Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Haass No Deal

"NI talks end w/o accord; gaps persist past, parades, flags; will explore if a last push justified; hope so, as all would gain from pact" - Richard N. Haass (@RichardHaass).

As predicted there is no deal, no agreement. No post mortem is being carried out as "the patient is still alive".

There is no point in a "last push". Unionism is not capable of compromise. Full stop.

On flags Nationalism holds a position that the Irish flag should fly freely from all public buildings throughout Ireland. The starting position adopted by Nationalists in the Haass talks was one flag or no flag. This was already a compromise. Nationalism was prepared to compromise further on this position. Unionism wanted to fly the Union Jack 365 days a year. A bottom line, not an inch! So much for the "Democratic" Unionist Party!

On parading the Nationalist position is there should be no sectarian marches through Nationalist areas. Compromise was made and Loyalist parades were to be facilitated after a process of dialogue. Unionists even objected to a Haass suggestion that "songs or hymes that could cause offense" be omitted.

On the past, Unionists could not agree that there are two narratives on the past.

The North is a failed entity. Brian Groom (@GroomB) on Twitter has produced evidence. Time for change.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Scottish Independence 'White Paper'

This week Alex Salmond, the talented politician and Scottish First Minister launched a White Paper on independence, outlining the overriding reasons why Scotland should leave the UK and become a separate state. The blueprint for independence details the policies that the SNP would hope to pursue post independence and outlines positions in relation to currency, EU membership, defence, tax, childcare and welfare.

Of course it should be said that the decision on whether Scotland should be an independent country is an issue for the Scottish people. However, the decision of the people of Scotland is likely to have an effect on us here in Ireland.

I personally do not see how an Independent Scotland would be of benefit to Ireland. Ireland has a unique position of being an independent English speaking country within the EU and Eurozone. It has the economic levers to attract investment and tailor economic policy to the needs of the economy. There is a readily available highly educated workforce pouring out of our Universities.

Scottish independence is a threat to this unique position and to the huge FDI in which Ireland receives. Take for example the Europe Asia Trading Hub (EATH) which has been approved planning permission and is to be built in Athlone. Ireland beat off stiff opposition from other European countries for this hugely economically significant project. It's not over the line yet as 'time and space is being afforded to attract the necessary investment'. However, how would one feel if an independent Scotland made a play for this facility and snatched it from Ireland at the last minute? Could an independent Scotland with new pro agri-food policies try to replicate the Glanbia dairy plant currently under construction in the South East, threatening the potential boost to the rural economy and creation of 1,600 jobs?

Of course in terms of the North there are those that believe that an independent Scotland would mean a break up of the UK which further threatens Northern Ireland's attachment to England. Does it thought?

Unionists seem to think so. In fact Unionist politicians are absolutely bricking it at the thought of Scotland gaining it's independence. Why is this? The more I hear and read of their desperation for Scotland to remain in the UK the more I am rooting for the 'Yes' side.

Sammy Wilson is worried

Peter Robinson feels the future of the Union is at stake

Reg Empey warns Scottish Independence could re-ignite the troubles (and turn the North into West Pakistan!)

Trimble accuses Scottish Nationalists of doing voilence to peoples identity

Lord Kilclooney advocates partition of Scotland if 'Yes' side win

Monday, November 25, 2013

European Elections 2014 - Preview

At the 2013 DUP conference last weekend there was not one mention of the on-going Haass talks on the contentious issues of flags, parading and dealing with the legacy of the past. Instead the DUP set out it's stall for the upcoming elections in May.

No decision has been made on whether they will run one candidate or two in the Euro election. Peter Robinson tells us the decision will be based on what ever is best for Unionism. In other words Peter is telling us he will not do anything which will risk handing the third seat to Nationalists.

The DUP will strike a deal with the UUP and agree to run one candidate. This will allow the UUP's Jim Nicholson pole position to hold the third seat. In return for this concession to the UUP, the DUP will demand co-operation/Unionist Unity or agreement from the UUP not to stand candidates for the marginal seats in the 2015 Westminster elections. The UUP will agree as loosing their European seat will leave the party without a single MP or MEP. This could be a death knell for the party.

Sinn Féin may themselves very well be considering running a second candidate (probably Belfast based) to run alongside Martina Anderson. This may run the risk that Alex Attwood of the SDLP will take the Nationalist seat. However with the STV system this is unlikely. SF voters will transfer to SF candidates. The announcement of two SF running candidates would also put it up to the DUP to do likewise.

The decision to run one or two candidates may come down to Psephology (election science) whereby a general rule is that if a single candidate is likely to receive a quota of 1.55, it is likely that two candidates could be elected with the help of transfers.

Already confirmed to be fighting for the maximum of two Unionist seats are Dianne Dodds (DUP), Jim Nicholson (UUP) and Henry Reilly (UKIP). It is expected that John McCallister will run for NI21.The PUP have indicated that they will run a candidate as has Jamie Bryson, the outspoken 'fleg' protest organiser (first to loose £5k deposit?). The TUV being the TUV will not want to further fragment the Unionist vote will stand aside and give their backing to another candidate (probably Henry Reilly).

So with a rather crowded Unionist field of six or seven candidates as well the 'Others' being represented by Ross Brown of the Green Party and an unconfirmed Alliance candidate, there will be talk/scaremongering in the months ahead about the possibility of Nationalists winning the third seat.

In the 2009 European Elections Unionists received 237,436 votes accounting for 49% of total votes. Nationalists received 204,673 (42.2%). A difference of 32,763. Turnout was low at 42.8%.

Will a congested Unionist field result in any significant number of votes being lost in the transfer system of STV due to voters not transferring all the way down the line?

What effect will a low turnout have? Turnout has been declining in Nationalist areas at a faster pace than in Unionist areas. Will this trend continue?

