 seats and the DUP won 10. The independent Unionist Sylvia Hermon won the other. Of course if the SDLP had accepted the will of the Nationalist people and responded to the Unionist pact, North and South Belfast would not have gone to the DUP. They got their answer on that one.

The DUP will not agree to the SF demand for implementation of previous agreements before Stormont can be reinstated. Therefore another Assembly election is likely in the near future as is another Westminster election for that matter. The possibility of the Nationalist vote exceeding the Unionist vote in one of these is there. As always turnout will be key. If not in 2017/2018 it will happen as some stage in the immediate future and calls for a Unity Referendum cannot be ignored. Interesting times ahead!













Sunday, March 5, 2017

Crocodile Rock


Well this has been coming. The premise of this blog is that demographic change will be translated into political change. We had not seen this in the elections cycle from 2014 to 2016 due to Nationalist voter apathy. However Nationalists have awoken from their slumber. Turnout matched and slightly exceeded turnout of Unionists.

The result was 40 seats for Nationalists and 40 for Unionists. Not only did Unionism loose its majority in the Assembly, it lost a plurality. First preference votes showed Nationalism at 42% with Unionism at 44%. There was only 20k votes between Unionism and Nationalism and a mere 1,000 votes between the DUP and Sinn Fein. The times they are a changing.

The challenge for Nationalism now is to push on from this and not become complacent. There are still over 300k Catholics and 600k Protestants who did not vote for a Nationalist party. These are the people who should be targeted.




Friday, January 27, 2017

Labour Force Survey 2015

The Labour Force Survey for 2015 has been published. The LFS gives us an annual demographic breakdown of the working age population and general population from the age of 16. Although results can be erratic due to variances in the samples taken, the trends can be used to determine future voting patterns given the strong correlation between religion and political affiliation.


The 2015 report shows that for the first time, those from a Catholic community background make up a plurality of the working age population. Parity has been reached with those from a Protestant community background in all ages above the age of 16. Catholics are now in an overall majority in the 16-24 age cohort as opposed to just 35% in the over 60s.


Working Age Population
"In 2015, there was a higher proportion of Catholics among the working age population (46%) than Protestants (40%), with the remaining 14% reported as ‘other/non-determined’.

This is the first time in the time series presented in Figure 2.2 that Catholics amount for a higher proportion of the working age population.


In 1990, the religious composition of the working age population was 54% Protestant, 41% Catholic and 6% other/non-determined. Over this period, the number of Protestants of working age decreased by 5% (from 495,000 to 469,000), the number of working age Catholics increased by 44% (from 375,000 to 538,000), and the number of those classified as ‘other/non-determined’ trebled (from 53,000 to 159,000)."

Population Aged 16+
"The proportion of Protestants has fallen by 12 percentage points between 1990 and 2015, from 56% to 44%, while the proportion of Catholics has increased by six percentage points, from 38% to 44%, over this same period. The proportion of the population classified as ‘other/non-determined’ has doubled (from 6% to 12%) over this period.

Between 1990 and 2015 the number of Protestants aged 16 and over decreased by
10,000, or 2%, to 633,000, while the number of Catholics increased by 193,000, or 44%, to 633,000 over the same period. The number of people aged 16 and over classified as
‘other/non-determined’ has almost trebled from 63,000 to 180,000 over this period."


Population Aged 16-24
"The proportion of this age group who reported as Protestant has decreased
between 1990 and 2015 (from 49% to 36%), while the proportion of Catholics increased
(from 44% to 51%), and the proportion classified as ‘other/non-determined’ has almost doubled, from 7% to 13%, over the same period.

Between 1990 and 2015, the number of Protestants in this age group has decreased by 38,000 (33%) from 116,000 to 78,000. The number of Catholics has increased slightly over this period, from 105,000 to 109,000 (4%). The largest proportionate increase was among those classified as ‘other/non-determined’; from 16,000 in 1990 to 29,000 in 2015."


