Notes and queries

I get a lot of questions from visitors to this site, and most them are queries that I eventually include on the relevant page(s). Some recent questions and answers are listed below.

18 June, in reply to John Mac Canna:

Why have you lumped together other unionists with Others on the front page? It is not as good as the old site.
Point taken, but (apart from space and presentation issues) the problem is that for the 2001 elections it is particularly difficult to contrast Others and Other Unionists with previous elections because of the change in the election law which prevented candidates from describing themselves as "independent Unionist". On the other pages dealing with specific constituencies and councils I have done my best to sort out the two categories but it is not always easy or satisfactory.

11 June, in reply to Jacquie Moore of the Office of Public Works in Dublin:

Could you advise on primary sources for the 1918 Westminister election?
Try the UCD archives in particular; also of course the manuscripts dept of the National Library. The National Archives are not much use for this purpose I suspect.

6 May, in reply to "David":

In very broad terms, do the majority of the population in NI wish to remain a part of the UK or do they want to join a united Ireland?
The former.

21 and 23 April, and 16 M, in reply to queries from Robert Henry:

Are the following pro- or anti-agreement: Robert Lindsay Mason; Chris Carter; Ulster Third Way; Rainbow George Weiss; the UUP Westminster candidates in 2001; the Northern Ireland Conservatives ?
Mason stood as an explicitly pro-Agreement independent candidate. (Interestingly he or someone of he same name contested the 1973 Assembly election in east Belfast as an "Ulster Constitutional Loyalist", so I guess he has moved on since then.)
I found Carter's campaign literature illegible but I guess he would be more likely to be anti than pro; I have no real evidence for this however.
"Ulster Third Way" are specifically in favour of independence for Northern Ireland, which one can take to be anti-Agreement.
George Weiss does not appear to have a policy on the Agreement - see the BBC report of his manifesto.
As far as I can tell, the UUP Westminster candidates in 2001 break down as follows:
      East Belfast - pro
      North Belfast - pro
      South Belfast - anti
      West Belfast - pro
      East Antrim - wobbly but veered towards pro by end of campaign
      North Antrim - don't know
      South Antrim - anti
      North Down - pro
      South Down - pro
      Fermanagh and South Tyrone - pro
      Foyle - don't know
      Lagan Valley - anti
      East Londonderry - anti
      Mid Ulster - no candidate
      Newry and Armagh - don't know
      Strangford - pro (late convert)
      West Tyrone - anti
      Upper Bann - pro
The NI Tories are opposed to the Agreement, in contradiction to the stance of the national party (though the national party has been increasingly unenthusiastic about it).

3 April 2003, in reply to a series of queries from "Chris from Derry":

Why don't you give percentages to two decimal places?
I agree that the single places are too blunt. In future I hope to change all the STV presentations to the format I implemented over the Easter weekend for the 1998 Assembly results in each constituency - votes by candidate in one column, votes by party (to two decimal places) in the other. Obviously that means the local councils most of all, but there I also need to get the full results from 1993 in a few cases, and also the percentage of spoilt votes.

But in a few cases - particularly the projection of local election results onto Westminster constituencies which are not coterminous - I think two decimal places offers spurious accuracy, and will stick to integer percentages.

I also feel that in the majorituy of cases - certainly for the older elections - two decimal places offers too much information and can confuse the reader (well, confuses this reader). So there I aim to go for one decimal place, and have consistently implemented this in both the 1983-95 results pages and in the 1973-82 pages currently under preparation - see for instance "Londonderry 1973-82", if you'll pardon my use of the official name of the constituency, which also has several more STV presentations.

Why don't you have maps showing the religious breakdown of the local government wards?
The maps page at CAIN links to religious breakdown maps of both Belfast and Derry cities (both actually from Wesley Johnston's site). Once the results of last year's census are published I hope there will be an up-to-date map of religious distribution by ward. It doesn't really seem worth the effort to do one now on the 1991 results.