What effect will voter apathy have? The recent drive to get names on the new Elector Register showed Unionist areas had more success. Greater voter apathy among Catholics/Nationalists? Has the decision by Belfast City Council to reduce the flying of the Union Jack over the City Hall had motivated the PUL community to turnout in greater numbers to the polling booths?

And of course what effect will demographic change since the last election have?

These are the factors which will determine who wins the all important third seat.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Demographic Timebomb

The 2011 Census revealed the gap between the two main blocks had decreased from 157,965 to 58,332 in ten years, the equivalent of a reduction of 9,963 per year.

If the trends of the last ten years are to continue, all things being equal, we can calculate the date in which parity is reached.

If the gap is closing by 9,963 per year, it is closing by 27.3 per day (9,963/365). With the gap of 58,332 it will take 2,136 days for parity to be achieved (58,332/27.3).

The Census was carried out on 27 March 2011. 2,136 days on from the this date is 30 January 2017!

Of course people under the age of 18 cannot vote. Excluding under 18s the gap between the main blocks in Census 2011 is 98,561. The gap in the 2001 census was 182,202. Between the last two census' the gap between the two main blocks has decreased by 8,364 per year or 22.9 per day. The gap of 98,561 divided by the change per day gives us 4,301 days. 4,301 days on from 27 March 2011 is 04 January 2023!


Dream Team

Ireland and the FAI have got their man. With speculation mounting and betting suspended it now appears to be a badly kept secret. Martin O'Neill will be unveiled as Ireland manager on Monday. The twitter machine has been into overdrive with news that MON is likely to unveil Roy Keane as his number two.

While Martin O'Neill's appointment is being welcomed by fans from Derry to Kerry, the appointment of Keane as assistant is proving to be divisive. It has stoked up tensions of the 'Civil War' which ensued following the Saipan debacle. The country seemed to be split down the middle as to who was at fault for the Manchester United captain's departure from World Cup 2002 in Japan and South Korea.

My own opinion of Saipan is that Mick McCarthy, Roy Keane and the FAI were all equally culpable. However, we are talking about a World Cup nearly 12 years in the memory. It's firmly in the past and it is time to move on.

O'Neill ticks all the right boxes. He is a good coach and has an excellent CV. His record at Leister City and Celtic is exceptional. At Sunderland he did not have his sidekick John Robertson by his side, after a positive start results began to flounder and Martin was shown the door. His replacement Paolo Di Canio's short reign and poorer points average is testament to the fact that Sunderland were wrong to sack O'Neill.
The partnership with Keane could be a masterstroke or it could all end in tears. There are fears of a media circus where the reporters are more interested in the outspoken Keane's comments rather than asking MON about the team and squad.

For this to work Keane needs to keep a relatively low profile and stay in the shadow of O'Neill who will be the 'Gaffer' after all. Keane also needs to realise he will not be calling the shots and do the job of an assistant manager rather than a joint manager. Marco Tardelli (lets not forget was also a high profile right hand man of Trapatonni) filled this role well.

Of course the FAI will be very happy in getting their man. The appointment of Keane as number two will be seen as an added bonus as it is bound to have a positive effect on attendances and generate much needed additional revenue for the organisation as it strives to clear it's Aviva Stadium debt.

There is no doubt with the expanded Euros Ireland have a great chance of making the short trip to France for Euro 2016. Ireland are second seeds in the 23 February draw (provided Romania don't win their two WC playoff games). With the top two in each group qualifying automatically and the safety net of a seeded playoff for a third place finish, qualification will be expected.

Let's wait until Monday for an official announcement and then get behind the new Management team starting with the upcoming international friendly against Latvia on 15 November at Lansdowne Road.

Possible Ireland starting XI
Coleman Dunne O'Shea Wilson
Gibson McCarthy Whelan
McGeady Houlihan

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Why is Unionism in Crisis?

The storming of Belfast City Hall, anti-democracy flag protests/rioting, Loyalist rioting in Ardoyne and Royal Avenue in Belfast, Castlereagh and the dramatic U-turn by Peter Robinson and the DUP on the Maze Peace Centre. It is clear that Unionism is in crisis.

Why is Unionism in crisis?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Flags, Symbols, Parading and The Past

September sees the beginning of all party talks to be chaired by US Diplomat and former US Envoy to Northern Ireland Dr Richard Haas. A set of recommendations will be brought forward before the end of the year on contentious issues such as Flags, Symbols, Parading and The Past.

The starting position on the Nationalist side in relation to the official flying of flags from public buildings is likely to be a demand for equal status for the Tri-Colour to that of the Union Jack. There are two communities in the North. The Irish Tri-Colour is the flag of the Irish Nation (32 counties) and represents the Nationalist Community in the North in the same way as the Union Jack represents the Unionist Community. If we are to have equality, the flags of both communities must be officially recognised. If flags are to be flown from public buildings then either both flags, no flags or an agreed neutral flag should be flown.

There should be strong regulation against displaying flags from lamp posts and street furniture.

The Unionist line will that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom. The Union Flag is the official flag of the UK and should be flown proudly over all public buildings 365 days a year. The Irish Tri-Colour is the flag of a foreign country and has no place being flown from official buildings in Northern Ireland. Unionists will object strongly to any suggestion that the Irish Tri-Colour should receive official recognition.

They will also resist any attempts to place restrictions from hanging flags from lamp posts or street furniture.

Possible outcomes include:

1. The Union Jack should be flown from all public buildings 365 days a year.

2. The Union Jack should be flown from all government buildings on designated days only.

3. It will be at the discretion of the Local District Council whether the Union Jack will be flown 365 days a year, on designated days only or not at all.

