Saturday, December 17, 2016

Equality Commission Monitoring Report No. 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Brexit and Irish Reunification

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Assembly Election 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 21, 2016

Labour Force Survey 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

The more recent trend can be seen in the graph below

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

University Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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