Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Border Poll: On the one road, maybe the wrong road, on the road to god knows where?

Fri 18 January 2013, 1:02pm

The best bit from last night’s The View was undoubtedly Stephen Walker’s report on a future border poll. He usefully revisits the last one in 1973, which was about as bogus as they come.

Just over 6000 people voted for taking Northern Ireland of the UK back then, because most nationalists boycotted it. The tenor of the criticism from both unionists and Fianna Fail on the matter is that this call is similarly bogus, in the sense it is after a short term effect rather than as the legislation outlines for the SoS, because there is any realistic chance of winning.

It was followed by a length interview with Gerry Adams, which you can find here

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Comments (83)

  1. Drumlins Rock (profile) says:

    Don’t forget the border poll achieved a 57% majority of the entire electorate. That is far from a bogus result and to call it so is inaccurate and untrue.

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  2. otto (profile) says:

    I liked the bit where Gerry was challenged because NI has a spending deficit (which he returned with the argument that VAT and CT isn’t properly collated at regional level) and then that there would be so many savings on duplicated posts that Northern Civil Service jobs would be at risk!

    So the interviewer admits that an all-Island administration would be more efficient but Gerry’s not allowed to use that argument when challenged on the sustainability of future public finance.

    We should have a poll even if it just lets us have a more sensible debate. The Grafton St shoppers seemed to agree.

    Stephen was being a bit naughty driving and filming by the way.

    And Gerry looked nice in a suit.

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  3. iluvni (profile) says:

    Does anyone take anything that waffler Adams says seriously?

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  4. Kensei (profile) says:

    A border poll would have a pretty high chance of producing a large contiguous area on the West with a majority for unity, blocked by a smaller area but more densely populated area in the East. Compare the census results in the different council areas. Far from giving a more sensible debate it could sow instability.

    By no means certain but a dangerous outcome. Can somewhere with a centre stand? I’m not sure if it benefits nationalism, but it makes me nervous. Maube Gerry fancies such a result would increase his leverage.

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  5. 6crealist (profile) says:

    There’s no prospect of Irish unity without:

    a.) economic stability: north and south;
    b.) reconciliation in the north.

    We’re nowhere close to either.

    A border poll would be a massive waste of resources and a malign distraction.

    If Sinn Féin want Irish unity, they’ll first need to gain some economic competence and also engage in some meaningful bridge-building with ‘loyalism’. That will take at least a generation. And it’s never, ever going to happen under Gerry Adams’ leadership. Agus sin sin.

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  6. otto (profile) says:

    “A border poll would have a pretty high chance of producing a large contiguous area on the West with a majority for unity, blocked by a smaller area but more densely populated area in the East.”

    That’ll be the case even if/when nationalism reaches 50% + 1 of the population.

    Maybe the least unstable time to run a poll is when nationalism loses. At least it establishes the size of the nationalist preference and justifies better accommodation within a pluralist NI.

    If nationalism wins a surprise future victory by a nose when unionism has spent another ten, twenty or thirty years telling itself that a united Ireland is a fanciful mirage and Antrim, Down and North Armagh are still unionist strongholds will that bring gentler change? Or a big bloody mess?

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  7. Cric (profile) says:

    As someone who would almost certainly vote ‘Yes’ for Irish unity I can’t understand what the calls for a border poll at this point in time will achieve. Maybe in another decade when some of the over 60s votes drop off and we (no doubt) push for votes for 16 year olds – it might be conceivable that there might be a majority, but there seems no evidence of it now.

    The only possible angle of benefit to Sinn Fein I can foresee is trying to out-Irish Fianna Fail in the south – or maybe irritating Loyalism to the point where it continues making a public fool of itself – which may have the effect of pushing lay Nationalism towards its default ‘Yes’ position in another border poll down the line.

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  8. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    Personally, I would consider myself a pathfinder, the status quo isn’t acceptable to me. Frankly a vote for a United Ireland is a protest at the status quo and it doesn’t matter if it succeeds or fails. There is no serious path-finding being done within Unionism, the DUP tried, the UUP tried, the Alliance seem to be the only “unionist” party taking the matter seriously while others are consolidating limited political power that is only becoming more limited.

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  9. Nordie Northsider (profile) says:

    My view is that this campaign will damage SF in the Republic, re-inforcing their image as a ‘one-issue’ party and giving opponents who accuse them of economic naivity even more stones to fling at them.

    Some commentators have said that this is about scooping up the traditional Nationalist vote in the Republic. I’m not sure that there is such a thing any more. Even if there is, Sinn Féin probably have it nailed down already.

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  10. JH (profile) says:

    A border poll would at least necessitate a debate, which would dispel some of the myths Unionism depends upon to perpetuate itself; such as that protestants wouldn’t support unity or that it isn’t the best economic decision for everyone.

    And that’s why they’ll rubbish it.

    When the only real rubbish is McGimpsey’s argument that you can simply add the government deficits together to project the economic viability of the new state.

    And Foster’s argument that it won’t happen in her childrens’ lifetimes? Look around you, Minister. The safety blanket of the EU is creating and destroying borders all over Europe and beyond.

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  11. Red Lion (profile) says:

    Are nationalists not embarassed about Gerry Adams as a politician?(and yes as a union man i’m frustrated and embarassed about unionism). There’s no chance of taking the case for a UI forward while Adams and McGuinness, denying their past, are the main cheerleaders.