4. Where votes cast for designated Unionists in each Local District Council election are twice that of votes cast for designated Nationalists, the Union Jack should be flown 365 days a year. Where votes cast for designated Nationalists in each Local District Council election are twice that of votes cast for designated Unionists, the Union Jack will not be flown. Where neither scenario has occurred the Union Jack will be flown on designated days only (or something to that effect).

5. Either no flag or a neutral flag should be flown from all government buildings.

6. The Irish Tri-Colour will receive official recognition and should be flown from all public buildings along with the Union Jack

The independent adjudicators led by Richard Haass will conclude that official recognition for the Union Flag is required given that the North is currently part of the UK. They will also conclude that as we do not have a joint sovereignty situation it is not appropriate to officially recognise the Irish Tri-colour (much to the annoyance of Nationalists). The adjudicators will also try to avoid a zero sum solution with one side the clear 'winner' and the other side the 'loser'. This leaves options 2, 3 & 4 as realistic recommendations.

Given the Unionist and Loyalist reaction to the democratic decision to fly the Union Jack from Belfast City Hall on designated days only and the traditional "not an inch", "No Surrender" and "chipping away at our Britishness/cultural war" mantra, it is difficult to envisage Unionists accept anything other that option 1.

No side can get everything they want, that's why it's called a negotiation. Unionist won't get option 1 and will push for option 2, relishing an opportunity to have the Union Jack forced upon CRN communities on designated days even if it means it will not be flown 365 days a year in PUL dominated areas.

The independent panel will not recommend option 2 as it would be unacceptable to Nationalists who have majorities in half of the Local District Councils. The Unionist side will draw the line here and I predict that they will walk from the talks.

They may come back to the talks if concessions can be made in other areas as part of the overall negotiations (disbandment of the Parades Commission?). Option 3 may then be a runner or some variation to option 4.

As for displaying flags from every lamp post, god only knows what solutions will be on the table and how any determinations can/will be enforced.

The same arguments used in the flag debate will be used when discussions turn to symbols. The argument that there should not be official recognition for the Irish flag as the North is part of the UK might work for flags but this will not wash in terms of symbols. Stormont, City Halls, County Councils, Street names, hospitals, bridges, statues etc. are almost entirely Unionist. To reflect the cultural diversity of the six counties this is going to have to change.

The best thing to do with Parades is to ban them all. Unfortunately this scenario is unlikely. Nationalists as a minimum will look for parades, which seek to march through areas predominantly inhabited by residents from the another community to be prohibited. People's right to assemble should not over rule residents rights to live in peace and free from sectarian coat trailing exercises.

The main area of contention is likely to be the issue of parades in 'shared spaces' such as town centres. The independent Parades Commission should be retained for rulings on contentious parades in shared spaces.

Of course the Unionist position will be that the Orange and Loyal Orders should be able to march where they want, when they want. It is the "Queens Highway" after all! They will demand the Parades Commission is disbanded.

Other than accept that a new body made up of residents and parading representatives to make determinations on contentious parades, I cannot see Unionists compromise on parading. Nationalists may have to concede here if they can achieve concessions on flags, symbols and The Past.

The Past
Are there two narratives on the past or is there one? Both sides will disagree but can they agree to disagree? Unionist views on Republican commemorations of their dead are perfectly clear. This despite the completely hypocritical position they hold in relation to Remembrance Sunday (honouring British army dead responsible for as many acts of 'terror' and atrocities as any militia) and even UVF commemorations in Bangor and Colraine or in fact most Orange parades which have bands named after Loyalist paramilitaries.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Loyalists Against Democracy

Just for a bit of balance I am adding a Unionist/Loyalist blog to my blogroll. Loyalists Against Democracy was born out of the 'fleg' protests and is now Northern Ireland's most loyal loyal loyalist page. None are more loyal than LAD.

Widely followed on Facebook and Twitter they have now entered the blogosphere.

Here's the link:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Report Card 2012/2013

After being recalled to discuss the Red Sky controversy and again to discuss the Loyalist rioting and violence surrounding the 12th of the July, the Executive term 2012/2013 has come to an end. So how have each of the Ministers performed through out the Assembly term?

First Minister - Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson's term will be remembered for his handling of the anti-democracy 'fleg' protests following Belfast City Council's decision to restrict the flying of the Union Jack from the City Hall to designated days. The response of the DUP together with the UUP was to circulate 40,000 inflammatory leaflets to Unionist and Loyalist homes. The effect was to stoke tensions.
Several weeks and months of street rioting and violence ensued. His lack of leadership on this issue epitomises the lack of leadership shown by Unionism as a whole.

The U-turn on the Maze Peace Centre is yet another example of weak leadership. The renege on the agreement jeopardises 5,000 jobs and millions in investment on what has the potential to be one of the biggest tourist attractions in Ireland and Britain. £18m in European Peace Funds already looks to have been lost.

The First Minister has bowed to pressure from the TUV, UUP and Orange Order. Yet he has not uttered one word of condemnation on the Loyalist rioting and attacks on Police in Belfast during an anti internment parade. Neither has he condemned the attack on the Lord Mayor of Belfast.

Deputy First Minister - Martin McGuinness

Top of the class, from militant to peacemaker Martin has turned into quite the statesman. Following on from his handshake with the Queen of England which was described as a 'historic peace move', Martin continues to be well spoken and consistent in  his condemnation of dissident Republican's and the Orange Order. He urged Republicans to resist from celebrating the death of Margaret Thatcher. He extended his best wishes to Kate & William on the birth of their baby boy. Perhaps the most significant message given by McGuinness came in his speech to the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis, "I am so confident in my Irishness that I have no desire to chip away at the Britishness of my neighbours".

Finance Minister - Sammy Wilson

With the severe austerity being imposed by Westminster curtailing spending cuts to only 2% is an achievement in itself.

