A brief pick through some electoral bones north and south


I’ve just dragged myself away from the television, having watched as Mark Carruthers set up a small ding-dong between Gerry Adams and Alban Maginness. It came out of Mark suggesting to Gerry that Sinn Féin hadn’t encouraged its followers to put the SDLP next on their list as they went down the ballot sheet. Gerry  said he had…I forget the exact words but it amounted to no faith in the SDLP.  This got Alban a bit pink about the gills. He declared himself outraged and said it was due to the efforts of the SDLP that Gerry and his party had been led away from violence. Gerry  was speaking from Belfast City Hall where he’d been received a few minutes earlier  with the kind of reception normally reserved for One Direction by a gaggle of teenies. So the Sinn Féin man  was  in City Hall and in pretty good form;  Alban was in the studio and and a bit apoplectic.

So much for that bit of cut-and -thrust. What does one make of the election so far? Well, one has to first of all take off one’s hat to the DUP. They know how to get their voters out and they show no signs of flagging – no, that’s the wrong word – they show no signs of wearying in their efforts. After that you have to hand it to the Ulster Unionists, who’ve had a much, much better election than they dared hope. A lot of people (myself included) thought Mike Nesbitt was leading them up a cul-de-sac by trying to be more hard-line/reactionary unionist than one would have expected from a  man of his intelligence. But clearly the hard line pays off, at least in the short term. For the foreseeable future,  the Ulster Unionists don’t look  like going away. Which must make the DUP feel a bit apoplectic as well. Especially as that stubborn thorn in their flesh, Jim Allister, has acquired a TUV councillors total that’s in double figures. It’s hard to bate the unionist hard line, it seems.

Sinn Féin have done OK in these northern elections – Martina Anderson is a certainty to top the poll for Europe, and they’ve managed to keep their super-council numbers up by careful managing  of supporters’ votes. Yes, Virginia, they cocked-up  in Newry and South Down, which cost them a seat they could have had. But otherwise it was steady as she goes. The Alliance  Party have done OK too, particularly in East Belfast with Naomi Long’s husband topping the poll. Guess which party was made feel apoplectic by that? And the SDLP …alas, with the new council boundaries Derry has stopped being the jewel in their crown. In fact their crown is looking a bit blingy too.

But in a way the very existence of these elections was a double-wrapped  gift to Sinn Féin. Firstly because they took place on an All-Ireland basis, even if the south voted a day later. That allowed Gerry Adams to talk about how pleased he was with his party’s showing throughout the country; until his intervention the studio conversation had been exclusively about the voting trends north of the border.  The second part of the gift to Sinn Féin was that while their southern performance  may not have hit the percentages promised by some opinion polls, they can point to fairly spectacular progress.  They’re home and hosed with at least two and maybe three MEPs south of the border, and they’ll at least double their number of local councillors – and when Sinn Féin win seats, whether they’re council or Dail or Assembly or Westminster, they have an irritating habit of holding onto them. Plus as Mark Carruthers pointed out, they’ll probably end up being able to say they’re the biggest party in the councils of Belfast, Derry, Dublin and Cork.

The fact is, Sinn Féin wanted to do well in the south a bit more than in the north, because while they’re firmly established in the north, they’ve been a relatively minor grouping in the south. Until now, that is. After this election, all that has changed, changed utterly.

The fly in my personal electoral ointment is that it looks as though I’m going to be parted from £50, to be donated to a charity of choice. That’s because I foolishly suggested the Shinners would increase their representation north of the border this time out. Damn. You wouldn’t get Chris Donnelly making that kind of blunder.  It was a bet I made with someone who commented on this blog and whose name I now must apologise for not remembering. OK, OK –  don’t ALL chorus “It was me!” together…

15 Responses to A brief pick through some electoral bones north and south

  1. RJC May 24, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

    Ulster continues to say no, it would seem. It’s probably not possible to get hold of the figures, but I would be interested to see the age demographic of those who voted for the main Unionist parties. If the election posters around our way were anything to go by, they are struggling to find any candidates below retirement age. I wonder if their voter base are of a similar vintage?

    It’s all about Sinn Féin in the Republic though. They’re here and they’re not going away you know. Much to the dismay of the Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil tag team who have been passing the buck from one to the other for the last God knows how many years.

