Census – the 48%…

It is plain from recent exchanges that they still don’t like to admit it, but the census showed clearly that Unionists are now a minority in Northern Ireland – as this blog put it a fortnight ago, we are all minorities now.

Interestingly, in 2011:

– the first-preference Unionist vote at the Northern Ireland Assembly election was 48%;

– the number self-identifying as British (at all) in Northern Ireland was 48%; and

– the number claiming Protestant background in Northern Ireland was 48%.

The Unionist share of the electorate (i.e. working-age and retired population) has dipped below half; and those in the entire population from whom it can reliably draw votes has also fallen below half. And all the trends are downwards.

Ultimately, that is what the riots are all about. In the history of Ireland, Unionists have always been able to rely on artificial privilege – initially marked by religious background; subsequently by land ownership; since 1921 in Northern Ireland by virtue merely of being the “majority”. They are no longer the majority, and they no longer have any artificial privilege. They just have to use persuasion and compromise like everyone else now. It’s called democracy – and it has to be said, it is made more difficult by the fact that the largest non-Unionist party in Northern Ireland is anything but responsibly democratic.

As warned last week on this blog, Unionist Leaders have not shown even the slightest hint of reacting to the new demographic. Their first move (they act together these days) was to try to get the issue raised at Stormont – this failed due to a boycott, but if they continue to push it they will find, as will ever now be the case, that they lack the numbers to do so anyway. Their second was to hint that perhaps a bit of “Unionist Unity” would help deliver something – but the protests kept going on, not least because everyone knows it can’t deliver anything because they are not the majority and they don’t have a case that makes sense to anyone but themselves. Their third was to call for the protests to stop – a call not even their own elected representatives heeded.

In the midst of all the 48% figures, however, there was a far more significant figure – 29%.

29% is the number of people in England and Wales who regard themselves as in any way British (a staggering 71% do not).

29% is also the number of working-age people in Northern Ireland who have no educational qualifications whatsoever.

Unionists may begin to take account of the 48% figure in due course. But it’s the 29% figure that should worry them most. That it doesn’t, is the very reason Unionism is in such obvious crisis.


16 thoughts on “Census – the 48%…

  1. The Listener says:

    So what is your advise?

    • harryaswell says:

      Indeed. A good question. Parsley is very good at blinding us with science and leaving no alternative actions. These are all statistics, and we all know about statistics! I am afraid that this whole post looks far more like a platform for specious excuses for Alliances’ total lack of empathy or understanding and of being so completely out of touch with ordinary people. As far as the riots over the flag are concerned, the answer is really, “really” simple. Put it back up again. The riots would cease immediately. The overall catastrophic damage to the Alliance vote will not be so easily mended however.

      • Quite the contrary, Harry.

        Six months ago I publicised the view that Unionists should prepare for the Flags compromise by planning not to mock the Alliance Party for wisely seeking compromise, but to mock Republicans for having voted, for the first time in the history of Ireland, to place the Union Flag above a civic building.

        Unionists ignored that advice.

        If you’re happy with the result, you’re not wise.

      • harryaswell says:

        Heh! No, indeed, I am most decidedly NOT happy with the riots and indiscipline displayed by Loyalists. However, YOU say, quote “My advice? They won’t take my advice!

        Unionist Leaders should:
        – speak more confidently and embrace change, rather than provoking fear;
        – clarify, without reservation and frequently, that Unionism needs partners (both within NI and elsewhere); and
        – consider ceasing to be Unionists, focusing instead on issues of relevance across NI (most notably educational underattainment).”
        – UNquote.

        Is it any wonder they don’t take YOUR advice? – Had Alliance been sensible, they would have realised what would happen when they voted NOT to support the flying of the Union flag. Had they been realistic, they should have voted with the Unionists to keep the flag as is. None of this would then have happened. Alliance are the author of their own downfall. I await the next election with greart interest.

    • My advice? They won’t take my advice!

      Unionist Leaders should:
      – speak more confidently and embrace change, rather than provoking fear;
      – clarify, without reservation and frequently, that Unionism needs partners (both within NI and elsewhere); and
      – consider ceasing to be Unionists, focusing instead on issues of relevance across NI (most notably educational underattainment).

  2. Well you are Minority, unless you’re white, heterosexual or a proclaimed Christian.

  3. “Alliances’ total lack of empathy or understanding and of being so completely out of touch with ordinary people”

    I find it interesting you think 11,000 Alliance voters are not ordinary people, that 12,500 SDLP voters by extension are not ordinary people and indeed, 28,000 Sinn Féin voters are not ordinary people. If you went to a crowded area of Belfast you couldn’t identify the Alliance, SDLP or Sinn Féin voters from those who would vote UUP, DUP or PUP, some may be Fianna Fail or Liberal Democrats, they may be US Republicans or Parti socialiste, maybe even Hamas or Likud and you wouldn’t know.