However the Finance Minister's deliberately provocative order to spend £10,000 of public money on erecting poles to display more Union flags from 5 government buildings in Belfast clearly shows where his priorities lie.

Sammy Wilson was also responsible for holding up the cross border Narrow Bridge project. Although the Irish government had already secured 80% of the funding, it was only when it looked like EU funding would be lost that he was backed into a corner and had no choice but to release funds and approve the scheme subject to several very dubious conditions.

Education Minister - John O'Dowd

While the removal of Academic selection to grade young people will go down as Education Minister, John O’Dowd's greatest achievement, the announcement of almost 300 additional jobs for recently qualified teachers during the term is also an achievement in the current economic environment.

On BBC television's The View, smaller parties complained that they had been kept in the dark about a shared future plan, to which Mr O'Dowd responded: "So what?" Harmless yes but it did come across as arrogance on Minister O'Dowd's part.

Health Minister - Edwin Poots

The Health minister deserves credit for exploring all Ireland health strategies with his southern counterpart James Reilly.

However Mr. Poots did come in for criticism when it was revealed that patients were waiting up to 70 weeks for orthopaedic surgery in a Derry Hospital. Poots also made headlines when he took a legal challenge against a decision by a Belfast court which allowed same sex couples to apply to adopt children. The DUP MLA was successful in his deliberate attempt to denigrate the 1916 Rising when he tweeted "had forgotten it is the 97th anniversary of a failed rising by subversives”. This provoked a twitter storm and a swift backlash from the riled Nationalist community.

Enterprise Trade and Employment Minister - Arlene Foster

A better year for the North's private sector development with private sector investment up 41%. Impressive given that economic policy of the UK government is not compatible with the economic needs of the North of Ireland.

However Arlene Foster's refusal to cooperate with the Irish Government in order to promote 'The Gathering' as an All Ireland project was regrettable. While 26 counties cash in, the North has missed out on the economic benefits from a great tourist initiative due to a small-minded parochial attitude and
antipathy towards all Ireland co-operation.

Justice Minister - David Ford

Strong in his condemnation of Unionist violence, rioting and attacks on police, the Justice Minister approved the drafting in of hundreds of additional police from Britain to assist the PSNI in to quell public disorder linked to Loyalist and Orange Order rioting.

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister - Michelle O'Neill

The winter blizzards resulted in the deaths of thousands of farm animals. The health minister was questioned on why it took three days after the snow started falling for a relief operation to deliver feed to stranded animals to get underway. The health minister rightly maintained that her fist priority was people and once the humanitarian issue was dealt with, helicopters from both the Royal Air Force and the Irish Air Corp, and specialist snowcat vehicles, were involved in getting bales to the affected farms.

The minister has also been successful decentralisation of department of agriculture jobs from Belfast to other more remote parts of the North.

Culture Arts and Leisure - Carál Ní Chuilin

The Minister deserves credit for securing funding for the redevelopment of stadia. Ravenhill, Casement Park and Windsor Park are all undergoing/to under go significant face lifts which will bring sporting infrastructure in the six counties in to the 21st century.

The arts minister was prepared to reach out to the Unionist community by agreeing to fund uniforms for members of hundreds of marching bands and by attending Northern Ireland football games.

Employment and Learning - Stephen Farry

Stephen who? Other that championing to the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) his department's 'Graduating to Success Programme', a higher education strategy setting out a vision for the sector up to 2020 and meeting with various groups representing the unemployed, Minister Farry has been pretty low profile during the Assembly term.

Environment Minister - Alex Attwood

The A5 motorway linking Donegal to Aughnacloy would be presently under construction were it not for a court ruling that the project needed a more comprehensive environmental assessment. The fact that a fuller environmental survey had not already been carried out in the first place is a failure by the department of the Environment. The buck must stop with Minister Attwood.

He also opposed changes in planning laws which would create economically significant planning zones. Not surprising given that it would take power from his department and hand it to OFMDFM.

Regional Development - Danny Kennedy

The Regional Development Minister is responsible for infrastructure projects in the North. Danny Kennedy was at best luck warm in his support for the A5 upgrade. Although the delay is primarily the fault of Alex Attwood's department of the environment, Minister Kennedy must share in the blame. The economically significant Narrow Water bridge scheme linking Omeath in Co. Louth with Warrenpoint in Co. Down and the restoration of the Ulster Canal have also not progressed. The excuse for the delay in both projects is lack of funding, however was the political will there on the the Minister's part.

Minister Kennedy was responsible for the erection of "Welcome to Northern Ireland" road signs along the border. This was described as 'petty' and 'politically motivated' by local politicians and caused widespread Nationalist anger.

Social Development - Nelson Mc Causland

The Social Development Minister caused huge controversy in 2012 after his reversal of plans to develop 200 new social homes on the Girwood Barracks site in North Belfast. Housing Executive figures at the time showed Catholics made up 95% of those on the public housing waiting list in North Belfast. A court barrister summed up widely held belief that "the simple reason for the decision was he didn't want 200 Catholic families moving into this area. The minister's decision was motivated by improper collateral purposes: a restriction of the expansion of the Catholic population in north Belfast and to counter the decline of the Protestant population."

By his own standards McCausland, who believes 'that Ulster Protestants are one of the lost tribes of Israel' and who holds the creationist view that the universe was created about 6,000 years ago, was having a quite assembly term.

That was until he again became embroiled in controversy again after a BBC Spotlight programme made allegations of political interference in the running of the Housing Executive. The programme also featured claims by Jenny Palmer - a Housing Executive board member and DUP councillor who claimed she was pressured to change her vote at a meeting discussing the decision to axe a multi-million pound contract with East Belfast company Red Sky. So serious were the allegations that the Assembly was recalled to discuss the claims.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Gathering Delivers

The Gathering is delivering. Ireland's 'greatest ever tourism initiative' is aimed at mobilising the Irish diaspora and others to return to or visit Ireland during 2013, to be part of a series of local gatherings, events and festivals to celebrate Irish culture, history and genealogy.

