Friday 13 March 2009

Libertas NI

Libertas, the political vehicle set up by Declan Ganley, that received enormous publicity thanks to its role in the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty in the south, and that seeks to "reject overbearing bureaucracy and put democracy back at the very centre of Europe's vision", has announced that it will contest the European Parliament election in the UK.

In fact, in a move so far un-noticed in Northern Ireland Libertas promised to "run candidates right across the United Kingdom". And they appear to be serious about this.

On 11 March Libertas registered as a political party in Northern Ireland, under the title Libertas NI, giving the same details (address, officers, etc) as for the UK branch of the party.

So if Libertas NI really go through with their promises, it seems that the European Parliament election on 4 June in Northern Ireland will have yet another novelty, and the Euro-sceptic UCUNF partnership will be challenged by an even more sceptical organisation. It will make the election very interesting.


Anonymous said...

Talk about having more money than sense. Anyone could tell Ganley that the Libertas vote will be miniscule.

Anonymous said...

nothing to do with this posting, but I've noticed that your blog is being sited in a Welsh language blog when discussing northern Irish demographics:

Basically discussing the situation there and its implications on the politics of the six counties.

just thought you'd like to know ;-)

Horseman said...

Thanks for that, Anonymous (16 March 2009 09:33).

I wish I could understand Welsh so that I could follow what they're saying.

Anonymous said...

their biggest question is:

A lot is a rewording and explaination of a lot of your postings. But it also discusses if it follows that Cathlics will vote for unity (there's a link to Johan Hari's article in The Independent last week which says only a small majority of Catholics favour unity) and if so, when would that vote be?

Maybe you could answer these questions!

Horseman said...

The Johan Hari article is a bit of a reworking of an old refrain - that if only kids were educated together they'd get on better. That is certainly true, but it neglects the fact that in many areas the schools would be de facto segregated because the areas are segregated. Where, for instance ae they going to get Protestant kids in west Belfast, or Catholic kids in Newtownabbey? Bus them in? Most of the west of the province has a solid Catholic majority at school age - are unionist parents going to be happy sending their kids to schools with a numerical predominance (and thus cultural predominance) that is Catholic, nationalist and Irish? Likewise in predominantly unionist areas - are Catholic parents going to be happy that their kids go to a school that tries to ignore or negate all mention of an Irish dimension?

The kids who go to integrated schools tend to mirror, in proportion and in location, the Alliance party voting adults. Indeed they may be the kids of such adults. They have always been there, but yet are not really expanding as a group.

The expression of a wish for something is typical for NI - peace, brotherly love, integrated schooling, democracy, power-sharing - but in practice people are not always so committed. They'll tell researchers one thing, but they'll act differently.

Johan Hari is about 5 years behind the times, too. He talks of a falling birthrate when in fact it has been rising now for 5 or 6 years. Those empty schools may well be needed.

The question of when, or if, Catholics will vote for unity is a difficult one to answer, and depends on a lot of other factors. Whether peace will increase or decrease the desire for unity amongst nationalists is unclear. But mayb a period of peace may decrease unionist resistance? If the south recovers economically, while the UK declines, as memories of division fade it may simply come to be seen as the obvious and sensible option. If unionsts resist it for purely bigotted reasons this might annoy a lot of nationalists and motivate them to push harder for it.

The next generation is going to see both the emergence of a Catholic/nationalist majority, and a succession of anniversaries which will re-kindle interest and lead many to re-examine the history of NI. The two acting together, with an unknown unknown thrown into the mix, could lead to results we cannot predict.

I do not expect to see the nationalist side pushing for a border poll until the late teens (i.e. another decade at least). By then the whole 'troubles' generation will be dead, and the majority of the population will have less ingrained prejudice. If a decade or more of succesful power-sharing has led to crossborder cooperation, economic integration, etc, the resistance amongst young unionists/Protestants to greater constitutional ties may be less. This is all speculation, of course - reality always throws something unexpected into the mix.

Anonymous said...

thanks Horseman - interesting answers.

Hadn't thought of the catchment area for schools. Though, were I to campaign for integrated schools I'd press for all local authorities to make an audit every two or three years giving parents the choice of education they'd like for their children and then a resposibility on the local authority to react and prepare for those answers.

I'd imagine 2016 will be potent year as will 2022. It can't imagine that there won't be some kind of pull to do something to coincide with those two dates.

Keep up the blogging!

Anonymous said...

'The next generation is going to see both the emergence of a Catholic/nationalist majority...'

Strange that John Power, an expert in demographics at the Political Research Unit at the NIO, does not concur with your analysis.

And, yes, he has seen this blog. The pseudonym of 'Horseman' should be changed to 'Strawman'.

Horseman said...

Hi Anonymous (18 March 2009 22:09),

I'm not familiar with John Power's work. Have you any references or links?

Mack said...

