Saturday, June 7, 2014

Four Green Fields

As the dust settles on the Local and European elections, it is clear that the story of the elections has been the rise in Sinn Féin. A rise that manifests itself with triple the number of SF councillors and the election of Lynn Boylan, Martina Anderson, Matt Carthy and Liadh Ní Riada to the European Parliament in each of the four constituencies. A rise that dramatically changes the Irish political landscape.

We find ourselves in a new political landscape not because Sinn Féin has a monopoly on Irish Nationalism, far from it. It is because we now have a situation where we will have proper left and right politics. No more will we have a mish mash of coalitions from opposite political spectrums. We will either have a conservative government or a left leaning government.

Already in Kerry County Council we see for the first time ever an alliance formed between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. If it can be done in Kerry where some of the most hideous events of the Civil War took place, it can be done at a National level. The next government will be a FF/FG grand coalition. That will only be replaced by a left leaning coalition headed by the Shinners. The rise of Sinn Féin has ended the Irish Civil War!

The rise of Sinn Féin also poses serious questions for the SDLP, Labour and Fianna Fáil. The SDLP vote has virtually collapsed from it's hay day of the John Hume and Seamus Mallon era. As the party struggle to stay relevant their support continues to decline. They have now been overtaken in their heartland of Derry as the largest party by Sinn Féin. However their loss in support to Sinn Féin occurred in previous elections. This time their voters stayed at home or to a lesser extent lent their vote to the pro United Ireland Alliance candidate Anna Lo.

Alliance's resolve under sustained attack from Loyalists furious with the party's decision to remove the Union Jack from Belfast City Hall except for designated days has also led to more green votes for Alliance at the expense of the SDLP. The removal of the flag is significant as it led to a surge in the turnout rate of Unionists. Combined with a continuing trend of apathy among Nationalists and a greener Alliance vote (70% of their transfers in the European election went to the SDLP) the result was a combined Nationalist vote of 38.5% the lowest for many years.

Labour as expected were annihilated in the Local and European elections. The party promised the sun, moon and stars to the electorate before the last General Election. Given the economic climate and their status as junior party in the government coalition they were never going to be able to deliver. They sold their soul. The electorate took their revenge. The space they once held is now occupied by SF and other small left leaning parties. Their is no way back. Or is there?

To me the solution for both the SDLP and Labour is obvious. The two should merge. "Labour, The Social, Democratic and Nationalist Party". It makes sense the more you think of it. Both occupy the same left of centre sphere in the political spectrum. Both are in decline. The SDLP are accused of not being Nationalist enough. What better way to highlight Nationalist credentials by becoming an All Ireland Party. Labour reeling from an annihilation in the elections need to dosomething radical to recover.

Fianna Fáil performed well at local level. Given the fact that they were the party that killed the Celtic Tiger by overspending to the extent of eroding competitiveness and spearheaded the economic collapse of the country by fuelling a property boom without regulating the banks, I would say they performed very well. However the party failed to get a candidate elected to the European Parliament other than Brian Crowley in the South. The Nationalist vote has gone to Sinn Féin and it is hard to see how they will get it back. I mean how can a party call itself "The Republican Party" yet organise on a 26 county partitionist basis. It's a walking contradiction. They need to follow through on their commitment to organise and contest elections in the North.

In the North the Nationalist voter turnout is in decline. The Unionist voter turnout is increasing. This is counteracting the demographic change that is occurring. Before the election we had the obligatory Unionist scaremongering about their being too many Unionist Parties which would split the Unionist vote. Rather than split the Unionist vote it maximised the Unionist vote. Voters had more choice, more people knocking on their doors and more publicity.

Nationalists on the other hand had only two left leaning parties to vote for. An invisible SDLP and a Sinn Féin struggling to shake off the shackles of the Troubles. Who are the Catholic Nationalist Republican community conservative in outlook to vote for? Who are CRNs with a strong business ethic to vote for? Who are CRNs who hold strong Catholic beliefs on same sex marriage and abortion supposed to vote for? Nationalism need more choice, more parties and more focus on addressing voter apathy. It needs more cooperation. The SDLP refuses to cooperate with SF in marginal seats in Westminster and Assembly elections. SF discourages voters from transferring to the SDLP. The result is more Unionists in a position where they can dominate.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Belfast - Council Election Preview

In previewing the new Belfast Council I am bowing to the superior knowledge of Noel McAdam in the Belfast Telegraph, 'Irish Observer' in the Vote UK Forum, the renowed statistician Nicholas Whyte on Slugger O'Toole  and 'Faha' over on Bangordub's excellent blog.

