Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

We could be entering an era of referendum politics. Will it be destructive or creative?

Sat 19 January 2013, 8:56pm

Sinn Fein’s very reason for existing requires that they will call for a border poll during the life time of the 2015-19 Assembly. The tactic is about more than bravado. SF can afford to lose one poll and yet do well enough for another to be called within the prescribed seven years. It might be thought that here is another example of a party refusing to accept the sectarian consequences of their politics.  But  do not doubt that Sinn Fein will reject the criticism that now is not the time to call for a poll, albeit one to be held several years ahead.  The time is always right to challenge loyalist blackmail by means of the ballot box and they will disavow any suggestion that they are playing a sectarian card.

Might a referendum cue in greater instability suggested by the flags dispute or clear the air as some suggest? In the run-up, would the blocs try to kill off the opposition by kindness?  Would they be drawn inexorably into a new zero sum numbers game where each would have to decide whether to play an aggressively sectarian hand or recognise that each of them might need numbers drawn from the other side to win?

The pessimistic view is that the parties’ fumbling and stumbling over the flags dispute within and without the unionist bloc  is a trailer for further fragmentation which a referendum call can only exacerbate. The optimistic line is that the dispute will yet be a wakeup call to the parties to begin tackling the intercommunal issues on which to date they have only created uneasy truces that still allow for skirmishes on the side.

It amazes me that while we have hints about the agendas of the forums and talks being held, there has been so little public discussion of the substance and only news of disagreements. This suggests to me that little has been worth leaking. And yet as the flags dispute grinds on, those agendas seem to be spontaneously lengthening without any sign of direction, a sad sight that says little for a spirit of coalition government. Figuring now are new flags and parades rules, the “one sided justice” arguments over dealing with the past, the “gerrymandered” boundaries of Greater Belfast. Small wonder then agreement hasn’t been reached.

What has surely happened is that wider unionist insecurity over numbers has been exposed as the not quite acknowledged backdrop to the protests.

The two governments have at last dipped their toes into the troubled waters to discover how they might help, but with no clear answer. Here I come back to the border poll question.

However the protests may be wound down, a debate is now inevitable on the conditions for a border poll. Although the verdict itself is a matter for both parts of Ireland alone, both governments have crucial interests in the terms of debate and should participate once the present dust has settled and its legacy becomes clear.

Should a referendum be triggered simply if more nationalists than unionists vote in an Assembly election, or as I believe, if nationalists were to win an overall simple majority in the Assembly, terms which I suspect would require Westminster legislation? Either would present the people and the parties with a fundmental choice, whether to adopt benign criteria of positive politics or continue playing the  old zero sum game.  One referendum lost in the 2015 Assembly and a second called after another seven years?

Would you welcome the prospect? Can it be resisted or played to general advantage? Is the choice too serious to be left to the parties alone?  Experience elsewhere offers very complicated scenarios indeed.  The political calculations would be closer to Quebec’s than Scotland’s but the climate whether sunny or stormy would be uniquely Northern Irish.

 

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Comments (72)

  1. Alias (profile) says:

    Gerry Adams reminds me of the tragic character that Bernard Hughes played in Boys From the Blackstuff whose method of selling his qualifications at an ad hoc employment interview was to say “Giz a job!” to the potential employer and then headbutt said potential employer if said potential employer was less than suitably impressed.

    We hasn’t presented a single cogent argument why (a) a united Ireland should occur, (b) why anyone in either jurisdiction is likely to be persuaded by arguments that aren’t made, or (c) why anyone in either jurisdiction is likely to vote for it in 2020.

    All he has is some pitiful demand that a poll should occur because, presumably, calling for poll is easier than actually a presenting an argument and then building support for to it. He’s like a poor salesman who tries to close the sale without making his sales pitch.

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  2. Nevin (profile) says:

    “Might a referendum cue in greater instability suggested by the flags dispute or clear the air as some suggest?”

    Brian, instability has always been there; it was reinforced by the 1998 settlement and further reinforced by change of arrangement for First Minister. The murder and attempted murder of police and prison officers and the flags dispute are symptoms.

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  3. Ulster Press Centre (profile) black spot says:

    Why do Sinn Fein think they can ignore what was agreed in 1998 and step outside the GFA?

    Should Unionists start calling for released IRA terrorists and serial killers to be returned to Maghaberry? Or a reversal to RUC/PSNI changes???

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  4. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Good piece Brian, as ever with some useful questions. The broad thrust I agree with, but I doubt very much that the Border Poll, is what’s eating Unionists. I did an interview with RTE earlier today on the subject so I had the chance to pull together some thoughts on this.

    There is a burden on the SoS to call a referendum if there is a reasonable chance of a changing the constitutional status of NI. Under the current numbers at Stormont that is not a credible claim.We currently have: 56 Unionists; 43 Nationalists; and 9 unaligned and those 9 unaligned come from unionist dominated constituencies in the east.

    But note, the call is for a Border Poll in the next Assembly, not this one. So, in real terms, short of a meltdown in Unionism (hey lads lets take down the flag at City Hall and get filmed for An Phoblacht and see what happens?) I don’t see the trenches between unionism and nationalism shifting much next time out.

    What I do see as a possible outcome is a consolidation of the nationalist vote under SF. Calls for a poll that you actually know you cannot get is just PR sauce on that St Andrews Sectarian Cheeseburger with the mission being to pitch the DUP out of the First Minister’s post.

    On Inside Politics, Peter Robinson let himself be contemptuous of Mr Adams on The View the other night. I can understand where that comes from. The pitch was based on a lot of magical thinking about budgets and obvious evasions over the cost of public sector jobs that he did not want to answer.

    Explaining that he could not pass a law prohibiting flags on lamposts because the people of the Braniel would not wear it is indicative of the problem of two inflexible parties trying to work an inflexible system who draw their core support from the extremes.

    I thought Brian Feeney (who beneath all that acerbic west Belfast with, is one of the grownups in NI political commentary) was interesting on Monday. He was at pains to point out that the First Minister was not backing the rioters or the disorder on the streets and this distinguishes him from past leaders of unionism.

    The problem, and this is a point I’ve made in an interview with Fran McNulty for This Week on RTE for tomorrow lunch time, is Mr Robinson is where the buck stops for the DUP, whilst Mr McGuinness has a boss elsewhere who bears no such burdens.