    It’s great that no one has to be extraordinary anymore.

    • harryaswell says:

      Don’t put words in my mouth. I never said that, you did. Alliance is patently out of touch with the ordinary voter, it is plain to see every night. They support Irish Nationalism for a start, so that puts an end to their non-sectarian claims. Also, 11,000 Alliance voters is a meaningless figure now. Next election it will be a far lesser figure. The problem lies within the Alliance party itself. Know-it-alls generally do get it wrong in the end.

      • Stop trolling.

        The SDLP/SF policy was no flag ever. Was that the policy adopted? No. Why? Because Alliance stopped it.

        Perhaps our Cllrs should have abstained? You tell me what the result would have been.

        As I’ve said before, anyone who thinks the Unionist parties are *in touch* right now has obviously just arrived from Mars and lacks a TV or internet connection.

    • Indeed. 70 new members would indicate Alliance was *in touch* with “ordinary people” (though I’d love a definition of that); mass riots and mayhem would indicate Unionists were and are *out of touch*.

  4. Clare says:

    The basic problem is that Unionism (not that it takes much) is having another crisis of confidence.
    Wouldn’t you think that with the recent poll with so little support for a United Ireland would give them the confidence they need to make such a small gesture towards a shared society and accomodation with nationalists in Belfast?
    It’s not like it’s unheard of in other unionist controlled councils in NI.
    I don’t know if it’s a simple matter of getting that confidence, growing up and being more mature about the issue, or realising you can’t live in the past and be in an ascendancy still.
    Whatever the reason, they need to get there soon for they are looking more and more set up for ridicule with the outside world.

    • harryaswell says:

      Your dealing with “people” Clare, and not very gifted many of them at that. They feel totally let down by their Politicians and Councellors, and that includes Alliance to a very large degree. Socialists, more Working Class than not, do NOT accept your logical approach. Very obviously, all they have to do to stop all these protests is to put the Union Jack back up for the time being until the problem can indeed be sorted through discussion and compromise. These protesters feel they are losing their nationality and that far to much is being given to Nationalists and Republicans without any regard to the wishes of the Protestant Working people. You can say what you like, but that IS the way it is. They feel betrayed. All the sneering and superior attitudes and platitudes in the world will not alter that simple fact.

  5. Seymour Major says:

    I have always hated the word “unionist.” I wish there was another word that could use to describe my own constitutional preference.

    The rioters themselves are incorrigible. They are not capable of compromise or civility. The only way forward is to meet them with much more force than is being deployed now.

  6. nationaliberal1972 says:

    Just what is “an ordinary” voter who The Alliance are out of touch with? Perhaps I’m an extraordinary voter which is why Alliance chimes with me

    No amount of logic will dissuade rioters from their path as anyone who had ever tried to calm a rabid dog can attest to

    The protests seem to be a raw emotional response. Logic cannot be used to address this. However it’s wrong to sneer no matter how much their actions are odious

    The Sec of State should convene a cross community committee devoted to the final and absolute agreement of the following for both sides:

    Agreed flags, emblems and bunting to be flown where and when and how often

    Agreement on what’s acceptable for the naming of public amenities and private amenities such as sports grounds which have a high public profile

    Agreement on anthems and where/when they should be sung

    Marching where/when and an agreed code of conduct

    Irish language /Ullans Act

    Once an agreement has been obtained, it should be enshrined in law and no amendment can be made without cross community support. This would ensure that there is no perceived or real salami slicing or erosion of the symbols or activities of identity

  7. nationaliberal1972 says:

    Stormont should convene a new statutory body, comprising all representatives from all stakeholders in cultural identity in NI (football teams, Fraternal organisations, language groups, LGBT, sports bodies, politicians etc) with plenipotentiary powers to thrash out and agree the following:

    Agreement in where flags/emblems/murals can be displayed and their mutually acceptable content

    Where bands can march and when

    Code of conduct for marchers

    An Irish language/Ullans Act agreeing extent and limits of their manifestation on signage/public places/government business etc

    Naming of public amenities such as buildings, streets, sports grounds etc

    Once agreement has been reached, no aspect of it can be amended/removed/added without cross community support

    This would ensure that there is no real or perceived salami slicing or erosion or emboldening of any single aspect of cultural expression without the agreement of the others

    All powers currently vested in existing statutory bodies such as councils etc that deal with all the above should be removed and granted to the Body I propose above unless the system of cross community mandatory coalition is enforced on such lower entities such as councils

    This could be our chance for our cultural Northern Irish equivalent of Barbara Castle’s “In Place of Strife”

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