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Northern Ireland Assembly Elections

by Frank Schnittger Tue May 3rd, 2022 at 08:19:33 PM EST

Voters in N. Ireland go to the polls on Thursday 5th. of May to elect a new Legislative Assembly. The election takes place on the same day as local elections in Britain which could prove disastrous for the Tories, as it represents the voters first chance to vent their disapproval of "Partygate", high inflation, and endemic Tory cronyism and corruption.

In N. Ireland the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and their allies in the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) party and loyalist paramilitaries have tried to make the Protocol to the UK/EU Withdrawal Treaty the main issue. They even collapsed the last Executive (aka N. Ireland devolved government) over the issue and have threatened not to allow a new Executive to be formed unless the Protocol is scrapped or radically reformed.

They claim the Protocol creates a sea border between Britain and N. Ireland, and thereby diminishes their "Britishness". The fact that it also gives  N. Ireland preferential access to the Single Market many in Britain would die for gets lost in the waves of emotion they have created around the issue.

Their problem is that a large majority in N. Ireland, and possibly even a majority of unionists don't agree. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) would be happy with some minor modifications exempting goods that are obviously intended for consumption in N. Ireland and pose no risk to the "integrity of the Single Market" as a whole.

The centrist and formally non-aligned Alliance party doesn't seem to have much of a problem with it at all as it provides an incentive for British companies who require access to the Single Market to locate part of their business in N. Ireland. The nationalist parties are all in favour as it safeguards the all-Ireland economy, keeps N. Ireland aligned with Ireland within the EU, and ensures that the land border within Ireland remains open and without customs controls.

The Protocol itself provides for its full operation to be subject to regular approval by the Assembly beginning in 2024. However the DUP and TUV, despairing of getting an anti-Protocol majority in the Assembly, are arguing that the Protocol should be subject to cross community consent, that is separate majorities in both the unionist and nationalist communities. Effectively they want to retain a unionist veto over the Protocol.

Their problem is that the Protocol is the direct consequence of the Brexit they pursued despite 56% of the N. Ireland electorate voting for Remain. Where was their concern for cross-community consent then?

Their second problem is that the Protocol is part of the "oven ready deal" negotiated by Boris Johnson and endorsed by a large majority of the British electorate at the subsequent general election. They have always argued that Brexit was a UK wide decision. So too the Protocol.

Their third problem is that the Protocol was only conceived as the solution to N. Ireland's separate constitutional status (Under the Belfast Good Friday Agreement) after they had rejected every other attempt by Theresa May to negotiate a Treaty - none of which required such a Protocol or "Border down the Irish sea".

Making the Protocol their key issue in this election only reminds unionists generally of the DUP's incompetence and over-reach on the issue. Even many unionists see it as a reasonable compromise between Remain and Leave, and retains access to the Single Market for goods even if N. Ireland has lost its representation in the European Parliament, access to European courts, and access to European markets for services.

But the DUP's biggest problem is that even their own electorate don't see the Protocol as the major issue facing them in this election. Most people are far more concerned about the impact of inflation, the deterioration in health services, the lack of investment in infrastructure, and the risks of the war in Ukraine.

Threatening to refuse to form an Executive unless the Protocol is abolished (something not even in the gift of the UK government) while all these issues need to be addressed has not been a vote winner for the DUP. Nationalist and the Alliance parties have been far more focused on these issues, and it looks like they may reap the benefit at the polls.

A new opinion poll out today places Sinn Fein in first place with 27% of the vote (- 1% since the last Assembly elections in 2017);
The DUP at 18% (- 10%);
The Alliance Party at 18% (+ 9%);
The UUP at 12% (-1%);
The SDLP at 10.5% (-1%):
the Traditional Unionist Party (TUV) at 6% (+3%)
and People before Profit and Greens at 2% and 3% (no significant change).

If the poll turns out to be accurate, Sinn Fein will become the largest party and entitled to the First Minister role for the first time in the history of N. Ireland. Previously a unionist has always held the top position. In practice, since 1998 and under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, the position of First and Deputy First ministers are co-equal and one cannot exist or make decisions without the consent of the other. This has not lessened the sense of unionists losing their ruling position in N. Ireland, and the symbolism will not be lost on London or the media landscape generally. The DUP has often presented itself as speaking for N. Ireland, and now Sinn Fein will be able to claim that role.

It will then become much more difficult for Johnson to trigger Article 16 of the protocol or else (illegally) legislating it out of existence as his government has proposed, if pro-protocol parties have so obviously secured a majority in the Assembly.

However the true disaster of that opinion poll is that it suggests the DUP will not only fail to beat Sinn Fein for first place, but could end up as the third largest party in the Assembly. The Alliance party tends to pick up far more lower preference votes from UUP, SDLP and minor party voters than the DUP, and so is likely to end up with more seats even if it only matches the DUP's 18% of first preference votes.

