Observe the Sons of Ulster

by Henry Farrell on November 28, 2003

The results from Northern Ireland’s Assembly elections are filtering through, albeit slowly; it looks as if Sinn Fein has won a big increase in its share of the vote, and the SDLP, the moderate nationalist party, is going to suffer very serious losses. The Ulster Unionist Party, which represents the more accommodationist face of Unionism, has suffered a substantial loss of votes, and is likely to win less seats in the Assembly than the Democratic Unionist Party. The Alliance Party, which is neither nationalist or unionist, has done very badly. As usual, “Slugger O’Toole”:http://www.sluggerotoole.com/ is the best source of up-to-date information on what’s happening.

What does this mean for the peace process? Hard to say. The moderates on both the Nationalist and Unionist side have lost out to those on the extremes. This means that Northern Ireland is likely in for a bumpy ride for the next several months, and very possibly a crash landing. On the other hand, if the Democratic Unionist Party is able to hold its nose and negotiate with Sinn Fein, it may be able to pull off a Nixon in China deal, that will seem legitimate to the Unionist population. This “doesn’t look likely”:http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/front/2003/1128/1069978503414.html any time in the near future; we may have to wait for the Reverend Ian Kyle Paisley (doctor in theology, _honoris causa_, Bob Jones University) to be kicked upstairs before real progress is possible. Here’s to hoping that he gets “called home”:http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oral_Roberts soon …



dsquared 11.28.03 at 7:30 am

I am reminded of Simon Hoggart’s aphorism that “the people of Northern Ireland will do anything for peace except vote for it”.


Patrick 11.28.03 at 9:44 am

Pedantic, no doubt, but you don’t mean “less seats”, you mean “fewer seats”.


dsquared 11.28.03 at 10:27 am

He’s right you know.


Conor 11.28.03 at 4:01 pm

The UUP has actually increased its share of the vote (by about 1%) in comparison with the 1998 Assembly elections. However, the DUP has increased their share by a massive 5-6%. They have taken votes not from the UUP, but from independents Unionist assembly members. The bottom line is, as you state, that the dominant force in Unionism is now the anti-agreement DUP.

The signs for the SDLP are ominous. At the next Westminster election, I would predict that all nationalist MP’s will by Sinn Fein (under the first past the post system). Ironic that the party who, since inception, has had a vision for a settlement that most closely approximates the 1998 Good Friday Agreement now appears to be considered irrelevant by the voters. Can you blame them when the governments effectively excluded them from recent negotiations?


Henry 11.28.03 at 4:07 pm

Indeed he is. Have had a horribly busy schedule this semester, with the result that I’ve been doing most of my posting at 2am when my head is woozy, with fearful consequences for my (already somewhat spotty) grammar.


John Isbell 11.29.03 at 5:55 pm

I had no idea Paisley’s degree was from BJU. Good to know. That would be back in its anti-miscegenation days, not to mention the Catholics (and the Reagan visits).


John 11.30.03 at 11:09 pm

I believe Paisley’s degree from Bob Jones is merely honorary, no?

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