Saturday 28 September 2013

Ulster fries the data

On dit que the last signature on the Ulster Covenant was obtained on 28 September 1912 and the project was declared closed .  .  . or open for business.  If you don't live in The North you may be forgiven for knowing nothing and caring less about a document that was signed just over a hundred years ago to protest the idea that Ireland-the-island would be accorded a measure of Home Rule.  Frederick Crawford, Firearms Liaison Officer of the UVF and successful gun-runner, claimed to have signed the Covenant in blood.  Forensic analysis 100 years later showed that, while his signature is definitely red it a) has not faded and b) has no trace of iron and so it is very unlikely that Crawford was telling the truth.  It's a bit like Oscar Wilde's Canterville Ghost borrowing Virginia E Otis's paint-set to keep the "terrible stain of blood" on the floor and using up all her crimson, magenta, scarlet and finally resorting to purple and blue.

The most recent General Election before the Covenant started circulating was held in 1910 and the Census of the Western European Archipelago says that there were 17,448,476 males on the islands (women hadn't been enfranchised yet, so we can ignore them in matter electoral), of which 38% were too young to vote.  So the eligible voters comes out at 10,818,000.  But in the December 1910 Election, only 4,875,000 votes were cast: a turn out of 45% which seems about the right amount of interest in the normal democratic process.

As well as the ink, I think that the accepted numbers could do with a skeptical forensic analysis as well.  It is claimed 471,414 adult men and women signed the Covenant (for those with a Y chromosome) or the Declaration (XX people only).  According to the 1911 census, there were 1,582,000 people in the province of Ulster (9 counties) at the time.  That breaks down as 674,000 Roman Catholics; 838,000 'Protestants' and 70,000 'other'.  The Census at the CSO also says that of those 38% were under the age of 18 and so technically ineligible. That means that of the 0.38 x 838,000 = 519,000 who were a) eligible and b) at all likely to sign (Protestants) such a document, 471,000 (91%) did so.

I suggest that is as credible as the claim that 93% of Albanians voted for Enver Hoxha in the elections of 1945 that gave him a mandate to set up his Maoist-Marxist Paradise on the Adriatic. The signatories have all be digistised and you can search for names or addresses, agents, electoral divisions.  So there are definitely nearly 500,000 signatures on nearly 50,000 pieces of paper:
Here is one of  210 Bobs, for example.  When you look at the database, it turns out that the constituency is much wider than Ulster, with batches of sign-ups from many counties in the rest of Ireland, many areas of The Mainland (including "Plymouth, Cornwall" N=9 which wrong wrong nearly right), Canada (N=56), Australia (N=39), At Sea (N=39), China (N=9).  So that puts a wee hole in my maths but only puts a wee dent my skepticism. 

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