Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Border Poll: “We may just call your bluff on this one Mitchel…”

Tue 22 January 2013, 1:58pm

So Arlene Foster tells Stephen Nolan:

“If we have the border poll then that instability goes away and, in actual fact, what we have is a very clear validation of the union and that’s something we’re looking at at the moment. So I’m saying to Mitchel McLaughlin and I’m saying to him very clearly, ‘We may just call your bluff on this one Mitchel, and be very careful what you wish for’.”

Hmmmm… Wee bit of dancing on the brink there from Arlene, yet not quite diving in… I suspect if there had been any clear will within the party to shove Sinn Fein into a border poll, we’d have had a clearer answer than that.  A ministerial slip is more likely. And more reflective of the sustained pressure the party’s been under for the last two months, than a new party policy.Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 13.35.09

As noted before, legislation makes clear, it won’t fall to the DUP or to Sinn Fein but the Secretary of State to call one. And then only when certain, albeit loosely defined, conditions are fulfilled. So to repeat what I said on Sunday’s This Week programme this is a useful fiction, but it’s little more than that.

If Mr Adams  is asking for something he knows he cannot get, Ms Foster knows it too. So tell me again, what has OFMdFM done in the last six months?

Or, as our friend Mr Martin put it back in December, is this yet another “distraction from the fact that politicians are not delivering on the issues that actually make a difference to the quality of people’s lives?”

Update: Secretary of State says, “Aye, right!”

“Given the state of opinion in Northern Ireland, which is clearly expressed in election results and opinion polls, the Government has no present plans to call such a poll.

“We believe that political attention is really better focused elsewhere. It is crucial that political leaders here concentrate on working together on pressing economic and social issues, including the rebalancing of the Northern Ireland economy and building a genuinely shared society, rather than being diverted into divisive constitutional debates.”

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Comments (105)

  1. GoldenFleece (profile) says:

    Typical postuing from SF and the DUP. Building a better Northern Ireland is secondary to their party’s well being.

    We are never going to get anywhere with these “troubles parties” they are locked into segregation and tribalism of the past and will never change.

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  2. Bangordub (profile) says:

    It appears a debate is getting underway….

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  3. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    You skim reading again dub? ;-) Nolan tomorrow night will be interesting anyway…

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  4. Kensei (profile) says:

    Does Michael Martin believe Irish policy and law as currently followed is superior to the British version? Or does he not think changing it would impact peoples lives.

    The law as bolded is irrelevant. It is “whenever the SoS can be convinced”. Something passing in the Assembly might do it.

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  5. tacapall (profile) says:

    Regardless Mick whether its all bluff, if the DUP support the call by Sinn Fein for a border poll and a British secretary of state rejects it, then its win win for Sinn Fein, it calls into question Britains role as a facilitator for democracy in this part of Ireland. Real politics has never been in place here thats the problem, unionism has never had to actually engage in real politics and Sinn Fein is in the same boat however they do what they believe people elected them for, keeping the status quo or pursuing that aspiration of a united Ireland, to them thats whats important.

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  6. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Ken,

    “Something passing in the Assembly might do it.” – Yep, agreed, it might. Just don’t bet the farm on it.

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  7. GoldenFleece (profile) says:

    This is not about getting an UI or keeping the union safe. Its all about votes for the next assmebly. That’s all it is.

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  8. Bangordub (profile) says:

    Lol Mick,
    I think this is all about generating debate on SF’s part. I doubt the SOS will be calling a poll this year anyway, possibly after the next round of elections.
    Yes, Nolan should be fun, any idea who the guests will be? Or perhaps the audience will be the main talking point again

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  9. DC (profile) says:

    The secretary of state should go along with it as there could potentially be an £11 billion pa efficiency saving there for the British Exchequer.

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  10. JH (profile) says:

    Depends really doesn’t it. I’d imagine it’d be some kind of staggered economic withdrawl taking decades. Or even a Hong Kong style extended handover.

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  11. Ulick (profile) says:

    @Mick
    “If Mr Adams is asking for something he knows he cannot get”

    This is the second time in a few days you’ve said something along these lines Mick, effectively arguing that this is all a bluff but not presenting anything to support your case. Let’s look at it from the other side. If this was a bluff, would SF have bothered laying the groundwork with the Uniting Ireland rallies and conferences held around the world over the past three or four years? Surely SF could have saved themselves a fortune and kept the grass-roots at bay by holding one or two Dublin, instead of every major population centre in Ireland an others in England, the US and Canada?

    You say he won’t get a poll but on the other hand say the conditions for holding one is rather “loosely defined”. Well which is it? Surely the latter indicates it’s pretty much within the SoS/NIOs gift when one is called – are you really suggesting that the SoS/NIO would refuse to hold one even if SF, DUP and Irish government were all in favour? I don’t think so. SF are close to getting the border poll already without having even tried very hard, let’s see what happens when they have something Robinson wants.

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  12. Nevin (profile) says:

    “Or, as our friend Mr Martin put it back in December, is this yet another “distraction from the fact that politicians are not delivering on the issues that actually make a difference to the quality of people’s lives?””

    The Martin intervention should be seen for what it is – a snapshot from a FF-SF cat-fight. When FF were in government, President McAleese endorsed a cross-paramilitary project, folks who’ve made people’s lives a misery. From my experience, DFA officials seemed to be more relaxed about this paramilitary involvement in community affairs than their DJE colleagues. So it ill befits a former DFA minister to pontificate about the quality of people’s lives here.

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  13. Dec (profile) says:

    According to the wording of the legislation, the SOS needs to be a ‘he’. So it looks like a border poll is unlikely under the current dispensation.

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  14. smcgiff (profile) says:

    The politicians in the ROI will be tearing their hair out.

