Sunday, December 26, 2010

Registrar General's Quaterly Report (2010 Q3)

On 22 December the Register General's Quaterly report was released for 2010 Q3. The birth and death rate per district council area are released in this report. Of the 26 councils 11 are majority Catholic areas and 10 are majority Protestant areas as per the 2001 census. Taking the average birth and death rates of both the Unionist majority councils and the Nationalist majority councils gives us the following table for Q3.

Unionist majority councils Nationalist majority councils Councils with no clear majority
Birth rate 12.6 14.5 15.9
Death rate 8.0 6.6 6.8

We see that for Q3 the birth rate in Nationalist majority councils is 14.5 births per 1,000 people. This is significantly higher than the Protestant birthrate of 12.6. Furtermore, the death rate in Unionist majority councils is significantly higher than that of Catholics. The latest quaterly report does not tell us much we did not already know, it merely confirms that these trends are coninuing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Spending cuts

In order to tackle the UKs budget defecit Chancellor George Osborne has set out a four year plan to introduce budget cuts of £4 billion in Northern Ireland. This will significantly reduce the block grant paid by the British government to Northern Ireland which currently stands at between £9 billion to £9.5 billion.
While these cuts will lead to 30,000 public sector job losses and will undoubtably be very painful, it does bring the block grant to a more realistic and sustainable level.

The reason for such a staggering block grant is simply that the public sector in Northern Ireland is much too large (believed to be around 66%).

Every party agrees that the private sector needs to be grown and the public sector reduced accordingly. This dependence on the public sector dissuades potential investors, causing relative poverty in Northern Ireland.

Now that the public sector is to be cut, the next stage in a self sustaining Northern Ireland is to grow the private sector. This is unlikely to happen within the UK. For one thing it would necessitate a reduction in corporation tax to match the Republics 12.5%. No UK government will do this for the North of Ireland. They are more interested in what is right for South East England, and besides could you imagine the reaction in Scotland and Wales if a concession like this was given to Northern Ireland.

Senior economists predict that (at least) a massive 90,000 jobs could be created if the North was allowed to adopt the economic policies of the rest of Ireland.

With the reduction in the block grant through spending cuts and the potential to eliminate it all together with growth in the private sector through All Ireland economic policy, the claim that the Republic of Ireland could not afford Northern Ireland is turned on its head (not withstanding the current economic difficulties south of the border). Also when there is an upturn in the global economy and Irish economies, the economic argument will further no longer wash as a valid excuse as to why there should not be a United Ireland.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Election date set

Despite earlier reports that the Assembly and Local elections would be held earlier than the May 5 date of the Alternative vote introduction referendum, it has been confirmed  that the date for all three elections will indeed be held on May 5.

The main issues which are likely to dominate the elections include the strong possibility of Martin McGuiness becoming First Minister, the impact of the cuts to the Northern Ireland budget, the economy, the Irish Language Act, the issue of parading and the possible reduction in the number of MPs.

The impact that the TUV will be of interest (Jim Allister has stated that he intends to stand in most of the constituencies) as will the effect of Tom Elliots take over of the leadership of the UUP. It will also be interesting to see what form of "Unionist Unity" measures are put in place and how the three main Unionist parties split of the votes pans out. What will be the effect this will have on Martins McGuinesses chances of becoming head honcho?

On the Nationalist side, can SF continue to gain ground on the SDLP or will Margaret Richie be able to costruct a SDLP revival?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Reduction in number of MPs

According to a BBC article, Nigel Dodds has spoke out against the passing of the bill to change the Westminster election voting system and reduce the number of Northern MPs.

The question arises as to why Dodds is critical of the bill. We already know that he will be struggling to hold his North Belfast seat at the next general election if current demographic and electoral trends in that constituency continue.

At present Unionists hold 9 seats, Nationalists hold 8 and Alliance hold 1. As the Alliance party won a seat in East Belfast due to the unpopularity of Peter Robinson, I think it is fair to say that many of the votes for Alliance in the constituency were drawn from Unionist voters.

