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