    For once, unionist polticians sound calm and rational, see Foster and McGimpsey at 5.00

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  12. tacapall (profile) says:

    I believe the leadership of Sinn Fein know a border poll at this time has no chance of producing a change in the constitutional status of the six counties. It would however not only give them a baseline in regards to nationalist attitudes to constitutional change, but would serve as a reminder to those on the republican side who disagree with Sinn Feins analysis on the way forward, that its nationalism themselves who are the ones to be persuaded rather than driving the British into the sea. Like Otto said above, history could repeat itself and Unionism could find itself fighting to keep the status quo from just two of the six counties, the densely populated areas of Antrim and Down, the only two counties they are in a majority.

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  13. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Bogus in the sense that it was called to take the issue off the table, which contrasts with Gerry’s argument here in fact talk of the poll is to actually try to get on the table.

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  14. Cric (profile) says:

    Red Lion, to copy and paste a comment I made on another site yesterday:

    Step aside Gerry and let the new generation through, as the public face of a movement you’re an impediment now to its goals – as much as we can all laugh at the Jeremy Kylesque mong crowd on Nolan last night they had a point, in that people who were involved in trying to kill and indeed in killing other humans lack a moral authority to lecture others on the use of violence.

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  15. tacapall (profile) says:

    Mick thats the problem with British interference in Irish affairs, an unelected British overlord having the final say whether Irish people can vote themselves out of the union with Britain. That’s a backstep from what was agreed in the GFA., just like the Irish language act.

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  16. otto (profile) says:

    “people who were involved in trying to kill and indeed in killing other humans lack a moral authority to lecture others on the use of violence.”

    They also justify attacks on liberals as turn-coat quislings.

    Who’d replace them though?

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  17. otto (profile) says:

    Should read “allow others to justify attacks on liberals”

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  18. BarneyT (profile) says:

    If unionism is sure that that majority in the north want to remain in the UK, they should be pushing for a Poll. The risk I believe is SF’s.

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  19. Cric (profile) says:

    otto, I guess a younger more liberal generation. Having lived abroad for most of the last decade and only recently returned home I am not hugely knowledgeable about the current membership of Sinn Fein, or who would be good candidates for such a thing – but it is quite obvious that the militant history of their leaders is constantly being used as a stick to beat the party with – from all directions north and south.

    I guess the only pragmatic excuse for keeping retired militants at the top of the party is to prevent a grass roots split i.e the normalisation of the party should probably be done at a pace which manages to also normalise as many of its supporters as possible.

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  20. RyanAdams (profile) says:

    ” an unelected British overlord having the final say whether Irish people can vote themselves out of the union with Britain. That’s a backstep from what was agreed in the GFA.”

    Ehhh. No. That’s exactly what was agreed to in the GFA. That’s what a majority voted for, that’s how it will be.

    The time for a border poll is when Nationalists reach 50% in the assembly. For now, your efforts would be better spent searching for that extra 10.2% there needed for that. That’s probably 2020 unless Unionism can find capable leaders between now and then. I’m resigned to the 2020 option otherwise.

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  21. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Imagine that SF manages to persuade the SoS to hold a referendum. (Won’t happen, I know, but never mind.)

    SF will campaign enthusiastically for a UI.

    Will the SDLP? I ask only because I don’t know.

    What will the Alliance Party do? Nobody knows, not even the leader of the Alliance Party.

    The three unionist parties will all campaign for the status quo. Everybody knows that.

    Anyway. Halfway through the campaign the SF politbureau’s R&D department realizes that there’s going to be a big majority in favour of the status quo.

    Will SF do what the SDLP did in 1973, CHICKEN OUT, suddenly discover some doctrinal impurity in the timing or the wording of the referendum, and command all its voters to abstain? If I was a betting man I’d put money on it. When people lose their way they can decommission the ballot-box as well as the Armalite.

    The SF politbureau is a bigger barrier to Irish unity than the unionist parties.

    Its members have no vision, no strategy, and no economic awareness.

    They tolerate no free speech within their own ranks.

    They believe that they OWN both their electors and the areas in which those electors live.

    Then there is the little matter of their Chief Panjandrum. Apart from being an unattractive advocate in his own right, Mr Adams is the biggest living lie in Irish political history.

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  22. between the bridges (profile) says:

    what would we be voting on? seriously if there was a vote tomorrow what would be the options? status quo v the unknown, no one has set out what a UI would be, or how it would deal with issues like where money coming from, what fleg, anthem, public sector, health, services, council areas, blah blah blah… so at present the choice is between what you know (whether you like it or not) and what you don’t know. does anyone serious want to vote on an unknown outcome? imho SF would sh it themselves if border poll was called…

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  23. JH (profile) says:

    between the bridges

    I agree. Let’s get a Green Paper ASAP.

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  24. David Crookes (profile) says:

    A referendum would certainly make people think seriously, between the bridges. It’s a bit like playing Russian roulette with one bullet in a two-chamber revolver.

    JH, a GREEN paper might be seen as prejudging the outcome.

    Prophecy: if the three unionist parties join merrily in the chorus of demands for a referendum, SF’s enthusiasm for the project will diminish.