    There will be pressure on them to put forward concrete proposals as to what their vision of a UI would be. Possibly in conjunction with their UK counterparts. And while they’ll have to put in considerable effort to outline such plans they know there’d be little chance of success (especially with their fingers firmly crossed).

    However, it’s the DUP that are at risk of having their bluff called. Once a poll is called it’s likely the genie will be out of the bottle, especially if the Nationalist vote is over 40%. Remember all those unionist Catholics know they can safely vote for a UI without fear of it coming true.

    And, they may vote for a UI for the same reasons unionist Catholics vote for nationalist parties. It suits them.

    I also believe (btw Mick, you sounded different on Sunday on RTE1 from what I’ve heard before) if the DUP and SF cal for a referendum then one will be granted, i.e. by voting for it in the assembly.

    It would be in the DUP’s favour to insist on a quick one and to avoid much debate.

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  15. Framer (profile) says:

    If we had a border poll the south would have to put in train immediately preparations for a plebiscite there on whether to accept the UK ceding it Northern Ireland.
    Think chaos, and worse, every seven years.

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  16. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Ulick,

    Don’t ask me to speculate on the depth of SF’s pockets, after they threw a small fortune at the Gormley case, and Gerry taking private operations in the US of the kind favoured by Irish millionaires on his meagre income as a writer/speaker. They have more money than sense.

    The exact terms are loosely defined, but we’re still clearly a long way from a credible drop zone. Don’t mistake activity for achievement. This is what happens when you don’t invest in your constitutional future. All roads lead back to the past (Something, something, something Dark Side).

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

    Another DUP/Sinn Fein sham fight.

    ZZZzzzzzz……….

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  18. JH (profile) says:

    I would imagine SF have something in their pocket regarding this. Maybe a prominent economist willing to join the ‘Yes’ campaign and dispel some of the myths that seem to form the backbone of the Unionist opposition to it.

    SF don’t tend to charge into anything without a few aces in the hole so to speak. And they’ve a number of outs on this one.

    a) DUP blocks it: propaganda win
    b) SoS blocks it: propaganda win
    c) Defeated at 40%: win
    d) Defeated at 30%: small political win, sets a base
    e) Passes at 50%.. obvious win
    f) Unionist boycott: win

    The only real bad outcome would be a < 30% Yes vote, which would more than likely be down to it being held quickly.

    I can't see it being held before the Scottish referendum though and that will have a huge impact, especially on younger swing voters.

    In fact if the decision to hold one is made before but the referendum itself held after Scotland's the two would bolster each other I think.

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  19. Nevin (profile) says:

    The Government held a border poll on 8 March 1973 and ‘decided to put this question directly to the people every ten years by referendum’. Well, we’re rapidly approaching the 40th anniversary and anniversaries have always played an important part in our politics. There’s also a Westminster by-election in the offing so a call for a border poll makes a good rallying cry. In the absence of a declaration from the PRM Army Council we must remain in the dark about the particular motivation for the call.

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  20. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    JH, you’ve been reading too many chapters of shades of grey… I’d stop after two and you have it one (to coin a stupid phrase). It’s propaganda.

    Like I said the other day, we’re merely seeing the externalisation of Stormont politics when they have so little to show for their terms in office.

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  21. d) Defeated at 30%: small political win, sets a base

    Getting 12% below the Nationalist vote at recent elections would be a huge defeat. Would imply in the absence of radically changed circumstances, reunification is off the cards for a century.

    Even 40% – 5% below the “Catholic background”* population in the 2011 census, would be pretty bad, indicating that current demographic trends won’t deliver reunification for at least two generations.

    This is not Scotland, and all the opinion research evidence for the past generation has indicated the only swing voters are nominally from the CNR community.

    Although I have made my personal views on the matter clear, and she won’t be getting my vote for the Union, I think Arlene is right to call MItchel’s bluff.

    *PS – I know the numbers are relatively small (albeit growing) but if you actually convert they count you with your denomination of current practice and don’t even ask you the background question. So I count as coming from a ‘Protestant community background’ in the 2011 Census, even though I obviously don’t…

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  22. JH (profile) says:

    A bit of poetic license if you please Mick!

    But yeah it’s about more than the poll, of course. Come on!

    And that’s my point really. It’s ultimately about what the poll can bring in terms of political dividend at Stormont and on the island.

    Having said that, let’s not be afraid to dream! And let’s unfetter the brains a bit and talk about the potential. What could be created and what the future could look like for people here.

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  23. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Yeah, just like it’s “more than a flag…” I really cannot bring myself to put up another link to Micheal Martin’s previous warning on this… Try the one embedded in the post?

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  24. JH (profile) says:

    Good analysis Gerry but I have to say, as someone who aspires to see reunification I can’t think of a single one of my Catholic friends who would vote for it.

    And I see the real potential for the gaining votes amongst the younger voters; the kids applying for Irish passports at the hint of free tuition in Scottish Universities. These are the people who would respond to a reasoned economic argument.

    But of course that’s all anecdotal and I’m not sure even as a trend how it would fit into the overall picture.

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  25. oneill (profile) says:

    If this was a bluff, would SF have bothered laying the groundwork with the Uniting Ireland rallies and conferences held around the world over the past three or four years?

    Sending Gerry over to the US and elsewhere, preaching to the converted costs little- actually I am sure the rallies have been run at a profit, letting the (rich) converted know that there is still expensive work to be done back in Occupied Ireland.

    Another side advantage to SF of a Border Poll being called would be that finance which would undoubtedly roll into the party from the deluded wing of the diaspora.

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  26. BarneyT (profile) says:

    There is a small flaw here. If the decision is left to the SoS alone and can only be triggered by a reasonable certainty that the majority of NI want a United Ireland, then the poll is not about what the people want. The SoS role in this is surely open to a challenge.

    I concur here with Tacapall ”… it calls into question Britains role as a facilitator for democracy in this part of Ireland” if they do indeed veto the Border Poll.

