Orangeman`s take on call for a border poll

So Gerry Adams finally launched Sinn Fein`s border poll campaign at the weekend after rallying support from Irish-Americans last year. Tánaiste Eamonn Gilmore responded saying it was `unwise and ill timed`.  The Ulster Unionists & Alliance are against the idea (despite David Trimble previously advocating one in 2003, which Alliance opposed).  The SDLP seem to be consistent with their backing for a poll but query Sinn Fein`s timing and suggest that firm proposals would be needed before any poll.  The TUV leader Jim Allister rejected the notion as did the NI Conservatives. The Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, has also rejected the idea insisting that the conditions for a border poll as set out in the Good Friday Agreement have not been met.

The surprise reaction came from the DUP and UKIP who have both waded in behind a poll.

Personally I say go for it – there could be no better time to call Sinn Fein`s bluff in front of the worlds media – hold it on the same day as Scottish Independence referendum for maximum worldwide exposure and tie into the well funded Better Together Unionist campaign. Winning such a poll would surely console insecure and tetchy sections of Loyalism (although there are other deep rooted issues in those communities that need looked at)

Unionism might also have some leverage to tag on issues like the reform of Stormont (to more normal institutions with an opposition), Grammar Schools, British Passports in the South etc in the event that Unionism wins such a poll.  Obviously the Westminster government would have to legislate for a one-off poll as the conditions of the GFA have not been met.

Then you come to the unanswered questions for Sinn Fein:

  1. Northern Ireland would have to join the Euro – how would that be dealt with
  2. Would a United Ireland be a unitary State or would there still be a devolved Stormont?
  3. What happens to Northern Irish civil servants, firemen, police officers etc?
  4. What happens to the NHS?
  5. What happens on pensions and benefits?
  6. What about the subvention Northern Ireland receives – could the South afford  it?
  7. Will the Union flag be hoisted alongside the Tri Colour on the Dail in the name of parity and equality?
  8. Will we get a new agreed all-Ireland flag?
  9. Will we get a new agreed all-Ireland National Anthem?
  10. Will we be entitled to dual British & Irish citizenship and passports?
  11. What happens to the cross-border bodies?
  12. Will mandatory powersharing be implemented in the Dail with D`Hondt?
  13. Will their be an all-Ireland parades commission?

The list could go on.  Ironically Gerry Adams used the term `Together is stronger`  during his speech and many of his arguments on a single economy are the same arguments used in the Scottish Better Together campaign arguing the benefits for the Union.  He also quotes the recent census results combining those that consider themselves Irish (25%) and Northern Irish (21%) vs those who consider themselves British only (40%) but that seems rather vexatious as surely designating oneself as Northern Irish is partitionist?

And then you have the issue of a UK referendum on membership of the EU and of course the notion you can be an Independent Nation whilst part of the EU.

UPDATE

Another question would be, what would happen to the BBC with no licence payers on the island of Ireland?

The News Letter has a poll on the issue

  • Mick Fealty

    Ah, are we sure yet about the DUP position?

    What I hear is minister confessing that she could not say the party was “minded” to call a border poll:

    http://audioboo.fm/boos/1168826-dup-minister-arlene-foster-says-her-party-might-call-sinn-fein-s-bluff-and-support-a-border-poll#

    Robbo is going to have to come out and clarify that…

  • JR

    I’m not in Sinn fein or a supporter of theirs but I will let you know my feelings on some of your questions.

    Northern Ireland would have to join the Euro – how would that be dealt with – same way as every other country who joined it did.

    Would a United Ireland be a unitary State or would there still be a devolved Stormont? – for me preferably a unitary state for financial reasons but with some powers over unionist cultural issues devolved.

    What happens to Northern Irish civil servants, firemen, police officers etc? Reform new all Ireland equivalent equivalent. Redundancies in non front line civil service jobs on both sides of border where double jobbing is an issue.

    What happens to the NHS? as above.

    What happens on pensions and benefits? uneffected.

    What about the subvention Northern Ireland receives – could the South afford it? in Time we will no longer need it. If Meath, Dublin, Louth, Wicklow and Kildare don’t need £11,000,000,000 a year to keep them afloat why do we?

    Will the Union flag be hoisted alongside the Tri Colour on the Dail in the name of parity and equality? No,

    Will we get a new agreed all-Ireland flag? Yes.

    Will we get a new agreed all-Ireland National Anthem? Yes.

