Thursday, January 5, 2017

Lucid Talk Tracker Poll - December 2016

Lucid Talk have published their latest Tracker Poll. Most interestingly the poll shows support for Irish Unity at 44.4%.

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. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Equality Commission Monitoring Report No. 25

The Equality Commission have published their 25th Monitoring Report. This report provides a breakdown of the composition of the North's workforce in the year 2014. Previous trends show no sign of abating. Parity will be achieved in 2018.

The composition of Catholics in the workforce has increased to 47.4% (+0.4%) in 2014 while the Protestant proportion has decreased to 52.6%.

The reason the trend has continued in 2014 was due to the percentage of appointees from a Catholic community background (51.8%) being greater that those appointed to jobs from a Protestant background (48.2%) and because the Protestant percentage of leavers from the workforce (50.7%) being greater than their Catholic counterparts (49.3%).

Note that the Catholic percentage of applicants to the workforce was 52.3%, somewhat higher than the 51.8% appointed.

It should also be noted that the proportion of Protestants at retirement age is c66%. The 50.7% leaving the workforce each year is much lower than this. 


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Northern Ireland Net Fiscal Balance Report 2011-2012

In any debate on the economics of a United Ireland, Unionists will inevitably contend that the North receives an annual £10bn subvention from Westminster. Their argument is that in a United Ireland the Dublin government would not be able to afford to replace this block grant. Therefore it does not make economic sense to have a United Ireland.

In order to challenge this argument we need to go directly to the source of the argument. In March 2014 the Department of Finance and Learning (DFL) published the Northern Ireland Net Fiscal Balance Report 2011-2012. 

 At first glance the Unionist argument appears to be correct, that Northern Ireland generates around £14 billion in tax revenue and spends approximately £24 billion leaving a deficit of some £10 billion

Estimated Total Revenue
Total Managed Expenditure

Let us delve into the figures. We are told the estimated tax revenue is c£14.1 billion. A breakdown of the relevant taxes is given, but we are not told how much corporation tax which is generated in Northern Ireland but declared in London. This is true for companies which are located in the North with their headquarters in London.

On the expenditure side, what makes up the 'Total Managed Expenditure' figure of £23.8 billion? Total Managed Expenditure is made up of 'Identifiable Managed Expenditure', 'Non Identifiable Managed Expenditure' and 'Accounting Adjustments'.

Non Identifiable Managed Expenditure of £3.3 billion relates to UK wide spending on things like Defence and servicing of debt. Basically it has nothing whatsoever to do with the North of Ireland. I'm not sure exactly what the Accounting Adjustment of £1.1 billion relates to but I do know it relates to an overall UK accounting adjustment. Again nothing to do with the North.

Total Managed Expenditure
Identifiable Managed Expenditure
Non Identifiable Managed Expenditure
Accounting Adjustments
Total Managed Expenditure

So that just leaves us with the 'Identifiable Managed Expenditure' of £19.4 billion. We are told it is made up of Departmental Expenditure Limits (DEL), Annual Managed Expenditure (AME) and Locally Generated Funds.

Locally Generated Funds? Yes, you guessed it. These are funds collected in the North, mainly from regional and local rates. Therefore these funds are not British government funding.

I am not aware of the how much of Identifiable Managed Expenditure is made up of these 'Locally Generated Funds' in 2011-2012 but I do have the figures for 2012-2013. Until I find out the figure for 2011-2012 I will take it that it is the same as the £1.3 billion figure of 2012-2013.

Identifiable Managed Expenditure 2012-2013
Departmental Expenditure Limits (DEL)
Annual Managed Expenditure (AME)
Locally generated funds (mainly Regional and Local Rates)
NI Identifiable public expenditure
With the benefit of now knowing the breakdown of the figures we can conclude that the total relevant expenditure in the British government financial year to April 2012 was £18.1 billion and the real budget deficit and block grant was £4 billion.

Relevant Expenditure
Total Managed Expenditure
Non Identifiable Managed Expenditure
Accounting Adjustments
Locally Generated Funds
Relevant Expenditure

Real Net Fiscal Balance 2011-2012
Estimated Total Revenue
Relevant Expenditure
Real Deficit

So the real figure for the FY2012 was closer to £4 billion rather than the £10 billion that is often stated by Unionists. This is before we adjust for incomplete corporation tax figures.