    It also does not take into account the educational or persuasive effects that a referendum campaign can have and the veto by the SoS removes the opportunity to argue and convince or indeed further dissuade. Opinions can be changed, to cement NI partition or (although less likely) produce a swing towards unification. Legislation currently discriminates against this opportunity.

    I don’t support the notion that Gerry is asking for something he cannot get and that could be extended to the DUP. If both parties want a border poll, they will and should get one, regardless of which direction the wind is blowing in the pants of the SoS. It’s open to challenge no matter where it is written or otherwise enshrined. His name is Gerry Adams, not Oliver Twist.

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  27. Alone and Easy Target (profile) says:

    I am torn as to what I think would be the best option:

    1. Have the poll. If UI gets close to 40% it will have done extremely well. Polarise the community along tribal lines for something most people know the answer to. Show UI is no where near – potentially dissidents gain more traction. Then every 7 years we do it all over again, because if the SoS ratifies one now then the conditions are met and will find it hard not to do so again.

    2. No poll. Status quo. DUP-Sinn Fein dance continues for the time being. No legislation, no framework for a path to a competent governance.

    Flip a coin.

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  28. 6crealist (profile) says:

    Maybe Sinn Féin’s game here is to destabilise the DUP.

    First we had Robinson’s ill-tempered attack on Gerry Adams’ mental health: particularly crude given Mrs Robinson’s current state.

    And now we have Foster going rogue.

    No wonder Robinson is working wonders to destroy the UUP (not hard given the latter’s pathetic ‘leadership’): it’s the only way that he’ll remain as First Minister.

    All in all, a ridiculous sham fight. My own lot, the SDLP, would be advised to go into opposition: maybe indeed that’s what Michéal’s astute intervention is paving the way for.

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  29. BarneyT (profile) says:

    Powersharing shares the load, distributes the blame and in turn prevents examination. I would be more comfortable seeing Micheal and his folks contesting and challenging in this manner rather than via his open displays of insecurity.

    If the SDLP go into opposition, the UUP replenished need to come with them..but then again government\opposition will be tribal so thats not going to happen. Are the DUP and SF likely to establish a coalition willingly?

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  30. JH (profile) says:

    I don’t understand this notion that the UUP and SDLP should team up and go into opposition. How is that helping tribalism?

    Team up because one is nationalist and the other unionist?

    One is a conservative party and the other a labour party, they should be diametrically opposed!

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  31. Angry Planner (profile) says:

    I agree with those above that if there was be little chance of the SoS vetoing a border poll if SF and the DUP called for it as there would be a majority in the NIA for it. The Irish Government will also need to be onboard, something that Alex Kane said in his column yesterday about how in such a campaign he wouldn’t be listening to Gerry and SF but to Enda, Gilmore and their parties as their electoral strength is much greater than that of SF.

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  32. 6crealist (profile) says:

    The UUP are in terminal decline.

    There’s hope yet for the SDLP but the situation is critical.

    Anyway, the NIO have now explicitly ruled the notion out: a small victory for Adams.

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  33. Ruarai (profile) says:

    Who’d a thought the debate would have been kick-started by the DUP.

    So be it.

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  34. JR (profile) says:

    I don’t understand how everyone seems so cast Iron assured that this referendum won’t achieve a UI. Is it really so far outside the relms of possibility?

    This referendum is a few years down the road. I see today the UK is in danger of looseing it’s triple a credit rating. It is running an increased public spending deficate. The Uk has not grasped the public spending deficate nettle in the same way Ireland has had to. If the South gets a deal on it’s bank debt and the Uk has a financial crisis of it’s own things could change. Many people in the North tend to ignore the fact that despite the major issues of the last few years, the economy in the south has many things going for it. It is far from the basket case Unionists like to think it is.

    Throw in the uncertanties of the Scottish referendum. Conservative spending cuts, the potential europe refferendum and the fact that no one knows how moderate Catholics and Protestants would vote now in a UI poll never mind in 2016 or 2018 and the outcome of this is far from a foregone conclusion.

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  35. JH (profile) says:

    Public spending deficate is right.

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  36. SDLP supporter (profile) says:

    My view on this is that it’s an attempt at ‘popular frontism’ by Sinn Fein, attempting to pull SDLP, FF, FG and irish Labour on board for an all-Ireland poll. Coming up to the centenary of 2016, it also acts as a convenient fig leaf for SF in the North to disguise how far short they have fallen from their stated aim of bringing about a united Ireland and their multiple abject lack of achievement (along with the DUP) in the Northern Ireland Executive, as well as keeping the foot-soldiers believing that they are actually achieving something.

    Given that Micheal Martin has shot the idea down, it is highly unlikely that the FG/Labour coalition, with all their multiple real-life governmental issues, that they’ll chase after this particular fox, and provide a platform for Adams (who has plenty of time on his hands) to swan around the US posturing as an international statesman and the ‘voice of Ireland’.

    It was amusing to hear that arch-spoofer Mitchel McLaughlin going on about the ‘bloated bureaucracy’ of two administrations on the island. Giiven the power of the public service unions in the South, any redundancies would be overwhelmingly north of the border.

    Weird statement from DC:

    ‘The secretary of state should go along with it as there could potentially be an £11 billion pa efficiency saving there for the British Exchequer.’

    If/when the Brits go. they will go completely. To paraphrase Gerry Fitt, they won’t be leaving their purse on the mantle-piece.

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  37. JR (profile) says:

    whoops, I made that same spelling mistake on an e-mail to an important client once many moons ago. :-(

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  38. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    This really does have the feel of 2 bald men fighting over a comb. It’s something neither party really wants or need at the present time and I can’t see how any SoS could agree to it without looking foolish.

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  39. Kensei (profile) says:

    Gerry, nothing goes off the table for 100 years. Please stop staying stuff like this. The SNP were dead in 1999. A UI could be defeated 99-1 and be back on the agenda in 10 in the right circumstances. A good victory gives Unionism a medium term boost and Nationalism pause for thought. Nothing more, in itself.