Lets assume that Unionists hold 10 seats and Nationalists hold 8. Assuming that there are no changes to constituencies or the number of MPs at the next Westminster elections and Gerry Kelly wins North Belfast as expected, we will be left with 9 Unionist seats and 9 Nationalist seats. For the first time ever unionists will not have a majority of seats.

Under the proposals being pushed through by the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition in Britain the number of MPs in the north could be reduced from 18 to 15 seats, a loss of 3 seats. Does Nigel know something the rest of us do not? Is he worried that if the number of MPs are reduced by 3, it might be possible that a situation may arise where Nationalists actually have more MPs than Unionists after the next general election?

Monday, September 6, 2010

UUP leadership

On Wednesday 22nd of September the UUP will have a new leader. The leadership battle is to be a two horse race between a traditionalist Tom Elliot and a moderniser Basil McCrea.

A profile of each candidate is available on the UUP website.

Basil McCrea

Cllr Basil McCrea MLA was elected in 2007 to the Northern Ireland Assembly as an Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) member for Lagan Valley.
He is also a UUP Councillor on Lisburn City Council and a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board and UUP spokesman on Education.
Basil was educated at Belfast Royal Academy before attaining a Chemical Engineering degree from the University of Birmingham. He later attained a degree in Advanced Computer Technology from the University of Ulster.

Tom Elliot

Political Career:Active member of the Fermanagh Unionist Association for many years
Honorary Secretary of the Fermanagh Unionist Association from 1998
Ulster Unionist Councillor on Fermanagh District Council from 2001, serving on following committees - Development, Planning, Policy & Resources; Environmental Services; Equality Impact.
Election Agent for James Cooper in the 2001 Westminster Elections
Chairman of internal Ulster Unionist ad-hoc Review group for its duration 2000/1

Special Interests:
Agriculture and Regional Development.

Educated Ballinamallard P.S.; Duke of Westminister High School, Ballinamallard & Kesh; Enniskillen College of Agriculture - College Certificate in Agriculture.
Farmer on family run Beef and Dairy farm.
Part-time Ulster Defence Regiment and Royal Irish Regiment for 18 years

Elliot the traditionalist is an Orangeman. He favors of a formal link up with the DUP in a bid to form "unionist unity". He does not favor continuing the link with the British Tories and has spoken of his determination to change the St Andrews agreement so a nationalist cannot be elected as First Minster.

McCrea is strictly opposed to doing any deal with the in any form with the DUP and is also against a continuation of the Tory link.

The bookmakers have not yet published odds but it would appear that Elliot is seen as the favorite.

If Elliot wins and this man is given a platform to speak on behalf of moderate unionism, he will, with his 'traditional unionism' views antagonise and agitate many people. In fact he has already started with anti GAA and anti gay remarks.

Past experience tells us that as unionism attempts to strategise in order to encumber nationalism does not work. We saw this in Fermanagh and South Tyrone this year. Attempts at 'unionist unity' had the opposite effect and led to nationalist motivation. Elliot's appointment will ensure nationalism will again be motivated in upcoming elections. It may also lead to increased unionist apathy and ensure that people who occupy the centre ground or whom are indifferent to the constitutional question, will not look to unionist parties on polling day.

Best of luck Tom.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Census 2011

Sunday 27 March 2011 is the date Census 2011 will be conducted. It is not yet known when results will be published but it should be noted that this is the first time that census information can be completed online. Consequently results are expected to be published earlier than in previous censuses. The census which is conducted every ten years will provide "comprehensive demographic statistics for small areas and small population groups, as well as Northern Ireland as a whole. Information from the Census is used extensively across the public, private and voluntary sectors and has many important uses".

However, the reality is many people will be looking at census results for a breakdown of the two main religious blocks and to ascertain whether trends from previous censuses are continuing.

Table S306 of the 2001 census can be summarised in the following table:

Protestant Catholic Other
Population 53.1% 43.8% 3.1%
Electorate 56.2% 41.5% 2.3%

It will be interesting to see the 2011 version of this table.

