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!


  1. There are a number of claims in this post which I tend to agree with but there are a number that I do not.
    Over the years, the correlation between voting at NI elections and 'would be' voting intentions if there was a referendum on a united Ireland has diminished and continues to do so as more and more Catholics support the union whilst continuing to vote along communal lines.
    As to why demographic trends towards a Catholic majority are not advancing the position of Nationalist parties, it is to early to say that there is a significant trend of voting amongst Catholics giving up voting for Nationalist parties but that would not surprise me if that was true.
    We need to see more stats. I would hope that future reliable surveys, such as NILT, will provide some of the answers to that question.

  2. My guess (from afar), is that the same as everywhere else in Europe, Catholics are becoming less Catholic, and Protestants are giving up on religion! There is no reason to expect the Northern Ireland voters to become 50% catholic, and Nationalism will have to develop arguments in favour of an united Ireland - not "You are Catholic, therefore you vote for us"! That might be a good thing in the end...

  3. Economist David McWilliams has suggested that a United Kingdom exit from the EU could lead to a united Ireland

    A LEADING Irish economist has suggested that a UK exit from the European Union could lead to a united Ireland.

    David McWilliams said if the United Kingdom votes to leave the EU next month "it could start a domino effect - at the end of which is a united Ireland".

    Mr McWilliams also said he believed "unionists have now an economic incentive to join a united Ireland because the union is impoverishing them".

    Writing in the Sunday Business Post, Mr McWilliams: "Here is the possible scenario that will unfold if there’s a break-up of the UK. The English lead the British out of Europe.

    "The Scottish then go to the polls again, wanting to stay in Europe.

    "They have to leave the UK to stay in the EU, and by a small margin they vote to stay in Europe but leave the English. Not unfeasible.

    "The rump UK becomes an entity involving a eurosceptic England, a modestly pro-European but compliant Wales and an ever-divided Northern Ireland.

    "However it is a Northern Ireland shorn of its fraternal brothers, the Scots – in a union with the ambivalent English. There has never been the same cultural affinity between the English and the Northern Unionists.

    "Unlike many Southerners, my bonds with that part of the world are strong. Ethnically, without Scotland, the union of Northern Ireland and a multicultural but nationalistic little England is not particularly coherent.

    "All the while, the demographic forces are on the side of nationalism."

    The economist and broadcaster suggested that "the union has been an economic calamity for everyone in the North".

    "Well, in the distant past, there was good reason to believe that the union preserved living standards in the north, but this is a myth and has not been the case since 1990," he wrote.

    "Indeed, the end of the Troubles, which should have marked the resurgence of the relative performance of the north, has actually delivered the opposite.

    "Relative to the south, the northern economy has fallen backwards since the guns were silenced. If there was an economic peace dividend, it went south.

    "Now with Brexit looming and the concrete and more profound underlying changes in demography, the issue of a united Ireland may be back on the table quicker than most of us imagined - or cared to dread."

    He added: "Interestingly, unionists have now an economic incentive to join a united Ireland because the union is impoverishing them, but I suspect they'd prefer to get poor in a semi-detached UK rather than join a much more coherent all-Ireland economic endeavour."

  4. Another point that is missed again and again is that in the last few elections the number of smaller parties and independents has exploded so it is no surprise that the 2 main nationalist parties first preference vote is dropping. If you start to add up all the small socialist parties and nationalist independents (ex SF/sdlp candidates etc) you get the magic number of 40% which is pretty much where nationalism has been stuck for 15 years.

  5. Northern taigs are not motivated by high principled politics regarding Irish unity and never have been. They are a deep set, highly irritable group who can't stand being told what to do by anyone. The slightest insult results in a violent reaction, up to and including murder - this applies particularly to perceived harassment by Crown Forces. They're always ready for a fight and will run across a field to join one. This even applied to the young men who joined PIRA, generally with no republican background.

    In some respects they have more in common with northern prods than free state nationalists and with the decline of religion, this trend will become more obvious.

    It's not looking good...

  6. Imagine no religion and a United Ireland! Very exciting prospects.

  7. What's your source for the Catholic electorate being majority by 2023?