According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO):
  • Tourism numbers are up 8.1% to 1.77m between March and May this year
  • There was an 12.8pc increase in North American tourists over the first five months of the year, with 369,100 visits
  • One million American visitors are expected to visit Ireland in 2013, spending around $1bn (€765,000).
  • The number of tourists coming to Ireland from the United Kingdom has increased by 5.6% to 726,300 – despite the overall slump in the general British travel market.
  • Visits from mainland Europe were up 8.5pc for January to May and by 9.6pc between March and May.
  • The highest jump has been witnessed in visitors from France at 26.3pc, the Benelux countries at 11pc, Germany at 6.1pc and the Nordic countries at 6pc.
  • Even recession-mired Spain has seen visitors here rise by 5.4pc over the same three-month period.
  • The Australian and New Zealand market also grew by an impressive 12.1pc from March to May.
Of course while Dublin, Cork, Galway and Killarney cash in, Belfast, Derry and Newry have seen little or no benefit from the initiative. They could have, were it not for DUP Tourism Minister Arlene Foster refusing to cooperate with the Irish Government in order to promote The Gathering as an All Ireland project and promote Ireland abroad. Instead she insisted on marketing the North as "part of the United Kingdom" distinct from the rest of Ireland.

Most overseas tourists, especially those from North America, come to visit the island as a whole. People come to Ireland for the céad míle fáilte, the scenery, the traditional music, the Irish language, the Guinness and all that is bound up in the Celtic Irish identity promoted abroad. It's cool, it's appealing, it's ancient and it works.

Blinded by a DUP Minister's small-minded parochial attitude and antipathy towards all Ireland co-operation, the North has missed out on the economic benefits from a great tourist initiative.

Tourist numbers to Ireland for the fist six months of the year show Overseas visitors increase 5.4%.
Below is a great video made by a Canadian couple of their trip around Ireland - A Fortnight Plus Half - An Ireland Adventure.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Marching Season

The Marching Season is underway. There were disturbances in North Belfast last night as the Orange Order's annual 'Tour of the North' parade made its way through the Peter's Hill end of the Nationalist Carrickhill. After several breaches of the Parades Commission determination by numerous bands, a small number of nationalist youths tried to run through the bands as they made their way up Peter's Hill. A confrontation ensued and led to Loyalists attacking Nationalist homes. The events of last night are not uncommon in the North. The blame lies solely with the Orange Order.

The Orange Order proclaims to be a cultural organisation defending religious and civil liberties which celebrates Protestant King William of Orange's victory at the Battle of the Boyne over the Catholic James II in 1690.

In reality the Orange Order is a supremacist, bigoted, anti-Catholic, anti-Irish, sectarian organisation that engage in hate filled, triumphalist, coat-trailing marches through Catholic neighbourhoods each and every summer.

It is an organisation in which Catholics are forbidden from joining. Protestants who are married to Catholics are also banned. Members are prohibited from attending Catholic religious ceremonies, indeed many have been expelled from doing so. The rules basically prevent members mixing with those of a different faith.

With tensions still rife following months of volatile anti-democracy protests against the removal of the Union Jack from Belfast City Hall, a summer of discontent and violence looks on the horizon.

Contentious Orange Order marches need to be banned. Yes, people have the right to march and freedom of assembly, but not when the assembly leads to violence and mayhem on the streets and when doing so is to deny Nationalists and Catholics their basic human rights. In a modern inclusive society contentious Orange Order marches should not be tolerated. A Ku Kluk Klan march through Harlem would not be accepted and neither should an Orange Order march through any Catholic areas.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Census Comparison

The third release of 2011 census data, allows us to analyse the age profile of  'the big three'. The results are reflected in the graph below:

Using the equivalent data from the 2001 census, we can analyse the age profile of 'the big three' in 2001, The results are reflected in the graph below:

Comparing the data from the two graphs, the most striking question is why has the 'tipping point' (age under which Catholics make up a majority and over which Protestants make up a majority) increased by 12 years instead of 10?  Why has the tipping point which was age 24 in 2001 increased to age 36 in 2011 rather than age 34?

Looking at each of the big three separately might provide some answers. We can do this by bringing the numbers per age as per the 2001 census forward ten years and comparing the changes with the data in the 2011 census. For example, those aged 40 in the 2001 census will be age 50 in the 2011 census.

The 2001 data of course starts at age 10 as those aged 10 and under in 2011 were not born yet in 2001.

The number of 19 to 28 year old Catholics has decreased. The most logical explanation for this is that a significant number of people of this age group are likely to move abroad for education, travel and work.

The number of 32 to 44 year old Catholics has increased. Again this is probably due to people returning from education, travel and work abroad. There may also be an element of immigration from A6 (and predominately Catholic) countries.

From the age of 62 we start to see the number of Catholics decrease and from the age of 69 this trend accelerates. Obviously this can be attributed to increases in the number of deaths as people get older.
The numbers of 18 to 29 year old Protestants has decreased. Again, similar to their Catholic counterparts, many Protestants of this age group are likely to abroad for education, travel and work. However, the Protestant spike at this age group is much higher.

As can be expected, the number of Protestants decreases as more people pass on with old age. This is noticeable from age 56 and accelerates from age 71, similar to Catholics.

However unlike Catholics, the 32 to 44 year old age group has not increased. Possible reasons for this include less Protestants returning after completing their education (we have heard that Protestants are more likely to attend University in Britain and stay on and seek jobs once they have completed their education rather than return to the North) or completing their travels (emigration). There may also be less immigration of Protestants from other countries.