Population Aged 60+
"The proportion of this age group who identified as Protestant has decreased from 66% in 1990 to 57% in 2015, while the proportion of Catholics has increased, from 30% to 35%, over this same period. Five per cent of those aged 60 and over were classified as ‘other/non-determined’ in 1990; by 2015 this proportion had increased to 8%.

There were 166,000 Protestants aged 60 and over in 1990 and this had increased to
212,000 by 2015. The number of Catholics in this age group increased from 76,000 to
132,000 over the same period. The 11,000 who were aged 60 and over classified as
‘other/non-determined’ in 1990 had almost trebled to 30,000 by 2015."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Irish Unity Makes Economic Sense

Study by researchers who have examined German and Korean unification models shows long-term improvement of GDP per capita in the North of 4 to 7.5 percent, while the Republic would see a boost of 0.7 to 1.2 percent.
At an evening presentation at the Harvard Club in Midtown Manhattan, two prominent scholars in the field of political science and economics released the findings of a landmark, first-ever economic study entitled Modeling Irish Unification, which showed significant long-term improvement in the stagnant Northern Irish economy would result from removing currency, trade and tax barriers that currently impede economic growth.
The report also showed improvements for theRepublic of Ireland, which would benefit from barrier-free access to the Northern Irish market. By modeling three separate unification scenarios, the researchers showed a long-term improvement of GDP per capita in the North of 4 to 7.5 percent, while the Republic of Irelandwould see a boost of 0.7 to 1.2 percent.
The report presents the first comprehensive economic models simulating the political and economic integration of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The study is particularly timely given current debates over Irish economic growth and the U.K.'s continued participation in the European Union. Three unification scenarios were presented, with the most aggressive estimating a 35.6 billion Euroboost in an all-island GDP in the first eight years of unification.
Representatives of government, the financial sector and international relations communities attended the event.
The research was led by Dr. Kurt Hubner, professor of political science, Jean Monnet Chair for European Integration and Global Political Economy and Director of the Institute for European Studies at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Hubner directed the research through his firm KLC – Consulting for Tomorrow, an economic and political relations consulting firm based in Vancouver. The economic model was developed by Dr. Renger Herman van Nieuwkoop, Director and Founder of ModelWorks and professor of economics at ETH Zurich.
"Our modeling exercise points to strong positive unification effects driven by successful currency devaluation and a policy dependent industrial turn-around," said Dr. Hubner. "While these effects occur in a static global economic environment, under ideal political conditions, they underline the potential of political and economic unification when it is supported by smart economic policy."
In the executive summary, Professor Steven Raphael, UC Berkeley, wrote: "Political and economic unification of the North and South would likely result in a sizable boost in economic output and incomes in the North and a smaller boost in the [Republic of Ireland]."
Marcus Noland, Executive Vice President and Director of Studies at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, provided comment on the study, writing: "Modeling Irish Unification is an important, timely examination of the economics of Irish unification, applying state-of-the-art modeling techniques to the issue at hand. The modeling work illustrates a variety of channels which are likely to be at play in the Irish case, and concludes that Irish unification would be economically beneficial to both parts of the island, especially for smaller, poorer,Northern Ireland."
After Dr. Hubner and Dr. van Nieuwkoop'sconcluded their remarks, Michael Burke, economic consultant and former Senior International Economist at Citibank in London, discussed the global impact of a unifiedIreland.
"The issue of the benefits of a unified Irish economy are unfortunately largely overlooked," said Burke. "This paper goes some way to correcting that and will help develop discussion in this neglected area."
The study was commissioned by K.R.B., a San Francisco Bay area–based nonprofit social welfare organization that promotes social welfare and conflict resolution through education.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Lucid Talk Tracker Poll - December 2016

Lucid Talk have published their latest Tracker Poll.

The polls are regular 'Tracker' polls of the established LT Northern Ireland Opinion Panel (now over 5,000 members). The LucidTalk Opinion Panel consists of Northern Ireland residents (age 18+) and is balanced by gender, age-group, area of residence, and community background, in order to be demographically representative of Northern Ireland.