I used to have some very grotty maps with the local government DEA's from 1993 and 1997, based on the ones from the Gordon Lucy book. D.J. Moore has some nicer outlines but I really don't like his colour coding at all! So a project for the summer is to colour code his blank map according to the results of 1993, 1997 and 2001 but using my preferred colour scheme. At present I am having difficulty identifying a decent piece of software which will let me just paint an entire area by my preferred colour - any ideas?

Why don't you give more details about the parties and change the order to reflect recent election results?
The ordering of the parties reflects the original purpose of the site which was to shed some light on the then-imminent Assembly elections. On that basis both the DUP and Sinn Fein should be moved up the list in the light of the most recent results.

I have had conceptual difficulties in how to present the political party information because I feel I must include a) information about the current active political parties, b) information about the parties currently legally registered (itself a very new system which perhaps should be explained somewhere), c) information about the microparties fleetingly called into existence by the Forum elections in 1996, and d) information about the parties that figure in the more historical sections of the site. On this occasion I have gone for lots of bite-size pieces of information, rather than substantial essays (of which the most obvious example on the site is my account of the 1995 North Down by-election).

I am considering a series of individual pages on each party, "party profiles" as it were, to be prepared for next year's Assembly elections which is my current mental deadline for making the whole site a thing of beauty. That's probably the best way of tackling the problem.

Why don't you give details of which independents are Nationalists and which Unionists?
Some commentators love to classify independent candidates as "Nationalist" or "Unionist" in order to make the figures come out right. I am much more hesitant to do so. I mean, it's clear that, for instance, Davy Kettyles in Fermanagh got most of his votes from people who voted SF or SDLP at the Westminster election. But I don't think this makes him a Nationalist; in fact Kettyles is avowedly neutral on the issue, and is described as such by no less a source than An Phoblacht.

Another example is Jim Canning in Dungannon; he is counted as a Nationalist by a lot of people because it's clear that his voters wote Sinn Fein in Westminster elections. Maybe he is indeed a Nationalist but there is no mention of it in his electoral manifesto or his victory statement.While he does not go to the same lengths as Kettyles to be avowedly neutral, I think it is really stretching things to call him a Nationalist without any actual evidence that this is part of his electoral platform. The same is true of many of the independent and probably pro-Union councillors in the east of the province.

I will go so far as to say that if an Independent is described on the relevant council's web-site as a Unionist (or Nationalist), then I'll repeat that information. But the information the voters had in front of them when they voted just said "independent", and I think people should be careful not to label beyond that purely to facilitate their own analytical framework.

On the question of a future referendum voting for a United Ireland, why don't you allow for more demographic change, and factor in the Protestant Nationalists?
I take your points re demographic change. I am very skeptical of all statements on this issue, including my own, because the one sure thing about trends in demographic change is that they change. So the messianic optimism currently on disply from SF in the Dail election campaign is I think not well founded. But backing up my analysis (which as I already said I don't hold to very strongly anyway):

The referendum of 1998 pulled out an immense turnout from people who have never voted before or since. It's clear to me that most of those voters were Protestants or of a Protestant background. I think it's unwise to characterise them as Unionists, because the one thing we know about them is that they don't vote for Unionists, or Nationalists, or anyone else. I think you may be right that that 15% constitutes a potential undecided vote in a possible future referendum. As things stand right now I don't think Nationalism has made a sufficiently good case to convince them. In any case the Catholics (specifically SDLP and Alliance voters) who would vote against a United Ireland currently outnumber the Protestants who oppose the Union by a considerable margin, at least if opinion polls are to be believed. The SDLP's party policy on Irish unity is deeply ambigous - see Malachi O'Doherty's splendid analysis - which is another indication that the Catholic vote is much softer on this issue.

A lot of people disagree with me on this one, but I will only change my mind if I start to see opinion polls shifting or a marked increase in the visibility of Protestants in favour of a United Ireland (practically invisible right now). Slovenia in 1990 is an interesting precedent, where the opinion polls in early January were completely different from the eventual referendum result in December. There the crucial event was their rejection by Belgrade at the League of Communists congress, facilitated by the fall of the Berlin Wall as well. I think achieving a United Ireland by referendum in Northern Ireland would take events at least as dramatic. In the mid 1980s I lodged for a few months with a prominent Unionist family in Armagh and I remember the daughter of the house, at the time working at UUP headquarters, telling me that she could see a united Ireland if the rest of the UK went Communist. I think that's about the scale of event that would be needed. (Perhaps in the context of a Euro-sceptic backlash? Most unlikely.)