    30% is a bad result, though potentially with the edge off if the distribution gave an advantage. 40% is a good result in current economic climate. Any more than 40% and the union gets the medium term hit.

    The interesting question for me is whether or not the Southern parties campaign for a yes to a UI. They have reach northern parties dont.

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  40. GEF (profile) says:

    Framer: “If we had a border poll the south would have to put in train immediately preparations for a plebiscite there on whether to accept the UK ceding it Northern Ireland.”

    This would only happen if a border poll in NI was positive and the majority of citizens in NI voted to go into a 32 county UI.
    If the NI majority votes to stay in the UK then the south would be wasting time and money having a border poll.

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  41. SDLP supporter (profile) says:

    James Connolly talked about a ‘carnival of reaction’. A border poll anytime soon would allow the gobshites on either side to abuse the respective national flags and generally hype up the situation. It would also allow people like wee Barry McElduff to posture down in West Tyrone and speechify all the way up to 2016 and dust off all those old Padraig Pearse speeches…”the fools, the fools. The fools… etc.”
    Remember Barry’s “job creation” proposal a few years ago that every nationalist townland in Tyrone be given its own flagpole and someone could be employed to raise the tricolour at daybreak and lower it at sunset? Keynesian economics Sinn Fein style.

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  42. Alias (profile) says:

    Mick, you missed this part:

    (ii) recognise that it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively and without external impediment, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish, accepting that this right must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland;

    In other words, the Irish government must also agree to hold a poll. Therefore, they have a de facto veto. It is not up to Ms Foster or Ms Villiers alone.

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  43. Granni Trixie (profile) says:

    From SF perspective, this campaign puts them in a win win situation – the debate around a poll creates space for their project to develop,they don’t need to win it or even have the SOS agree to hold it.

    However there is likely to be another motivation at play:money. I say this because sure didn’t Gerry announce to the world that SF would be campaigning for a Poll first to Americans who were passing on their bucks (fundraisers called something like Friends of SF or Ireland ?) . it occurred to me then that he was using the prospect of a Border Poll Campaign to motivate these Americans and to signify action on UI project. I just wish SF would sell a shared future to their supporters and put their energy into making nI work.

    I do not think for one minute the SOS will call a Border Poll as the majority have little appetite for such games in the context of economic problems not to mention a poisoned political atmosphere.

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  44. DC (profile) says:

    @SDLP supporter – what was weird about it?

    I was saying if Northern Ireland votes itself out of the Union the British save £11+ billion year on year and as a SoS that might be one way to go along with it for the sake of it in the hope that if by some chance it passes it could work out well for the British taxpayer.

    As someone who is single and so far childless and very mobile I would be spiteful enough to vote Yes and clear off to my sister in London and give a nod and wink to those that stay behind to wreck the place ;)

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  45. Nevin (profile) says:

    “A ministerial slip is more likely.”

    Possibly not: Arlene’s DUP press release:

    “.. The DUP is having this discussion but has not reached a conclusion on the matter.

    Our determined view is that Sinn Fein should cease from their destabilising talk and should focus their energies on making Northern Ireland work.”

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  46. sherdy (profile) says:

    How does Arlene manage to make an offer sound so much like a threat?

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  47. SDLP supporter (profile) says:

    DC, so you’re an ‘armchair republican’ type prepared to live your life out in London, similar to Mr. Rory Carr, intermittently of this parish? How do you know your sister would welcome you landing in on top of her in London?

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  48. Alias (profile) says:

    To clarify the above point: it is up to the SoS to call a poll in NI but that doesn’t mean he/she can call a poll.

    In order to call a poll, the SoS must have agreement from the Irish government that a poll in that separate jurisdiction will run concurrently (as opposed to consecutively) with the poll in the SoS’s jurisdiction.

    If the Irish government refuse then the SoS has no authority under the terms of the British Irish Agreement to call a border poll. He/she may still call a border poll under the British government’s authority, but such a poll would have nothing to do with that Treaty as it would be outside of the agreed terms.

    What are the odds of Enda (a puppet of the EU) agreeing to hold a border poll now? Absolutely zero.

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  49. David Crookes (profile) says:

    There is one enormously embarrassing question waiting to be put to Mr Adams. What has the so-called diaspora got to do with it? Members of the diaspora are citizens of other countries, and they have ZERO RIGHTS OF INTERFERENCE either in NI or in the RoI.

    Here’s another question. Why should the SF campaign be subvened by citizens of other countries?

    Wake up, you political illiterate.

    Acting the teddy-bear in the land that believes in teddy-bears is going to help you not at all.

    What you have to do is persuade the people who live here.

    But that’ll take a brain.

    Oh, dear.

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  50. DC (profile) says:

    While my previous comment to SDLP Supporter was dark in its humour I have been further developing my twisted side on this matter provoked by the absurdity of it all, below I set out a case for Unionists saying Yes which could be much more devastating than a Unionist boycott.

    What we need to knock this on the head is some really twisted and warped Unionist ‘Yes campaign’ in order to sicken the life out of Dublin and for that pointless border poll to carry in favour of a united Ireland, purposefully bouncing a completely unworkable and unplanned for 1.8 million populace into the Irish body-politic. What we would have is a kind of deformity than unity, two heads on one body, there’s a problem with the gestation period here, the unification gestation. It all seems a little early to be giving birth to this one at this time, so why not produce something that has to be aborted. I know the Irish don’t like directly handling such taboos, so lets drop this onto their laps.

    Ultimately, for this to work, it would have to be known publicly that political Unionists were going to rig this vote towards a Yes making a mockery out of its sincerity.