Most interestingly the poll shows support for Irish Unity in the North at 44.4%. This is significantly higher than the 41% in the 2015 RTE/BBC poll. Brexit is clearly a game changer.

The other significant thing that happened over the last year was the publication of an independent report 'Modelling Irish Reunification' in which findings by Dr. Kurt Hubner concluded that Unification was by far the best option economically for both parts of the island and would provide a boost to GDP of €35.6 billion over 8 years.






Saturday, December 17, 2016

Equality Commission Monitoring Report No. 26

The monitoring of demographic data might not be everyone's cup of tea. Many will refer to it as "sectarian head counting." However the fact remains that there has always been a close correlation between religion and politics in the North of Ireland. Very few if any Catholics vote for Unionist parties and very few Protestants vote for Nationalist parties. Therefore demographic change can give us a clue as to how voting patterns will develop in the future. This is the reality.

The Equality Commission have published their 26th Monitoring Report. This report provides a breakdown of the composition of the North's workforce in the year 2015. The trend has not changed and parity is likely in 2017 or 2018.

The composition of Catholics in the workforce increased to 47.9% (+0.5%) in 2015 while the Protestant proportion decreased to 52.1%.

The reason the trend has continued in 2015 is due to the percentage of Catholic community background applicants (52.9%) and appointees (53.1%) being greater than their Protestant counterparts (47.1% and 46.9% respectively).

The most puzzling aspect of this report is why Protestants make up only 49.1% of leavers from the workforce when according to the 2011 census, retirement age Protestants make up c65% of the general population? 

The DUP's Gregory Campell in a recent attack on the Equality Commission complained that Protestants were under represented in appointments to the workforce. These figures show there is an under representation of 0.2%, in other words there is no under representation. 

Perhaps Gregory hasn't come to terms with the fact that demographics have changed. Annually published figures such as Equality Commission Monitoring Reports show us that the trends seen in the 2011 census show no sign of abating. Therefore 2017 marks the first time that Catholics in the North outnumber Protestants in the general population. Significant given the raision d'etre for the 1921 gerrymandering was to provide a "Protestant state for a Protestant people." 



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Brexit and Irish Reunification

It is often said a week is a long time in politics. Try a month. The last month has been one of political turmoil and uncertainty. What does seem certain though, after the unexpected vote in the UK to leave the EU, is that the UK is headed for recession and is on the verge of break up. Having overwhelmingly voted to remain part of the EU, a second Scottish Independence Referendum looks set to be triggered as soon as England begins taking Scotland out of the EU against it's will.

Here in Ireland, Sinn Féin were quick out of the blocks demanding a Unity Referendum (#UnityRef replacing #BoderPoll on the twitter machine!) given that 56% in the North voted to remain. Nothing new or unexpected here.

Then we had the comments from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin that he hopes the UK’s Brexit vote will eventually lead to a referendum on a united Ireland.


“The remain vote may show people the need to rethink current arrangements. I hope it moves us towards majority support for unification, and if it does we should trigger a reunification referendum.
“However, at this moment the only evidence we have is that the majority of people in Northern Ireland want to maintain open borders and a single market with this jurisdiction, and beyond that with the rest of Europe.”


All very positive and he does qualify his remarks with the need for "evidence" that a reunification referendum will have sufficient support to pass. I think he is correct. The only evidence we have is in the form of elections and opinion polls. Opinion polls (at least the non Unionist leaning ones that don't use the wording to steer to the "correct" result) have support for Unification in the North at c40%. The effect of Brexit may increase this by a few percentage points. We will have to wait and see as there has been no opinion pollspublished post Brexit.

The other form of evidence is election results. Due to Nationalist voter apathy, Nationalist strength has not been expressed in the latest cycle of elections. This has resulted in Nationalists being under represented in the Assembly and in Westminster. Perhaps Brexit may wake up apathetic Nationalists. If  Nationalist turnout can match Unionist turnout in the first post Brexit election, perhaps this result will provide the evidence required for a Unity Ref. Perhaps it won't and the waiting game of demographic change will go on.