    Will we be entitled to dual British & Irish citizenship and passports? Yes, as will your children and grandchildren, after that it is up to whoever is arround.

    What happens to the cross-border bodies? No border, no cross border bodies.

    Will mandatory powersharing be implemented in the Dail with D`Hondt? No

    Will their be an all-Ireland parades commission? no

    Just my initial thoughts

  • Ruarai

    Thanks Kilsally, we’re up and running.

    1. Northern Ireland would have to join the Euro – how would that be dealt with
    Depends on the state of the Euro at the time. It may not even exist. But a key question
    2. Would a United Ireland be a unitary State or would there still be a devolved Stormont?
    The United Ireland will itself be a devolved administration of Europe. Just kidding. Sort of. It may make sense to keep a northern body. But I suspect Unionists would have much more fun forming coalitions where SF Socialists are in a minority.
    3. What happens to Northern Irish civil servants, firemen, police officers etc?
    They’ll be able to have better jobs in a thriving all-island economy.
    4. What happens to the NHS?
    It remains the biggest one of the biggest employers in the world. Across Ireland we explore the best mix of private-public health care provision based on a minimum standard of universal care, reactive and preemptive for all citizens and residents.
    5. What happens on pensions and benefits?
    Too broad a question. Plus, this question is live whether there is an independent country or not.
    6. What about the subvention Northern Ireland receives – could the South afford it?
    Surely Unionists’ key selling point for the Union is not that it’s easier to beg from London than Dublin? The days of living as a beggar state are done. Time to pay our way.
    7. Will the Union flag be hoisted alongside the Tri Colour on the Dail in the name of parity and equality?
    No.
    8. Will we get a new agreed all-Ireland flag?
    Sure.
    9. Will we get a new agreed all-Ireland National Anthem?
    I hope so.
    10. Will we be entitled to dual British & Irish citizenship and passports?
    Yes.
    11. What happens to the cross-border bodies?
    I forgot about these. Are they still around now?
    12. Will mandatory powersharing be implemented in the Dail with D`Hondt?
    Unionists will be surprised to realize how much power they have without D’Hondt. D’H, in a UI, helps Socialists more than them
    13. Will their be an all-Ireland parades commission?
    No need. Parade wherever the hell you like.

  • Mick Fealty

    Hope your predictions on how this will all go is better than the one you gave over the fiscal cliff deal Ruarai. ;-)

  • http://www.openunionism.com oneill

    3.What happens to Northern Irish civil servants, firemen, police officers etc?
    4.What happens to the NHS?
    5.What happens on pensions and benefits?
    6.What about the subvention Northern Ireland receives – could the South afford it?

    For many, perhaps even most of the electorate in NI, those would be the 4 key questions and a “Trust us, sure it’ll be grand?” won’t suffice.

    It’s not up to Unionists to prove the workability or economic desireability of a 32 cty state. SF alone surely has the financial resources to commission an *independent* (and I’ll stress that *independent*) cost and benefits analysis from an independent set of professional bean-counters. Get the the results, be honest and transparent about them and then we can take it from there.

    Might be fun for all you NI nationalists to start putting pressure on the ROI’s parties to start doing the same exercise for the ROI’s electorate. How much cost and benefit will we bring the man on Athlone main street?

  • Ruarai

    What are you talking about Mick? What predictions?

    I predicted a deal. They made a deal.

    PS – Those aren’t predictions above. They’re just my answers to Kilsally’s questions.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    Ruarai – 22 January 2013 at 8:32 pm

    13. Will their be an all-Ireland parades commission?
    No need. Parade wherever the hell you like.

    Forgive us if we don’t take you at your word.

  • socaire

    Firstly, everybody will have to swear an oath of loyalty to the Republic.
    Secondly, no trappings of the colonial past will be permitted.
    Thirdly, everybody will have to learn Irish and all business will be conducted in same.
    Fourthly, people born in Britain or those who wished they had will be asked to leave
    Fifthly, no English papers,books, TV or magazines will be allowed.
    Sixthly, as we already have a flag and national anthem, no other will be required.
    Seventhly, persons of dubious background will be re-educated
    Eighthly, virgins will be freely available.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Robbo is going to have to come out and clarify that…

    Having massive respect for Arlene’s skills as a minister and a politician, I am sure she was in full control during that interview and Robinson was fully aware of what she was likely to say.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It remains the biggest employer in the world. Across Ireland we explore the best mix of private-public health care provision based on a minimum standard of universal care, reactive and preemptive for all citizens and residents.