    The perverse outcome being that even a Yes vote has to be ignored due to the utter rigging of it by Unionists and the well-known impracticality of an unplanned unification, the impracticality being known on many many fronts – not least economic!

    The Irish State is so utterly ill-equipped to digest this 1.8 million that such a campaign and rigged outcome in favour of a united Ireland would be so catastrophic given the negative impact on the standard of living across Ireland it would have that I am pretty sure the poll would be rendered null and void.

    As Gerry Adams would crow – it’s all Cock-a-doodle-do stuff!

    Ps, SDLP supporter I wouldn’t be an armchair republican but a unionist ultra, I’d be going back saying I voted to save you guys £11 billion and it worked, there’s that drag on the economy lifted as a result of losing those that didn’t want to work in its best interests!

    Once again thank me later for the sheer brilliance of this well-rounded contribution to slugger! :)

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  51. GEF (profile) says:

    “To clarify the above point: it is up to the SoS to call a poll in NI but that doesn’t mean he/she can call a poll.”

    What if the Gerry Adams calls Mrs Foster & Mrs Villers bluff and threaten them, “”"”no Border Poll no assembly and SF then walk out of stormont? “”"”

    “Villiers rejects border poll call, despite DUP move”

    http://news.google.co.uk/news/url?ct2=uk%2F1_0_s_7_101_a&sa=t&usg=AFQjCNGRtzYCrD_9sOnrnEXTVgXFRgqJAA&cid=52778070425295&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.newsletter.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fheadlines%2Fvilliers-rejects-border-poll-call-despite-dup-support-1-4706927&ei=–H-UMjBDI2S8gPguAE&dcid=CATEGORY_LONG_READ&rt=SECTION&vm=STANDARD&bvm=section&twa=f&did=-4919493317741568911&sid=en_uk%3An&ssid=n

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  52. socaire (profile) says:

    Totally btw but it seems that a new treatment for piles has been developed in Switzerland. It involves gold injections and is unbelievably expensive. It is not expected to be available on the NHS. Interested, Mick?

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  53. 6crealist (profile) says:

    “What if the Gerry Adams calls Mrs Foster & Mrs Villers bluff and threaten them, “”””no Border Poll no assembly and SF then walk out of stormont? “””””

    Zero chance. Their whole raison d’etre is protecting “the process.” And that includes full participation at the lunatic asylum at Stormont.

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  54. Alias (profile) says:

    GEF, I suspect that if Gerry threw the Stormont toys out of the pram over this issue that Marty and ilk would pick them back up and then throw Gerry out of the pram. I’d actually quite enjoy seeing that come to pass…

    Anyway, the SoS has no constitutional authority to call a border poll in the separate sovereign jurisdiction of Ireland and as both polls must run concurrently under the terms of the Treaty, it is not the SoS’s call to make alone if he/she wants to operate within the terms of the Treaty.

    It all comes down to the EU, who simply won’t allow it at this time (or at any time until they have extracted tens of billions from Irish taxpayers). And even if Enda wasn’t an EU puppet, he’d quite like to see Gerry thrown out of the pram too…

    A poll simply isn’t going to happen. Indeed, if there was even the slightest chance of it happening, Gerry wouldn’t be calling for it.

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  55. carnmoney.guy (profile) says:

    Its all about the pounds, schillings and cents

    Heard Mitchell on this morning, saying that duplication was costing 4.8 billion per year, this sounds like the Alliance saying that a divided society with multiple bus stops and schools costs a billion per annum.
    When are these chumps going to tell us who will get the boot, and what other jobs they are going to get?

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  56. Red Lion (profile) says:

    Socaire

    Gerry Adams might be intersted in that, he’ll probably bring it up in a parliament speech soon enough. Might have to rent out one of his houses though for a wee while to cover the cost, i don’t think the Northern Bank had any gold in its vault.

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  57. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Many thanks indeed for the sheer brilliance of that contribution, DC.

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  58. JH (profile) says:

    Surely there’s nothing to stop an Assembly motion being passed by DUP/Sinn Féin that creates and holds a border poll. It wouldn’t be binding or have the backing of the GFA, but it could be held and, if passed, would be practically impossible for the two governments not to act upon.

    And in that context the SoS and Taoiseach, while they say they won’t support a poll now, would, in practice, have no choice but to put the machinery in place should such a motion look like it would be passed.

    The British Government did the same dance when the SNP started their movement towards a referendum, but then once it looked like the referendum would go ahead anyways ‘unofficially’ they had no choice but to talk about it.

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  59. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Alias
    “both polls must run concurrently under the terms of the Treaty,”
    I’m not sure you are right there.
    I read it to mean the border poll in the North is called,and if it’s a yes then appropriate proposals go before parliament, to be agreed by the Irish government.
    The GFA was the poll for reunification for the people in the South.
    Maybe I’m wrong.

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  60. socaire (profile) says:

    How do you people know so much about Gerry Adams? You are au fait with his house posessions, his income, his family background, his military service and can discourse at length on his urinary tract. I am amazed at what I can learn from the keyboard kids.

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  61. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    smcgiff,

    The idea that the SoS would call a referendum following a motion in the assembly is quite a dangerous one. Either of the two parties could then simply veto any future referendum through the petition of concern.

    The 1998 act is set up that way for a reason. The powers of arbitration remain with the Brits.

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  62. Nevin (profile) says:

    Mitchel seems to have got it wrong :(

    Sinn Féin Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA has welcomed the favourable decision by the DUP for a Border Poll.

    Mitchel McLaughlin said:

    “I welcome this decision and look forward to the debate that can now be developed.

    “Arlene Foster articulated this development during a radio debate with me this morning. This acceptance should now create the space for and provoke clear, radical and open debate in regards to the social, economic and political benefits of a united Ireland.

    Are words like may, might and maybe lost on him?

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  63. Nevin (profile) says:

    Now that Gerry is swimming in a larger pool, is he trying to make himself relevant?