The evolution of trends will also be of keen interest. This graph taken from the 2001 census shows that the 'tipping point' is the age of 27 i.e. the population above the age of 27 is majority Protestant and the population below the age of 27 is majority Catholic. Will the 2011 equivalent of this table show the 'tipping point' has moved exactly ten years to the right?

This chart shows the growth in the Catholic population based on census results from 1961 to 2001 (the results are based on this table on CAIN). Will the Catholic population reach/surpass the 45% mark and will the Protestant population dip below 50% for the first time once the 2011 census results are published?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fianna Fáil to move North?

Brian Cowen travelled to the Armagh village of Crossmaglen on Thursday to open the latest Fianna Fáil office in the North. This follows the setting up of FF forums in Fermanagh, Down and Armagh. Plans are believed to be in place to set up foums in Antrim, Derry and Tyrone in the coming months. FF already have large cummans in the Norths main universities.

All this poses one question. Will they be contesting the 2011 assembly elections? It is of course too early to say but according to one article they are.

“This is about a bottom-up approach and there is no question of us contesting elections in the immediate future,” said a senior Fianna Fáil source yesterday.

As the assembly elections are fought under the Single-Transferable-Vote system, their entry in to the North would not have the effect of vote splitting. Also it would be interesting to see where they would get votes from. Nationalist voters do not have a centre right pro business party to vote for so one would imagine they will take votes from both SF and the SDLP. In 2008 a former Ulster Unionist Councillor and businessman from south Down joined Fianna Fáil so it will be interesting to see how many votes the party can attract from Unionists IF they contest elections next March.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Catholic/Nationalist and Protestant/Unionist

Some people do not take kindly to others describing Catholics as Nationalists, and Nationalists as Catholics interchangeably. Similarly, the same can be said with those who refer to 'Protestants' to describe the Unionist community. They argue that just because one is a Catholic, does not make them an automatic Nationalist and similarly, a Protestant is not necessarily a Unionist.

It is interesting to compare the the Nationalist electorate to the Catholic electorate. The Catholic electorate is relatively easy to calculate. Looking at table S306 of the 2001 census, by adding the totals of people aged 9 years and over in 2001 (they are 18 in 2010) and removing the few people who were 90 and over in 2001 we see that the Catholic electorate is 43.0%. The election in 2010 showed that Nationalist parties received 42.0%. This is an almost exact correlation.

Using the same approach, the Protestant electorate in 2010 per the 2001 census was 54.4%. The 2010 election shows Unionist parties received 50.5% of the vote. Although not quite as correlated as the Nationalist/Catholic electorate, the Protestant/Unionist correlation is strikingly similar.

It may be 'politically incorrect' to refer to Nationalists and Catholics and Protestants and Unionists interchangeably, however it may not be entirely 'factually incorrect'.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Leinster final

Yesterday we witnessed an absolute belter of a Leinster football final. It looked like Louth were going to win their first Leinster title in 53 years, until a last gasp Joe Sheridan goal snatched victory for Meath. TV replays clearly showed should have been disallowed. How neither the referee nor the 2 umpires behind the goal did not see that the ball was carried over the line American football style touchdown is beyond me. The bookmakers are offering odds of 15/8 that there will be a replay. However with the faith I have in the GAA hierarchy and the CCCC (whatever that means) I think i'll save my money to back Brazil winning the next World Cup at 4/1.

12th of July

Here, on the glorious 12th of July we see the supporters of the "Orangefest" sing "The Famine Song". The words "Why don't you go home" must seem very ironic to the indigenous community!

I am sure the people they are telling to go home will have no problem with these marches as long as marchers and their drunken, loutish followers don't march where they are clearly not wanted.

Then again, maybe if they look at these kind of photos maybe they will!

KAT = Kill All Taigs (Catholics)
FAP = F*ck All Papists

So what exactly is the 12th? Unrest begins on the night before as loyalists prepare for their July 12 commerations by burning Irish tricolours on huge bonfires. The day itself sees hundreds of parades across the north. Most are not contentious. However marches through Nationalist neighbourhoods usually are. Why? Ask yourself what the reaction would be if the Klu Kluk Klan were to march through Harlem!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Beware the ides of March

It was originally planned to hold a referendum on changing the Westminster voting system on the same day as the Assembly and Local elections. It has been confirmed that the referendum will be held on May 5.