An argument based on credentials alone is no argument at all.

I've said it before, there appears to have been a degree of wishful thinking among NIO demographers with regard to a convergence of the birth rates.

How many saw the bottoming out in 2001 coming?

Mack said...

'Experts' often get their forecasts and analysis completely wrong. 3-4 years ago would have been regarded by the mainstream as a website full of cranks. Turns out the bloggers collecting information there were bang on, and our illustrious economists were dead wrong.


That said, I'd love to see some of John Power's analsyses.


I'd be surprised if he does disagree with Horseman's assertion about the next generation though.

Take a look at this analysis / forecast by Jouseff Courbage. His medium growth forecast showed Catholic and Protestant convergence by 2041 (approx. 30 years hence).

We know that far from falling and convergenging birth rates have been on a tear upwards since 2000-2001. We also know that far from being no immigration we have experienced large scale immigration.

In all likelihood the Ulster Protestant and Ulster Catholic communities will reach parity earlier than predicted by Jouseff Courbage, and a significant middle ground will open up, depriving Unionism of it's natural majority. The constituitional certainty of an Ulster British majority voting for the Union will be gone.

Whoever persuades that middle ground will win. It's even possible that, that debate could be centred on joining Europe and the Eurozone, not a United Ireland.

Mack said...

Digging deeper into this.

Birth rates per thousand appear to have risen more quickly in Catholic / Nationalist areas than Unionist / Protestant areas. (Not withstanding that some of the fastest rises have occured in areas which have become mixed in the birth cohort -e.g. Craigavon).

Total Period Fertility rates on the other hand, which account for the size of the child bearing cohort, appear to have risen more quickly in Protestant / Unionist areas.

This may be a function of the trend towards having children later. The proportion of the child bearing cohort above 30 that is Protestant is higher than the Protestant proportion below 30 (Protestant population is older on average than the Catholic population). (i.e. proportionally less Catholics will have reached peak child bearing age).

In Newtownabbey the TPFR has increased markedly from 1.60 ten years ago, to 2.12 in 2008 (this kind of rise is exceptional). (By contrast the TPFR for Newry and Mourne has remained at a pretty constant 2.22).

The median age of new mothers in Newtownabbey is 30 (compared with 29 for NI as a whole) and the average age itself is 37 compared with 35.8 for NI.

TPFR rates too 2006..

2008 Births

2007 Migration

Anonymous said...


Even if there was parity between the two communities, it still doesn't herald the end of Northern Ireland within the Union.

One nationalist fantasy (of many) has been this notion that NI has existed purely with the support of Protestant. It hasn't and it doesn't.


John Power worked as an understudy for Paul Compton when he was a demographer at Queen's.

Have a chat with him on his work number at the NIO (028 9052 1793).

Mack said...

Anonymous (Andrew McCann, I presume?)

I've never said it heralds the end of anything except the old constituitional certainties.

Anonymous said...

'I've never said it heralds the end of anything except the old constituitional certainties.'

Yep, it's me. Plenty of republicans argue it does including the producer of this weblog.

Horseman said...

"Anonymous (Andrew McCann, I presume?) "

LOL. I suspected that too, but was too polite to ask.

No, Andrew, I'm not going to phone the NIO for a wee chat, sorry. If Power has anything to say it'll be in a printed document (and hopefully available on the web). Otherwise he has nothing.

I'm familiar with Compton's work, though some of it is quite out of date now. The problem for all of the 'unionist-friendly' demographers is that the facts keep differing from what they want. Take the (in)famous case of the dwindling Catholic babies, which unionists were so delighted to see in the 2001 census. Oops, it turned out they were wrong because they didnt really understand what was going on. Not being 'declared' as a Catholic did not mean that they weren't being raised as Catholics, as the Schools Census subsequently showed. Obviously some parents put down 'no religion' for their babies because until they are confirmed they don't really consider them to be 'Catholic'. Such subtleties elude some demographers.

As for the persistent believe (evidenced here again in Andrew's post of 19 March 2009 16:48) that there are large numbers of closet Catholic unionists, the only way to measure that is via a (secret) ballot. But guess what - the proportion of the electorate voting nationalist is almost exactly that that is Catholic. Worryingly for unonists, the proportion voting unionist is lower than the Protestant proportion. Maybe insead of there being closet Catholic unionists there are closet Protestant nationalists?

Anonymous said...

No, don't speak to anyone who has actual knowledge of the subject.

Just keep posting on this blog as anything else wouldn't satisfy your delusions.

When you can present factual evidence that if a Catholic majority appears, it will automatically herald the end of the Union, you'll be able to write a blog that has some relevance and importance to the debates about the future of Northern Ireland.

Until then this blog will reflect the vacuousness of its introduction.

dub said...