    Ruarai, aren’t you an American ? It’s painfully obvious especially with this ridiculous contribution. Ireland’s healthcare system is in a shockingly bad state, and the poor state of it is even worse when you consider that Ireland has a relatively young population.

  • Henry94

    I can’t think of a worse time for a border poll. The state of the southern economy would dominate the debate and it is in as bad a state as it is ever likely to be. I’d wait ten years.

  • Comrade Stalin

    You can tell that this whole “let’s have a border poll” thing is all Gerry’s idea to attract attention to himself and “agitate” people which he seems to get some sort of a kick out of. Gerry never was one for economics.

  • http://www.ulster-scots.co.uk Kilsally

    And of course how would unification resolve the issue of divided communities in NI any better than now?

  • Neil

    Ireland’s healthcare system is in a shockingly bad state

    What makes you say that CS? The only place I can find comparing healthcare across Europe is here http://www.healthpowerhouse.com. Ireland is ranked 11th to the UK’s 12th.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I have to confess Neil, I relied on the anecdotes of several friends from the south. None of them have anything positive to say about it.

  • sherdy

    CS – Maybe your southern friends have an ulterior reason for their negative comments. They’re trying to fix the results in any border poll so we’ll go away.

  • Ruarai

    Comrade Stalin,

    “Ruarai, aren’t you an American ? It’s painfully obvious especially with this ridiculous contribution. Ireland’s healthcare system is in a shockingly bad state, and the poor state of it is even worse when you consider that Ireland has a relatively young population.”

    My goodness CS, I didn’t think you Alliance types had that sort of aggression in you. Good for you, there may be hope for your guys yet.

    But impressed as I am with your aggression, I’m struggling to find a single component of this shoddy sentence worthy of engagement.

    First: no I am not an American, I’m an Irishman from County Antrim who lives in DC.

    Second: If I were American that wouldn’t make the contribution “ridiculous”.

    Third: I did not endorse the Southern Irish health care system. Please read the posts, can you do that?

    Fourth: If you’re one of these know-nothings who thinks the NHS is the “best health care system in the world” fine. Your don’t know what you’re talking about. Even if the NHS was, you evidently don’t have the slightest inkling or even interest in considering how comparisons and evaluations of health care systems could be made, juding by this comment:

    I have to confess Neil, I relied on the anecdotes of several friends from the south. None of them have anything positive to say about it.

    Risible.

    If you re-read the post you’ll find that I’ve simply endorsed a certain outline for a new all-island approach to health care provision based on -and try to read all the words Comrade –

    exploring

    “the best mix of private-public health care provision based on a minimum standard of universal care, reactive and preemptive for all citizens and residents.”

    I’m happy to discuss and debate with anyone whether that model is a good model and an appropriate model. Anyone that is except people who consider criticism of the British NHS a sin, despite them very often basing their knowledge of alternatives (existing or possible) on a level of consideration that amounts

    “to anecdotes of several friends from the south. None of them have anything positive to say about it.”

    Raise your game CS.

  • DC

    What part of county antrim are you from?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Ruarai, great job in attributing to me a bunch of things I didn’t say.

  • carl marks

    I say go for it, one way or another it will put someone in their place!

  • Ruarai

    DC -this is getting odd. First Mick’s uncited made up claim above, then Stalin is accusing me of being an American (as though that would be a bad thing; hey maybe that explains the Stalin homage); and now you’re looking for bio details.

    Since you ask I’m a Garron Tower man.

    But let’s get back onto Kilsally’s questions. His are much more interesting!

  • Ruarai

    Correction: NHS is “one of the biggest” not “the biggest” employer in the world. It’s the fifth largest, with 1.7m staff

    In case you’re wondering…it’s smaller only than the US Defense Department, the Chinese military, Walmart and Mackie Dees.

  • Mark

    My brother’s three year old son had problems walking about nine months ago and when physio didn’t help they decided to book him in for an MRI Scan .He has medical insurance yet it took five months for the scan to take place . The results indicated an imbalance in the brain and last week after a biopsey , my brother was told his son has grade two cancer .The reason for his walking problems is a tumour on his brain . He’s been walking around with a tumour for god only knows how long but to wait five months for an MRI is unbelievable . According to my GP , there’s one kid’s MRI machine in the south .One machine ?