There is not much change among the Others (no religion/none) and this group therefore has no relevance as to why the 'tipping point' has increased by 12 years instead of 10, from age 24 to 36 and not 34. The reason for this appears to lie in the fact that more young Protestants having left and fewer having come/returned have distorted the correlation by 2 years.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Census 2011 - Third Release

The third release of census data provides us with a wealth of data on health, employment and housing, demographics and national identity in the North.

Some of the key points include:

  • 11% of middle aged Catholics assessed their general health as 'bad' or 'very bad' compared with 8% of middle aged Protestants.  
  • 9% of Catholics were unemployed at the time of the census as opposed to 6% of Protestants.
  • Catholics are less likely to be economically active although the gap has decreased from 4% to 0.5% since the last census.
  • 12% of Catholics live in over-crowed conditions compared with 6% of Protestants.
  • The average size of Catholic households is 2.72 persons compared to 2.41 in Protestant households
  • Protestants are more likely to live alone

In summary, Catholics in the North are in poorer health, are more likely to be un-employed and live in larger households compared with Protestants.


It was interesting to note that in the 2001 census, the 'tipping point' was age 24. At ages 24 and younger Catholics made up the majority of the population whereas at ages older than 24 Protestants made up the majority. This statistic was evident in table S306 of the 2001 census, as reflected in the graph below:

With the third release of the 2011 census, it is now possible to produce an up to date version of the graph:

In ten years the tipping point has increased by 12 years to the age of 36! Remember it is now 2013 so the tipping point will have increased a further 2.4 years to age 38.4!

We already know that since the 2001 census, the Catholic population has increased from 43.8% to 44.1% and the Protestant population has decreased from 53.1 to 48.3. With the third release, we now know the Catholic electorate population (aged 18 and over) is 43.8% (2001: 41.5) and the Protestant electorate population is 51.0 (2010: 56.2%).

52% of the Catholics in the North are under the age of 35 compared with 40% of Protestants. This tells us that under the age of 35, on census day there was 425,040 Catholics (817,385 x 52%) and 350,154 Protestants (875,385 x 40%), a majority of 75,000 Catholics. The split is 55/45.

National identity
  • 10% of Catholics identify as British (The Rory McIlroys of this world!)
  • 5% of Protestants identify as Irish
  • 25% of Catholics identify as Northern Irish
  • 15% of Protestants identify as Northern Irish
  • Over half of Protestants who identify as British only are over 65 years of age
  • 20% of school age Catholics have a good knowledge of Irish
  • 6% of Catholics over the age of 75 years old have a good knowledge of Irish

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Council Boundaries

The Belfast Telegraph has produced the above map of the new look council boundaries, which were proposed today.

From first impressions would suggest that of the 11 new councils, it would appear 5 will be under Nationalist control (Derry & Strabane, Fermanagh & Omagh, Mid Ulster, Newry Mourne & Down and Belfast) and 5 will be under Unionist control (Causeway Coast & Glens, Mid & East Antrim, and Lisburn & Castlereagh).

Unionists may well have control of Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon initailly but it appears to be a maginal council where the 'Others' may hold the balance of power.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Joint Sovereignty?

At present a border poll for the reunification of Ireland would fail. A Protestant plurality currently exists. Even with demographic trends continuing, and with Protestants and Catholics reaching parity in numbers in around the year 2016, there will probably still be less than the 50% + 1 support required for a United Ireland. This is because a minority of Catholics would not currently vote for a United Ireland. Unionists who like to gloat about this need to be reminded that Catholic support for the status quo is at best fickle. It is not due to any emotional attachment to Britain. It is because they are of the opinion that they would be better off financially in the UK. Of course I do not agree, and I have made my economic arguments before and will continue to do so. The economic arguments in favour of unification are greater.

Of course as a Nationalist and Republican my desire is for the unification of my country. However, a green paper on how to achieve this or describing what a United Ireland would look like has not been produced. If the Irish people decided they wanted the country reunified in the morning what would happen? What way would the roads be painted? What type of road signs would be used? What would the education system, the health system and other public services look like? What would the tax system look like? How long would the transition from the status quo to a UI take?

And what is the strategy? Wait until there is a Catholic majority in the North? Wait until the Southern economy is booming again and then draw up a green paper, all the while facilitating the British strategy of creating a “Northern Irish shared future” identity? 
That is one option. Another is to push for joint sovereignty. Joint sovereignty could be used as a stepping stone and an interim measure to the ultimate goal of a United Ireland free from British Government control or interference. It is an alternative strategy, a strategy that can bring about transition gradually so that when a United Ireland passes in a referendum, most of the change required has occured. 

At the very least a debate within Nationalism needs to occur on whether this is a strategy worth pursuing. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A United Ireland - Top 10 Benefits

With Sinn Féin pushing for a date to be set for a border poll in the life time of the next Assembly, it appears to be a good time to look at some of the advantages of a United Ireland. A United Ireland makes sense and here are ten reasons why:

1. Peace
There has been a conflict in Ireland for 800 years. The route cause of this conflict is British policy in Ireland, depriving people of their right to self-determination and self rule. The border divides our people. Division causes conflict. In a United Ireland the route cause of the centuries old conflict would be removed.

Any subsequent Loyalist backlash in the event of a United Ireland would dissipate, as would any further Republican insurgence. The level of public support that would be required for sustained violent campaign, against a democratic decision made by the people of Ireland North and South, by way of a referendum would not exist. The findings of the Independent Monitoring Commission on the strength and capabilities of paramilitaries also make it is difficult to envisage how a rebellion could be sustained in the medium and long term.