    I suspect the flag is just a red line issue that SF knew (but Alliance and SDLP may not) would blow a loyalist gasket. This sustained, this prolonged? I’m not convinced anyone knew that much. The substance of the outrage I thought was well articulated by this young man on Nolan on Wednesday:

    And it is worth watching not just the masterly way Gerry Kelly then dealt with him but the deliberate ‘mistake’ about perspectives re the current constitutional question:

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  5. Nevin (profile) says:

    “Robinson is where the buck stops for the DUP, whilst Mr McGuinness has a boss elsewhere who bears no such burdens.”

    The buck in Martin’s case stops with the PRM Army Council but we don’t know its membership, let alone the key player.

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  6. Neil (profile) says:

    The buck in Martin’s case stops with the PRM Army Council but we don’t know its membership, let alone the key player.

    Still awaiting some kind of something to back that up Nevin. No links from quotes in the 90s now, we know the a/c existed back then, it’s now that’s in dispute. I find it fairly hard to believe that the IRA exists any more beyond the dark corners of some people’s imaginations.

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  7. Nevin (profile) says:

    Neil, we’ve had the PRM AC role endorsed by Mitchell McLaughlin in an RTE broadcast around 2005 and by Billy Leonard more recently. Both gentlemen are in a position to know the lie of the land.

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  8. Neil (profile) says:

    Now Nevin, that first article is a bit of a non runner. Mitchell continuing to parrot what was ‘policy’ for decades suggests he just didn’t have an answer to that question. That aside Willie O’Dea – seriously? M’kay, check out his wiki entry if you want the full sordid details of his hatred of SF and it’s unfortunate (for Willie) manifestations.

    You’re kind of reaching in that an opinion piece by a FF politician who settled out of court and apologised to Quinlivan [a Sinn Fein politician] for making “false and defamatory statements” regarding a Shinner in Limerick despite having previously signed a sworn affidavit to the courts, denying making such allegations is expected to bolster your case. I’m afraid Willie is as prepared to make as many logical pirouettes as others to make shit up about Sinn Fein (which he did, and apologised for). He’s a political opponent.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_O'Dea

    And Leonard doesn’t support the a/c view in the slightest. He actually says: he believes that “the tentacles of the army”, the IRA, extended throughout it.

    He also claims that released republican prisoners still dominated the party’s structures when he left last year.

    It’s dominated by ex prisoners and former IRA men he seems to be saying. He doesn’t mention the a/c once. And btw the Shinners are dominated by ex-prisoners. Hold the phone Nevin. Have you noticed their politicians?

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  9. NIISAFS (profile) says:

    In the next two years Scottish Nationalists will organize a referendum on splitting from England. In the next 5 years David Cameron and the English nationalists may organize a referendum on leaving the EU. So by the time we get round to a referendum the world may be a very different place. There is no doubt that some of the old certainties will be a lot less certain either way.

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  10. Brian Walker (profile) says:

    Mick,

    As I argue, the politics of a referendum begins long before the poll itself and will be complicated. It focuses on how to assess whether it ”appears likely to ( the Secretary of State ) that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland”. That debate will begin shortly I presume. The running should not be left to SF alone. Here’s how a sequence might go:

    Irish unity makes sense on merit on and for the first time in history should appear on the agenda through agreed democratic process. The preferred timing should be as soon as possible but can only be affected and not controlled by the size of the Northern nationalist vote, according criteria yet to be determined.

    A border poll would be appallingly divisive and a distraction from providing good cross community government. The flags protest has dampened any hopes that moves towards unity are likely to be peaceful. While deploring violence, most people are likely to agree. But how can they make their views known when the main parties are in the last analysis hung up on the Union/Unity question?

    The fundamentally undemocratic character of unionism has once again been exposed by the denial of one of the main planks of the GFA, the consent principle, when it might operate against them. This time nationalists will not be cheated of their rights and they demand support from the guarantor parties to the Agreement the two governments.

    Hold your horses. To revert to the preamble. The terms for a poll in the GFA were left vague and very much for another day. How would it be assessed whether it ”appears likely to ( the Secretary of State ) that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland?” By the number of nationalist as against unionist votes as a proportion of the total vote in an Assembly election? Or if/when a majority of seats are won by nationalist parties? Strictly speaking, the decision does not depend the Assembly at all and could go on the basis of a Life and Times or even commercial opinion poll. That however is unlikely.

    It seems clear to me therefore that government – and that means both governments preferably acting in agreement – will soon have to give consideration to the terms for a referendum. SF have the natural advantage of holding an initiative with the voters who will have to make a decision if or when the moment comes. A nice question is what will the SDLP do, mini- me, split or denounce as premature?

    I don’t see how a sequence along these lines can be delayed for long. SF may want to set the ball rolling in their 2015 manifesto. They can afford delay and failure, provided they keep it on the agenda. The hope of unity’s opponents would be that in time and after a couple of failures it would lapse back into a mere aspiration once again, never destroyed but never fulfilled.

    Much depends on how the numbers stack up and how the people respond to the conduct of politics in the meantime.

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  11. Cric (profile) says:

    Mick, you think ‘well articulate’ is an appropriate term to describe the young man’s argument?

    Maybe it’s groupthink on my part, but he shouted down Nolan, then shouted down Gerry Kelly – and then basically admitted that he would never try to see things from the perspective of other humans. It left me with the impression that he was fairly inarticulate in his arguments.

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  12. Ruarai (profile) says:

    If the “substance” of these “protests” – note the Irish News report that the BBC edited out their audience cheering footage of the police being attacked – is that contribution then this is even more pitiful that the news reports are portraying.

    The substance, Mick, concerns a democratic vote and the not inconsiderable violence and threat of violence that it has been met with.

    Enough of people playing the ventriloquist for disaffected youths and people unable to win elections.

    The only issue of actual substance now concerns whether democratic decisions and the rule of law will be upheld.

    If the protestors love their state so much they should start respecting its institutions. If they want to challenge decisions, run for office.

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  13. Ruarai (profile) says:

    Second,

    regarding Gerry Kelly’s “deliberate ‘mistake’ about perspectives re the current constitutional question“…

    this is now getting silly. So now there’s not challenge to the constitutional question?

    Last time I checked there were two Nationalist parties pledged to challenge it by definition, two Unionists parties organized to defend it, a host of legal and illegal micro groups mobilized around the issue and an international agreement endorsed by majorities in the north and south of Ireland that codified the legitimacy of challenging and defending that status quo.