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  25. otto (profile) says:

    “so at present the choice is between what you know (whether you like it or not) and what you don’t know. does anyone serious want to vote on an unknown outcome”

    What about

    “Do you want to join the Irish republic”

    Money = Euro
    Flag = Tricolour
    Anthem = Amhrán na bhFiann
    Council Areas = Counties (municipal districts below that)
    Regional Assembly = Ulster (bit of a change there but FG’s bringing in three for the south so makes sense)

    You’re right that people won’t vote for an unknown unless everyone’s telling them it’s a good thing (GFA style) but the republic’s not all that far away if you want to visit and take a look.

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  26. IJP (profile) says:

    They shouldn’t be pushing for a poll, for the reasons Kensei, 6crealist and others have established.

    Essentially you would create an utterly sectarian debate (accompanied inevitably by sectarian tensions and thus by sectarian violence) all for the sake of a vote to which we already know the outcome.

    The real problem is that those pushing for Irish Unity have to listen to 6crealist. You need both an economic and a social imperative; and you need to make NI worth having in a New Ireland. Neither is even being attempted by Nationalists currently.

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  27. Cric (profile) says:

    otto, I’d like to think a few of those are on the table for negotiation and compromise – flag and anthem being obvious contenders.

    Maybe there is method in Sinn Fein’s madness then – although any sensible debate on these types of logistical issues is likely to be met with a collective ‘fingers in the ears’ from Unionism.

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  28. Ulick (profile) says:

    “Essentially you would create an utterly sectarian debate (accompanied inevitably by sectarian tensions and thus by sectarian violence) all for the sake of a vote to which we already know the outcome.”

    Absolute nonsense. If this society and the unionists in particular can’t handle an adult debate in a clam and reasoned manner then it’s not worth saving the status quo.

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  29. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    I can only agree with Mr Crookes – somehow, we just know SF would spin its defeat as something other than defeat. I am slightly surprised though they are persevering with this little initiative just now, given the unpromising (for them) census data that has come through. I know it’s their longer term goal and all and they need to be seen to be agitating towards it, but given the unlikelihood of winning in the next few years, wouldn’t they be better advised to bide their time on an actual vote? But bring it on.

    I actually think we should have border polls installed as a regular thing every say 20 years, but on the basis that no one is allowed to talk about the effing border for 19 of each 20 year cycle. Unworkable because of SF but then isn’t almost everything?

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  30. Fortlands (profile) says:

    A border poll would be useful regardless of result as it would focus republicanism on why it wants a UI (economic reasons? Cultural? Maitre chez nous?) and unionism on why it wants to remain in the Union (economic reasons? Cultural? Maitre…no, that one won’t work). It’s certainly past time that the economic argument was got out in the open, with objective facts and figures, to be either substantiated or abandoned. The cultural and being in charge in your own house could then be addressed, in all their complexity.

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  31. PaddyReilly (profile) says:

    “A border poll would have a pretty high chance of producing a large contiguous area on the West with a majority for unity, blocked by a smaller area but more densely populated area in the East.”

    No, it won’t. The 1973 poll deliberately drove all the votes to Belfast, mixed them up and counted them there. You couldn’t allow a constituency by constituency, or county by county vote: that would show how unpopular the Union is other than in places like Lisburn and N-abbey.

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  32. Reader (profile) says:

    PaddyReilly: You couldn’t allow a constituency by constituency, or county by county vote: that would show how unpopular the Union is other than in places like Lisburn and N-abbey.
    That’s the spirit Paddy. Try to salvage something from the anticipated defeat.
    If you actually thought you could win a border poll you wouldn’t want to see the North Down count.
    But either way, if there were regional counts we would all be in deep doo-doo on the morning after the results.

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  33. Gopher (profile) says:

    Adams according to his interview is not calling for a border poll this side of an assembly election. So I imagine 1916 figures somewhere in the strategy. The call will probably maintain turnout, create emotional resonance and further marginalize the SDLP whilst raising the profile all over the South, since that is all people will debate once its called.

    FF and FG will have to take an emotional stance also and enter into a Republican beauty contest or be attacked as half baked Republicans. Hopefully the Southern parties and electorate are too sophisticated to fall for it and engage in fatual politics not pantomime

    So in conclusion its not an attack on unionism, the union or the border, its an attack on the nationalist parties.

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  34. JH (profile) says:

    “JH, a GREEN paper might be seen as prejudging the outcome.”

    A GREEN paper would only be implemented in the event of one specific outcome…

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  35. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Can I say that NN is dead right on the irrelevance of the south in this (god I sound like a cracked record). It’s hard to get their senior reps at Leinster House to talk about it, not because they don’t care, but because they are short handed and have more pressing things to scrum for votes on.

    It’s the party’s marketing exercise for the north where not much is happening politically. It’s a holding pattern. Kensei and 6crealist make good points, but there’s not a pup’s chance in hell of it happening.

    Is that good for nationalism? I suspect it might be better to hammer out some functional sense (if not quite a vision) of the future which allows Nationalism to participate in the short to mid term of politics rather than submitting to this endless drift.

    PS (JH), I do like the idea of a Green Paper on Irish Unity… it might help crystalise an interesting debate.