2. Ending Partition
Partition has had a devastating effect on Ireland. The new Irish Free State suffered as it was cut off from the industrialised North. Before 1922, £19.1 million of Ireland's £20.9 million of exports came form industries around Belfast. By 1926 only 7% of jobs in the South were in manufacturing, while in the North the figure was 30%.

The border regions were cut off from their natural economic hinterlands and continue to be disadvantaged from a lack of  economic stability as a result of having two economies on such a small island. At different times, business on either the North or South of the border have benefited or gone bust due to fluctuating and changing economic circumstances. Business does not like instability. This is not a sustainable long term economic policy for border areas or the island as a whole. A United Ireland would bring economic stability to create an environment in which business can thrive.

Just as two separate tax, currency and legal systems make no sense, neither does two competing economies on such as small island. Instead of competing against one another on this small island, a United Ireland would allow us to come together to compete against the rest of the world.

3. Economics
Economically a United Ireland makes sense. A United Ireland would bring about the removal of duplication of services on the island. This would lead to much more efficient and effective public services. A United Ireland would also bring about the transfer of fiscal powers from London. Focused and suitable economic policy would result in the creation of tens of thousands of jobs. A United Ireland would also benefit from economies of scale, greater efficiencies and synergies.

It has been argued that the Republic of Ireland could not afford Northern Ireland due to the the fact that Northern Ireland is subsidised by the English tax payer up to the tune of £10bn per annum, or closer to £4.5bn when VAT and Corporation Tax revenues, which are generated in Northern Ireland but declared in London are taken into account. Regardless of the figure, this is a grossly over-simplistic and naive argument. It does not take into account the additional tax revenue that would be generated from fiscal policy suited to the local economy rather than the economy of South East England. Neither does it consider expenditure savings from the removal of duplication of services and other efficiencies and synergies.

Economies of Scale would bring more effective indigenous industries and bigger markets not just in the context of an Irish market of 6.3 million people, but the door would open up to the European market of some 300 million people. Greater economies of scale would also lead to a greater pull in Foreign Investment.

4. Industry
For the agricultural, tourism, energy and other industries a United Ireland makes sense.

Ireland's reputation of producing high quality foods is second to none. An Bord Bia reports that Ireland's food and drink exports have reached €9 billion, a record high. Exports to the Asian market have soared since 2010, increasing by 75% (remember the Chinese President Xi Jinping visiting Ireland last year!). It is expected that Irish food and drink exports will exceed €12 billion by 2020. A 32 county approach will surpass this figure and ensure no part of Ireland is left behind. The marketing 'Brand Ireland' has the potential to create thousands of jobs and double exports over the next ten years.

A single cohesive voice will be better placed to ensure a fair price for produce from meat plants and processors, regulate the power of super markets and deliver better deals from CAP reform discussions. Agri-business will also benefit from the free movement of animals across Ireland. A "Fortress Ireland" approach will be better placed to fend off animal diseases such as Foot and Mouth and Blue tongue disease.

Ireland is the world's 'favourite holiday destination' and has the world's friendliest people according to Frommer's Guide and Lonely Planet. No surprise then that tourism in the Republic of Ireland is one of the biggest contributors to the economy, with over 6.5 million visitors annually, generating nearly €6 billion in revenue, accounting for about 4% of GNP and employing over 200,000 people.

2013 promises to be a bumper year for Irish tourism. Increased flights and flight routes to and from the vital North American market have coincided with ''The Gathering" festival which has got off to a good start and promises to bring thousands more visitors to these shores and generate an additional €1 billion for the economy. However Arlene Foster and DUP apathy to the tourist initiative means that Northern Ireland will see little or no benefit from the festival.

Is it any wonder then, that tourist numbers in Northern Ireland have fallen and fallen again despite the millions spent on the awful "Our Time Our Place" marketing campaign. Marketing Northern Ireland as "part of the United Kingdom" distinct from the rest of Ireland has not worked and will not work. The annual marching season will not attract visitors. Given the reputation of the Orange Order abroad and association of these marches with violence, potential visitors will avoid this "festival" like the plague.

A United Ireland would see all parts of Ireland, particularly the North reach its undoubted tourist potential. This will happen when the entire island is marketed as a single destination. Most overseas tourists, especially those from North America, come to visit the island as a whole. People come to Ireland for the céad míle fáilte, the scenery, the traditional music, the Irish language, the Guinness and all that is bound up in the Celtic Irish identity promoted abroad. It's cool, it's appealing, it's ancient and it works.

In the last 12 months as much as one billion barrels of oil have been discovered off the coast of Kerry (South Porcupine Basin), an estimated 1.6 billion barrels have been discovered in the Ballyroe oil field off the coast of Cork and half a billion barrels discovered off the Antrim coast. A gold rush in the south east and past gas field discoveries also provide evidence that Ireland has astounding wealth of natural resources.

Although taxation policy needs to be revised, Ireland's renewable energy also provides a great source of wealth. The recent signing of a memorandum of understanding with the British Government will mean billions of euros worth of renewable energy will be exported to Britain, benefiting the economy by generating additional tax revenue for the exchequer, providing huge savings from reduced imports of oil and gas and the creation "tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of jobs".

A United Ireland would see the creation of an All Ireland energy network which would facilitate further financial and efficiency benefits leading to reduced energy prices. The enormous benefits from Ireland's natural resources would be spread among it's 6.3 million citizens, much more beneficial to people of the North than their share of the proceeds of UK Scottish north sea oil spread among 60 million people.

5. Social
Socially a United Ireland makes sense. A United Ireland would mean that the most vulnerable in our society are protected. It is widely acknowledged that the level of social protection offered by the Irish Government is among the most generous in the developed world. Britain offers no model for social protection, where the ruling Conservative Party look after only the rich. OAPs in the UK receive c£98 per week. In the Republic of Ireland, those people who have worked all their lives and contributed so much benefit to the tune of c€230 per week.