However according to the BBC NI politicians and electoral authorities "favour holding the scheduled elections to the 26 councils on an earlier date, probably the first Thursday in March."

The first Thursday of March 2011 is of course the March 3rd which is less than eight months from now. Expect the election campaign to kick off in the Autumn.

FAI vs. IFA - European Court of Arbitration for Sport

On Monday 19 July the Irish Football Association will take the Football Association of Ireland to the European Court of Arbitration for Sport in a final and desperate attempt to deny Irish citizens from the North the opportunity to represent their country.

Unionists argue that if a player born in Northern Ireland has no links with the Republic of Ireland (parent/grandparent born there) should not be allowed to play with this "foreign country". They already have a small player pool and with half of their professional footballers declaring for the ROI team, this will have a detrimental affect on their team.

Nationalists argue that the GFA allows them an automatic right to Irish citizenship and therefore they should not be prevented from playing for their country in which they hold citizenship or at the very least they should be entitled to the choice.

Darron Gibson, Marc Wilson and Shane Duffy are examples of high profile footballers who have made the switch from playing underage football with NI to declare for the Ireland senior squad. The Ireland underage squads also have numerous northern based players in their squads.

The problem for these players, other than not wanting to play for a country that does not represent them is that the IFA is a British football association which is supported almost exclusively by Unionists. The anthem is God Save the Queen, the flag is the unionist unofficial flag of Northern Ireland, complete with crown. The stadium Windsor Park is located in a staunchly loyalist area of Belfast and union jacks can be seen on match days. Add to this the sectarian abuse that catholic players have received in the past including death threats to former Celtic F.C captain and current manager Neil Lennon and it is not difficult to see why more and more northern players are declaring for Ireland.

Many of the teams supporters argue that things have changed and that sectarian abuse of catholics is a thing of the past. This is open to debate. While the IFA must be commended for their 'Football for All' initiative to rid itself of sectarianism, it was only last year that NI played Poland in Windsor Park. It is well documented the abuse that Artur Boruc received as were the riots that ensued with the Polish supporters. Now it is no secret that Polish fans have a hooligan element. However the fact that Boruc was the Celtic goalkeeper at the time and the fact that Polish fans are predominantly Catholic, does call in to question if sectarianism was not an element in the trouble that day.

This will be the IFAs thrid attempt to block nationalist players playing for their country. Twice they have gone to FIFA and twice they have been told where to go. On Monday week I expect the CAS to send the IFA home with their tail between their legs. They will not ignore FIFAs two previous rulings nor will they defy or violate an internationally binding agreement between two sovereign nations. This blog will return to this issue after the ruling.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Political support

The CAIN website produces an interesting table of political support for the three blocks (nationalist, unionist and other).  I have reproduced this table in graph form.

The trend is clear. It is one of unionist decline and subsequent nationalist improvement. In 1986 the westminster by-elections were as a result of the resignation of all unionist MPs in December 1985 in protest to the Anglo Irish Agreement. As nationalists did not resign their seats there was no by-elections for these seats. Nationalists did stand in the marginal constituencies held by unionists, hence the 18.6% of the vote. There is also a drop in the unionist vote in the 1977 local government election and a less pronounced drop in the nationalist vote. These are offset by an equal but opposite increase in the 'other' vote so it is safe to assume that the other candidate took votes from unionists and to a lesser extent nationalists. Other than those two elections the unionist and nationalist lines are fairly smooth considering it will never be entirely smooth due to variances in turnout.