    Not only did Kelly make no mistake in observing that the issue of NI’s constitutional status is contested (the Agreement simply got agreement on the rules around challenging it, rule that are now, thankfully, agreed as political and electoral rather than paramilitary bar a very few dissidents), this is basically the only issue that NI politics is arranged around. More’s the pity.

    Attempts to deflect from this by citing Belfast Telegraph pols, assembly seats counts and who-knows-what-next only serve to muddy attempts to chart a path through this.

    The key issue here – since we’re now at this point – is how Unionism can accept challenges large and small to NI’s constitutional status and the arrangements within NI in the post-Agreement era.

    Judging by this avoidable flags fiasco, they have no strategy. And they need one, for everyone’s sake, fast.

    Nationalist challenges are here to stay. The patience of the broader society and the forces of law and order with extra-legal response to Nationalist challenges, by stark contrast, is most certainly wearing to breaking point.

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  14. DC (profile) says:

    If there were a successful border poll outcome, would the Irish government have to pay the British government for all the public assets or would they just be handed over without complaint or any such payment?

    basically land is money and so too all the buildings and stuff and on it, some paid off and being paid off by british taxpayers?

    Or is the land in N Ireland worthy of being got rid of as it saves having to pay £11 billion per year in upkeep and therefore cheaper letting go altogether?

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  15. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Brian

    “the politics of a referendum begins long before the poll itself and will be complicated. It focuses on how to assess whether it ”appears likely to ( the Secretary of State ) that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland”. That debate will begin shortly I presume. The running should not be left to SF alone.”

    I don’t disagree. But we are some way off from the point at which it could be said that a referendum was likely – i.e. no date for a poll before a demographic change.

    And you seem to imbue more importance to the current protests than they merit.

    They are no more than an attempted show of strength by the PUP/UVF.

    That’s it.

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  16. eyes wide open (profile) says:

    It must be in everyones interest that loyalism does unite. After a border poll shows the majority wants a united Ireland nationalism needs to deal with a community that is united on the way forward within this island. Unfortunately most would predict loyalism folding in on itself at first then lashing out in a way seen in the last 6-7 weeks.
    I totally agree loyalism needs a strategy not just on the flags or any other parochial issue an overall strategy that involves taking its place in a new Ireland. A strategy that involves reaching out to every person on this island as equals may they be black, white, yellow, gay straight or christian or other.
    The way forward for loyalism must be to articulate its fears about unification but in an agreed way.

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  17. Gopher (profile) says:

    Im sure it would be easier to get funding for big infrastructure projects if we were stable but our politicians are too stupid to work that one out. Even a fraction of Hs2 or crossrail type funding would be nice but all the idiots want to do here is skirmish over the border.

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  18. Alias (profile) says:

    A lot of these Shinners will be pensioners by the time a referendum is called (if one very is) and one of the issues that’ll be one their mind is who is going to pay their British state pension if the British state manages to dump the place on Ireland.

    The idea that Irish taxpayers are going to pay for the pensions of 1.8 million British citizens of NI who have never contributed a single penny into the Irish pension pot (which, by the way, went to bail out eurosystem banks) is quite fanciful.

    I can’t see British taxpayers agreeing to pay their pensions indefinately either if they managed to offload the place, so I suspect a lot of these Shinners who have found employment with the British state sector will be having second thoughts about such sheepish devotion to Gerry’s poll demand once they start getting into the details of it.

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  19. New Yorker (profile) says:

    Why not have a quick sample poll done by an internationally recognized polling organization to determine if a full poll should be conducted. It could be done within weeks without all the time and expense required by a full formal poll.

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  20. Ulster Press Centre (profile) black spot says:

    eyes wide open:
    It must be in everyones interest that loyalism does unite. After a border poll shows the majority wants a united Ireland nationalism needs to deal with a community that is united on the way forward within this island. Unfortunately most would predict loyalism folding in on itself at first then lashing out in a way seen in the last 6-7 weeks. I totally agree loyalism needs a strategy not just on the flags or any other parochial issue an overall strategy that involves taking its place in a new Ireland. A strategy that involves reaching out to every person on this island as equals may they be black, white, yellow, gay straight or christian or other. The way forward for loyalism must be to articulate its fears about unification but in an agreed way.

    Only 16% of people in NI would vote for a United Ireland (based on current polls). Only 25% of the population regard themselves as Irish.

    Put your energies into something actually achievable and give up on this romantic pipe dream.

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  21. GEF (profile) says:

    “A lot of these Shinners will be pensioners by the time a referendum is called”

    SF leaders like Adams, McGuinness and others who hold the rein of power in SF and were in the IRA, are in their 60′s will in fact die of old age before a border poll is called. They are beginning to panic that their dream of a UI is slipping away. That is why all this hype for a referendum by Adams & co will end up being rejected by both governments in the ROI & NI.

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  22. MALCOLMX (profile) says:

    There is a lot of talking and debating to be done around a united ireland and a border poll for that matter but one thing is for sure, unionisms responses to this issue will be like that of dealing with other issues, FEAR, FEAR, SECTARIANISM & FEAR.

    Although different in nature I think the referendum in Scotland will give a taste of the Fear Game that unionism will play and as much trouble and violence will be stirred up by Ulster Unionists as a taste of things to come.

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  23. Framer (profile) says:

    Three questions:

    What happened during the (brief) Good Friday agreement negotiations that brought Trimble and the UUP team to agree the change in the border poll arrangements (that effectively reversed the previous position where it existed as a confidence building measure for unionism to allay fear), and to allow the introduction of the seven year poll gap rule which, if nothing else, is a recipe for gross instability?

    What happens if nationalists (just) successfully vote Yes, believing it to be an opinion poll (as they did in the 1918 election) without recognising the consequences – financial catastrophe and a civil war with repartition?

    Has the south got a decision or vote in the matter?

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  24. Brian Walker (profile) says:

    Pete,
    Granted that it’s always hard to judge the significance of events as they happen, particularly if you’re not there like me. But I do think two things. One, that the demographic trend is an increasing factor in politics,though how it will play remains to be seen. And two, however narrow the ground of the “protests” they could be a harbinger of more to come. If this amount of trouble was sparked over the City Hall flag what would be the reaction to a referendum campaign?