Actually Andrew Horseman has not argued that a catholic majority would automatically lead to a ui. Did you see his post about an independent NI? I have also seen him argue that a long period of peace and normalisation may lead to greater catholic contentment within an equitable ni within the uk. I think the real point he is making is that if the union is going to survive then unionist stategies need to change. Personally i see signs of this with Peter Robinson for example. The views of the Tories and UVUNF are not so clear despite their non sectarian rhetoric. They seem in fact to be pining fot the days when irish nationalism was simply not recognised at all in NI.

Anonymous said...

'Actually Andrew Horseman has not argued that a catholic majority would automatically lead to a ui. Did you see his post about an independent NI?'

I think the introductory lines to this blog illustrate precisely what its creator believes.

It would be nice if he could reveal his identity, then we can all Google his name to establish what, if any, credentials he holds on the topic.

Mack said...

Credentials in themselves are irrelevant, better to debate and analyse the facts. If you take issue with something make it explicit - it may help clarify things.

After credentials

Anonymous said...

'Credentials in themselves are irrelevant'

I don't see any street cleaners performing open heart surgery.

Anonymous said...

No posts lately, Horseman? Hope you weren't diheartened by the 'credentials' argument. In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, 'You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows'.

Seymjour Major said...

Hello Anonymous, how are you doing?

This is an old blog but what the hell?

In relation to this debate - could demography lead us to a united Ireland through the ballot box? It could do if not enough progress is made towards breaking down sectarianism. We know that there are a substantial number of Catholics (making up about 39% of the Catholic population) who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK. Getting them to vote Unionist is another matter. At the moment, practically all of them wont touch the Unionist parties (not yet CU even) "with a barge pole".

Therein lies the problem. If the elections for representation lead to a Majority of Nationalist Politicians, the whole issue of a United Ireland could generate a momentum of its own. Remember, there was an overwhelming majority against devolution in Wales in 1978. That changed into a majority 20 years later. The situation is very volatile.

I come back to the sectarian wall. That needs to come down with substantial numbers of Catholics voting for Unionist parties before Unionists can contemplate feeling secure.

Mack said...

Seymour, that's exactly correct, can we expect a CU sponsored bill to make Ulster Gaelic an official language in Northern Ireland?

I'm not a Unionist (quite the opposite), but the surest way to secure the Union (permanently) is to convince the electorate that the United Kingdom as a state is the best custodian of the cultural rights of the Irish nation and not the Irish Republic. An incredibly difficult task, I imagine though, given that the historical sine qua non of Unionism seems to be antipathy to those cultural rights. A reinvention of Unionism would be a welcome development in my book, and I appreciate what you guys are attempting to do..

By the way, I find those figures from NILT survey incredibly suspect. As with any survey I wouldn't put too much weight on the results.

This Wednesday the Irish Times published a survey which found the Irish were a "nation of brooding pessimists", the very next day they published the results of a survey which said the exact opposite. Here are both links

Seymour Major said...


I wouldn't completely trust the NILT surveys myself. There have not been enough surveys. Apparently, the NILT surveys are not inconsistent with Conservative private surveys but I dont have access to the latter data.

AT the moment, there is no official party policy on cultural aspects but I led commenting on the Conservative NI website (before it was recently removed) to the effect that Irish Culture should be fully embraced by Páirti an Coimeádach Thuaisceart ireann (my joke).

I am personally probably much more Irish in culture than most of my Conservative colleagues. I get a kick out of playing Irish music. I sometimes go and watch Fermanagh play GAA football. I sing in the choir at Sunday Mass. Much of the liturgy, we sing in Gaelic.

That said, there is no problem embracing Irish Culture amongst many of the Conservatives. Quite the opposite. Owen Patterson actually criticised unionists for not getting behind the Tyrone football team. As for the UUP, they are actually not that far behind us. I was reminded by one UUP activist that two of their MLAs had been to a Gaelic Football match last year.

We might have difficulty legislating Irish as the official language. This has nothing to do with not accepting the language as part of Irish heritage. It has more to do with practicality. There is no part of the NI population which does not speak English. If you allowed people, for example, to give evidence in Court in Irish, you would leave justice open to mischief making - particularly when Judges and Lawyers would be unlikely to speak it. It would be a lot of unnecessary expense. The other side is that the Irish Language is probably better promoted without legislation.

This view also finds support in parts of the Catholic community. I have talked to Catholics who are critical of Sinn Fein for using the Irish Language as a political football. Some of them were very angry that they SDLP (whom they support) recently tried to introduce an Irish Language Bill as a political stunt.

Mack said...

The politicistion of the language is a problem, however it's one you may be uniquely placed to solve. From your perspective (as a Unionist and not just a Conservative, I presume?), if come a referendum you can say Ulster Gaelic has official status and protection here, but none in the Republic - I think that would be a vote winner.

It would almost certainly cost a lot less than many fear, and I'm sure measures could be put in place to prevent abuse.

