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DUP decline continues

by Frank Schnittger Sun Aug 29th, 2021 at 09:35:01 PM EST

It is not my practice to write stories based on a single opinion poll, but polls in N. Ireland are few and far between and are currently of additional significance because they give a snapshot of the parties current standing ahead of Assembly elections which must take place by next May. The next assembly is due to vote on the continuance of the Northern Ireland Protocol in 2024, and so its significance extends to Ireland and the EU in general.


The DUP used to average somewhere in the mid-30's prior to Brexit but is now down to 13% behind Sinn Fein on 25%, the Ulster Unionist party (UUP) 16%, the hardline Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) 14%, with the SDLP and Alliance also on 13% each. If translated into votes, it means Sinn Fein is on track to take the First Minster role with the UUP likely to take the deputy first Minister role. This is a hugely symbolic blow to Unionism which has always controlled the top job in N. Ireland politics, even if the distinction between the First and deputy first Minster roles is largely symbolic. In practice, the Executive cannot function without both.

Of more significance is that the pro-protocol parties: Sinn Fein, SDLP, Alliance, Greens and People before Profit (PBP) control about 55% of the vote. Given that the election will be conducted using a Single Transferable Vote multi-seat proportional representation system, it is even possible on these numbers that Alliance will take the Deputy First Minister role, as they are likely to receive more lower preference transfers of votes than the more extreme parties and thus may win more seats.

This could provoke the unionists to boycott the assembly altogether, as they are simply not used to being in a minority position in the province. It does not mean, however, that there might be an imminent majority for a united Ireland: The Alliance party, while moderate on policy, is firmly in the pro-union, pro-status quo camp. But they were pro-remaining in the EU, and are now pro making the protocol work to the advantage of N. Ireland, given that it enables N. Ireland firms to have access to both the UK internal and EU Single markets. A poll using the same methodology shows majority support for the Union with Britain at 49% to 42%.

If one looks at the trend in polls since the last Assembly elections, it is clear that the election of Geoffrey Donaldson to replace Edwin Poots as leader has not yet arrested the slide in the DUP vote. Most of the lost DUP votes have gone to the hardline TUV which lacks prominent candidates beyond their leader Jim Allister. There is also a small bounce for the UUP under their new and more moderate leader Doug Beattie.  Sinn Fein and the SDLP are flat-lining on 25% and 13% respectively, but they have a demographic wind in their sails with age breakdowns (not yet available for this poll) generally showing them doing much better among younger voters and those only just coming of voting age.

If there is a slight concern from a pro-protocol point of view, it is that alliance are some way off their all time high of 18% last January, and are currently on 13% support. That is still considerably better that their 9% showing in the last legislative Assembly elections in 2017.  However there is no room for complacency in the pro-protocol camp. Alliance may come under a lot of pressure from unionist parties to change their pro-protocol stance and may wish to fudge their position on he issue by calling for "reform" where practical difficulties are experienced. There will also be heavy pressure from the near monopoly UK supermarket chains who don't want to change their supply chains to route their supplies via Ireland and the EU.

But the market is making those decisions for them with North South trade expanding rapidly while east west trade between Britain and Ireland declining. As noted in The dog that didn't bark,

Imports from Northern Ireland to the Republic have risen from €1.0 Billion to €1.8 Billion or 77 per cent in the first six months since the UK left the EU at the start of the year, while the value of exports from the Republic to the North has risen by 43 per cent. Exports from Ireland to Britain are up 20 per cent in the first six months to €6.7 billion, but imports have collapsed by 32 per cent to €5.3 billion.


Overall, Irish imports from Britain have declined from 20 per cent of total imports in the first half of 2019 to just 11 per cent now. The increase in the share of Irish imports coming from Northern Ireland , meanwhile, has increased from 2.6 per cent to 3.7 per cent over the same period.

So from a British point of view the battle over the protocol is about trying to maintain a dominant position in the economy of Ireland, North and South, a battle which is currently being lost rather dramatically. Unionists are concerned about Ireland being re-united economically by stealth, but they only have themselves to blame: It was their Brexit and their ally, Boris Johnson, who imposed Brexit upon the people of Northern Ireland against the wishes of a 56-44% majority who voted for Remain. Brexit will forever be an albatross hung around the DUP's neck.

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I suspect that next year may be a little too early for the pigeons to come home to roost in Ulster. However, I think that 42% to support reunification is up from a much lower figure at the last poll.