    All parties should surely take note and consider their impact on the other side. What is lacking in the system is a method for registering prudential pressure on the parties. As things stand we can only hope a natural corrective to their ambitions will apply.

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  25. abucs (profile) says:

    A border poll can only be held if the Secretary for State believes that the likelihood would be that a majority would vote for NI to cease to be part of the UK.

    If Sinn Fein wants a border poll, they have to convince the Secretary of State as much.

    If there is then a massive majority in such a poll, for the present arrangements to continue then the Secretary of State looks like an idiot and drastically out of touch with the people of NI.

    Or worse, she/he looks to not be upholding the Belfast Agreement. Either way, their position would be untenable.

    All Sinn Fein needs now is to find a Secretary of State who wants out of their job.

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  26. Brian Walker (profile) says:

    Framer, Your scenario is lurid but not inconceivable, though you rush to disaster far too quickly.The difference with 1918 is that whatever the scenario in the future the partnership between the two governments is likely to survive.
    The provision for a border poll is no more than a version of the consent principle that has applied since 1920, when consent was allocated to the Parliament and confirmed in 1949.

    The Parliament having been in effect abolished in 1972 consent reverted to the people in a referendum. This was maintained in the GFA to prevent it dominating the Assembly and giving some discretion on triggering it to the Secretary of State – ie the governments.

    It could not have been avoided and is seen as a confidence building measure for unionists more than nationalists.

    The consent principle was also institutionalised in the Republic, thus setting the bar a little higher.

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  27. Reader (profile) says:

    Framer: and to allow the introduction of the seven year poll gap rule which, if nothing else, is a recipe for gross instability?
    The 7 year gap is a *minimum*. Surely you don’t think the situation would be more stable with as referendum every year?
    alias: who is going to pay their British state pension if the British state manages to dump the place on Ireland.
    Although we know that pensions are a Ponzi scheme and the government spends National Insurance and pension contributions as fast as it gets them, they are nominally all contributory pension schemes, and the British Government will pay up, either by maintaining payments in proportion to accrued years, or by funding a substitute scheme based in Ireland.
    DC: If there were a successful border poll outcome, would the Irish government have to pay the British government for all the public assets or would they just be handed over without complaint or any such payment?
    The second, as most of it would be regarded as part of the infrastructure of the place. There may be exceptions for military infrastructure, and a frugal government may sell off land banks in advance. But otherwise the place will just be handed over.

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  28. Nevin (profile) says:

    Neil, Mitchel acknowledged that he and his associates viewed the AC as the legitimate government of the island of Ireland and Billy claims that the AC remained in place after 2008:

    “.. the one remaining link that kept many in the party only relatively happy was the fact that the army council stayed in place”

    I think it’s most unlikely that PRM management arrangements have changed in the interim.

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  29. Framer[9.34] Ref your last two paragraphs, As I said in an earlier post, those nationalists who are content enough with the status Quo, may feel free to vote for a UI just to test their electoral strength, [going on the fact that the RoI voters do have the final say, in the event of a northern YES response],it’s essentially a risk free vote for NI catholics if they assume southern voters would vote NO, and act as an insurance on unionist/orange behaviour in a continuing NI.

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  30. Gopher (profile) says:

    Have the SDLP made a statement on this nonsense yet?

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  31. MrPMartin (profile) says:

    I mentioned this on another thread but because I’m not one off the forum’s in crowd, it was ignored but Ill mention it again:

    There is vast difference between democracy and majoritarianism. In a democracy, the main body of people base their political opinions on the logic of the policies put forward by the political parities and thus are prone and open to changing their minds. Also, in a democracy, democratic political parties are open to all races, colour and creed and now sexuality. Race/colour/creed/sexuality (RCCS) are human qualities that we are born with or in the case of religion so strongly inculcated into that very few actually change religion.

    However if political parties are based on non innate platforms such as economic policy and how to find that school or where to build that airport etc, then one can have properly democracy where the majority in favour of whatever policy is a majority not based on any one RCCS.

    This means that in a democracy, everyone has an opportunity to be part of the decision making process.

    However the converse to democracy is majoritarianism where parties are organised along RCCS lines (admittedly I’ve yet to know off a gay party but there maybe one out there) in which case a majority of whites always outvote blacks or vice versa, or majority of Shia perpetually outvotes Shiite or a majority of Protestants perpetually outvote Catholics or vice versa when every matter of legislative decision is made out to be based on RCCS

    in such a majoritarian society, depending on your RCCS, you could forever be denied any opportunity to be part of the decision making process. There are people in GB who voted labour between 79-97 but they knew that since the democracy was not based on RCCS that by the force of eventual logic, they would win within a reasonable timeframe – which they did

    So to a border poll: I never understood how majoritarianism is rightly stymied in Stormony by means of a cross community petition of concern being submitted yet majoritarianism is permitted for councils and in referendums of such a monumental nature!!

    Surely a UI would only be worth having if a majority of all RCCS communities either wanted it or at least didn’t mind it?

    Perhaps the referendum question should be instead “would you mind a UI” as opposed “do you want a Ui”

    I wouldn’t mind a chicken dinner today but I wouldn’t be bothered campaigning for one

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  32. Framer (profile) says:

    The 1973 Act put a minimum time gap of ten years between border polls. The nationalists got it down to seven in 1998.
    However the new requirement for a southern plebiscite in Bunreacht na hEireann would probably take another year plus cession to Ireland having to be put through the UK parliament would need a number of further months, giving just time, I would say, for a little trouble on the streets of the province which might be resolved through unofficial repartition and perhaps UN intervention on the lines of Cyprus.
    Would Alliance boycott the poll as the SDLP did in 1973?
    Just asking.

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  33. Count Eric Bisto von Granules (profile) says:

    Sinn Fein believes in the inevitability of their goal and ironically in the context of northern ireland comes across as the calm rational ones. The unionist side ooze fear, paranoia and small mindedness across the board. They dont believe they are going to come out on top in this. Their actions speak volumes.

    The union with great britain is not about the union the union with great britain, it is about unionism and its perception of itself within northern ireland. Unionism does not want a union with tricolours flying, irish language acts and mayoral rotations. It wants to retain the whip hand with the promise to cover it in flowers and not use it too much. Their very culture is steeped in the belief in their own superiority across all strata and the god given right to display it to others. WATP, FGAU, NS, GSTQ,KAT are bandied about in text shorthand in every day conversation.

