Tuesday 26 January 2010

Liam Clarke's certainty

How strange that a journalist like Liam Clarke – so well informed about Northern Irish politics – can be so wrong about Northern Irish demographics.

In today's News Letter he writes;

"Under the Good Friday Agreement, the status of Northern Ireland can only be decided by referendum. On all available projections, there is no chance of people born into Catholic/nationalist families outnumbering those born into Protestant/unionist families in any of our lifetimes."
Unless his readership is entirely composed of pensioners (doubtful) the "available projections" actually show that the 'Catholic/nationalist' proportion of the population will outnumber the 'Protestant/unionist' proportion sometime within the next 20 years. This blog has demonstrated that on numerous occasions – based on the schools census, the labour force, and the census.

But Clarke has a gallery to play to, so it is understandable that he panders to their fears. However, unionism would do itself a much greater service if it started to actually take seriously the demographic realities rather than denying them.

Ironically Clarke's article is an inadvertent admission of the demographic elephant in the living room. Clarke regrets that the two largest unionist parties are flirting with a merger, as:

"The idea of unionist unity may seem, on the surface, like the surest way of guaranteeing the Union, but it may have the opposite effect, bringing the Union with Britain into constant doubt at every election."

The reason why the two unionist parties are flirting with marriage is precisely because the growing numerical strength of nationalism (helped, it must be said, by Jim Allister's TUV) threatens the unionist monopoly of the First Ministership. The unionist parties can clearly see writing on the wall – so why can't Clarke? If the 'Protestant/unionist' community was so certain of its 'perpetual majority' then, of course, it would not feel the need to rally behind unionist parties at all, let alone a single unionist party. It is because they know that Northern Irish religious demographics is getting closer to the tipping point that they are retreating into the tribal laager.


Anonymous said...

I can't understand why the two principle communities in N.I. aren't represented by just one party each. This 'vote-splitting' strikes me as very strange.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you could enlighten us about Mr Clarke? (his gallery etc)

Its very hard to get any Irish people to agree to anything--Northt/South, East/West, National/Local etc -- Its just our nature!

Horseman said...

Anonymous at 27 January 2010 10:33,

Mr Clarke's gallery is, of course, the overwhelmingly unionist readership of the News Letter, in this case (he also writes for other papers).