The most significant development of the lot came from Taoiseach Enda Kenny. He has stated a possible border poll should be included as part of the Brexit negotiations.


"The discussions and negotiations that will take place over the next period should take into account the possibility, however far out that it might be, that the clause in the Good Friday Agreement might be triggered. In that if there is clear evidence of a majority of people wishing to leave the United Kingdom and join the Republic, that that should be catered for in the discussions that take place".

What the Fine Gael leader is saying here is that as part of the Brexit negotiations he will seek a guarantee that a future United Ireland will gain automatic membership of the European Union. Therefore when there is a Unity Referendum in the future, voters will know that a vote for a United Ireland will be a vote for a United Ireland within the EU. There would be no ambiguity as there was in the Scottish Independence Referendum.

The onus is now on the Fine Gael government, the minority government backed Fianna Faíl and main opposition party Sinn Féin to ensure that the promise of this guarantee is delivered.

The government should veto any Brexit outcome that does not include this guarantee. This is of vital importance because a future Unity Referendum for a United Ireland in the EU versus a UK of England and Wales outside of the EU is a political game changer.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Assembly Election 2016


The final ballot papers have been counted. The Assembly will be made up of 38 DUP, 28 SF, 16 UUP, 12 SDLP, 8 Alliance, 2 PBP, 2 Green Party, 1 TUV and 1 Independent seat. 56 MLAs will designate as Unionist, 40 as Nationalist and the remaining 12 as Other. Those who will designate as Nationalist took a mere 36% of the first preference vote, down over 5% on the 2011 Assembly Election. From the European elections of 2014 to this Assembly Election, this election cycle has been extremely disappointing for Nationalism.

There has traditionally been a correlation with political affiliation and religion. Democratic change has meant that the Catholic population in the North is due to overtake the Protestant population in 2017. In 2023 there should be a Catholic electorate majority (or plurality). The strategy is that as demographic change takes place and the Catholic population grows, so too will the Nationalist vote. Once the Nationalist vote has overtaken the Unionist vote a referendum on Irish Unity would be triggered. This would result in the reunification of Ireland.

This strategy is currently in tatters and Nationalism is in crisis. Why has the Nationalist vote collapsed?

People Before Profit received 2% of the vote and took two seats.  PBP are an All Ireland Party and say they oppose the border yet they will not designate as Nationalist as they see themselves primarily as Socialists. A motion on the border needs to be put in the early days of the Assembly to test them on this. Even if we say the Nationalist vote was 38% this is still a miserable return.

Apathy again is the real problem. Many Nationalists no longer vote for SF or the SDLP because of a perceived liberal view on social issues such as abortion and same sex marriage. Many don't vote because they believe that partaking in the Northern Assembly is akin to administering of British rule in Ireland. Most though it seems don't vote because they simply don't give a shit!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Labour Force Survey 2014



The Labour Force Survey for 2014 has been published. The LFS gives us an annual demographic breakdown of the Working Age Population and general population from the age of 16. Although results can be erratic due to variances in the samples taken, the trends can be used to determine future voting patterns given the strong correlation between religion and political affiliation.

Working Age Population
"The difference between the proportion of Protestants and Catholics in the working age population has fallen from 13 percentage points in 1990 to one percentage point in 2014. In 1990 the religious composition of the population of working age was 54% Protestant, 41% Catholic & 6% other/non determined. In 2014 the corresponding figures were 44%, 43% and 13%."

"Over this period, the number of Protestants of working age increased by 3% (from 495,000 to 511,000), the number of working age Catholics increased by 35% (from 375,000 to 504,000), and the number of those classified as 'other/non-determined' almost trebled (from 53,000 to 149,000)".

The definition of "working age" was changed in 2010. Therefore this seems a good starting point to look at the more recent trend.