    You can analyse census results and spin whatever you want from them. What cannot be denied is a ‘greening’ of northern ireland – ward breakdowns out at the end of the month. So the question for unionism is, which I have yet to hear an answer from, is what are you going to do to reach, understand and reflect shared space on behalf of the nationalist community?

    Given the default setting for unionists, this isnt going to happen. The likely outworkings will be that when it is finally spelt out, either by elections, fatigue, british budget cuts or a damascene moment, middle class unionism will cut a deal with the irish / british govts for some kind of unification. They will recognise the alternative is a nationalist plurality in the majority of northern ireland where the manifestations of their culture will get short shrift from the people who have to put up with it. Much better to go to dublin and cut a deal as a protected and valued minority inthe new ireland.

    The loyalists will be abandoned, SF will be squeezed and the british will still be writing cheques in 20 years. We can only hope that there arent too many manifestations of loyalists feeling on the streets between now and then.

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  34. DC (profile) says:

    @count eric

    If you look at Germany it has a protestant/atheist north and catholic/conservative south, the key to Germany sticking together comfortably and in peace, so it has been said, has been the breathing space it has put between the two via federalism and federating.

    N Ireland needs to create its own breathing space and I guess it should probably drop powers down and out from the ever-deadlocked Stormont into local councils and what Belfast loses in flags places like Newtownabbey and Carrick picks up and caters for instead. Alliance would call this balkanisation of N Ireland but if it works then so what? Because nationalism isn’t moderating it is just going the way of unionism and gaining the whip hand and scalding unionism for its past, it’s like-for-like almost in terms of retribution albeit more procedural and calm about it as you say – you know a vote is taken and away cultural objects and symbols go.

    I think more powers to councils could be the way forward. So the grass roots can shape events to their liking, give people more control over their lives and lifestyles this way, but for this to happen more meaningful powers (backed up with money) must be placed in the hands of councils.

    Review or re-open RPA.

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  35. Barnshee (profile) says:

    “border poll can only be held if the Secretary for State believes that the likelihood would be that a majority would vote for NI to cease to be part of the UK.”

    Hardly surely the devolved assembly could fund one – what about a poll at the ext council elections?

    (the sooner the better)

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  36. MrPMartin (profile) says:

    DC

    the religious breakdown in Germany maybe as you describe but it’s political parties are not based on them. There are Protestants and RCs aplomb in both the SPD & CDU

    Most nations have religious and race based demographics but the successful ones are ruled by parties that are not based upon them and please don’t cite Belgium as an example! It’s a political basket case although blessed with no civic violence

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  37. Gopher (profile) says:

    Apparently its enshrined in the GFA “That little read but much quoted document”. I think it is now up to the parties to defend the agreement against those forces out to wreck it.

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  38. Count Eric Bisto von Granules (profile) says:

    @ DC,
    Germany isnt a valid comparison. 1812, 1866, 1870, 1914, 1939 (with the possible exception on 1866) are all times that the germanic states came together to fight an external common enemy. This nationalism overcame antipathy to override previous differences. This unifier doesnt exist in northern ireland. The past is too raw and too close. There will be no great external threat to bring the communities together.

    Like everywhere else, its not religion that is the issue its nationalism. Religion maybe the marker, the excuse or the stick but nationalism is the fundamental cause. If the parties in northern ireland were all truly christian none of this would have happened / be happening.

    The fundamental issue is that there are 2 nations sharing the same space – antagonistically. If you disperse power to the councils you will reinforce the ghettoisation of the society which will inevitably lead to more communal violence. The question is do we want to take the plaster off slowly for the next 100 years or rip it off now.

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  39. DC (profile) says:

    It was a generalised point re Germany but it also has a lot more faith in its local councils run along more traditional rules-based lines than market-oriented approaches, it therefore didn’t bring in a lot of new public management bumph inside its public services which ultimately balloons wages and salaries as bureaucrats pretend they are money-spinning businesses without ever bringing in the money to sustain this. Except taking more off the taxpayer.

    The reason why I mention ballooning salaries is that this is probably one of the reasons why super councils are coming in to save money. But i’d rather the council structures were kept in place as they are, as life is fragmenting councils should be reflecting this and should be closer to the people in the hope that they could be more responsive to local needs. also people want more control over politics. Introducing super-councils goes against this approach, anti-localism. If salaries could be looked at with a view to keeping the councils as they are then that would be great, however you’d really need to bring in more powers and join up the schools and other education services, perhaps even the police as well. All services in the area could be integrated into council and brought in under council governance, the council could then become a place where proper local governance happens, close to the people.

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  40. DC (profile) says:

    Germany isnt a valid comparison. 1812, 1866, 1870, 1914, 1939 (with the possible exception on 1866) are all times that the germanic states came together to fight an external common enemy.

    I’m not going that far back for flipsake, i’m looking post-war.

    Yes nationalism is the glue but the outputs seem at this stage to be cultural and ethnicity based which the councils could facilitate via instigating the wishes of a democratic majority, given that nationalists have now discovered their taste for majority rule and are at ease with that in N Ireland at last!

    Alliance are against this as they are content with SF neutralising all round it and hoping this neutralising acts like a cultural disinfectant of sorts and everyone settles down in a new faceless nothern ireland!

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  41. Count Eric Bisto von Granules (profile) says:

    Interesting point DC. Would a swiss model work with referendums for everything? There are examples on the dutch / belgian border where parts of one country exist wholly within the other with no apparent issues with communal services.

    Would unionists object to a 100% nationalist border village opting to join ROI?

    The more I think about it, the better it sounds. Weak central govt , divested control in the local community with the choice to live how you wanted. Areas smaller than councils but bigger than wards??

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  42. DC (profile) says:

    Thanks Count, you see I kind of have an exit strategy in my head for where i live based on further developing my approach above, Carrickfergus to become a sovereign city state to cover its ass in the face of a pending united Ireland, obviously sovereign arrangements would need to be put in place well before this eventuality so i guess Carrick would need to secede from NI governance at some stage before unification. It would be kind of like a British Monaco in a new a republican Ireland. The castle acting as the Monte Carlo with gambling machines and stuff and the harbour for the yachts etc.

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  43. Count Eric Bisto von Granules (profile) says:

    Sounds good. Got to be better than the current state of affairs. Let me know how far you get with the independent city state thing. Believe the venetians had a go at it before one of the crusades took a fancy to the boats in their marina.