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  36. forthman (profile) says:

    I support a border poll, why not? Although. judging by some of the glib, anti-SF posts, you would wonder why some people are really against it.
    On the question of the border poll, in the interests of the new evolving relationships between our islands, should the people of Great Britain not have a say? Unionists often, bizarrely quote ‘economics’ as a reason why the ‘south’ is unfit…etc.. I feel that the people of Britain should have to right to opt out of the ‘United Kingdom’, and to preserve Great Britain. Why should British taxpayers not have a say?
    Are unionists afraid of the outcome of that particular border poll? They should be!

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  37. Reader (profile) says:

    forthman: I feel that the people of Britain should have to right to opt out of the ‘United Kingdom’, and to preserve Great Britain. Why should British taxpayers not have a say?
    Actually, Scotland is having a referendum on their participation in the union in 2014. Wales and Northern Ireland could each have a referendum if the conditions for one were ever met, and even England could have one if it ever felt the inclination. In all this, who is left without a say?

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  38. MALCOLMX (profile) says:

    Ultimately the SOS holds the power to call it but SF has been not behind the door on a UI or a border poll and this coming more to the fore now is part of a project started a few years back to promote the UI agenda both at home and abroad.

    There are many unknowns about a UI but the purpose of this by GA is to start that debate, years before a debate will be called so everyone can engage in that debate and many of the unknowns should become clearer.

    Lets be honest, it will be a few years before the SOS will call the poll but as slugger is evidence of, the debate is already started on this forum and others and between different people of various backgrounds

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  39. Viridiplantae (profile) says:

    RyanAdams

    The time for a border poll is when Nationalists reach 50% in the assembly. For now, your efforts would be better spent searching for that extra 10.2% there needed for that. That’s probably 2020 unless Unionism can find capable leaders between now and then. I’m resigned to the 2020 option otherwise.

    Hmmmm… I’ll let the figures do the talking rather than my words.

    Nationalist proportion of the total vote

    1997 40.2%
    1998 39.7%
    1999 45.4%
    2001 42.7%
    2003 40.5%
    2004 42.2%
    2005 41.8%
    2007 42.0%
    2009 42.2%
    2010 42.0%
    2011 41.5%

    Census, Catholic
    2001 40.26%
    2011 40.76%

    Census, Catholic or brought up Catholic
    2001 43.76%
    2011 45.14%

    Census 2011, main language
    English 96.86%
    Polish 1.02%
    Lithuanian 0.36%
    Irish 0.24%
    Portuguese 0.13%
    Slovak 0.13%
    Chinese 0.13%
    Tagalog/Filipino 0.11%
    Latvian 0.07%
    Russian 0.07%
    Malayalam 0.07%
    Hungarian 0.06%
    Other 0.75%

    Frankly I think that Nationalist parties will be lucky enough to have more than 42% of the vote in 2020, never mind more than 50%, notwithstanding how well Alliance etc. may be doing versus big U Unionism at that point. Certainly though your demographic hubris concerning the Nationalist vote share is misplaced. From here on in any increase in the Nationalist vote will have to be earned. The days of a demographic free lunch for Nationalism ended in roughly the year 2000.

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  40. Zig70 (profile) says:

    To me a border poll would be a good thing for nats and I’m not much of a patriot. A big part of the flag protest is the complete invalidation of being Irish in the North. A border poll will provide a marker by which nats can insist they are not dismissed and that is a valuable thing.

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  41. forthman (profile) says:

    Reader,

    I think you presume that ‘northern ireland’ is in some way an equal member of the UK. You are absolutely wrong. Only the BNP membership and the ‘little englander’ conservative rump will tell you that ‘NI’ is as British as Finchly.

    The unionists are seen as ‘paddies’ on the ‘mainland’. A view which I have spent years trying to undo, there’re your lot not ours narritive.

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  42. Zig70 (profile) says:

    Unionists are seen as Irish in London and British in Dublin.

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  43. Ulick (profile) says:

    @Viridiplantae

    No corresponding list of unionist proportion of the vote? Let’s face it we’re not talking about 50% + 1 of the census or overall vote winning a referendum, we’re talking nationalist v unionist + 1. Big difference.

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  44. Reader (profile) says:

    forthman: I think you presume that ‘northern ireland’ is in some way an equal member of the UK. You are absolutely wrong.
    And you have the documents to prove it?
    The problem with your proposition is that it ignores policy, law and constitutional practice in favour of deferring to the casual prejudice of people who talk about ‘paddies’. That’s not a compelling argument, you know.
    I lived in England for three years, quite a while ago. So far as I can recall, the only person who ever called me a Paddy referred to himself as a Mick.

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  45. Zig70 (profile) says:

    Really you aren’t talking about nats v unionist +1 or Catholic v Protestant +1. UI v union is a different question and none of the stats are a direct fit. All the supposed statisticians on this site seem to ignore their assumptions which makes me think they have no experience of using stats other than to back up their prejudice. The arguments against are often fluid things like economics and the arguments for leave too many unknowns as to what the pup will look like.

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  46. Gopher (profile) says:

    @Zig70

    Now is very much a case of Catholic+non believer+ others v Protestant+non believer+others+1. The doubling of the non believer population was the event that blind sided everyone in this census. 5.5% If the non believers stand as a united political party they might end up with a ministry up at Stormount that is how pathetic are numbers game is. It is amusing how every political party is ignoring their existence.

    Northern Ireland needs stability, we chase the tourists and protestants+catholics+non believers+others who live here are f******. Another fact which is lost on everyone is, no stability= no jobs = outward flow of population. Decide for yourself how they will influence any border poll.