Population Aged 16+
"The proportion of Protestants has fallen by nine percentage points between 1990 and 2014, from 56% to 47%, while the proportion of Catholics has increased by three percentage points from 38% to 41%, over this same period. The proportion of the population classified as 'other/non-determined' has doubled (from 6% to 12%) over this period".

"Between 1990 and 2014 the number of Protestants aged 16 and over increased by 35,000, or 5%, to 678,000, while the number of Catholics increased by 150,000, or 34%, to 590,000 over the same period. The number of people aged 16 and over classified as 'other/non-determined' has almost trebled from 63,000 to 170,000 over this period".

The more recent trend can be seen in the graph below



Population Aged 16-24
The proportion of Protestants has decreased between 1990 and 2014 (from 49% to 42%), while the proportion of Catholics increased (from 44% to 45%), and the proportion classified as 'other'/non-determined' has almost doubled form 7% to 13%, over the same period.

"Between 1990 and 2014, the number of Protestants in this age group has decreased by 25,000 (22%) to 91,000. The number of Catholics has also decreased over the period, albeit to a lesser extent, from 105,000 to 96,000 (9%). These decreases have been somewhat offset by an increase among those classified as 'other/non-determined' from 16,000 in 1990 to 28,000 in 2014."



Population Aged 60+
"The composition of the population aged 60+ between 1990 and 2014 who identified as Protestant has decreased from 66% in 1990 to 59% in 2014, while the proportion of Catholics has increased from 30% to 33% over the same period. Five percent of those aged 60 and over were classified as 'other/not-determined' in 1990; by 2014 this proportion had increased to 8%".

"There were 166,000 Protestants aged 60 and over in 1990 and this has increased to 216,000 by 2014. The number of Catholics in this age group has increased from 76,000 to 122,000 over the same period. The 11,000 who were aged 60 and over classified as 'other/non-determined' in 1990 had almost trebled to 30,000 by 2014".



Conclusion
Among the Working Age Population the gap between the two main religious blocks stands at only 7,000 or 1 percentage point in 2014.

Among those aged 16 and over the gap between the two communities is 88,000 or 6 percentage points.

Are these trends likely to continue? The answer lies in the two population cohorts aged 16-24 and over 60.

Among the 16-24 year old's there is a majority of 5,000 more Catholics or 3 percentage points.

Among those aged 60 and over, in 2014 there were 94,000 more Protestants a gap of 26%.

So with more Catholics entering the workforce and more Protestants reaching retirement age we can expect to see parity in the 2015 or 2016 Labour Force Survey. It is also evident that the general demographic trends will continue at pace.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

University Matters


A Loyalist newspaper has ran a front cover story of the "stark religious divide at university".  The article informs of the demographic make up of new entrants into third level education in the North in the last academic year. Protestants make up 14,195 (29.5%) of those entering university, compared to 21,765 (45.3%) Catholics. This would leave 12,115 (25.2%) Other (no religion/no disclosed/overseas students etc.). Leaving aside the others the breakdown is 61% Catholic, 39% Protestant.

According to UUP spokesperson Sandra Overend the reason for this "educational inequality" is because Sinn Féin were not tackling the issue. DUP spokesman Peter Weir went one better and blamed a "chill factor" for Protestants attending university because of the behaviour of Catholics.

Presumably this bad behaviour includes wearing GAA gear, use of the native Irish language and celebrating St. Partick's Day.

There is educational under achievement particularly among Protestant boys. This is a damning indictment of the failure of Unionist politicians to show leadership. They would much rather concentrate on bonfires, parades, flags and the past.

Let's be clear educational under achievement has very little to do with the demographic make up of the North's third level colleges. Some suggest that there is a "protestant brain drain" whereby more protestants go to university in Britain and stay there to work once they graduate. This may be a factor but the major reason for the "relious divide" of new entrants into the North's universities is demographics.

The School's Census which is published every year shows a trend towards a 60:40 Catholic Protestant split in our schools. It is therefore not really surprising that entrants into universities show the same ratio.