2016 was a bumper year for voting fans. Alongside all the other regular, annual votes, like the Eurovision (the biggest democratic fail of the year, by the way), there was also the major Brexit vote and, of course, the US Presidential election.
2017 is starting in much the same way, though I’m sure many of you won’t really care, as the electorate of Northern Ireland take to the polls to vote for their political representatives in Stormont. As a brief summary, historically, elections in Northern Ireland have fallen into a frenzy of the so-called “Orange v Green”, typically British Protestant Unionist/Loyalist parties v Irish Catholic Nationalist/Republican parties. It’s an amazing thing to see play out if you can get yourself a good Facebook comments thread on a relevant Belfast Telegraph article or some such.
Though, I think, I can no longer vote in this election, my focus now on North-West English politics, I’ll be keeping a keen eye on proceedings and see if anything changes this time round. I’ve got my idea of how it’s going to pan out and I’ll be interested to see if I’m right. I was right about Brexit and Trump, so this will make me 3 from 3 with political predictions so far.
The days of violent divides in Northern Ireland are now, for the most part, in the past, and rightly so. That’s not to say there isn’t a bit of banter to be had with people close to you (watch who you banter with though, they may not understand irony). There are obviously parties in the election who would see the trend continue, and there are some who would seemingly like it to be reversed.
The main focus at the moment is on the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), staunchly Protestant and usually fairly bigoted, made famous by Rev. Dr. Ian Paisley. They are, or certainly were, the most popular party, and held the post of First Minister before “Big” Arlene Foster was unceremoniously turfed out. Arlene has overseen a terrible scheme of late, designed to increase the amount of renewable fuels being used, which has, through bad organisation, ending up costing the Northern Irish taxpayer nearly £500million.
Other big players include (Republican) Sinn Fein, home of Gerry “Never in the IRA” Adams and Gerry “I am nat a turrrrrist” Kelly; (Nationalist) Social Democratic & Labour Party (SDLP), famous for the ever-delightful Margaret Ritchie; Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), formerly the top dog before giving way to the DUP; and the Alliance Party, culturally balanced and intent on progress but still not very good and home to David Ford, the most drab and frustrating politician in the UK.
These are the only parties that you have to worry about. Conservatives, Greens etc. won’t get a look in. Here’s how I see it playing out:
DUP have scuppered their chances and everyone knows it and is targeting them for it. Foster, in return is shouting about Irish language funding and Catholics, which she thinks is helping her, but is actually driving away the less hardcore of her supporters, pushing them straight into the waiting arms of the UUP and Alliance, mostly UUP.
Sinn Fein are still trying to distance themselves from their former (and possibly still current) IRA connections. Their support will remain around the same and may rise slightly as SDLP and Alliance voters display their respect for knocking Foster from her high horse.
Sinn Fein and the DUP find themselves at extremes of the political spectrum at a time when people are, more and more, looking towards a balanced political outlook. The only real winners from this one, I think, will be the UUP, SDLP, and Alliance. I don’t envisage DUP and Sinn Fein remaining in joint power.
We’ll see how my prediction pans out, but when all is said and done, I think we’ll see a joint Sinn Fein and UUP executive, with surges in support for Alliance in particular. The DUP have their core of unshakeably loyal supporters, who will not shift from their view that Catholics are bad people by their very nature, but it’s not enough, in my opinion, to keep them with any real power.
Northern Ireland Election Prediction – Sinn Fein/UUP joint power*
– Gains for Alliance and SDLP
– Losses for DUP
*It should be noted that I’m not even sure if this is a possible option. Can there even be a power-sharing arrangement again? That’s not for me to understand, the less informed the opinion, the better, remember?