Monday 17 May 2010

Going, going, …

The recent Westminster election saw the unionist share of the vote fall again – it achieved 50.5%, equal to its lowest score in a Westminster election ever. The graph below shows the combined unionist proportion of the vote in all Westminster elections since the end of the old Stormont regime:

Given that Protestants in Northern Ireland – unionism's main supporters – have an age profile that is older than that of Catholics, there can be little doubt that the downward trend will continue, probably bringing unionism below 50% in the next Westminster elections (unless the current British government crashes sooner than foreseen). Leaving aside the wobble in the 1992-1997 elections the graph is almost perfectly smooth – and downward.


Anonymous said...

Its still potentially a "long game" although Ive always believed that when we get to the night that we drive old Dixie down (Norn Iron), it will be with a whimper rather than pyrotechnics.
Look at Seth Effrikka. Look at the Berlin Wall.
There will I suspect be some ebb and flow, and occasional outbreaks of violence, but there is a discernable shift in the Protestant population.

Of course there has also been a seachange in the Catholic community and indeed in the Republic as well but the prospects for unionism have never been worse.
The sheer inability to get a candidate to replace Empey says it all. McGimpsey? Kennedy? Elliott? McCrea? ................Nesbitt or Ringland???

It will alas take a couple of election cycles before Nationalists wake up to the potential in East Derry, East Antrim Upper Bann and Strangford. But there is the rather obvious feeling that Norn Iron is shrinking like a balloon three days after the Party.

Anonymous said...

1974 seems to have lasted a long time; presumably the first interval is actually 1970? So, it looks like about a 14% decline in 40 years, and the slope has eased off a bit, so it would appear that the next 5% could take 20 years.

Horseman said...


No, in fact both are 1974 - there were 2 elections about six months apart. The x-axis is unfortunately not to scale. It would be hard to construct a graph that had a perfect x-axis when the elections are not regular.

You're right about the slope easing off, but it could speed up again if, say, the Alliance Party surge continues (little chance, of course!). We'll have to wait and see - I expect a half-generation of dual-minority with an annoying Alliance balance-of-power. That alone should kill Alliance - nobody likes a small party bossing everyone else around!

Anonymous said...

Yer Man Mick Mc Cann is a bit optimistic about East Antrim and Strangford, in the conext of Westminster elections anyway.

Anonymous said...

Separatism in general is on the rise in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom and Spain (perhaps soon France too). The European Union and it's financial supports remove some of the biggest obstacles to secession and finally now will we hopefully see the re-emergence of culturally distinct regions from the Napoleonic superstates they've been drowned by over the past couple hundred years or less.

What's more, within the EU, each success story will bolster the others. Kosovo helps set precedents, progress in Basque Country encourages progress in Brittany etc.

And particularly within the UK, were Scotland or Wales to leave the Union, Northern Ireland's days would be numbered.

The world is a richer place with cultural variety through independence, and in the case of NI, reunion. It's not about excluding anyone, it's about being able to make the most of your own nation and culture, art and traditions.

This is the next big step for Europe in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Of course in East Antrim and Strangford, I was talking about nationalist "success" as getting a quota.

Anonymous said...


Ah, thanks for the clarification. It will be interesting to see if the coming retrenchment in the NI public sector may cause some differential migration.