Belfast once a Unionist dominated stronghold is on the verge of shifting to overall Nationalist control. The 'fleg' controversy has added additional emphasis.

The consensus is that Nationalists will just fall short of an outright majority of 30, this time. However with 34 seats in play, an increased turnover and a willingness to transfer could see a major and historic win for Nationalism. It would be interesting to watch the fallout among Unionism over the loss or surrender or sell out of the hugely significant and symbolic local Council.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Peace Monitoring Report No. 3


The Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report is an annual report published by the Community Relations Council which provides us with a range of data on life in the North.

The 2014 Report provides us with some striking figures on the demographic change in which it is widely accepted is occurring.

The image above confirms what we know from the Census. The "tipping point" three years on from the census is the age 39. That is, for all ages below this age Catholics make up a majority. For all ages above this age Protestants are in the majority. Most older people are Protestant, most younger people are Catholic. The greater the age the greater that proportion of Protestants in the population.

In Belfast, Catholics make up 49% of the population a mere 1% off an outright majority. Protestants make up 42%. Will the next report show Catholics at the magic 50%?

Other interesting facts findings include:

  • The report finds that 60% of entrants to higher education are Catholic and 60% are female.
  • The highest achievers in education are Catholic girls
  • The report sees the Catholic middle classes as the big winner from the peace process so far. Their income levels and educational qualifications are now marginally higher than their Protestant counterparts and their numbers look like rising to eventually create a Catholic majority.
  • Feeling Irish and wanting a united Ireland both peaked in the Celtic tiger years but once the Irish banking crisis hit in people didn’t identify with Irish unity so strongly.
  • The workforce is becoming |increasing female (52.4% in 2010) and increasingly Catholic.
  • Educational achievement decreases across the gender, religious and class lines until it bottoms out with poorer |Protestant boys who don’t qualify for free school meals.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Political Betting

I have long since reached the conclusion that one cannot make money from gambling. The people that do are what you would call professional gamblers. Bookies are rarely wrong. Nonetheless I do enjoy a day at the races and the occasional bet. I do it for the 'craic' and maybe to create more of an interest in a sporting event. I also like to view odds offered in order to determine likely future outcomes.

A €10 accumulator on Sinn Féin winning a seat in each of the four constituencies in the European Elections (being held on Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd of May) returns a whopping €11.67! A dead cert in betting speak. This will be a massive boost for SF.

If SF winning 4 seats isn't a dead cert, Martina Anderson topping the poll in the Northern constituency certainly is. Odds being offered are 1/100. A €10 bet returns €1.10. Nationalist hopes of winning the third seat look likely to be dashed as Alex Attwood is priced at 8/1. The betting in full is:

Martina Anderson (SF)
Diane Dodds (DUP)
Jim Nicholson (UUP)
Jim Allister (TUV)
Alex Attwood (SDLP)
Anna Lo (Alliance)
Tina McKenzie (NI21)
Ross Brown (Green)
Henry Reilly (UKIP)
A Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil coalition is the bookies favourite to form the next government at 5/4. Unthinkable just a few short years ago, the rise of Sinn Féin (over 20% on previous three opinion polls) may achieve proper left vs. right politics. Labour will not form the next government. Even though FG/Labour are priced at 13/8, I think Labour are in for an all merciful shock from the electorate. They have sold their sole and the electorate will not forgive their lies. A FF/Sinn Féin government is 8/1. SF will certainly find it tempting to be in power during the centenary of 1916 but if they have any sense they will force FF and FG into a coalition and wait.
Also of interest is the result of the Scottish Independence referendum. No is favourite at 1/4. Yes is 5/2. However other than the odds the underlying trend is also an important indicator. The odds for the Yes vote have been falling continuously. This is consistent with the opinion polls which now have the Yes side at 48% (excluding undecided) and on the brink of securing a historic victory in the referendum.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Schools Census - Update

Each year I blog on the publication of the Schools Census. Due to the strong correlation between religion and political viewpoint as demonstrated in voting trends, changes in the demographic breakdown of Schools in the North can be used to determine future changes in voting patterns.