2 April 2002, in reply to a query from Robert Capper:

What is the date of the next Assembly elections?
1 May 2003, the same as the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly of Wales.

28 March 2002, in reply to a query from Finbar Clenaghan:

What happened to the old maps showing Nationalist v Unionist at local government level?
My problem is partly software related (I can't seem to find a programme on my new computer that will fill in the maps the way I wanted to) but mainly time-related; I just never got around to updating the maps for the 2001 election results. Soon, I hope.

25 March 2002, in reply to a query from Dean Godson:

Is there any evidence of cross-community voting in the 2001 elections?
(ie evidence of Protestants voting SDLP or Catholics voting UUP, rather than the more frequently found case of people voting for cross-community parties or candidates)

No evidence (or very little evidence) in the following cases: East Belfast, West Belfast, East Antrim, North Antrim, South Down, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Foyle, Lagan Valley, East Londonderry, Mid Ulster, Newry and Armagh, West Tyrone, Upper Bann.

Evidence for Catholics voting UUP, based either on drop in vote for SDLP and SF comparing Westminster with local elections, or based on knowledge of the population of the constituency: South Antrim, North Down and almost certainly Strangford.

Evidence for Protestants voting SDLP, based on the Nationalist vote being significantly higher than the presumed Catholic proportion of the population: North Belfast, South Belfast.

24 March 2002, in reply to a query from Martin J Kowalski:

What will be the political complexion of the six county counils and two city boroughs after the imminent local government reform?
Although it's clear that local government is going to be drastically reformed under devolution, it's very unlikely that NI will ever revert to the old 6 counties plus 2 boroughs. If you really really want to do the sums, for Co Derry you want to add whatever parts of Derry Council are not in your notional borough boundary, Limavady, Coleraine and almost all of Magherafelt (a small depopulated corner of the Sperrin DEA came in from Tyrone.) For Co Armagh, it's all of Armagh District, all of Craiagavon district apart from the fringes of the Lurgan DEA, the Slieve Gullion DEA in Newry and Mourne, and 5/6 of The Fews DEA from that district. In the case of both Lurgan and The Fews it's fair to say that the Co. Down parts are more Unionist than the rest of the DEA.

See also: The constituencies | Single Transferable Vote | The political parties | The Jenkins Report | 2001 local government election | List of all 2001 candidates | Useful books and links

Results from 1996 to 2001 for each seat: East Belfast | North Belfast | South Belfast | West Belfast | East Antrim | North Antrim | South Antrim | North Down | South Down | Fermanagh and South Tyrone | Foyle | Lagan Valley | East Londonderry | Mid Ulster | Newry and Armagh | Strangford | West Tyrone | Upper Bann

Surveys of each recent election: 2004 European | 2003 Assembly | 2001 Westminster | 2001 local govt | 2000 S Antrim | 1999 European | 1998 Assembly | 1997 local govt | 1997 Westminster | 1996 Forum | 1995 N Down | 1994 European | 1993 local govt | 1992 Westminster | 1989 European | 1989 local govt | 1987 Westminster | 1986 by-elections | 1985 local govt | 1984 European | 1983 Westminster | 1982 Assembly | 1981 local govt | 1979 European | 1979 Westminster | 1977 local govt | 1975 Convention | Oct 1974 Westminster | Feb 1974 Westminster | 1973 Assembly | 1973 local govt | Summary of all Northern Ireland elections since 1973 | Brief summary of election results 1997-2003

Historical pieces: Westminster elections 1885-1910 | The 1918 election | Dáil elections since 1918 | Westminster elections since 1920 | Senate of Southern Ireland 1921 | Irish Senate elections in 1925 | Northern Ireland House of Commons | Northern Ireland Senate |

Other sites based at ARK: ORB (Online Research Bank) | CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet) | Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey

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Nicholas Whyte, 10 April 2002; modified 30 June

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