This would precipitate a fresh crisis in the the Good Friday Agreement institutions, as modified by the 2006 St. Andrew's Agreement, in that each party is supposed to designate itself as Unionist, Nationalist or Other, and the First and Deputy First Minister roles are supposed to be shared between the largest parties in the two largest designations. The DUP and Sinn Fein secured a deal to that effect in that agreement to copper-fasten their positions as the dominant unionist and nationalist parties. But what if the Alliance party becomes bigger than the DUP?

The DUP has threatened not to take part in the formation of an Executive if the Protocol is not abolished or radically reformed regardless of the outcome of the election, although many believe they are simply not prepared to accept a situation where they are no longer perceived as the top dogs. This rather belies the "Democratic" in their title. It seems they are only in favour of democracy when they win.

But if the opinion poll turns out to be accurate, the electorate will have called their bluff, and they could find themselves on the margins of N. Ireland politics regardless. The situation is complex, and a lot can still happen. There is no point in counting chickens before they are hatched. But it seems that Brexit and the way they handled it may have done for the DUP as the dominant party in N. Ireland. Ian Paisley's legacy will not have lasted long.

The counting may take a couple of days because of the complexities of the 5 seat constituency, single transferable voting system, whereby the voter lists all their preferred candidates 1,2,3,...in order of their choice, and the votes of candidates eliminated or elected (in excess of the quota) have to be re-counted to be ascribed to the next preferred candidate on a voters ballot. Thus, while headline figures for first preference votes may be available by Friday evening, the final seat allocations won't be known until Saturday evening at the earliest. I will post results here in the comments as they become available.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 3rd, 2022 at 09:00:59 PM EST
Typewriter hammer got stuck Frank ... double "l" in title.

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Wed May 4th, 2022 at 08:52:24 AM EST
As posted in the Newsroom:

More Irish than UK passports issued in Northern Ireland for first time

The number of Irish passports being issued in the North has surpassed their UK counterparts for the first time on record, newly obtained figures reveal.

Her Majesty's Passport Office in London has confirmed 48,555 citizens in Northern Ireland applied for a UK passport in 2020 - at least 356 fewer than those who opted for an Irish passport the same year (48,911).

Official figures on Irish passports in the region are only available for those issued through Northern Ireland Passport Express (NIPX), available through post offices, and do not include citizens who apply for their passports directly from Dublin.

The fresh records, released under Freedom of Information laws, confirm an escalating trend over recent years in rising applications for Irish passports, as numbers opting to carry a UK passport wane.

The year after the UK opted to pull out of the EU in the Brexit referendum marked a sharp turn towards people in the North preferring to travel on Irish passports.

by Bernard (bernard) on Wed May 4th, 2022 at 05:43:38 PM EST
Nothing ever stopped unionists from trying to have it both ways, and being Irish or British when it suited them. As Ian Paisley once remarked, when lobbying to have N. Ireland excluded from international beef export bans during the UK mad cow disease crisis, "N. Ireland may be British, but the cows are Irish".

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed May 4th, 2022 at 06:46:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The early results are in and the early trends indicate that:

  1. Sinn Fein are on course to hold their seats or even gain a couple and become the largest party in N. Ireland entitled to the First Minister role.

  2. The DUP are likely to lose seats to the hardline Traditional Voice (TUV) party and the centrist Alliance Party.

  3. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and Social Democrat and Labour party (SDLP) are both likely to lose seats and the Greens could lose both of their current two seats.

  4. Turnout, at 63.4% is slightly down on 2017, but the electorate has increased by 10%, so the total number of votes cast is substantially up.  Some of the increase in the registered electorate is due to the fact that the government introduced a £100 spend local scheme to help the retail sector during the pandemic - but you had to be a registered voter to get it! Many will have registered without intending to vote, but many will also have voted because the barrier of registration had been overcome.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri May 6th, 2022 at 04:51:27 PM EST
So it looks like SF will cruise to first bloc position, and the DUPes will stay as the largest Union bloc.  So what happens next?  Will the DUPes get over their hissy fit and join a government, or will they keep it up and force new elections?  And if there are new elections, what are the likely shifts?  I don't see anyone putting a meaningful dent in SF, but do the Unionists rally to the DUPes, or do a significant number get fed up with the counterproductive posturing and head for Alliance?
by rifek on Sat May 7th, 2022 at 02:43:18 AM EST
And my son is in the dining room whistling "Óró, sé do bheatha 'bhaile".
by rifek on Sat May 7th, 2022 at 04:12:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
First Preference votes