Also, others have noted that there is NO reunification effort going on in Ulster right now and that, when leaving the UK was on offer in Scotland, leave put on 10% in 3 months once campaigning started.

The DUP are dead, spinning out of control and disintegrating. The problem with fanatics is that their first thought is always of punishing heretics, compromise is not in their DNA. They were only held together by powerful personalities, Paisley and then Foster. Non-entities don't cut it as they're now finding out. 13% is the height of the cliff from which they fall, not a baseline.

Good. British and Irish politics will be better without them.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Aug 30th, 2021 at 07:53:24 AM EST
I fear you are being a mite optimistic. When the clarion call of the Union being in danger is raised, many die-hard unionists may yet rally to the DUP cause. The Union outweighs all other political and personality considerations for them. The past is anther country and it is nationalists' fault they didn't get the Brexit they wanted.

The demographic and economic shifts portend a deeper structural change, but it could be another generation before that is given political reality. Hardly anyone outside of Sinn Fein is pushing for it to happen soon. Why rock the boat when it is sailing in your direction anyway?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 30th, 2021 at 08:19:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, fair point. But the DUP can cry wolf all it likes, I'm no longer convinced it's the first port of call for those who want to protect the union, they kinda shat the bed by supporting brexit and then Boris. I'm sure a lot of unionists will look at the DUP and think, "you did this, this is your fault". It's hard to blame nationalists when they had almost nothing to do with it.

Which means the unionist vote fragments, some to the UUP, some to the Allaince, others to the little heretic fanatic parties. That means irrelevance. Since the death of Paisley, unionism has lacked a coherent voice to rally around.

But yes, republicanism can exercise patience now, the future is theirs.


keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Aug 30th, 2021 at 10:30:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Emma De Souza seems to agree with me.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 30th, 2021 at 08:25:53 AM EST

Someone in France wryly commented that these "unite with the EU" efforts could be started by a conference in Messina that could in turn lead to signing a treaty in Rome. Heck, we could even call it a Common Market...

by Bernard on Mon Aug 30th, 2021 at 11:15:04 AM EST
yea, that headline was met with an outpouring of shock and hilarity in UK.
I've seen almost no comment on it because...really, what can you possibly say?


keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Aug 30th, 2021 at 12:17:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe that the Mail and its readers have a memory and attention span that doesn't extend beyond the next headline story?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Aug 31st, 2021 at 09:57:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Fail continues failing, but at least this time you can have a laugh from it.
by rifek on Mon Sep 6th, 2021 at 05:36:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Oui on Tue Aug 31st, 2021 at 08:16:53 PM EST
IIRC that was shortly before some massive waves of immigration into the USA and Canada.

I remember at Manassas battlefield park seeing the flag of an all Irish regiment from New York, A gold harp on a green field. Filled with Irish immigrants. One thing that the Union had over the Confederacy was this stream of immigrants while the South's lost soldiers had no replacements.
Ah! "The Fighting 69th" here's a link: https:/www.gettysburgmuseumofhistory.com/gettysburg-battle/gettysburg-museum-of-history-merchandise /69th-regiment-irish-brigade-flag

by StillInTheWilderness on Thu Sep 2nd, 2021 at 02:59:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It was shortly AFTER the great Famine which reduced the population by more than two million (or 25%) due to a combination of starvation and forced emigration.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2021 at 07:02:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One might be concerned considering that Ireland seems to be a net importer of food.
by asdf on Thu Sep 2nd, 2021 at 11:05:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Donaldson plays to type and puts DUP ahead of the people

Threat to collapse Stormont comes as NHS faces intense pressure
On the back of polling which saw its support plummet to only 13 per cent of voters, the the Democratic Unionist Party is reverting to type with a rudderless threat to bring down Stormont in the midst of a global pandemic.

As the UK National Health Service already teeters on the edge of collapse and Covid-19 cases persistently mount, the revolving door of ever-self-serving DUP leaders has continued to ensure that only the least qualified to protect the public interest are awarded the power to break our fragile democracy.

Haemorrhaging loyalists to Jim Allister's TUV, and moderate unionists to Doug Beattie's UUP, the party was faced with a dilemma over its ardent opposition to the Northern Ireland protocol, and now we have their decision.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson laid out a number of "actions" in his speech on Thursday morning. These plans include an immediate withdrawal from strand-two North-South structures under the Belfast Agreement, a refusal to engage in implementation of border checks, and a resolve to obstruct any alignment with European Union law.