Switzerland has four official langauges, one of which, Romansch, is spoken by less people than Ulster Gaelic. I'd hazard a guess that most if not all are also bi-lingual. So why make it an official language? In my view, Switzerland is the premier multi-nation state. They have lived together in peace for 800 years, and each of the nations whether minority or majority has their culture respected and so they all feel part of Switzerland and Swiss. With all of these cultural issues, it's no that people are opposed to it (some people will waste their time fighting stuff other people like), it's the fact some people want it.

Anonymous said...

Reading some of the fanatasist comments on his, here about closet catholic unionists, that old chestnut eh, where is the evidence for it? I have never seen any.
Seems to me with the rising catholic/nationalist population that a United Ireland is inevitable.
The pro-unionist lobbyists on this blog can throw up any old garbage statistics but the words 'deck chair' and 'Titanic come to mind'

Anonymous said...

'catholic unionists, that old chestnut eh, where is the evidence for it? I have never seen any.'

There is no evidence those Catholics who vote support Unionist parties.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest a sizeable portion of Catholics would not vote to end the Union.

The only thing inevitable in life is death. And death is certainly something very much associated historically with the aim of ending the Union.

Sectarian nationalists are bullshit artists. Nothing more.

Anonymous said...

'There is no evidence those Catholics who vote support Unionist parties There is plenty of evidence to suggest a sizeable portion of Catholics would not vote to end the Union.'
Like what exactly?..

It would be fair to say then that those catholics who do vote,vote nationalist, and if any referendum on the status of NI came about then it would in turn be reasonable to assume those same voters would vote nationalist to end the union.
A catholic non voter has no influence either way.

Anonymous said...

'It would be fair to say then that those catholics who do vote,vote nationalist, and if any referendum on the status of NI came about then it would in turn be reasonable to assume those same voters would vote nationalist to end the union.'

What a croc. Separatist parties in Quebec frequently polled the largest number of votes (something no nationalist party in NI has ever done) and the 1995 referendum on separation was rejected - albeit by a narrow margin.

Catholics serve in the Army, the PSNI, the Civil Service, and civil protection agencies, and rightly in greater numbers than ever before.

People who work in the service of the State are highly unlikely to pursue its termination. But republicans are so used to vomiting up this 'demographic' crap every ten years, it will be hard to wean them away from another one of their myths.

Mack said...

Why would a united Ireland mean the termination of the state or their jobs?

Anonymous said...

'Why would a united Ireland mean the termination of the state or their jobs?'

A 'united' Ireland equals the termination of the United Kingdom. Jobs dependent on the State would cease to exist.

It doesn't take a genius to figure that one out!!

Mack said...

Think again anonymous. Have you read the SDLP's policy document on a United Ireland, for example?

Chances are all of the 'real' public sector jobs (doctors, nurses, police, civil servants running the state) would continue to exist, they pay better in Ireland (Republic) too..

Anonymous said...

Think again anonymous. Have you read the SDLP's policy document on a United Ireland, for example?

I don't read nationalist propaganda.

'Chances are all of the 'real' public sector jobs (doctors, nurses, police, civil servants running the state) would continue to exist, they pay better in Ireland (Republic) too..'

Chances are many thousands of jobs would disappear and the living standards currently maintained by a generous UK subvention would have to be found from a country with a fraction of the population, a fraction of the tax returns, and one currently undergoing terrible financial heartache (even by our standards).

Still, if delusion floats your boat...

Mack said...

Andrew (it's got to be you with that style), you're on more solid ground with the argument that many jobs would disappear after a transitional period (a good portion would probably be safe). Where your on less solid ground is the idea that the soviet-subvention is a good thing and that it should be maintained ad infinitum.

Ireland has a track record of attracting FDI which is second only to Singapore. It is feasible, that with Ireland's excellent FDI infrastructure & tax structure and the north's wage competitiveness the north could experience it's own boom. It's certainly true that it would be easier to wean the north of the soviet-subvention outside of the UK than inside it.

Both the UK and Ireland are getting hammered at the moment, we both went nuts on credit in the last few years (which was the problem, the bust is ultimately the cure that will rebalance our economies). Ireland has a low government debt to GDP ratio (about half of the UKs), borrows in a sound currency, has a GDP per capita about 30% higher than the UK's, and has experienced no problems in issuing no debt. The last UK bond auction failed.

There are strong non-tribal arguments that could be put forward on both sides (in the medium term I think the arguments for some form of Irish unity are stronger, and doubtless you'll have different a view). Anyhoo, it's up to the people to decide, you never know how things will change over time..

Anonymous said...

'Anyhoo, it's up to the people to decide, you never know how things will change over time..'

Indeed, but I'm not the one responsible for writing a tagline that suggests inevitable doom for the Union.

I think you'd be far better putting those points to the site host.