Sinn Féin 29.0%  +1.1% since 2017
Democratic Unionist Party 21.3% -6.7%
Alliance Party 13.5%  +4.5%
Ulster Unionist Party 11.2%  -1.7%
Social Democratic & Labour Party 9.1% -2.9%
Traditional Unionist Voice 7.6% +5.1%
Green Party 1.9% -0.4%
Aontú 1.5% +1.5%
People Before Profit 1.1% -0.6%
Others 3.7%

In summary:
Sinn Fein exceeded expectations and increased its vote.
The DUP did better than polling had indicated but still lost 6.7% of heir vote
The Alliance Part did worse than polling had indicated but still grew their vote and seat numbers substantially
The Ulster Unionist Party continued its long decline and may even fail to have their leader re-elected.
The Social Democrat and Labour Party was squeezed between the rising formally non-aligned Alliance Party and Sinn Fein.
The hard line TUV tripled its vote but failed to win any more seats because no one else will transfer lower preference votes to them.
The Green party lost it's two seats to the Alliance "surge".
Aontú, a new conservative catholic anti-abortion party barely registered and got no seats.
The left wing People before profit party's vote declined but they may hold their seat in West Belfast.

I will post a comment on seat numbers when these are finalised later today.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat May 7th, 2022 at 11:40:05 AM EST
What does it imply with regard to the GFA?

Are Sinn Fein  and the DUP supposed to form the new executive?
What then, if the DUP does refuse?

by Bernard (bernard) on Sat May 7th, 2022 at 06:08:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In theory a new executive can't be formed unless both SF nominate a first minister, and the DUP nominate a deputy first minister - as both are supposed to do as the largest parties in the nationalist and unionist camps. That is why the positions are actually co-equal, one can't do anything without the other.

The DUP have said they will refuse to do so until the "protocol is sorted out". They have oscillated between saying it has to be got rid of entirely, and saying it has to be reformed, but have never been specific as to what reforms would satisfy them.

They will come under a lot of pressure to form an executive as the vast majority of voters want the Executive to be formed and to function effectively. So they risk losing more support by holding all of N. Ireland to ransom over an issue which is actually a matter between the EU and UK.

If they don't form an executive within 6 months new elections may be called which could be very damaging for them. However if the EU make concessions too quickly the run the risk of being rejected outright.

So a expect a slow war of attrition, with the DUP expecting Boris to act unilaterally to dig them out of a hole of their own making. Who knows what Boris will do?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat May 7th, 2022 at 09:48:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does this solve the Brexit delay and NI Protocol ... matter in limbo until a government is formed.

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sat May 7th, 2022 at 06:16:47 PM EST

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sat May 7th, 2022 at 06:17:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Northern Ireland election results: Confirmed - Sinn Fein to finish election as largest party after winning 27 seats | Belfast Telegraph |

Blows for Nichola Mallon (SDLP) in North Belfast, Mervyn Storey (DUP) in North Antrim and Green Party leader Clare Bailey in South Belfast

Jim Allister will remain sole TUV voice at Stormont

The SDLP has suffered big losses in this year's election and lost some high-profile MLA's, including its deputy leader Nichola Mallon.

Earlier on Saturday, the former North Belfast MLA, who held the post of Infrastructure Minister, said: "It has been a privilege to serve the people of North Belfast as a Councillor and then a MLA for the past 12 years."

There are big wins for Alliance in the fight for the fifth seat across Northern Ireland, as counting is concluding in the Assembly election.

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sat May 7th, 2022 at 06:33:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Where is Arlene the bastid queen hiding out?
by Cat on Sat May 7th, 2022 at 07:04:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Went off in a huff when hoofed out by her own party. Her successor, Edwin Poots, only survived as leader for a few weeks before he was hoofed out as well. The current leader, Jeffrey Donaldson, has actually done a good job in minimising seat loses despite a large fall in first preference votes. He has done that by optimising the number of DUP candidates in each constituency, and by being able to rely on voters who gave the TUV their first preference, coming back to the DUP with their lower preferences after the TUV candidates were eliminated, as they almost always were.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat May 7th, 2022 at 09:38:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dear Sir,

Much has been made of the fact that Nationalist and Unionist parties each achieved 40% of the vote in the N. Ireland assembly elections last Thursday, with Alliance, Greens, independents and People before profit achieving the remaining 20%.

Of possibly more immediate significance, Pro-protocol parties achieved 56.1% o the vote, almost double the total for the explicitly anti-Protocol DUP and TUV of 28.9%. I have excluded the UUP from both totals as they refused to attend anti-protocol rallies and are in favour of practical reforms to the Protocol to reduce trade frictions - a position common to all pro-protocol parties. Interestingly, the 56% pro-protocol vote is exactly the same as the Remain vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum

Anti-protocol parties have insisted that it lacks cross-community consent, but exactly the same applies to Brexit, which they supported regardless, and of which the Protocol is part. If Brexit was a UK wide decision, then so is the Protocol.  It appears the DUP only require cross-community consent when they want to block something. When the people of N. Ireland withheld consent to Brexit the DUP ignored them.