6. Health
An All Ireland health service makes sense. An all Ireland version of the NHS is possible. Shared patient services such as single state of the art children's hospital, a single heart surgery unit and other shared services and units makes sense. Operating two inferior and unviable health systems and services on one small island makes no sense at all.

NI Health Minister Edwin Poots acknowledged "the views of eminent health professionals who believed a North-South model would be best". An All Ireland Health Feasibility Report has concluded that an all Ireland approach would provide "specialist surgical procedures on an island-wide basis, surgery that people at present have to leave Ireland to access".

A United Ireland would allow us to create a health care that provides full equality of access, that is responsive to the diverse health needs of the population as a whole, that is flexible enough to provide the highest quality care appropriate to the needs of each individual and that is free at the point of delivery.

7. Education
An all Ireland education system makes sense. Operating two systems on one small island makes no sense at all. It has led to imposed academic selection misery on children in the North. It has led to a brain drain of Northern Ireland students to Scotland and England, many of whom never return. It has led to Donegal Tuesday! Currently students are not able to choose third level education institutions on the basis of preference and convenience. This is due to the folly of two education systems operating back to back on an Island of six million people

An United Ireland with an education system that focuses on building a sustainable economy would bring financial and efficiency benefits, sharing of resources and expertise and greater ease of contact and mobility between and among institutions, partners and personnel involved in education. It would bring free education to all.

8. Sport
All Ireland sports teams and organisations make sense. Our Rugby teams have won grand slams and triple crowns, our boxers have 'boxed above their weight' with Olympic medal success and our golfers have taken on the world and won.

Football could learn from other sports, it could listen to Best, Gillespie, Jennings, Hamilton, Dougan, Lennon, Best, O'Neill, Giles etc. Together so much more can be achieved than remaining apart. An all-island league would generate more income for clubs and provide more talented players for a re-constituted national team.

9. Politics
Politically a United Ireland makes sense. Currently, part of the island is effectively governed from a city in the south of a neighbouring island with different political, economical and social needs. The Government of this neighbouring island does not have a mandate in Northern Ireland. Neither do any of the parties in Britain whether it be the Tories, Labour or the Liberals have any representation in Northern Ireland, nor do they have any real interest or connection with it.

Irish unity, a unity based on a parliament in Ireland with a strong role for Protestants (representing 20% of the parliament rather than 2% in the UK parliament) holding the balance of power and with strong safeguards for those of British identity makes sense. The people of the south want a United Ireland while the English have no interest in the place.

10. Romance
The Norman invasion from England in 1169 marked the beginning of the British colonisation of Ireland. At various times over the next 800 years Irish men and women resisted British rule and attempted to assert Irish independence.

The war of independence began with the 1916 Easter Rising and ended in 1921 after partition was imposed against the will of the Irish people under threat of "an immediate and terrible war" from Britain.

Partition brought partial independence to Ireland. 26 of Ireland's 32 counties would become free of British rule. The other six counties were left isolated in a sectarian "Protestant State for a Protestant people". The in built manufactured unionist majority treated Catholics as second class citizens. Decades of discrimination, electoral gerrymandering, human rights abuses and sectarian pogroms instanced by a sectarian state led to the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association emerging in the late 1960s.

The violent reaction to the demands of the civil rights campaigners and the widespread political unrest culminated in the murder by British Paratroopers of 14 unarmed civilians in Derry on Bloody Sunday in 1972.

The period know as "The Troubles" had begun and culminated in the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 which paves a peaceful route to a United Ireland.

A United Ireland would bring Ireland what it has endeavoured for 800 years. Freedom.

Friday, February 22, 2013

School Census 2012/2013

The School Census 2012/2013 relating to to students of nursery, primary, post primary and special schools in the North has been published. The census data includes a breakdown of the religion of the students. As the correlation between religion and voting patters is very strong, one can assume that by looking at demographic trends in the schools today, we can get an indication of voting trends in the ballot box tomorrow.

The graph below uses the data to show us the trends over the last 11 years among the three main groups 'Catholic', 'Protestant/Other Christian' and 'Other'.

The trend is clear to see. The Catholic percentage of the student population remains steady at 50.9%. The Protestant/Other Christian percentage has declined further and now stands at 39.6% (down from 39.9%). The 'Other' group has increased 0.3% to 9.5%.

Looking at the graph, initially it appears that the 'Other' group has increased in line with the decrease in the 'Protestant/Other Christian' group. This of course would be to assume that the 'Other' group (which includes Non Christian and Other/No Religion/Not Recorded) is made up entirely of students from Protestant communtiy backgrounds.

As the data on religious breakdown by age from the 2011 census has not yet been released, we must use the data from the 2001 census (for now, I will update on release of 2011 data). In the 2001 census NISRA allocated children and teenagers of the 'Other/No Religion group' into both community backgrounds (religion or religion brought up in) as follows

•For children aged 5-11, those who were declared as 'None/Not Stated': 24.3% to 'Catholic', 40.0% to 'Protestant and other Christian', 0.5% to 'Non-Christian, and 35.2% to 'None'

•For children aged 12-18, those who were declared as 'None/Not Stated': 25.4% to 'Catholic', 46.5% to 'Protestant and other Christian', 0.5% to 'Non-Christian, and 27.6% to 'None'

Using these figues to re-allocate the 'Other/No Religion/Not Recorded' group in the Schools census figures, we get a truer reflection of the community background of students. Students of a Catholic community background have increased to 53.3%. Students of a Protestant community background has decreased to 43.7%.

Leaving aside the 3% 'Others', the split between students of Catholic and Protestant community backgrounds stands at 54.9%/45.1%.