Im sure unionists will argue that the trend has leveled off at the turn of the century. However when one considers that nationalist turnout has decreased in every election since 2001, and by 2010 it had decreased 15.6% since the 2001 westminster election, yet the nationalist vote has held firm (abeit the unionist turnout also declined by 8.7%) it is obvious that the surge in nationalist numbers continues and will do until it overtakes unionism in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Electoral turnout

One of the main arguments unionists make for the narrow difference between the number of votes for unionism and the number of votes for nationalism (57,102 in 2010 westminster election and 42,272 in 2007 assembly election) in elections is that there is a greater level of unionist apathy among the electorate than nationalists.

In order to test this theory it is necessary to get a breakdown of both nationalist turnout and unionist turnout in recent elections.

For want of a better system, I have used the 18 constituencies as the basis for my analysis. If we take the eight constituencies held by nationalists and get the average turnout for each of these constituencies, we can assume that subject to an inevitable margin of error, that this average represents nationalist turnout. Similarly the same methodology can be used to calculate the unionist turnout. I have excluded european elections from our analysis due to the low turnout compared to assembly and westminster elections

The results are clear. In the early part of this decade nationalists were more likely to vote than unionists and the argument of greater unionist apathy was valid. However, In more recent elections the turnout of the two blocks seems to have leveled off. What is worrying for unionists is that as the nationalist turnout has declined one might expect the gap in the difference in votes between the two blocks to increase. However it has in fact fallen from approximately 70,000  to approximately 40,000! Unionism has reason to worry.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The 2009 balance sheet

As written by Horseman (RIP) in prior years, this blog (using a previous ulstersdoomed blog as a template) will examine the changes in the sizes of the two main religious blocks (Protestant and Catholic) during 2009 in order to get some idea of the changes in the relative sizes of the two main political blocks (unionist and nationalist).
Since we do not have any reliable statistics on migration, we are left with only the other components of the 'natural' evolution of the population to look at: births and deaths. In the context of politics, of course, a voter is 'born' at chronological age 18!


NISRA published their Press Notice on Deaths in Northern Ireland in 2009 in March, which provides the actual number of deaths for each age band (in Table 3). Combining this with the results of the 2001 Census (Table S306 : Age By Sex And Community Background (Religion Or Religion Brought Up In)), and moving the 2001 cohorts forward to more closely match their actual ages in 2009, it is possible to estimate the religious (and thus political) affiliations of the deceased people, and thereby to estimate the relative losses for each of the main political blocks.

The result is as follows. Of the 14,413 deaths in 2009, around 5,060 are likely to have been Catholic, 9,175 Protestant, and 178 'other' or no religion. From a political perspective, of course, only voters matter, so if we take only those of voting age, around 4,946 were Catholic, 9,074 Protestant, and 161 'other' or no religion. So, in the course of the single year 2009 unionism lost 4,128 more potential votes than nationalism through death.

In the 2007 Assembly elections unionism won 335,888 votes (48.7% of the total), to nationalism's 293,767 (42.6% of the total). The gap between the two main blocks was therefore 42,121 votes. In the 2007 Assembly election the turn-out was only 61.9%, so the 4,128 potential votes would normally represent only 2,556 actual votes (61.9% x 4,128). However, older people have a higher than average turnout rate, and thus the real losses to the two blocks through death is actually higher. There are a number of studies that show that older people are very likely to vote (in the order of 85%), while younger people have turnout rates of barely over 50% . So, out of the loss of 4,128 potential voters due to deaths the actual net loss to unionism may have been 3,303 actual votes, or 7.8% of its 2007 advantage. If the evolution of the electorate was dependent on deaths alone, unionism's lead would be cut to zero within 13 years!

But there is another factor - the new voters that the two main political blocks can expect to gain as voters reach their 18th birthdays.

New voters

This is a fairly easy calculation, as the people who turned 18 in 2009 will largely be those who were 10 in 2001, when the Census recorded their religions (in Table S306 : Age By Sex And Community Background (Religion Or Religion Brought Up In)). Migration may also play a small part, but since 18 year-olds who move (to university, for instance) tend to remain registered at their home address, if they vote at all, it is likely to be in the same place that they lived as children. The religious break-down of 10 year-olds in 2001 was as follows: Catholic – 13,124 (50.1%), Protestant – 11,803 (45.1%), other religion or none – 1,262 (4.8%).