My recent blog on the Schools Census 2013/2014 showed Catholics now make up 51.1% of the school population. Protestants & Other Christians and 'Others' (Non Christian, No Religion and Not Recorded) make up 39.2% and 9.7% respectively.

In order to attain a truer picture of the demographic breakdown in the Schools I have replicated NISRA's allocation of Others in the 2011 Census.

With the benefit of tables DC2116NI & DC2117NI, I have gone back and reallocated 'Others' in the Schools Census publications from 2010/2011 as follows:

Schools Census 2010/2011:
• For children aged 5-11: 21.1% to 'Catholic' and 22.0% to 'Protestant and other Christian'.

• For children/adolescents aged 12-18: 23.1% to 'Catholic' and 27.5% to 'Protestant and other  

Schools Census 2011/2012:
• For children aged 4-10 (a five year old in 2012 was 4 in 2011): 20.8% to 'Catholic' and 21.3% to 'Protestant and other Christian'.

• For children/adolescents aged 11-17: 22.8% to 'Catholic' and 26.3% to 'Protestant and other  

Schools Census 2012/2013:
• For children aged 3-9: 20.5% to 'Catholic' and 21.0% to 'Protestant and other Christian'.

• For children/adolescents aged 10-16: 22.6% to 'Catholic' and 25.3% to 'Protestant and other  

Schools Census 2013/2014:
• For children aged 2-8: 20.4% to 'Catholic' and 20.5% to 'Protestant and other Christian'.

• For children/adolescents aged 9-15: 22.3% to 'Catholic' and 24.6% to 'Protestant and other  

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 increased to 41.7%. Others have decreased to 5.0%.

Leaving aside the 5.0% 'Others', the split between students of Catholic and Protestant community backgrounds stands at 56.1%/43.9%.

At some point in the mid 20s we will reach a tipping point where the Catholic Electorate (those aged 18 and over) will become a majority (or at least a plurality). All the evidence suggests this will also mean a Nationalist majority. Around the same time, if current trends continue we may well have a 60/40 split in the schools signalling that there will be no way back for Unionism.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Fine Gael To Move North?

"A true Irish party should represent all Irish citizens."

These were the words of Fergal Crinion during the Fine Gael Ard Fheis taking place this weekend. In between motions on regulating e-cigerettes, joining NATO, directly electing a mayor for Dublin and support for same sex marriage is a motion to set up a working group to explore the idea of electing Fine Gael members north of the border with a view to contesting Assembly, European and Local elections.

Well then. This is a surprise. Although Fine Gael call themselves "The United Ireland Party" they are perceived by Nationalists as strongly partitionist. So are Fianna Fail "The Republican Party" but at least Fine Gael do not claim to be the champions of Irish Nationalism in the 26 counties.

It has long been my belief that the main political parties of the South should organise and contest elections in the North. I can also see the Labour Party merging with the SDLP at some point in the future but that's for another day. In the meantime I will be watching this development very closely.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

School Census 2013/2014

Each year the Department of Education Northern Ireland (DENI) releases it's Schools Census relating to students of nursery, primary, post primary and special schools in the North. This years census was published on the 25th of February. The census data includes a breakdown of the religion of the students. The correlation between religion and voting patters is very strong. Today's children are tomorrows voters. Therefore by examining the demographic changes in our schools we get an indication of how voting patterns are likely to change.

The graph below uses the data to show us the trends over the last 12 years among the three main groups 'Catholic', 'Protestant/Other Christian' and 'Other'

The trend in prior years has seen a gradual increase in the Catholic proportion of students in our schools. Protestants and Other Christians have been in steady decline. The Others have also shown a steady increase.

The Schools Census for 2013/2014 shows us that this trend continues. In the school year 2013/2014, the statistics show the make up to be: Catholics 51.1% (up 0.2%), Protestant 39.2% (down 0.4%) and Others 9.7% (up 0.2%).
The 'Others' of course consist of Non Christian, No Religion and Not Recorded.

In the 2011 Census the 'Others' consisted of Other Religions, No Religion and Not Stated. NISRA allocated a proportion of  'Others' into both community backgrounds (religion or religion brought up in) as follows:

• For children aged 5-11: 21.1% to 'Catholic' and 22.0% to 'Protestant and other Christian'.

