Northern Ireland news

New figures suggest no unionist majority in any of the north's six counties

Recently published figures show that unionists no longer hold and outright electoral majority in any of the north's six counties
Connla Young

NEW figures suggest that none of the north's six counties has an outright unionist electoral majority.

The recently published statistics reveal that four counties now have a nationalist majority - a reversal on this time 100 years ago when unionism dominated in the years after partition.

The figures show that in the century since partition the tables have been turned on unionist electoral domination.

A paper recently published by Philip McGuinness, a teacher at Dundalk Institute of Technology, sought to compare 1921 election results with 2019 local election returns on a county by county basis.

He says elections to the newly established northern parliament 100 years ago returned unionist majorities in four counties - Derry, Armagh, Down and Antrim.

The remaining two - Fermanagh and Tyrone - had nationalist majorities.

In recent decades, the continued growth of nationalism west of the Bann appears to have resulted in a reversal in electoral results in some areas including Derry and Armagh.

Figures collated by Mr McGuinness, which first appeared on the Slugger O'Toole site, show that four counties - Derry, Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh - are now nationalist dominated based on electoral returns.

Antrim and Down, both east of the Bann, continue to be dominated by unionism, although pro-union voters make up less than 50 percent in both.

According to these figures that means that unionism does not hold a 50+1 majority in any of six northern counties.

The figures appear to show that although unionism remains dominant across the north, its grip on power and dominance is weaker now than at any time since partition.

While constituency boundaries have changed in the last century, Mr McGuinness has sought to make comparisons using data from smaller 'electoral areas', which are a feature of modern local elections.

According to the figures compiled by Mr McGuinness the 'unionist block percentage' in Antrim and Down - traditionally unionist dominated counties - stands at 49.9 and 49.1 respectively.

He believes the recent surge in support for the Alliance Party could account for the slide in unionism in both counties.

"Going on the overall figures its kind of obvious that Antrim and Down were clearly mostly unionist in 1921," he said.

"They still are mostly unionist.

"It's just that in 2019 Alliance did very well east of the Bann and they have either taken a lot of votes from unionists, I think, in that area or else Alliance voters who never bothered to vote actually turned up and voted in 2019.

"The effect of that is just to push the overall unionist vote in both counties just below 50 per cent, I was surprised to see that because you think of those two counties as being very, very strong unionist counties."

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