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  64. GEF (profile) says:

    Taoiseach tells Adams time is not right to hold poll on future of North

    http://news.google.co.uk/news/url?ct2=uk%2F1_0_s_8_1_a&sa=t&usg=AFQjCNGnZqS6MsPEN4oRBDvZFBGaVvRH7g&cid=52778070425295&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes.com%2Fnewspaper%2Fireland%2F2013%2F0123%2F1224329190080.html&ei=1TX_UID5K42S8gPguAE&rt=SECTION&vm=STANDARD&bvm=section&twa=f&did=3108620237064357008&sid=en_uk%3An&ssid=n

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  65. Alias (profile) says:

    “I read it to mean the border poll in the North is called,and if it’s a yes then appropriate proposals go before parliament, to be agreed by the Irish government.”

    I think this understanding is very common but is based on awareness that the British state retained the sovereignty to initiate a poll, with the Irish state having no such power.

    It is true that the SoS retains the constitutional authority to call a poll at his sole discretion in Northern Ireland but it doesn’t follow that he also has the constitutional authority to call a poll in Ireland.

    The Treaty is a binding legal document, and the word “concurrently” has an exact legal meaning. It means occurring at the same time. It also has another legal meaning which is for two or more to be of equal authority.

    This meaning is fully consistent with the Treaty, which recognises that two separate polls are to be held in two separate jurisdictions for the purpose of exercising two separate rights to self-determination, and that both polls must return a majority in favour of unity before either government has a duty to bring about that outcome.

    If, however, a majority in Ireland vote in favour of unity and a majority in Northern Ireland vote against it then the minority will overrule the majority and Northern Ireland will continue to exist against the will of the majority, with partition then fully consolidated and the 1921 Act fully vindicated.

    Such outcomes will not be helpful to maintaining the lie that the GFA is based on single act of self-determination.

    At any rate, it is clear that both polls must occur in tandem as either one is meaningless without the other, with both, therefore, being wholly interdependent and convergent.

    Since both polls must be concurrent, the SoS cannot exercise his veto without the co-operation of Mr Kenny. It is also clear that Mr Kenny’s advisors haven’t informed him of the protocol but what else is new?

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  66. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Alias,

    I am sure you are right in the above, but it might save a lot of confusion if you clarified which treaty you are referring to.

    I certainly agree that the Irish government have a veto on this matter. In fact I am sure they have already been talking to the British and they will have asked the British to rule out a referendum – which the Secretary of State duly did yesterday.

    When looked at this way, the British can’t even legislate to hold a separate referendum as it would clearly be outside the terms of international agreements.

    How ironic. Sinn Féin are stuck because the Irish government doesn’t want to explore further the possibility of reunification.

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  67. Ulick (profile) says:

    “How ironic. Sinn Féin are stuck because the Irish government doesn’t want to explore further the possibility of reunification.”

    Stuck? They’re only 4 days into the campaign and the media has been giving it saturation coverage.

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  68. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Why legislation? Why not just call a poll in NI?

    That’s where the trigger point would be. Then you could decide whether or not to trigger those Polls provided for in the legislation.

    If it was close enough politically, the Republic would have to comply. If not, unification is lost for another generation.

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  69. GEF (profile) says:

    “Stuck? They’re only 4 days into the campaign and the media has been giving it saturation coverage.”

    Maybe the media are all bored and dried up over reporting the flag protests they need a change. Anyway here are:

    “Arguments for and against border poll” at least it will keep the debate going on slugger.

    http://news.google.co.uk/news/url?ct2=uk%2F1_0_s_8_1_a&sa=t&usg=AFQjCNGVLcKEdNV8bZHMSUD4dS4q9fEDiQ&cid=52778070425295&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.newsletter.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fheadlines%2Farguments-for-and-against-border-poll-1-4708949&ei=Yrr_UPDUHY2S8gPguAE&rt=SECTION&vm=STANDARD&bvm=section&twa=f&did=-4158539197161245829&sid=-6084232833988203619

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  70. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Spot on Ulick. Agus is e sin an bhun agus an barr den phacaiste… nach e?

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  71. BarneyT (profile) says:

    Has Enda Kenny expressed why conditions are not right for a poll? What criteria will be use to determine readiness? We can opt for a poll and set a future date…perhaps in 2016…nothing emotive about that date.

    During this period, we can debate, educate (in either direction) and ready outselves for the vote…like an extended campaign.

    However a protracted campaign in perhaps not the way to go. Its quite firmly on the agenda now anyhow, so in a sense the campaign is underway, but without the risk of it going stale, which I expect would happen if they set a date now, too far into the future.

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  72. Alias (profile) says:

    “I am sure you are right in the above, but it might save a lot of confusion if you clarified which treaty you are referring to. ”

    There is only one Treaty: specifically the stipulation is in Article 1 (ii) of the British-Irish Agreement.

    “In fact I am sure they have already been talking to the British and they will have asked the British to rule out a referendum – which the Secretary of State duly did yesterday.”

    That’s how it would work. The binding terms make that clear: where two separate actions are interdependent and are to occur at the same time then there must be agreement between the two actors as a pre-condition.

    “When looked at this way, the British can’t even legislate to hold a separate referendum as it would clearly be outside the terms of international agreements.”

    The Treaty stipulates a binding bilateral approach, not a unilateral one – where the British government can break the terms of the Treaty by simply calling a poll and trying to force the Irish government, politically, into abandoning its sovereignty in the matter.

    You must ask your partner to dance, not drag her onto the dance floor by her hair or lure or blackmail her. Such attitudes show utter contempt for Irish sovereignty and are typical of a certain mind-set which holds that the British government is the master and the Irish are mere slaves to do as ordered.

    “How ironic. Sinn Féin are stuck because the Irish government doesn’t want to explore further the possibility of reunification.”