• For children/adolescents aged 12-18: 23.1% to 'Catholic' and 27.5% to 'Protestant and other  

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 53.2%. Students of a Protestant community background has increased to 41.5%. Others have decreased to 5.3%

Note the sudden drop in the Protestant/Other Christians is due to the change of using the out of date 2001 data for reallocation with the much more accurate data from the 2011 census.

Leaving aside the 5.3% 'Others', the split between students of Catholic and Protestant community backgrounds stands at 56.2%/43.8%

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Labour Force Survey Report 2012

Reading down through Labour Force Survey Report 2012 looking for evidence of demographic change which will provide an indication of future voting trends, I was struck by section 2.1 of the Report which details the composition of the population aged 16 and over.

"Between 2011 and 2012, the proportion of Protestants fell by two percentage points (from 49% to 47%), while the proportion of Catholics increased by two percentage points (from 40% to 42%). This is consistent with longer term trends"

Wow! a 2% swing in just one year!

It goes on further:

"Between 1990 and 2012 the number of Protestants increased by 19,000 or 3% to 662,000, while the number of Catholics increased by 153,000 or 35% to 593,000 over the same period. Over period the number of people aged 16 and over classified as other/non-determined has more than doubled from 63,000 to 162,000."

Not surprising as it is in line with every other indicator of demographic trends. The report also provides 2011 figures based on table DC2116NI of the 2011 Census.

"According to the 2011 census there was 618,000 Protestants aged 16 and over in Northern Ireland compared to 567,000 Catholics and 247,000 who would be considered other/non-determined. Thus in 2011 43% of those aged 16 and over were Protestant, 40% were Catholic and 17% were other/non-determined."

Therefore we are led to believe, between 2011 and 2012, the number of Protestants aged 16 and over increased by 44,000 from 618,000 to 662,000. The number of Catholics aged 16 and over increased by 26,000 from 567,000 to 593,000 in the same period. Something does not add up here!

On one hand the report is telling us that between 2011 and 2012 the "proportion of Protestants fell by two percentage points (from 49% to 47%), while the proportion of Catholics increased by two percentage points (from 40% to 42%.)"

On the other hand they are telling us that between 2011 and 2012, the growth in the number of Protestants aged 16 or over exceeded the growth of Catholics aged 16 and over by 18,000.

How could the gap between Protestants and Catholics increase in numbers yet decrease in percentage terms when the proportion others/non-determined did not change?
How can the number of Protestants increase by 19,000 from 1990, yet increase by 44,000 from 2011?

NISRA have used 2012 figures gathered from the Labour Force Survey and compared them with the 2011 Census figures. Comparing data from two different data sets in two different years is likely to lead to a discrepancy. It's a school boy error from NISRA. For the Labour Force Survey Report for 2012 to have any legitimacy they need to compare figures with the Labour Force Survey Reports of prior years.

The 2% swing between the two main blocks in one year is wrong and misleading. However the Labour Force Survey trends between 1990 and 2012, while striking are not surprising.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Catholics soon to have majority in Northern Ireland

An interesting video is after appearing on Youtube which predicts the community background of the two traditions in  2031.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Equality Commission 23rd Monitoring Report

The Equality Commission has published it's 23rd Monitoring Report. This report gives us a breakdown of the numbers and percentage of Protestants and Catholics in the both the public and private sectors of the workforce in Northern Ireland for the year 2012. Protestants represented 53.4% of the workforce, down by 0.3% on 2011. Catholics in the workforce stood at 46.6%, an increase of 0.3% from the 2011 figure of 46.3%. The Protestant percentage has again declined as the Catholic percentage has increased. This trend has been constant as is represented in the following graph:

The reasons why this graph is converging are threefold.

Firstly, there continues to be more Catholic applicants to the monitored workforce than Protestants.  In 2012 the Catholic percentage stood at 51.6% and the Protestant percentage was 48.4%.

Secondly the numbers of Catholic appointees to the workforce in 2012 again exceeded their Protestant counterparts. In 2012 the Catholic percentage stood at 50.9% and the Protestant percentage was 49.1%.

Finally the proportion of Protestant leavers of the workforce in 2012 continues to be higher than the proportion of Catholic leavers.  In 2012 the Protestant percentage stood at 52.1% and the Catholic percentage was  47.9%.