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  47. BarneyT (profile) says:

    Will an outward flow of population help draw out the bad blood? I doubt it. The worldlier amongst us will be drawn to foreign parts and as a consequence expand their minds further. The extremists (often from the deprived sectors) will remain.

    If only the unenlightened can depart and return when they see how the world works elsewhere, so they may contribute positively.

    A United Ireland (forgetting about how the Royal allegiance is addressed for now) is surely a proper aspiration. There will never be a socialist republic of Ireland, as any notion of the old “back door Cuba” will not be tolerated by our current rulers. Anyone fearful of socialism can rest easy.

    However Ireland as a whole and its people are central in their thinking and perhaps even to the right of that. I would include SF supporters in that grouping too, particularly north of the border.

    A united Ireland would present economic challenges but as an entity would stand a better chance of fighting them. I would love to see those who represent unionism come up with their terms for a united Ireland, as I’m afraid that has to be the starting point.

    In the north unionists have to concede ground to ensure representation, as society is more balanced now than it ever has been. In a wider united Ireland, nationalists need to take a step back and identify that they are prepared to lose, as they will have to lose something, as will republicans if we are to create a single entity.

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  48. Zig70 (profile) says:

    Catholic = UI + Protestant = union maybe a good general rule but that is all it is. There is an unknown mix of others but the big number is who will bother voting. The southern referendums show that voters are party led and a large section of NI have no party home. All down to timing, events and persuaders.

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  49. Gopher (profile) says:

    Nope quite the reverse, Northern Ireland is losing some of its best people from whatever background through outflow. Who is it leaving? Certainly not the people that will forge a new NI or a new Ireland. This is happening because we lack stability. I keep hearing the end game is a United Ireland. We are nowhere near the end game. A united Ireland has about one million eight hundred thousand fresh problems at this moment in time. Stability is the only way forward a united Ireland right now is not.

    I have a passing interest in art and noticed that there was a fine sculpture of a United Irishman pikeman came up for auction recently. The artist really captured his subject. My first thought was that would look good in a plinth at city hall. It would also have actual historical significance. People react better to positive action than negative actions.

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  50. PaddyReilly (profile) says:

    Try to salvage something from the anticipated defeat.

    It’s very easy to win when you yourself set the parameters of the competition. It’s rather like Martin McGuinness announcing a Martin McGuinness lookalike competition and then winning first prize. The constitution of Northern Ireland is basically that (1) a dissenting minority, when Unionist, may secede within borders of its own making and (2) a dissenting minority, when Nationalist, may not secede within borders of its own making.

    Viridiplantae/Gopher’s figures are achieved by counting only the first preference vote, in Stormont elections. The final poll of the Euro elections is the one which gives us the most accurate breakdown of where the two designations stand, because Centrists and minor parties are eliminated and their vote reassigned to the side they favour. In a European Parliamentary election, the achievement of two quotas means that you have 50% (and more) of the voters behind you. The figures I have given before, but as this does not prevent the merchants of false statistics from displaying their ware, I give them again:-

    THE SECOND NATIONALIST CANDIDATE: votes short of a quota

    1994 84,752 (with undistributed SDLP surplus of 22,025)
    1999 50,319 (with undistributed SDLP surplus of 21,028)
    2004 28,789 (with undistributed SF surplus of 7,221)
    2009 18,676 (with undistributed SF surplus of 5,040)

    So the Nationalist side is gradually approaching two quotas, while the number of votes by which the Unionist side is in excess of two quotas is coming down:-

    THE SECOND UNIONIST CANDIDATE: votes in excess of a quota

    1994 no final redistribution
    1999 15,036
    2004 9,738
    2009 (11,113 UCUNF surplus) + DUP deficit of -5,422 = 5,691.

    The Unionist vote is coming down by a fairly consistent 1,000 per annum and the Nationalist going up by 2,000 per annum. In this case also we would expect them to cross over some time late in 2016 or in 2017.

    This means that UUP will probably narrowly defeat the SDLP in 2014 but lose to them in 2019. It also means that the leader of SF will become First Minister in any election after 2016.

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  51. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks, Mainland Ulsterman (6.01 pm Friday), I’m slightly surprised as well. Maybe SF’s idea is to stir pots on both sides fo the border.

    BarneyT, you say, “A united Ireland would present economic challenges but as an entity would stand a better chance of fighting them. I would love to see those who represent unionism come up with their terms for a united Ireland, as I’m afraid that has to be the starting point.

    “In the north unionists have to concede ground to ensure representation, as society is more balanced now than it ever has been. In a wider united Ireland, nationalists need to take a step back and identify that they are prepared to lose, as they will have to lose something, as will republicans if we are to create a single entity.”

    If enough people can display that kind of magnanimity, a UI will be a great place for all of us to live.

    Gopher, the pikeman on a plinth outside the City Hall is a good idea. Such a monument would declare an important fact which no one should want to be airbrushed out of our history. It’s understandable that some of us are scared of the future, but we have no reason to be scared of the past. A statue of Queen Victoria was recently exhumed and restored to its former place in a certain Irish university.

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  52. DC (profile) says:

    A border poll would have a pretty high chance of producing a large contiguous area on the West with a majority for unity, blocked by a smaller area but more densely populated area in the East. Compare the census results in the different council areas. Far from giving a more sensible debate it could sow instability.