    My own child was sent home from Crumlin Hospital even though I had a letter from my GP asking for an examination of her apendix . I was told that it was physically impossible by a doctor that there was no problem with her apendix as he had asked her to jump up and down three times ( which she did ) . Her apendix had burst and she nearly died after the hospital sent us home insisting she had a throat infection .

    The NHS let Jimmy Saville have carte blanche with vunerable children for 30 / 40 years . No system is perfect , buy don’t turn a healthcare issue sectarian …or there’s no hope .

  • Brian Walker

    There you go, many of you, lusting after Pyrrhic victory in a new round of the zero sum game. Politics isn’t just a computer comment game. The answer to my own question, would an era of referendum politics (necessary to settle the details) produce constructive or creative politics is surely in the negative. After 80 years of border politics at least half of them with sectarian conflict isn’t it perverse to call for a referendum, before we’ve settled down properly to a decent accommodation?

    Whatever the result of a poll in the decade or two ahead, it would almost certainly lack finality and create decades more instability. At least the two governments stated the bleedin’ obvious. The old cracks would split wide open again with or without serious violence.

    What is there about human nature that wants people to build more insecurity into their lives? The only way identity pluralism can move towards one form is surely when both sides have demonstrated their good faith towards each other and nationality becomes a unthreatening matter of preference. If it’s political thrills you’re after, why not try a bit of identity cross dressing for a change?

  • DC

    There’s no way N Ireland is ready to be plunged into a free market economy such as the one operating in the Republic, the skillset isn’t there in the NI workforce. Both north and south would go to shit.

    In fact even when Thatcher was carrying out her monetarist project across the UK, NI was exempt from that new way of life due to the Troubles and NI has been living off British subvention since then, if not before. The NI economy has been top down administering of public money and delivering public programmes, funded using the Barnet Formula, NI has operated a state-directed economy. Totally ill-equipped to be opened up to the european-oriented free market Republic.

    Never mind even having to come to terms with the euro…

    I reckon if NI did say yes to unite it would be such a kiss of death to the republic that it would likely say No at this time to unity.

    i am only half joking when i say this but this proposal is such a farce I believe Unionists should mock it and not only accept the poll but go out and vote Yes to unify for sheer badness as there is no way the republic could handle a pretty much unplanned and utterly unworkable unification.

  • Ruarai

    Mark,

    powerful experiences, thanks for sharing.

    In fairness, I don’t think anyone is making a sectarian argument about health care.

    Not only is no system perfect, no current system will stay as is regardless of future constitutional arrangements. All questions about what services and life choices in a UI could or should look like are just as applicable to what the future of, for example, health care could and should look like in any future state arrangement.

    My suggestion for a private-public mix was based on the assumption of a UI, since that was Kilsally’s questions premise. If we are assuming other assumptions, like the status quo, then the calculus changes.

    Regardless of the system(s) we choose to pursue, I think the arguments against fully private or fully public are very powerful.

    It’s also refreshing that a constitutional hypothetical has spurred discussion of health care and not (just) flags and parading. Progress.

  • Comrade Stalin

    i am only half joking when i say this but this proposal is such a farce I believe Unionists should mock it and not only accept the poll but go out and vote Yes to unify for sheer badness as there is no way the republic could handle a pretty much unplanned and utterly unworkable unification.

    Still dispensing the world-beating political strategy I see, DC.

  • Ruarai

    Brian,

    I’m not really sure what you’re trying to say to be honest but Kilsally has asked completely reasonable hypotheticals. Answer them, don’t answer them – it’s your call.

    You personal preference is that Nationalists give up on the rock-the-boat Natioanlist project. Fine. Nationalists disagree with you.

    Surely, you’d be better off respecting that difference and making arguments for the status quo rather than hurling invective at those making the case for change.

    Either way, the case for change will continue to be made.

    DC,

    There’s no way N Ireland is ready to be plunged into a free market economy such as the one operating in the Republic, the skillset isn’t there in the NI workforce. Both north and south would go to shit.

    DC, yes and no.

    Yes, NI is in many respects ill-suited culturally for the prospect of losing the protections against the market it has enjoyed for so long. Yes, losing those would sting.

    But look:

    1. It, like everywhere else in Europe, simply has to move in that direction one way or the other. The current subsidy state is unsustainable. Better get on with modernizing than leave it too late.