Crucially, none of these actions includes a timeframe - an omission more indicative of political posturing than a political plan. He added: "I'm prepared to go to the country and seek a fresh mandate. That's democracy."

Democracy, however, would in actuality necessitate the fulfilment of the mandate handed down by the people of Northern Ireland in 2017. It would demand the full implementation of the Belfast Agreement, and it would both acknowledge and respect the reality that Brexit has no democratic mandate in Northern Ireland.

The floundering DUP leader claimed the Northern Ireland protocol was causing "harm on a daily basis" and risked "economic difficulties". However, evidence suggests that the protocol could boost the Northern Ireland economy with a sharp increase in foreign direct investors vying for the North's twin market access to both the UK and the EU.

Donaldson has decided he has a better chance of wooing voters back from the TUV than the UUP. His problem is that it is the UUP which is more likely to deprive the DUP of its leading position within unionism. The UK government has also taken some of the wind out of the anti-protocol sentiment by extending current grace periods unilaterally and indefinitely, with the tacit acquiescence of the EU.

His other problem is that he badly needs to take the focus of the electorate away from Brexit and the Protocol, because must of them blame the DUP and their erstwhile ally, Boris Johnson, for foisting it on N. Ireland. So it was that he spent some time railing against proposals for greater cross-border policing cooperation - an issue unionists are usually in favour of.

But no one is buying it:
`Last-chance saloon' for spooked DUP as it goes hard on the protocol

"He is trying to convey that he's genuinely hard ball on this because he is spooked by the rise in support for the Traditional Unionist Voice party, polling at 14 per cent, and thinks there is some mileage for the DUP going hard against the protocol."

Opposition to the protocol is one thing that unites a great section of unionism at the moment. But there have been no credible alternatives widely aired.

Despite worst fears there was no summer of unrest over the simmering tensions. But Donaldson in his speech evoked past warnings of some eruption

Threats of violence is about all the DUP has got left.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Sep 10th, 2021 at 05:01:58 PM EST
Gavin Robinson sounds pretty over the top even from a naive US viewpoint.

To claim the pretty sensible statements of the people you say you want to negotiate with as "belligerant, mistaken, and foolish" does not sound like the comments of someone who actually wants to negotiate.

by asdf on Sat Sep 11th, 2021 at 03:14:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The DUP has no interest in negotiation as negotiation leads to compromise and compromise is death for fundamentalists.

They have no power, they just want to be the biggest noise to rally ulster protestants to the cause of (pointless) power. Not, of course, the power to do things, to make things better. The DUP's sole aim is always to say "NO", to prevent things from happening. t's all they've got left.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Sep 18th, 2021 at 06:21:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How long will they be able to effectively prevent things from happening? Even in that area of nuisance power, their days might be numbered...
by Bernard on Mon Sep 20th, 2021 at 08:22:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
that's the point. Unionism only has power in so far as it votes as a solid bloc. But with 3 parties splitting the vote, irrelevance beckons.

There is, of course, some hand wringing in London that the power sharing agreement will be damaged if there is no unionist partner. However, Sinn Fein can equally argue that power sharing was always a strange arrangement where they got to be the rubber stamp on Unionist hegemony.

the boot is on the other foot now.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Sep 21st, 2021 at 10:27:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Oui on Mon Sep 13th, 2021 at 09:15:26 PM EST
UK government stamps its feet, threatens to hold its breath until it turns blue and passes out, and THEN YOU'LL BE SORRY!!!!

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Sep 16th, 2021 at 04:53:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Protocol allows the other party to take retaliatory actions if one party suspends the protocol. I hope the EU has a suite of measures ready which disproportionately hurt the UK rather than the EU. The UK might also be surprised at the Biden's administrations reaction to any precipitate action in this regard. The UK needs the EU and the US a lot more than the other way around, at the moment.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Sep 17th, 2021 at 07:11:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
they know that brexit is awful, that the food  shortages are real, that the lorry driver shortage is real. They have no plan for rectifying these situations.

They are only concerned with ginning up culture war outrage for electoral advantage. By being in power, they can continue to loot the Treasury. It's all they care about

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Sep 18th, 2021 at 06:23:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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