    I think they understand that a poll now would be the end of any dream some folks might have to reunification. Partition would be fully consolidated by the result, and the reality of that outcome would be a crossing of the Rubicon. The people would come more fully to see NI as a separate state, and that would highlight the utter stupidity of not treating it as a competitor state.

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  73. FDM (profile) black spot says:

    I remember Arlene Foster “air-punching” in celebration live on TV on election night when it was declared that a Unionist-Orange-Order inspired unity candidate had successfully unseated Michelle Gildernew.

    Obviously that turned out to be a miscalculation and Michelle sits undisturbed.

    The point I am making is that Arlene has history of being very wrong in public.

    Perhaps this is actually another “open-mic” gaffe which could have potentially disastrous [in her narrow mindset] outworkings for the PUL community she stands to represent.

    I am personally surprised at Sinn Fein’s drive at the present time for this vote. Since that is so, I think Arlene and co. should be looking up Gerry’s sleeve rather than rocking back in their chairs declaring he’s bluffing. It just might turn out that Arlene, whilst she is holding Aces, is also holding Eights.

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  74. Barnshee (profile) says:

    For what its worth (if anything) The “Newsletter” poll is running 80-20 in favour of a Poll

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  75. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Mick,

    You can’t call a poll in NI because that would be violating an international treaty. A constitutional crisis would arise if Northern Ireland voted for reunification and the Irish government had no corresponding mandate to commence the negotiations to give effect to this. For that reason, a border poll held in NI could not be taken seriously. It would be no more than a sectarian headcount. Which is, at the end of the day, what this is all really about.

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  76. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Alias, here is the British-Irish Agreement text.

    It says in that article :

    (ii) recognise that it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively and without external impediment, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish, accepting that this right must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland;

    The language here appears to suggest that a border poll is required in NI but it makes no stipulation about the RoI.

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  77. FDM (profile) black spot says:

    @Comrade Stalin

    Agreed. Has to be a full-on legitimate GFA poll or we could potentially have big problems.

    I would also like the polling and counting to be done under the auspices of international inspectors.

    Its not that I don’t trust the British government, its just that I don’t trust the British government.

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  78. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    FDM,

    Nobody, not even Sinn Féin, has ever attempted to suggest that elections here are diddled by officials.

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  79. Neil (profile) says:

    I wouldn’t trust the British, Unionists or Nationalists on this one. But that’s just my cynical nature, if it went ahead it would need to be bulletproof and as you say – the real deal.

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  80. Alias (profile) says:

    CS, what’s the point in repeating it? Refer back to the posts regarding the legal meaning of concurrently.

    Okay, one last shot: the purpose of this exercise it to keep a ball in the air above a net, with two players hitting the ball back and forth using a racket. Now try playing tennis with your cousin Lenny from Limerick without phoning him up beforehand and suggesting a time and place and securing his agreement to be there. It’s a bit difficult, isn’t it? Whatever game you’re playing, it isn’t tennis with your cousin Lenny.

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  81. FDM (profile) black spot says:

    Comrade Stalin (profile)

    23 January 2013 at 10:02 pm

    FDM,

    Nobody, not even Sinn Féin, has ever attempted to suggest that elections here are diddled by officials.
    ————————–

    I suppose you don’t need to when you have a) created an artificial state to produce one outcome then b) gerrymandered the electoral regions to “belt and braces” the process “for the win”.

    However I would point out that this a’int an election. For instance the wider point about whether the ballots would be counted locally, so that local results were available or a global pooling of the votes. None of which is there in the devil of the detail in the GFA. Who watches the convoys of voting boxes as they go off to be counted in the Kings Hall…

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  82. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Alias,

    Why do you think the text specifically refers the consent of a majority in NI, rather than referring to the consent of a majority in both jurisdictions ?

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  83. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    BTW I’m not suggesting there is no parallel consent. I’m wondering if there is room for different definitions of what “consent” means. Is “consent” within the 26 taken to be the nod of the Irish government rather than a full referendum ?

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  84. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    FDM,

    Are you aware of the extensive independent monitoring of election counts that already exists in NI ?

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  85. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    (sorry for the multiple posts.)

    FDM, it sounds like you’re unaware that this exact accusation was levelled at the British government by the DUP in 1998. The government responded by permitting the DUP to add their own seals on the ballot boxes. DUP officials were able to confirm that the seals had not been broken as each ballot box was open to be counted.

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  86. Dixie Elliott (profile) says:

    Just caught a cracker comment running along the bottom of the screen on the Nolan Show – Clearly a Fleg Fanatic….

    “They are trying to take away our identity – Anon.”

    No you idiot you’ve just done that yourself by being anonymous

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  87. FDM (profile) black spot says:

    Comrade Stalin

    Sorry to repeat. This is NOT an election.

    The differences between allowing the natives to elect whomever to a limited power talking shop assembly is different from the British actually giving away part of, what they consider to be THEIR territory.

    International observers for me if you please. As I said it is not that I don’t trust the British, its just that I don’t trust the British.

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  88. Dixie Elliott (profile) says:

    Did FDM just get red carded for the above comment? A bit harsh don’t you think?

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  89. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks for passing on that absolute gem, Dixie Elliott.

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  90. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    FDM, you’re aware that the GFA referendum wasn’t an election, yes ?

    I mean, do you know that all the political parties have full access to the polling stations, the electoral register, and every stage of the count process ? At exactly what point do you think someone would have an opportunity to fiddle the result ?

    I’m not opposed to international observers. Just saying they’re redundant.

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  91. Dixie Elliott (profile) says:

    All this talk of Border Polls is nothing less than PSF trying to hide the fact they’ve done sweet FA for their voters. That the so called Assembly McGuinness brags about putting so much into building up is nothing more than a shed in Westminster’s back yard.

    They know the Brits will never allow any such thing and the whole thing smacks of the party letting Gerry play his little game of traipsing the world in search of something he’ll never find.