So around 26,189 new voters came of age in 2009. For 1,262 of them no real conclusions can be drawn, but for the vast majority this blog's working hypothesis (reminder: that (constitutional) political preferences in the north of Ireland are very closely related to religious affiliation) tends to indicate a net gain for nationalism of 1,321 potential voters (though remember their low turn-out rate). If we combine these figures with those for deaths, we can calculate a rough balance sheet for 2009, taking the votes in the 2007 Assembly election, adding the new voters and subtracting the deaths. Allowance is made for the different turnout rates of younger and older people. While no data on this has been published specifically for Northern Ireland - a very politicised society - evidence from Britain shows that youthful disaffection is massive. This analysis will take this into account by estimating a conservative turnout rate of 80% for the older voters, and 50% for new voters.


The calculations below include the balance sheets for 2007 and 2008 as calculated in previous years:

(1) Nationalism
2007 Assembly election: 293,767 (42.6% of the total)

2007 gains - New voters: 13,352 x 50% = 6,676
2007 losses - Deaths (voting age only): 4,874 x 80% = 3,899

2008 gains - New voters: 12,902 x 50% = 6,451
2008 losses - Deaths (voting age only): 5,321 x 80% = 4,257

2009 gains – New voters: 13,124 x 50% = 6,562
2009 losses – Deaths (voting age only): 4,946 x 80% = 3,957

New total: 301,343

(2) Unionism
2007 Assembly election: 335,888 votes (48.7% of the total)

2007 gains - New voters: 11,941 x 50% = 5,970
2007 losses - Deaths (voting age only): 9,517 x 80% = 7,614

2008 gains - New voters: 11,904 x 50% = 5,952
2008 losses - Deaths (voting age only): 9,388 x 80% = 7,510

2009 gains – New voters: 11,803 x 50% = 5,902
2009 losses – Deaths (voting age only): 9,074 x 80% = 7,259

New total: 331,329

(3) Others or no religion
2007 Assembly election: 60,658 votes (8.8% of the total)

2007 gains - New voters: 1,110 x 50% = 555
2007 losses - Deaths (voting age only): 145 x 80% = 116

2008 gains - New voters: 1,157 x 50% = 579
2008 losses - Deaths (voting age only): 176 x 80% = 141

2009 gains – New voters: 1,262 x 50% = 631
2009 losses – Deaths (voting age only): 161 x 80% = 129

New total: 62,037

At the end of 2009, therefore, we might have expected a voting electorate of 694,709, of whom: 301,343 will vote nationalist (43.4%), 331,329 will vote unionist (47.7%), and 62,037 will vote for other candidates (8.9%).

The gap between nationalism and unionism, 42,121 votes in the 2007 Assembly election, would be reduced to 29,986, representing a reduction in this gap of 12,135. In only three years, therefore, unionism would have lost over 28% of its numerical superiority over nationalism.

2010, of course, allowed us an opportunity to test these assumptions against the results of the Westminster election. Although somewhat distorted by a low turnout (57.6%) which was significantly lower than the 2007 Assembly election (63.5%), it was intrusive to know that the percentages that voted for the three blocks were similar to those calculated above (unionist 50.5%, nationalist 42.0% and others 7.5%) and the gap between the unionist and nationalist totals was 57,102. Although the gap is higher than calculated above this may be attributed to a decrease in nationalist turnout (the average turnout in constituencies won by nationalists) of 9.9% compared to a 3.7% decrease in unionist turnout.


Last year we estimated that unionism had less than 9 years of numerical superiority left. The updating of the statistics to include 2009 shows that this estimate still stands, but since one of those years has now passed, unionism probably only has eight years left before it is equalled or overtaken by nationalism. This is a purely statistical calculation and turn-out rates or 'novelties' (like Alliance winning a seat in East Belfast) may influence the actual outcomes at each election – but in the long run the trend will probably continue, unless one or other block succeeds in attracting votes from its rival politico-ethno-religious group.