We do not know the current (FY2015) block grant figure although I have heard several commentators say it is closer to £3 billion. Given the Tory cuts of the last three years a current subvention of £3 billion may not be too far off the mark.

In the recent Irish Unity conference in Belfast, economist Michal Burke states the subvention is just £690 million.

"Outlandish numbers are frequently cited for the so-called subvention from Westminster, which is not included in the resources generated in NI. But the data above shows that there are resources available in NI that make any subvention unnecessary.

Recent ONS data specified the total of taxes and benefits for all households in Britain and in NI. On average households in NI receive £982 more in benefits than they contribute in taxes and charges. As there 703,000 households in NI, the total subvention to households is just £690 million. To be absolutely clear, these benefits are not welfare, but all forms of social protection,  plus the NHS, education, bus passes for the elderly, free school meals, etc., etc.

(The difference between Britain and NI is households in Britain are net contributors to government finances of £152 per annum. This is accounted for by a lower proportion of the population in work and lower paid jobs in NI- a marker of successive failures of British economic policy in NI)".

No matter which figure is correct, let's be clear. The only reason that the North of Ireland requires an annual subvention is because it exists as part of the United Kingdom.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Nationalist Voter Apathy

After the formation of the gerrymandered, sectarian "Protestant state for Protestant people," the Catholic minority community suffered decades of discrimination, inequality and sectarianism. Essentially second class citizens, many were forced many to emigrate. In spite of this, demographic change started to occur in the 1960s which saw the number and proportion of the Catholic population begin to increase.

Partition was not kind to the Nationalist political parties either who obtained the vast majority of its support from the Catholic minority community. Majority Unionist rule led to gerrymandering and denial of the right to one man one vote. 

As demographics changed and the Catholic population grew so too did the Nationalist vote. Nationalists which once made up a mere 18.9% of the vote, had by the time the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998 almost reached parity with Unionists.
From around the year 1998 until 2011 the Nationalist voted seemed to plateau at around 42%. The results of the 2014 local and European elections came as a shock. The combined Sinn Féin and SDLP vote slipped back to 38.5%. The result of the 2015 Westminster election shows this was no once off. The SF/SDLP vote of 38.4% is almost identical to the prior year. So what has happened to Nationalism? Why despite demographic change has the Nationalist vote stalled and gone into decline? Could it be electoral apathy?
The graph below is an estimate of electoral turnout based on election figures and community background figures from the census. It assumes that he vast majority of those brought up in a Catholic community background vote for or are inclined to vote for Nationalist parties and the vast majority of those brought up in a Protestant community background vote for or are inclined to vote for Unionist parties. It also assumes that everybody is on the electoral register.

Nationalist voter apathy was catching up with traditional Unionist voter apathy up until 2009 when parity was reached. Although the proportion of Nationalists voting declined at a greater rate than Unionists, the Nationalist percentage of the vote was holding. This was a sign of further demographic change.
The 2014 European and local elections saw a surge in Unionist turnout. The Nationalist vote continued it's decline and remained well below the Unionist turnout in the 2015 election.