    2. NI is starting from a much better base than many regions in the recent past have, especially China and Eastern Europe, to say the least.

    I’m possibly more optimistic than you about how well NI could fare in the modern economy (and maybe I’m too optimistic) but surely we can agree that this is the only game in town in the decades ahead?

  • Mick Fealty

    Henry,

    “I’d wait ten years.”

    At least. We’re not allowed under the current law to have a constitutionally binding poll just because the two main parties decide it would usefully shore up their sectarian bases.

    We could have a non binding poll, if the Assembly was to fork out for it. That would clear the air, and most likely call SF’s bluff.

    And it would also push back the timing of the next one, since it would have been triggered by partisan interest rather than the constitutional arrangement between the two governments.

    The seven year prohibition would not kick in, but if the gap was wide enough, it would be hard to argue for a constitutional poll without much higher proof of a real shift in sentiment.

    If on the other hand a non statutary poll showed sentiment was closer than many of us think it is, then the SoS could be successfully petitioned to hold a real one. I would not hold your breath though.

    This is just war by other means. I suspect, it will land nationalism back in the same place the war did: ie still stuck in Northern Ireland with its discontent stoked for another generation.

    The conversation may crystallise what needs to be done to even make unification an economically viable option. Mitchel’s hoping on a payoff made up from a jumble of things the UK Govt funds he doesn’t like.

    That’s code ‘we’re going to be short a few bob for quite a few years, could you lend us?’

    I am not sure that will bring about the actions needed to make it happen, considering deficit reduction seems to not have been a priority for either party in OFMdFM.

    If there is not a priori proof that the wish lists for a united Ireland are real or likely, then it won’t count in any future plebiscite, statutory or non statutory.

    In other words, Nationalists have much work to do before any poll gets called if there is ever to be a pup’s chance in hell of winning.

    Still, better than talking about hard tack issues on reflating the economy, and developing homes for people who need them.

    And it sucks a bit more air out of the SDLP’s bubble. It might remind that 48% of SF’s support in the Republic that could not see the point of removing the flag of what the party’s real mission is.

    And this IS party business, not nation building.

  • Ruarai

    PS Brian, for the sake of conversation, here’s another reason you might be wrong brother:

    Kilsally asked some very good nuts and bolts questions about a UI. We then get various debates about health care and the readiness of NI to compete in a more market-orientated economy.

    Now, when compared to Slugger’s typical fixation on local council shenanigans, Stormont and flags and so on, how on earth is this type of debate (just this one on this thread) not something of a refreshing much needed change.

    It’s debate of this nature that NI needs. It also raises the bar considerably for contributors more comfortable fighting turf wars and identity battles.

    More please.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Ruarai,

    Look, the reason why I thought you were an American was because you said something about living there and because you spent several long paragraphs ranting at me a few months ago when I made a comment you didn’t like about Barack Obama. I mentioned it because your contribution reflects the fact that you are rather out of touch, which is not a great position to me in when you are commenting on the fundamental future of a country you don’t live in. Everyone here knows that talking about getting rid of the NHS and switching to some kind of private sector based model is a complete non runner politically. Rightly or wrongly.

    I couldn’t help but laugh at that blaisé wave of the hand suggesting that breaking up the NHS within NI was just some sort of procedural detail and people would readily buy into the superior public/private alternative, as if health service privatization was so straightforward it isn’t even a matter for debate. It is the single biggest issues that “civic unionists” will deploy in their efforts to sell the union and SF/SDLP are going to have a damn hard time getting around it.

    Regarding relative health, the statistics of the UK and Ireland are approximately the same in terms of stuff like life expectancy. However, the UK median age is 40 versus 35 in Ireland (source)which shows that the UK health system delivers similar outcomes with older patients who have inherently greater healthcare needs.

    More significantly, the numbers show that Ireland spends more than the UK does annually on its healthcare. Put that together, and what you have is a system that costs more and delivers less when the age of the population is accounted for.

  • Ruarai

    Mick,

    there’s barely a thread that goes by now where you’re not attacking SF or natioanlism generally. Such is your want, fine.

    But in this thread the transparancy of this is all-the-more stark: as we bat around substantive questions about health care and economics in a UI, you bring us back to party-political commentary on SF.

    That play can only be made so many times before even you will get bored of it.