    Well if a border poll is called at least it would show which people in certain areas want unification.

    So my view is that call a border poll find this out then the Republic can build new houses and shift these people into the republic so as to satisfy their needs. Those that want to remain in NI can live on here.

    There is no need to be so besotted with certain territory, sure only the animal kingdom tramples around that way, so a housing transfer shift into the republic this way could be possible without the republic having to take over sovereignty of land in NI.

    Call a border poll, find out who wants to move to the republic, the republic builds news houses as close to these areas around the border and then they move in.

    That would stimulate demand in the construction industry in the republic.

    At the same time a new Housing Executive body could be set up for those in public housing whereby people from N Ireland are moved into the republic via a housing transfer.

    People can then move and take their chances with the republic’s way of life and more private sector-oriented economy which you need higher skills to thrive and survive in. This economy works to the detriment of working class people who may not have such skills in abundance.

    So, let’s get calling this border poll to carry out the above actions, call it a staged and bite sized unification of sorts, a more manageable unification of probably around 500,000 or so at this time, it beats having to digest around 1.8 million at some future point in time, if ever.

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  53. David Crookes (profile) says:

    When we have a referendum, let us have a single-constituency NI, and no trouble-making nonsense after the event about how people voted in different areas.

    There is going to be no ethnic cleansing, and there is going to be no repartition. The next move is a 32-county UI. Any unionists who take part in a ‘Flight of the Protestants’ to the mainland will be regarded by their new British neighbours as Irish, not as British.

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  54. Cric (profile) says:

    That’s great thinking DC.

    We could flip a coin, and if Unionism loses all the British people could relocate to Britain instead?

    Problem solved.

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  55. Gopher (profile) says:

    @PaddyReilly

    Seriously you are basing statistical analysis around Diane Dodds. All the last European election proves is its sometimes smarter not to vote.

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  56. DC (profile) says:

    We could flip a coin, and if Unionism loses all the British people could relocate to Britain instead?

    Problem solved.

    Yes I have thought of that already, the one million Irish in England are expelled and the million unionists take up their places, Mick Fealty also to be returned.

    Please, no need to thank me for another brilliant idea, sheer brilliance, I know, I know :)

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  57. Gopher (profile) says:

    @David Crookes

    Repartition just like unification and the status quo are all quite possible scenarios

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  58. 241934 john brennan (profile) says:

    Gerry Adams has spent a lifetime trying, one or another, to unite the whole of Ireland. For a good part of that time he was MP and MLA for West Belfast – and never tried to unite the Falls and Shankill roads – and probably contributed to deeper divisions within his own constituency
    When it comes to Irish unity is he not a tad lacking in credibility?

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  59. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks, Gopher. Can you envisage an Ingushetia-sized statelet of two counties remaining in the UK? Didn’t the GFA set us on a course for all-or-nothing?

    I can’t imagine a United Kingdom of Great Britain and North-Eastern Ireland.

    It’s good that we’re all talking intrepidly about these matters. I tend to learn things in a pretty dialectical manner: (I come out with some oafishly crude idea, someone shows me where I’m wrong, and then I know a wee bit more than I did before.)

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  60. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    The point about knowing how each area voted is interesting. Parties typically have sight of the ballots for each ballot box during verification. They’d have to come up with a way to stop the parties seeing the votes while they were being verified. AFAIK, during European elections they try to do this by counting them face down.

    I’d agree that we’d have to have a system where NI was counted as an entire constituency to stop individual areas being marked out.

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  61. Cric (profile) says:

    Pretty much correct john brennan.

    In terms of Irish Republicanism, the secular philosophy of the United Irishmen of 1798 is probably more closely related to that of the Alliance Party than it is to modern Sinn Fein.

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  62. Gopher (profile) says:

    @David Crookes

    Im not much of an idealist David

    I can envisage many things happening in Northern Ireland and the Republic some really good some really bad. You dont know what will happen in the future. Could one not envisage a repartitioned North if a party with whacky ethnic ideas gains power in the South? Could one not envisage repartition if the whole affair is managed badly or community antagonism leads to civil war? Maybe the UK would cede control or be forced to a third party and it wont be the United Kingdom of Great Britain and North East Ireland.

    We are nowhere near the end game and things are getting managed badly now and if there is no movement to stability I can see a lot of bad stuff happening.

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  63. Kensei (profile) says:

    As much as I don’t like the smell of asplit vote, Nationalism woud be nuts to not insist on council or seat breakdown. Te initial purpose would be to.set the.scale of the task. Plus without it there would be accusations of fixes.

    Transparency is always better in my mind. If there was a giant split, both Nationalism.and Unionism would have issues they’d need to.face up to.

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  64. Cric (profile) says:

    I think the world has now learned that partition is very rarely a good idea – and I think re-partition would be pretty much unacceptable to everyone. Christopher Hitchens wrote a good essay on the many failures of partition, if anyone is interested http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/03/the-perils-of-partition/302686/

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  65. Greenflag (profile) says:

    The first reaction I had was that Gerry Adams was mistaken and that any such move would be a waste of taxpayers money and politicians time . On reflection given that they (certainly in the Assembly ) have time on their hands then such an upcoming border poll like the prospect of ‘hanging’ might focus minds political and otherwise on the serious economic/ social /cultural identity issues which would be raised . As Mr Adams makes clear that such a poll would be in the term of the next Assembly then it’s probably a minimum of at least 5 years or circa 2018 .