Pro-protocol parties will have a 53 - 25 majority in the assembly, which is due to vote on the Protocol in 2024, and every 5 years thereafter. Why don't the anti-protocol parties accept the democratic verdict of the electorate and of any assembly votes in the future? Or is this a tribal rather than democratic issue?

I am waiting for the last two seats to be declared to finalise the exact seat numbers before sending this.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat May 7th, 2022 at 09:56:11 PM EST
DUP, the dog in the manger
It's official : they are overplaying their hand, and playing the clock. All parties are obliged to go through the motions of four attempts to form an executive, which will all be shot down by the DUP. So either the UK declares war on the EU, as the DUP requires, or... there will be new elections at Christmas.

In which case, Geoffrey Donaldson will be the turkey.

The Democratic Unionist party is to seek an urgent meeting with Boris Johnson to warn him it will stall power-sharing at Stormont until Christmas if the Northern Ireland protocol is not modified.

A senior party figure said it will push the responsibility for Stormont back on to the prime minister: "We will say he has a choice: Stormont or the protocol."

The ultimatum came as the UK justice secretary, Dominic Raab, pledged to do "whatever necessary" to alter the protocol, which mandates checks on goods crossing into Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

But the DUP's trust in the Conservative party, which was already at a low ebb, was shattered last week when the Northern Ireland secretary, Brandon Lewis, hinted the government was pulling back from threats to introduce laws to unilaterally disapply parts of the protocol.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Sun May 8th, 2022 at 05:41:45 PM EST
Glad Foyle finally got around to wrapping up its count, even though Middleton squeaking into the fifth seat with half the vote of Delargy is something of a farce.  Now we can move on to the inevitable next phase, namely the DUPes taking their toys and going home in a Scarlett O'Hara-grade flounce, pausing only long enough to crap in everyone's sandbox.  Can't wait for de Piffle to send JRM to run things; that should go SO well for the Unionists.  I just have to shake my head over the persistence of the DUPes' belief that the Tories will ride to the rescue when the Tories have demonstrated repeatedly they don't give a bowl of Weetabix what happens to the DUPes.
by rifek on Mon May 9th, 2022 at 06:21:12 PM EST
Unless it suits Boris to have a row with the EU. When you see the sort of crap arch Brexiteer Dan Hannan is writing in the Trump Express, with at least one factual error in each paragraph, you will see there is still some appetite to have a row with the EU. Apparently Brexiteers can't get out of bed in the morning without needing something to have a row with the EU about.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 9th, 2022 at 10:08:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, the Exterminator likes to keep the base stirred up, but it's generally known that it's a Moonie rag, which doesn't sit well here except with the sort of white trash imbeciles I went to high school with who are only looking for confirmation of their hate.  And Hannan couldn't tell the truth if you nail-gunned it to his tongue.  But the EU would be wise not to rise to the antics of de Piffle & Co.  It's just a dog and pony show to convince the minions they're pwning the intellectual, internationalist perverts on the continent, same as the GQP here.  But unlike what the GQP can do, the Tories are outside the EU and so can't go Trotskyite, and they lack the weaponry to cause much damage from the outside.
by rifek on Tue May 10th, 2022 at 04:05:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Moonies? Haven't heard of them in a long time. They still a thing state side?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 10th, 2022 at 06:03:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, they run the Washington Examiner, which lots of illiterates confuse with the Washington Post.
by asdf on Wed May 11th, 2022 at 12:33:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah no, I think you're confusing the Examiner with the Washington Times! (which is owned by the moonies)
They couldn't believe their luck when Jacques Chirac gave them an exclusive, and ver interview in 1986... I think he made a similar mistake...

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Thu May 12th, 2022 at 07:40:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am welcomed into the illiterate crowd then right?
by asdf on Thu May 12th, 2022 at 07:01:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You can be forgiven for confusing the Washington Times and Examiner. It is a sign of literacy that you are familiar with neither...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu May 12th, 2022 at 08:28:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My bad.  The Slimes is Moonie.  The Exterminator is Philip Anschluss's...er...[checks notes]...Anschutz's fascist rag.
by rifek on Thu May 12th, 2022 at 02:17:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm now wondering how long it will take for the DUPes to piss off enough people that Alliance can come out of the closet as unionist, send DUPes, UUPs, and TUVs into relegation, become the largest unionist party, and form a government with Sinn Fein.
by rifek on Tue May 31st, 2022 at 10:50:20 PM EST

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