    Population areas of 25,000
    60% majority vote required to change state
    Simple majority vote for all issues unless in a designated neutral canton
    Neutral ‘canton’ status to be agreed where neither ‘side’ has 60%
    Belfast and Derry to remain stateless – see League of Nations Danzig solution

    Theres merit in local people finding local solutions. Its very difficult to piss your neighbour off every day with the same venom, not so hard if you’re importing gobshites from around the country.

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  44. DC (profile) says:

    Well the key would be building up the local governance infrastructure and proving to people i.e. higher up sovereign authorities that local people can successfully and efficiently govern themselves without bothering anyone in the process. So this would all need to be in place and things running like clockwork prior to extricating ones town/city from both N Ireland and Ireland.

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  45. abucs (profile) says:

    Barnshee : Annex A, schedule 1. Points 1 to 3.

    http://www.wesleyjohnston.com/users/ireland/today/good_friday/full_text.html

    Regarding Super-councils :

    The super-councils with more power were the back-up plan if the newly ascendent DUP refused to make the assembly work.

    It would be interesting if they did go ahead. On the one hand the nationalist dominated councils would be more Irish orientated with symbols, language, partnerships, business etc which could set up de-facto Irish unity.

    On the other side, Sinn Fein as the governing body would in the normal course of politics have to take their turn on the sidelines as the electorate would rotate them out of office to give the SDLP-led co-alition their chance.

    This would probably have the effect of weakening the Sinn Fein political party.

    Another outcome of the strong councils could mean that councils drift apart and any border poll in favour of Irish Unity might be seen by Unionist councils as not binding on them but on the Irish dominated councils that have gone their own way.

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  46. David Crookes (profile) says:

    A few Nietzschean aphorisms in no order.

    There is going to be no ‘that’ll-teach-youse’ payback for anyone.

    The RoI is not going to absorb NI under the tricolour.

    A hideously complex microdevolved UI won’t work.

    The RoI has not invited SF to design the New Ireland.

    NI’s nationalists are not especially deserving people who will get a bigger-than-everyone-else’s slice of the UI pie.

    A TUV statelet will be tolerated neither by the two governments nor by civilized unionists.

    A federal Ireland which preserves Stormont will preserve most of what is bad in the present NI.

    The New Ireland will be worthy of its name only when it is able to employ, feed, clothe, house, and educate its own people.

    The union should not be allowed to stagger on in its present form. Unionist lawlessness must be extirpated, and the ‘marching season’ must either abide by civilized norms or die off. There can be no UI until the beast of lawlessness is defeated.

    If unionist politicians start talking even in a hypothetical way about a UI, they may catch SF by surprise. SF can’t articulate its own vision until unionist participation in a UI project becomes something that unionists are allowed to talk about.

    The SDLP and the AP may be the dodos of a UI. So what? Politicians and political parties are expendable.

    The cement of a UI may be a genial new party which will recruit on both sides of the border and on both sides of NI’s ‘fence’.

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  47. Ruarai[12.37]As the condition for going into Stormont sharing with SF, unionists insisted on support for the PSNI from SF, and since it’s clear the DUP don’t support the PSNI and have been silent in most of the protests where attacks on the police were common, the logic is SF should now insist on DUP supporting the PSNI or SF could collapse the executive. But as Newton Emerson wrote in the Sunday Times today, the PSNI and Baggott aren’t even respecting the law they are supposed to be enforcing. Baggott never should have been appointed as they are going back to old ways since his arrival.

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  48. MrPMartin (profile) says:

    What is there is a UI and at some future point the majority of the erstwhile NI decide they’d rather be in the UK again? Why is a UI a one way street? When will we learn that two national aspirations cannot share the one territory in harmony and peace? Repartition is the answer.

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  49. Gopher (profile) says:

    @David Crookes

    Never been a big fan of Nietzsche. Whist the your idealism is commendable I feel you are talking about future events with certainty which to my knowledge is not based on anything that exists in the present, unless the protestant, catholic, dissenter, non believer and others have changed fundamentally since yesterday. I could wish for Messi, Ronaldo and Falcao to play for my team but unless by some unknown it gets the capacity to achieve it, the fantasy remains.

    You have to play with the hand you are dealt. Nietzsche’s Germans started with theories then progressed to cardboard tanks and gliders and then to the real thing. They could not see into the future either. Far better to be stress resistant than fall for the narrative fallacy.

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  50. DC (profile) says:

    Another idea, could the likes of the Ulster People’s Forum not have been facilitated somehow or someway via the (currently defunct) Consultative Civic Forum which has been put to sleep post DUP St Andrews Agreement, just like cross-community backing of the First Minister and deputy First Minister has gone to the wall.

    Businesses could have come together via this forum too and had a hearing this way than having to hold their own talking shop outside of the corridors of power.

    *A consultative Civic Forum, comprising representatives of business, trades unions and other civic sectors in Northern Ireland to act as a consultative mechanism on social, economic and cultural issues.

    (*http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/Visit-and-Learning/History-of-the-Assembly/)

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  51. DC (profile) says:

    There is going to be no ‘that’ll-teach-youse’ payback for anyone.

    What was the flag removal about if not that?

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  52. otto (profile) says:

    @Mick

    “and those 9 unaligned come from unionist dominated constituencies in the east.”

    Apologies if someone else made the point but if the 9 green/alliance members are from the east why does that make their electors less likely to vote for reunification in a referendum? If they wanted to vote unionist they could.

    It may suit some cranks or careerists in the SDLP to bore on about Alliance being closet unionists despite the fact that the last two General Secretaries (Gerry Lynch and Stephen Douglas) have publicly said they’d favour reunification but what’s your reason? Did I miss a poll?

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  53. Gopher (profile) says:

    @Otto

    Because they can Otto, the union is not under threat so people can vote green in assembly elections. They dont fall for the wave the flag elect me types. In the mysterious East people actually enjoy having politics beyond the constitutional. Unfortunately now the removal of the Flag has more than likely cost Northern Ireland one of its best politicians in Agnew.

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  54. I think that the result of a referendum may surprise many people. Those “Catholics” who are reported to be happy to live in the UK will likely vote for reunification because of the well known penchant of people in N.I. for being thran.

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  55. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks, DC (5.53 pm). The “flag removal” and the #flegs protest are both typical of the sort of infantile behaviour that makes a UI hard to contemplate.

