Monday 16 November 2009

Death of Ignatius Fox, SDLP Councillor in Craigavon

On Saturday 14 November Portadown SDLP councillor Ignatius Fox died. Portadown is an electoral area in Craigavon Borough which Councillor Fox has represented since 1985.

His death brings to two the number of vacancies on Craigavon Borough Council – the other being the seat vacated by the TUV's Mark Russell, and that was (and remains) the subject of a squabble between the unionist parties.

Fox's seat is in an electoral area that is 67.6% unionist, and thus in a by-election it would undoubtedly be picked up by a unionist candidate – most likely the DUP who polled 42.5% in 2005. Here though, as everywhere, the looming threat of the TUV could cause some sleepless nights for the DUP. But the future threat posed by the TUV was already present in 2005, when a number of independent unionists, including David Jones who was elected, polled over 10% of the vote in Portadown. The TUV could count on this 10% as a base upon which to build – though whether it could overcome the DUP's commanding lead in the area is unlikely.

The UUP used to be the largest unionist party in the district, losing their lead to the DUP only in 2001. They may still harbour ambitions to regain that lead, but they are unlikely to be confident enough to test the waters so close to a Westminster election, as a set-back could have a significant psychological impact.

It is customary, but not universal, that deaths of sitting councillors are filled through co-option. While Councillor Fox was well regarded, it would require some restraint by the unionist parties, especially the DUP, to allow such a co-option in a majority unionist district. The ill feeling created by the non-co-option of David Calvert in Lurgan, on the eastern side of the borough, may have one of two effects. Either the other unionist parties will not provoke an election for fear that the DUP will win it, or they will insist on an election in the faint hope that they could embarrass the DUP yet again. Given the fairly commanding DUP lead in the district in 2005 it is likely to be the first option.

Only two outcomes are likely, therefore. An SDLP co-option, or an opportunist by-election forced by the DUP.


Seymour Major said...

"But the future threat posed by the TUV was already present in 2005, when a number of independent unionists, including David Jones who was elected, polled over 10% of the vote in Portadown"

I have to question your analysis, Horseman. The TUV would not have existed had it not been for the St. Andrews Agreement, which was two years later.

So what then do you consider to have been this earlier festering element within the previous DUP support base which is now a feature of Jim Allister's support base today?

Horseman said...


There wasn't necessarily a 'festering element', but there was a strand of extreme unionism to the right of the DUP, which will coalesce around the TUV. I think that this element existed elsewhere, and became the 40% that the DUP lost to the TUV, but in Portadown it had already started to part company before the establishment of the TUV. Issues around Drumcree were obviously the reason.

I could be wrong, of course - the DUP might lose another 40% in Portadown - but that would imply that Portadown unionists are considerably more extreme than those elsewhere, and that around 27% of the electorate there might vote TUV (or 40% of the total unionist vote!). Frankly I think that is too high a figure for the TUV - in Portadown or anywhere.


which a sizeable section of Unionism will not be rolling over... blah... blah.. blah...




Anonymous said...

Good to see the sympathy extended to Ignatius' family and friends - he was a great man. But it seems politics is more important to some people than expressing the human emotion of sympathy.