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Possible, sure, but…likely? May 31, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Not sure that Newton Emerson isn’t falling into the same trap in relation to Alliance as commentators this side of the border did when they saw the exit polls at the European Elections heralding a Green Party surge of massive proportions. There was a surge, but it wasn’t quite as advertised.

And similarly Emerson writes:

The extraordinary rise in support for Alliance in Northern Ireland represents a strong vote to restore Stormont. There is no paradox with this having occurred in local and European elections, held on separate dates this month.
Alliance’s growth reflects frustration with political paralysis in general, of which the collapse of devolution is the most potent example, surpassing even Brexit as an everyday concern. All parties reported demands on the doorsteps to return to Stormont during the council campaign. Alliance leader Naomi Long says her European victory was in large part driven by a public wish to see devolution restored. Sinn Féin and the DUP appear to be taking this on board.


Alliance was tiny at the time of the Belfast Agreement, as it had been for decades. The category of other was created for it and a few even smaller parties to permit a purely ornamental centre ground.


Alliance’s breakthrough could yet be a passing phenomenon but it has the feel of a natural shift. Northern Ireland has entered an era of three pluralities: unionist, nationalist and other. Two unionist and two nationalist parties are a legacy of conflict – with peace, one each can suffice. A European election, in which Northern Ireland is a single three-seat constituency, has accelerated the party-political implications by delivering Sinn Féin, DUP and Alliance wins.
Another Assembly election would be more complicated. However, Alliance’s growth has pushed it over the psychological threshold of eclipsing the SDLP and especially the UUP.
Current Stormont talks risk building in failure if they presume the restoration of a four-party, two-tribes system, plus extraneous other.
Logic and events now point to a very different future.

Okay. Hold on. European elections are sui generis. They allow for the expression politically of impulses and attitudes by the electorate that other election don’t. In an odd way they seem almost cathartic – and that is both good and bad. In part this is because the stakes are so low. MEPs tend to vanish to Brussels and not be seen for years on end – the workings of Brussels itself are opaque or at least distant, and so on.

This is not to deny the victory of Naomi Long, and a welcome one too. Or to suggest that the expectations of what we want MEPS to do should be greater. But look at the local election results and the idea that Alliance is about to become the third force in NI politics seems a little unlikely. On one level I wish it was. On the other I’m deeply dubious.

Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, Emerson is curiously selective in his listing of motivations for the Alliance increase – that clearly being based around Brexit. Instead he points to the idea that the collapse of Stormont was the pressing issue. That’s part of it, but the main part of it? I’m dubious about that too. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s examine what Long herself said the night of her victory.

Mrs Long said the vote showed that people in Northern Ireland still wanted to remain in the EU.

“I was really clear when I went out campaigning what I want the vote to stand for and it’s a vote to remain, it’s a vote to have a ‘People’s Vote’ and that’s what this vote means,” she said.
“For those who try to misappropriate it – and try to put it into unionist and nationalist boxes – I am not having that. The people who voted for me came together from right across the community, regardless of unionism, regardless of nationalism, regardless of all those labels, they came together behind Alliance to send a message.
“And that message is – we want to remain in the EU, give us a ‘People’s vote’ and let us have the final say.”
Mrs Anderson said the result in Northern Ireland had sent a strong message to Europe.
“Absolutely delighted, our strategy has worked,” she said.
“We wanted to send a message back to the EU by, in the first instance, topping the poll and, more importantly, sending two Remainers back.
“Fifty seven per cent of the people who voted here voted to remain in the EU and they have sent a strong message back to Europe that they want to stay in the EU.”


1. Miguel62 - May 31, 2019

I thought one of the interesting trends to emerge was Colm Eastwood’s votes breaking about 2 to 1 in favour of Long over Anderson. Alliance is technically a Unionist party as it accepts the status quo on the constitutional position.

Liked by 1 person

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