    Gopher (6.37 pm), Mr Agnew is one of the grown-up politicians whom we can’t afford to lose.

    When children have a squalid trivial row in the playground, their parents often weigh in emotionally on the side of their own children, one day later. Some of our politicians are inclined to behave in the manner of those half-witted parents. Part of being a parent or a political leader is to recognize triviality for what it is, and to lead your children or your voters away from it.

    Any politician who refuses to condemn lawless violence on the grounds that THE PEOPLE ARE ANGRY is thinking at a childish if not at a near-bestial level. Before we can have a referendum, several politicians on both sides of the fence will have to move out of the nursery.

    Or maybe we need new leaders who genuinely know where they want to go.

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  56. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks for that balance-restoring reply, Gopher. Of course you’re talking sense, while my dogmatic aphorisms are nothing more than what my Annalong neighbour used to call ‘oul badness o’ crack’.

    Nonetheless I wonder. Are we obliged to accept the hand of cards that we’ve been dealt? For example, must we accept tense drummed-up summers in NI or its successor in secula seculorum, amen?

    The future that I see is predicated on a massive change of heart all round. There is going to be no workable UI without a serious outbreak of geniality. People will need to stop making a virtue out of sullen solemn scowling.

    So many of the Utopian UIs that I encounter are perfect-on-paper Weimar constitutions that have been put together by clever intellects. But the real thing will need to take account both of people’s visceral yearnings and of their spiritual needs. A green-and-pleasant UI isn’t going to emerge from some critique-of-pure-reason thing created by academics.

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  57. Gopher (profile) says:

    @David Crookes

    As long as we have idiots in the Erich von Falkenhayn appreciation society yes we will suffer our Verdun’s every summer. It just becomes a question of limiting their disruption. For most of the population that is not a problem. The disconnect is there. That is why we will get few effective politicos and that is why turn out is going down as our electorate gets more sophisticated. There is no UI without a stable NI

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  58. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks, Gopher. You say,, “…..turn out is going down as our electorate gets more sophisticated. There is no UI without a stable NI.” Indeed. If the non-voting section of the electorate turns out in force to vote for a referendum, it may surprise the psephologists. But whatever happens in the polling stations, we need a stable NI, UI or no UI.

    Maybe the annual estival festival is a bit like full-moon lycanthropy, and we simply have to wait for the fits to pass. People are funny. I get excited about the twelfth root of two, which is a much more musical affair than the Twelfth week in July.

    “Ulster unionism from Falkenhayn to Faulkner.” Subject for your next historical society meeting…..

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  59. otto (profile) says:

    “Should a referendum be triggered simply if more nationalists than unionists vote in an Assembly election, or as I believe, if nationalists were to win an overall simple majority in the Assembly, terms which I suspect would require Westminster legislation?”

    Isn’t that the problem? By making the referendum-holding decision dependent on the balance of designations you condemn us to party designation in perpetuity.

    If the referendum decision was outside designation (e.g. every 5 or 10 years held concurrently with the assembly election) we could vote for who we liked regardless of their position on the border.

    We could even (mad I know!!) aspire to a united Ireland but accept the need to govern ourselves effectively as a region of the UK in the meantime.

    Prospective Blueshirts could vote for Irish unity and the Conservatives. Not-quite-yet integrationists could vote for the Irish Labour Party and the union (just for now mind).

    There would be room for southern and UK parties to run here without having to join the sectarian designation system.

    Perhaps it could be offered as the price of a move to weighted majority rather than consociational government?

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  60. Mr Joe [7.10] Robinson is indulging in the old chestnut that what he wants the outcome of a referendum to be, will come about. But it’s pointless to speculate that catholic voters will vote in a plurality to stay with the staus quo, at a time when there isn’t the conditions yet pertaining [a usable catholic majority], becuse even in the privacy of the polling booth even the voter thinking about it won’t be able to forecast how he/she would feel the question, about a decade or more in the future.

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  61. Gopher (profile) says:

    @David Crookes

    It was actually a Scientific meeting this time round David. The Royal Society Craigavon branch no less. Since the Craigavon branch can trace it its linage back to the original Royal charter of 1660 it has no difficulty in attracting the top guest speakers. Last night was no exception and Professor Brian Cox took time out from his busy schedule to present the lecture, “Newton’s third law of motion and Irish politics since the twelfth century”. Brian kindly brought crayons along to help explain for those that could not grasp Newtons law.

    Next Royal Society, meeting Stephen Hawkings take “Black holes and devolution politics”

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  62. Viridiplantae (profile) says:

    danielsmoran

    Mr Joe [7.10] Robinson is indulging in the old chestnut that what he wants the outcome of a referendum to be, will come about. But it’s pointless to speculate that catholic voters will vote in a plurality to stay with the staus quo, at a time when there isn’t the conditions yet pertaining [a usable catholic majority], becuse even in the privacy of the polling booth even the voter thinking about it won’t be able to forecast how he/she would feel the question, about a decade or more in the future.

    A Catholic plurality is looking increasingly politically meaningless.

    In 2001 the trend line was for unionists to have about 51% of the vote and nationalists about 42%. The census then said that Protestants were about 53% of the population and Catholics were about 43.5% of the population.

    Fast forward to 2011 and unionists have about 49.5% of the vote (on a trend line) and nationalists still about 42%. The census then said that Protestants were about 48% of the population and Catholics were about 45% of the population.

    So in ten years the unionist vote went from being about 2% less than the Protestant population percentage to about 1.5% more than the Protestant population percentage and the Nationalist vote went from being about 1.5% less than the Catholic population percentage to being about 3% less than the Catholic population percentage.

    There is an obvious explanation for the latter when we infer that in fact Catholics who speak English as their main language actually fell from about 43.5% of the population in 2001 to about 43% of the population in 2011 while about 2% of Northern Ireland’s population in 2011 were Catholics who didn’t speak English (or Irish) as their main language and might be assumed to be no more likely to vote for a Nationalist party as a Unionist one, if they even vote at all.

    The former is less easy to explain but is probably largely due to the fact that secularisation affects Catholics and Protestants differently. Protestants who become non-religious are more likely to say they have no religion sooner while Catholics who become non-religious cling onto the “Catholic” descriptor for longer. This has been observed in many countries in the past. The only other real explanation would be that Catholics or non-religious people of a Catholic background are starting to vote for Unionist parties, which you might object to even more. Personally I think it’s more the former.