    By then one supposes that the NI Assembly will have worked out some of it’s current ‘failings’ and the overall economic climate will have improved somewhat both North and South .

    While the result of any poll should be based on the entire NI area I don’t see anything wrong with the count being broken down into constituencies, districts , counties etc . It’s not as if the results in all areas will come as any surprise given current voting patterns which will probably still be largely in place barring any seismic shift in the AP direction .

    Such a poll would also come after the Scotland referendum and the result of the latter could have some impact on an NI poll whichever way the Scots result goes .

    David Crookes is right – There is going to be no ethnic cleansing, Neither Government will tolerate any such moves from extremists on either side .

    Demographically it’s too late for ‘repartition ‘ at least in the sense of a fair repartition being possible /practical without the need for large scale population transfers within NI . In retro that time probably passed in the mid 1980′s ?

    Most of the population North & South are more immediately concerned with their economies .

    I’m sure there are some economies of scale are to be gained from any UI but the achievement of a UI per se will NOT resolve the economic and social structural problems which are to a greater and lesser degree shared by North & South .

    The main advantage to any UI could be an end to the eternal identity navel gazing by the NI communities . Once people realise you can be British and live and work etc in a UI they might wonder what all the fuss was about .

    In a century or two henceforth people in that Ireland might say the same about a future reunited Federal Britain & Ireland ?

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  66. Greenflag (profile) says:

    Mainland Ulsterman ,

    ‘I actually think we should have border polls installed as a regular thing every say 20 years, but on the basis that no one is allowed to talk about the effing border for 19 of each 20 year cycle.’

    Agreed but every 10 years . Might not stop people /politicians talking about the ‘effing border’ but it might redirect such talk to some of the practical issues that would be involved if it were ever removed . As things stand it’s mostly hot air +hot air = more hot air. And as Mick Fealty has oft stated the ‘policy’ vacuum on both sides of the border is legendary.

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  67. otto (profile) says:

    Or every assembly election? No extra expense and you could vote for whoever you want without having to use a politician for as a proxy for a border referendum. Might make it easier for multi-designation, all-Ireland or all-UK parties.

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  68. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks for your comments, Gopher and Greenflag. Kensei, a breakdown of the referendum vote would be fascinating for everyone, but it might be dangerous. In 1977 Ian Paisley tried to bring about a UWC-style ‘strike’, and promised that if the ‘strike’ failed he would retire from politics. Well, it failed. and he didn’t retire. HE LIED. How did he get off with such a big lie? By declaring that although the ‘strike’ had failed overall, it had been a success in Ballymena.

    Far better to hold the referendum and then say to one side or the other, YOU LOST.

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  69. Gopher (profile) says:

    We all know what happens if it succeeds. If a border poll fails what happens? I doubt very much the result will be accepted.

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  70. 241934 john brennan (profile) says:

    Many current senior Sinn Fein people have been pursuing Irish Unity for the past 40 years. – and the end justifed the means – and the means included murder, which wasn’t real murder, because anyone acting in the name of the cause never committed a crime! Patriots everyone of them!

    Will it not take another another 40 years before a majority forgets all that?

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  71. Red Lion (profile) says:

    Is it not just SF continually trying to crank up the pressure on unionism at every turn to set them into yet another reactionary spin.

    Union politicians have been surprisingly calm on this sf border poll agenda so far, and they should remain so and give the sf pressure cranker as little fuel as possible.

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  72. thesaint (profile) says:

    DC not certain about your idea of relocating nationalist sounds like the first step of a “final solution” for Irish nationalisim. Forced relocation seems barbaric to me.

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  73. DC (profile) says:

    Just keen to safely unify people that want unified.

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  74. otto (profile) says:

    Just put the question to the voters at each assembly elections so that we can form executives with a knowledge of the will of the Northern Irish people.

    When the republic withdraws the offer of merger we can remove it.

    You wouldn’t refuse shareholders a say on a merger offer – even if it was recurring and had been refused once. You’d reconsider at each annual general meeting so long as a significant body of shareholders or directors requested the motion.

    And you wouldn’t expect a board of directors to function effectively for a year with such an important question unresolved so why would you expect anything more from a government over five years?

    This may be more liberal management speak but the process is similar. It’s a decision that requires full financial disclosure, prudent projection and an appreciation of cultural fit.

    Don’t blame certain members of the executive for getting stuck trying to guess your position on a question you refuse to answer.

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  75. SK (profile) says:

    ” If a border poll fails what happens? I doubt very much the result will be accepted.”

    ____

    Peace-loving, democratic unionists? Responding to a vote that goes against them with violence?

    Nah..

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  76. abucs (profile) says:

    Another question in the border poll is the level at which politics can return to normal as opposed to being totally pre-occupied with the sovereignty question.

    Does anyone think for example that if Nationalists got 45% in a border poll that politics could just return to ‘bread and butter’ issues?

    What is the cut-off mark where Unionists would feel secure and Nationalists wouldn’t try to talk the place down and p[ush for that extra surge?

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  77. abucs (profile) says:

    Greenflag,

    didn’t you spend the whole 1990′s arguing for repartition? :)

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  78. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    Viridiplantae’s quoting of census figures say it all – the figures look bad for any Irish nationalist ‘the maternity ward will do it for us’ strategy.