    I hear them saying, ‘Let him search for who’d have the balls to tell him otherwise, that we’ve accepted British rule and the getting on with it has to be got on with.’

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  92. DC (profile) says:

    I suspect FDM is a newbie account created as a result of a recent red card given out under a different name.

    Comrade stop spamming, Alias is right. You can’t join another country without that country agreeing to it and it does have to happen concurrently just like the referendum on GFA happened together in both jurisdictions 22 May 1998?

    Also Ireland has a written constitution it would need changed and this would have to be discussed in advance. Basically, any changes to its constitution require a referendum or popular vote so it would have to happen.

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  93. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    CS,

    “You can’t call a poll in NI because that would be violating an international treaty.”

    You can do a ton of things to work out what people think about the border, from focus groups to a non binding poll.

    You just won’t get the NIO to pay for it, or give it constitutional status without some evidence that it stood some chance of passing.

    The burning hole in the side of this issue is that it is a party political stroke. And tonight on Nolan we saw Alex Maskey buried by a very far from impressive Arlene Foster.

    Alex is usually pretty impressive and takes no quarter. But it is clear that he was not given a basic game plan for dealing with were some very very basic questions.

    I wonder if in fact the DUP have called their bluff (without having to fire a shot/poll in anger).

    There is an option to have a non binding poll. If there is a joint will in OFMdFM to foot the bill for it.

    I hope to have a more constructive post out in the morning..

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  94. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Dixie, I’ll check it out in the morning with the team?

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  95. DC (profile) says:

    The language here appears to suggest that a border poll is required in NI but it makes no stipulation about the RoI.

    Comrade the reason being the RoI doesn’t need a border poll it would be a vote on changing its written constitution, like NI had a GFA referendum, but the RoI had a popular vote on making the 19th change or something to its constitution.

    Basically you could argue same difference as the outcome is the same you are really voting to unite.

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  96. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Thirtieth was June, Thirty First is still in passage through the Oireachtas.

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  97. Viridiplantae (profile) says:

    BarneyT

    Has Enda Kenny expressed why conditions are not right for a poll? What criteria will be use to determine readiness? We can opt for a poll and set a future date…perhaps in 2016…nothing emotive about that date.

    Enda Kenny in the Dail implied quite clearly that the government of Ireland did not believe that a border poll would get a yes vote in Northern Ireland at this time.


    “In regard to the Border poll, I have listened to the Deputy’s comments and to those of the Minister, Ms Arlene Foster MLA. I think she might have a slightly different view from that of the Deputy. This is clearly a matter that is enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement, but it is a case of whether the British Government decides to have a Border poll. I do not believe now is the time to do it and that is not to be in any way not confident about what we have to do. It is very important that in the Twenty-six Counties we deal with our problems in a way that we can concentrate and prove that people working with Government, with assistance from our European colleagues, can actually right this ship, as it were, to a point where we can know with clarity that we are proceeding on a voyage of future prosperity and opportunity for our people, and clearly there are challenges ahead for our people here.

    In respect of the Six Counties, Northern Ireland, I think what the Minister, Ms Foster MLA, said was that Sinn Féin should be careful of what it wishes for, because it might happen. Our view, obviously, is that a Border poll at this stage would be carried in a slightly different direction than the Deputy might wish.”

    It also appears to be Enda Kenny’s understanding that it is the British government’s right to call a border poll in Northern Ireland without his permission and that while referenda must be passed north and south those need not take place on the same day.

    “It is a matter for the British Government to agree whether to have a Border poll now. Clearly if that were to happen, depending on the result, we would have to consider what would happen here. I do not think now is the time to do it. I know it is an issue that is in the Good Friday Agreement, but we have much work to do both here and up North before people’s mentality and views change about the future of the island.”

    I guess some could argue that he is mistaken but if there is ambiguity then that would appear to be the view of the Irish government on the matter since he is it’s leader.

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  98. Alias (profile) says:

    “Why do you think the text specifically refers the consent of a majority in NI, rather than referring to the consent of a majority in both jurisdictions ?”

    Obviously, both jurisdictions must give their consent (hence the referenda). I wasn’t referring to that at all. I’m simply pointing out that the referenda must occur concurrently, not consecutively, if it is to comply with the terms of the Treaty. Remember, this Treaty was ratified in the 19th Amendment to the Irish Constitution, so its terms are binding on the Irish government. If the referendum in Ireland is not concurrent with the referendum in Northern Ireland then it is not constitutional. This is also important because the outcome of one referendum can affect the outcome of the other if they are consecutive. So, if Mr Kenny is saying that the outcome of the NI referendum will determine if an Irish referendum is held then that presupposes that the outcome of the NI referendum is published and that it is a Yes. If it was No, then, rather obviously, there would be no need for a referendum in Ireland. So my point was that Ireland has a de facto veto here since, for two actions to be concurrent, both actors must co-operate.

    “Is “consent” within the 26 taken to be the nod of the Irish government rather than a full referendum ?”

    No, it is a constitutional matter that must be decided by the people by referendum. The government has no authority under the Constitution to decide if unity should occur or not. They can decide if a referendum should occur, which is also a de facto veto over the people. Now I’m not an expert by any definition here so your view is as valid as mine.

    As Mick points out, a poll isn’t the same thing as a referendum – and Stormont can fund that if it wants. Indeed, the Shinners can fund a poll if they want one.

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  99. Alias (profile) says:

    “So, if Mr Kenny is saying that the outcome of the NI referendum will determine if an Irish referendum is held then that presupposes that the outcome of the NI referendum is published and that it is a Yes.”

    Just to add that it also presupposes that Mr Kenny hasn’t been briefed on the Treaty by his advisors.

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  100. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Art 3.1 says change must be “democratically expressed in both jurisdictions of the island”. No reference to timing I’m afraid.

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