    Back to the subject in hand though a census showing a Catholic plurality should most definitely not be used by the Secretary of State as a basis to call a border poll. All the more so after all that I’ve said, what with Polish etc. immigrants and both native Protestantism and native Catholicism now shrinking at unknown differing rates. It’s now not even unthinkable that in 2015 Unionist parties could still hold a majority of seats at Stormont even when the Catholic or brought up Catholic percentage of Northern Ireland may be a plurality if a snapshot census were to be held in 2015 on election day. Not necessarily likely, but not impossible.

    The border poll should be held only on the basis of a majority or a plurality of seats being won in an election, Catholicism should be treated by the Secretary of State as a complete irrelevance. In line with the Scottish precedent I don’t think vote share should strictly count, only actual seats won. Unionists have never won anything less than a majority of seats in an election to anything, so calling a border poll should be currently out of the question. There are good arguments that nationalists won’t ever gain a majority unless they can gain converts in demographic sectors of the population that currently don’t vote nationalist. Therefore there is only really one event in the forseeable future that could be potentially used as a justification for a border poll, namely Unionists gaining less than a majority of seats in an election.

    If that happens the prospect of people voting for a united Ireland is still pretty much nil, but there could be a theoretical justification for a border poll in that a majority had for the first time elected parties who either supported a united Ireland or were neutral on the question. However I think that it would be far more justified to leave it at the discretion of Alliance or whatever other neutral party holds the balance, in that they should make it clear in their manifesto whether they would support a border poll in this event or not, and considering their attitude when Trimble called for one as well as more recently they very well might not want one, and the Secretary of State should follow that lead, on the grounds that the electorate had supported parties that either supported the union or didn’t want a border poll in their manifestos.

    Theresa Villiers should certainly not call a border poll now on the behest of Sinn Fein while explicitly pro-union parties have won a majority of seats in elections to everything so far. Alliance should make it clear in their manifesto and in public more generally that a vote for Alliance is a vote against a border poll in the next term, should they end up in the balance of power position, if indeed that is their position. They can always change that position in future elections should they so desire.

    To me this is the only real metric the Secretary of State should use, have parties who either want a united Ireland or are neutral on it but want a border poll, won a majority in Stormont? If not then no border poll.

    Should Nationalists gain a plurality of seats over Unionists some decades hence my position would be the same. It should not trigger a border poll unless whichever neutral parties hold the balance of power have support for a border poll in their manifestos. If their manifestos oppose a border poll then no poll should occur. If the public desires a border poll in those circumstances then they can express that in who they vote for in the next election (e.g. a split between “no border poll Alliance” and “border poll Alliance” if it came to that).

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  63. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Viridiplantae, many thanks for a most thoughtful, substantial, and diligently wrought piece of argument. You say, “There are good arguments that nationalists won’t ever gain a majority unless they can gain converts in demographic sectors of the population that currently don’t vote nationalist.” It makes me happy to think that a UI will not be brought into existence by the vulgar old outbreeding bogey that we unionists were all warned about fifty and sixty years ago.

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  64. Alias (profile) says:

    Viridiplantae, good post but all sort of redundant given that a border poll in Northern Ireland has to be agreed in principle with the Irish government in order for them to call a border poll in Ireland.

    I think it quite fanciful that the EU administrators in Ireland would allow any such nonsense to waste government time here, never mind allow the government to divert money earmarked to bail-out eurosystem banks to budgeting for a united Ireland even as a contingency.

    If the EU says no, the Irish government says no, and so must the SoS for NI. Check back in 25 years for an update.

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  65. Sectarianism and bigotry are two concepts that are frequently confused here on SOT.
    My favourite on-line dictionary defines them thus:
    Sectarianism is ” a narrow-minded adherence to a particular sect or party or denomination “.
    Bigotry is “the practice of having very strong and unreasonable opinions, especially about politics, race, or religion, and refusing to consider other people’s opinions”.
    As such, there is not a great problem with sectarianism.
    Bigotry is another matter. It is frequently expressed as a visceral hatred of those with whom you disagree. Mick tries his best to filter out the hatred by occasionally black carding participants. When they return under a different name, it is not fair to condemn Mick since there are many internet sites which offer an anonymousising service. It would not be easy to uncover participants in those. The only recopurse is to challenge the bigotry and to hope that if they get too far out of line, which is often the case, that Mick will black card them again.

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  66. Neil (profile) says:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-21140469

    The DUP is considering supporting Sinn Fein’s campaign for a border poll, according to enterprise minister Arlene Foster.

    She told BBC Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan Show she had held discussions with senior colleagues, including party leader Peter Robinson.

    She said the feeling was a pro-union vote would consolidate Northern Ireland’s position within the UK.

    Bring it on! I want my say on the union. If Unionism wins big the question will go off the radar for the foreseeable. If.

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  67. DC (profile) says:

    One would need to be held in the RoI as well as you can’t have one without the other or maybe I am wrong they don’t have to be interlocking? But given everything else in this part of the world operates along parallel consent lines i’d be surprised if one in NI alone would have significance.

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  68. Neil (profile) says:

    I’m under the impression we can hold one here, then if successful (or not, in your case) a referendum would be held in the South.

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  69. DC (profile) says:

    I don’t think it operates like that Neil.

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  70. Alias (profile) says:

    The Treaty stipulates that both polls must run “concurrently” not consecutively. It is, of course, up to the SoS to call a poll in NI but he cannot do so with the Irish government also agreeing to hold a poll. Therefore, the Irish government has a de facto veto. In practice, the EU now holds this veto since the budgeting exercises for outcome contingencies of any poll are under the EU’s control. The EU will (a) not allow government time to be wasted with irrelevant nonsense and (b) the EU will not allow money that is to be used to bail-out French and German bondholders to be diverted for other purposes. That will remain the case for the foreseeable future.

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  71. Alias (profile) says:

    Typo: “…he cannot do so without the Irish government also agreeing to hold a poll.”

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  72. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Many thanks, Gopher, you have an interesting life!

    John Tyndall addressed the British Association in Belfast in 1874.

    In ‘Man and Superman’ GBS makes Mrs Whitefield say, ‘Nothing has been right since that lecture that Professor Tyndall gave in Belfast.’

    On one occasion Tyndall tried to get the Royal Society to declare that the idea of Irish Home Rule was contrary to the laws of science, but the RS declined to get involved.

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