    Funnily enough, I found myself having lunch in a fancy pants restaurant in Dublin 6 yesterday. It would appear that politicians have nothing much to do on an election day, as who should be sitting at the next table but Jim O’ Callaghan, Fianna Fáil Councillor for Dublin South East. And brother of the fragrant Miriam. Funny that…

    • Jude Collins May 24, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

      Did you ask him when he last went to confession??

  2. Thomas Russell May 24, 2014 at 5:57 pm #

    I wonder do Jim O’Callaghan’s sentences also inflect up at the end, making everything sound like a question, Australian style.

    There’s a whiff of entitlement and snobbery about the SDLP attitude to SF. How dare these corner-boys usurp us.

    Paisley Jnr was his usual unlikeable arrogant self on the programme with Curruthers (nice to see such a working-class presenter get an opportunity in the Beeb). It might just be me, but I think Junior’s arrogance speaks emblematic volumes about Unionism and why it is so difficult to find accommodation with it.

    On the plus side, Robinson, in the City Hall, said that Jim Allister always looks sour. Can’t beat a bit of self-awareness. Haha.

    • RJC May 24, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

      I find Paisley Jr’s sense of entitlement absolutely nauseating. Then again, given that the DUP was his father’s own personal fiefdom, perhaps he thought that he was set to inherit the lot (and by default the entire statelet). A good old leadership battle is what that party needs…

  3. ANOTHER JUDE May 25, 2014 at 12:29 am #

    A lot of Unionists, like Robinson, Campbell, Paisley, Allister, Dodds and co. come across as, well, hateful. Sneering and condescending, they give off an air of false superiority. There are some who look like good craic but I can`t think of any at the moment.

    • Pointis May 25, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

      Hi Another Jude, you forgot Bartlett in your list. Heard him on radio this morning and I thought I was listening to the Catholic hierarchy’s very own version of David Vance!

  4. RJC May 25, 2014 at 12:56 am #

    I’ll say one thing for this blog, you can tell that Mr Collins is a teacher. I haven’t lived here for long so am still learning about the finer political nuances of this strange place, but before I read this blog I had never even heard of this Alban Maginness character. Thank God for Wikipedia though –


    “In November 2008 Maginness had his trademark moustache shaved off for BBC’s Children in Need.”

    It enables me to get the measure of the man. Am I correct in thinking that FF and SDLP will have merged in the North before the end of the decade?

  5. michael c May 25, 2014 at 9:55 am #

    Thomas, you’re right about the SDLP’s sense of entitlement and snobbery.It’s one of the main reasons that in over 35 years of voting, i’ve never given them as much as a number 10 transfer.

  6. boondock May 25, 2014 at 10:34 am #

    Jude don’t part with your fifty pounds just yet. Our bet was whether Anderson would get above or below 26% in the euros. A pretty poor election for nationalism and sdlp and SF still don’t transfer well to each other as noted by some of the above posts. Put it like this if we want a United Ireland then we need to maximise ALL the nationalist vote. Not transferring to sdlp because you think they are smug and then letting a unionist candidate in is quite frankly dumb beyond belief and that attitude will set back unification for a very long time.

    • RJC May 25, 2014 at 11:20 am #

      Boondock – I agree with you re SF/SDLP transfers. To think that Republicans laugh at Unionism for being fractured. I think that SF need to spend waaaay more time visiting 6th Forms and Community Colleges across the province. Why they are not doing everything they can to get the under 35s out to vote is beyond me. As the BangorDub fans among us know – it’s all about the demographics, baby!

    • Jude Collins May 25, 2014 at 11:49 am #

      Well whew, boondock – I’ll hang onto my fistful of notes, then. I agree with you – Sinn Féin really should make a 1,2 pact. I suspect SF strategy is to reduce SDLP so they have a bigger mandate. That’s understandable too – SDLP don’t always present a strong nationalist face.

    • Jude Collins May 25, 2014 at 11:50 am #

      PS – sorry for forgetting it was you, Boondock. Put it down to native stupidity rather than failing mental powers…

      • boondock May 26, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

        OK Jude you can pay up now still awaiting official confirmation but I have Martina on 25.5%, in fairness I would have gladly paid the 50 quid if it meant there were more votes leaking back to Attwood. On the 1st preferences released he looks a mile away from a seat

  7. RJC May 26, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    Miriam Lord in The Irish Times still manages to adopt an incredibly sneering tone as regards Sinn Féin’s sucesses


    Democracy would be great if it wasn’t for the electorate, eh?

  8. michael c May 26, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

    After todays euro results,SF now have more votes than any other party in Ireland.