There were two significant events which took place between the 2011 and 2014 elections which could have caused the Unionist turnout to increase well beyond that of Nationalists.
On 4th December 2012, Belfast City Council with it's first ever Nationalist plurality voted to change the policy of flying the Union Flag from City Hall. Instead of the flying of the flag 365 days per year it would only be flown on 17 designated days. The Union Jack which had flown over Belfast City Hall every day for more than a century was taken down.
There was an electoral canvass in 2013. Basically the Electoral Office NI wiped clean the electoral register, an electoral canvass took place in each constituency and a new electoral register was published. The new register contained details of 1,241,079 electors out of an eligible electorate of 1,405,808 based on the 2011 census. The new register contained 88.3% of the eligible population. Could it be that the new register contained a much higher proportion of additional potential Unionist voters than Nationalist voters? The Loyalist reaction to the removal of the Union Jack from Belfast City Hall was bedlam on the streets. Could the overall Unionist reaction have been getting the maximum amount of additional potential voters onto the electoral register?
Clearly Unionists have become more motivated to turnout and vote. But that is only one side of the equation and not something Nationalist can change. What can be changed is the huge increase in apathy among their own base.
In order to resolve this major problem the reasons for increasing apathy must be identified. Then solutions must be formulated.
Possible reasons for Nationalist voter apathy:
  • Despondency. Not much progress has been made since the GFA. The British Government and Unionists have failed to implement outstanding issues of past agreements such as the Irish Language Act. No progress has been made on the A5, the Ulster Canal, Narrow Bridge or an independent University for Derry. Little or no jobs have been created outside of Belfast. No fiscal powers have been secured. Amazingly, both SF and the SDLP have entered into subsequent agreements without first obtaining guarantees on implementing past agreements.
  • The collapse of the Irish economy is likely to have had an effect. Note the large drop in Nationalist turnout between 2007 and 2009. The annual Peace Monitoring Report suggests support for Unity dropped at the height of the recession.
  • Lack of choice. Unionists have the DUP, UUP, TUV, UKIP, PUP, Conservatives etc. Nationalists have two left wing parties with very little separating them bar their view on the past.
  • Lack of Nationalist co-operation. The Unionist pact worked to perfection. In PR elections Unionists will encourage voters to give a preference to all other Unionists on the ballot paper. Past experience suggests SF and SDLP will not do the same.
  • Many practicing Catholics are not enamoured by SF and SDLP views on abortion and same sex marriage.
  • The SDLP are a party lacking individuals with charisma and leadership. They are turning non SF inclined voters off who are either staying at home or voting for Alliance and People Before Profit.
Possible Remedies:
  • A Nationalist Panel should be set up with representatives from all interested parties to research the reasons for increasing  apathy and report back on it's findings with remedies.
  • Granting Irish citizens in the North voting rights in Presidential Elections would energise Nationalists and encourage more political organisation on an All Ireland basis. This should be a key strategic objective.
  • More choice is required. The North is crying out for a centre right All Ireland party. Fianna Faíl who have promised to contest the 2019 assembly elections may offer the best opportunity.
  • Reduce the legal voting age to 16.
  • Learn from the Scottish National Party success in Scotland and replicate where practical.
  • Campaign to get the maximum number of people registered to vote.
  • More focus on getting those living/travelling abroad and those in 3rd level education to use their postal or proxy vote.
  • Both SF and the SDLP need to put aside their narrow political interests and co-operate for the greater good.
  • An Irish Passport Office should be set up in Belfast and/or Derry.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Schools Census 2014/2015

Today's school children are tomorrows voters. The strong correlation between voting trends and religious affiliation advocates the use of current demographic data to determine future voting patterns.
The Schools Census 2014/2015 published by the Department of Education Northern Ireland (DENI) provides a breakdown of the religion of school children in nursery, primary, post primary and special schools in the North of Ireland.
As the Schools Census is published annually a trend has emerged of an increasing proportion of Catholics and Others (No Religion/Not Recorded) and a year on year reduction in the proportion of Protestants. Page 27 of this years report shows that these trends are continuing. Catholics now make up 51.3% (+0.2%) of pupils. The Protestant percentage has declined to 38.8% (-0.4%) while the Others have increased to 9.9% (+0.2%).

The figures above are similar to figures in table DC2116NI of the 2011 Census in that they are based on the stated 'Religion'. The 2011 Census also produced table DC2117NI which determines the 'Community Background' of the population. Basically a proportion of 'Others' in table DC2116NI have been allocated to the two main blocks to produce table DC2117NI.

This can be replicated in the Schools Census. Primary school children are generally aged between 5 to 11 years and secondary school children are aged between 12 and 18. At the time of the 2011 Census todays 5 to 11 year olds were aged 1 to 7 and todays 12 to 18 year olds were aged 8 to 14.

The allocation of 'Others' in table DC2116NI (Religion) to produce table DC2117NI (Community Background) shows the following allocation for todays school children:
  • School children aged 1-7: 20.3% to Catholic. 20.2% to Protestant.
  • School children aged 8-14: 22.0% to Catholic. 23.8% to Protestant.
Using these figures to reallocate 'Others' in the Schools Census to provide a truer reflection of the community background of students, we find that Catholics make up 53.4%, Protestants 40.9% and Others 5.7%

Leaving aside the 5.7% 'Others' not identified as belonging to either the Catholic or Protestant community backgrounds, the religious split in the schools is 57% Catholic and 43% Protestant.

So in a week where we find that extreme elements of Unionism are so worried about changing demographics that they are using land funds to prevent Catholics from buying homes, we can determine that the trend towards a 60:40 demographic make up of the North's population shows no sign of abating. If the correlation between voting trends and religious affiliation remains strong, inevitably Nationalism's day will come.