    If people still believe in Irish unity as any kind of ideal – rather than just a way to ‘win’ a notional Northern Ireland ‘battle’ – that means actually uniting people from both communities under a common “Irish” identity. I still have no idea what that is supposed to look like, other than the kind of Irish identity we’re already familiar with. What’s it all about, Irish unity?

    To actually forge this new nation they want, they are going to have to set out a vision and explain why it’s a better idea than the fair power sharing within the UK that we have now. (Unless, God forbid, the plan is just to make it happen any which way and worry about how it will affect people later). How are we going to relate to this new state? Who will shape it? How will (former) Brits be regarded within it? The answer to all these will need to be pretty darned appealing.

    But something tells me nationalists haven’t actually much thought about those questions. If they want nationalism to be taken seriously as an ethical belief system, they need to. Otherwise it just looks like a threat of future domination by one side, compared to the even balance offered by the current UK devolution arrangements. So it is offering something better? Or does that matter any more?

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  79. David Crookes (profile) says:

    SK, you say, “Peace-loving, democratic unionists? Responding to a vote that goes against them with violence?”

    That is the big worry. A majority vote in favour of UI could give us LOYALISTS AGAINST DEMOCRACY writ large.

    Unless the UI is going to be policed for thirty years by UN troops, there will be a squalid little civil war.

    Loyalist lawlessness will need to die off if there is to be a decent provisional NI, never mind a decent UI. Crushing violent protest for the present won’t do. What we need is a realization in loyalist areas that the status quo isn’t going to last.

    It would help if we had unionist politicians who could see the truth, face the truth, and tell the truth.

    Without leaders, causes fail. (The UK has never had a politician capable of making the European project attractive to the British public.)

    People in loyalist areas may be longing for a leader who will tell them the truth, even if that truth is not what they want to hear.

    You can deal with the truth once you know what it is.

    You can’t deal with a dream-song about nationalism in crisis, and the union lasting for centuries to come, when you believe that the Union Flag is under attack.

    Our present unionist leaders have neither the intelligence to see what needs to be done, nor the courage to do it.

    Someone needs to say two things. First, the union really died in 1985. Secondly, unionists need to move on.

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  80. Bangordub (profile) says:

    Mainland Ulsterman,
    Well put. I absolutely agree with you. It is an argument that needs to be put and a discussion that needs to be had.

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  81. Alias (profile) says:

    The problem is, of course, that those who hold an Irish identity are quite happy with it and don’t see any need to abandon it just to appease those in a foreign jurisdiction who don’t hold an Irish identity, are quite happy with their British identity, and who nobody in this jurisdiction wants to ‘unite’ with anyway.

    The idea that we can all take a course in identity re-invention or re-education, or whatever nonsense the anti-irish crowd are spinning (no disrespect intended to MU) is pure farce, and orginates with those who never accepted the right of the Irish nation to self-determination anyway.

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  82. Greenflag (profile) says:

    Abucs @ 20 January 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Greenflag,

    ‘didn’t you spend the whole 1990′s arguing for repartition?

    No . It was during iirc the 2003-2007 Stormont suspension period . After the second or third suspension of Stormont due to the failure of the parties to agree on devolved government I argued that a fair repartition was preferable to another 40 years of political stalemate which is what it looked like . Once the parties agreed in 2007 I backed off a fair repartition as a solution .

    The late Ian Livingstone’s demographic analyses on his site ‘Ulster’s Doomed’ finally convinced me that ‘repartition ‘ is no longer a viable solution given the emerging Belfast as a majority nationalist city .

    My knowledge of internal NI demographics would have been much less .detailed than the late ‘Horseman’s ‘ or indeed his heir Bangordub who is doing a great job maintaining a current knowledge base on that aspect of the NI situation -which regardless of which side of the NI fence one is on -is an area which will have political ramifications sooner or later.

    In retro of course had the first repartition been less ‘greedy ‘ on the part of the then local unionist majority and had they settled for a smaller 4 county minus Derry -NI the current demographics within NI would probably be around 65% /35% in favour of Unionists instead of being 50/50.

    But no thanks for reminding me that I gave up on the local NI politicians too soon ;)? .

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  83. Greenflag (profile) says:

    Mainland Ulsterman @ 21 January 2013 at 2.13pm

    ‘But something tells me nationalists haven’t actually much thought about those questions. ‘

    Very true .

    ‘Unless, God forbid, the plan is just to make it happen any which way and worry about how it will affect people later’

    God doesn’t come into it and your use of the word ‘make’ indicates a level of activity towards that end a UI which is simply not the case for the vast majority of Irish nationalists or republicans .

    ‘ worry about how it will affect people later). How are we going to relate to this new state? Who will shape it? How will (former) Brits be regarded within it?’

    This is the ‘road to god knows where strategy ‘ . As to former Brits -not a problem -worse case scenario same as current Polish or other immigrants i.e same rights as everybody else without the language problem .Anyway all those ‘northerns ‘ are when you pull off the masks all the same anyway -cantankerous shower of whiners etc etc .
    They’ll settle down eventually and become proper Brits or Irish or both simultaneously in any UI .

    There you are problem solved -whenever it happens -IF it ever happens which it will of course and yes neither side will have planned for it just like West/East Germany or soon enough North/South Korea. .

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