  • DC

    Ruarai

    There is also a class issue with unification in that already working class areas are disadvantaged and struggling to access a public sector economy which must be more accessible than a highly skilled private sector one.

    The mentality of the folk here is out of kilter with the republic, you are right. The culture and not just political, ethnic or national, but economic and business, the culture is just so different and maybe even diverging not converging. The reality is that there are two Irelands.

    I for one am clinging to my Barnett Formula cushy job for dear life and i have no moral qualms about in doing so because I’ve always appreciated the subvention and way of life that the union to date has offered me and sheltered me from that pro-market, pro-business storm. I haven’t done the dirt on the union, unlike Alliance.

    basically i’m grateful and i don’t know what unificationists are complaining about are they hell bent on turning this place into impoverished welsh valleys and some sort of commercially bleak donegal.

  • Mick Fealty

    There does need to be debate R, and some actions on foot of that. But I think this particular conversations is to much like flight after fight.

    The conversation nationalism needs to have (and has needed to have for some years now) is how it can contribute to building a genuinely pluralist nation.

  • Mick Fealty

    Night all..

  • Granni Trixie

    Mark so sorry to hear that about the children -may they get well soon.
    The experience of someone in my own family and the health service also makes a point: when his GP sent off a letter to a local hospital for him to have a health problem investigated within weeks he had a letter giving him an appointment have an exploratory camera examination in the first instance at 9 Chichester Street, an outreach clinc in Belfast run by a
    Private hospital from Ireland . The letters said that should he need treatment he would then have to go to that hospital outside Dublin.
    People tell us this is happening to reduce the size of hospital waiting lists and is paid by the Ni taxpayer. So it should be obvious that cross border cooperation on health is advancing to mutual advantage. Without fuss.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mick,

    At least. We’re not allowed under the current law to have a constitutionally binding poll just because the two main parties decide it would usefully shore up their sectarian bases.

    I can’t see a referendum outcome which would shore up the sectarian bases of both parties. Sinn Féin are going to lose, and the extent to which they lose will have a proportionately discrediting effect on their central message of uniting Ireland under the terms agreed under the GFA.

    Another angle is what way the poll in the 26 would swing. The effect of the current economic situation there as well as the apeshit flags stuff does not combine to create the environment that might lead to the outcome Gerry Adams hopes for. And how will the dissidents react if a simple count across all 32 counties shows a majority in favour of reunification ? Their policy, like Sinn Féin’s policy pre-1998, was all-island self determination and they might regard the poll as a renewal of the mandate they claim from 1918.

  • Obelisk

    Funny how the last video linked discusses one of the ‘Better Together’ campaign’s strongest lines of attack, that an independent Scotland would most likely drop out of the EU and have to join the queue to reapply.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21148282

    They can probably bin that argument as David Cameron apparently has been bounced into promising an in/out referendum, which has just handed Alex Salmond a very effective counter.

    He can simply say now that remaining in the UK means they could very well end up leaving the EU altogether, so Scots have nothing to lose on the EU front if they opt for independence.

  • Ruarai

    Mick,

    “The conversation nationalism needs to have (and has needed to have for some years now) is how it can contribute to building a genuinely pluralist nation.”

    Like Brian Walker above, I’m not really sure what this means as it could mean most anything you want it to mean. You, like him, are pushing for Nationalism to essentially give up on its raison d’être. You’re getting nowhere with that and will get nowhere.

    So here’s a suggestion: How about instead of telling Nationalists what we should be talking about, you engage with what we are talking about.

    You could start by having a stab at answering Kilsally’s very good questions. Many of which have already triggered debates on this threat about day-to-day issues that are painfully lacking from normal NI political discourse.

    CS,

    well brother, then I suggest you’re temper down your assumptions about people before suggesting that things are “painfully obvious”. And yes I attacked your attack on Obama some time back, but that was based on its weakness, not its target.

    Regarding healthcare policy, you’ve little to laugh about comrade judging by you admission of ignorance above to Neil. I’m biased on this in good and bad ways:

    I’m a fan of the NHS in many respects though know, through experience-based comparisons with France and the US, just how over-rated it is. Indeed one of its biggest strengths is its PR rather than its services. People literally don’t know what they’re missing, what’s available and unavailable elsewhere. Additionally, many of my own clients here in the US are health care providers (non-profit based) and public health research groups. I’m not an expert on health care or public health but it never ceases to amaze me just how little people from NI have interest in health care from outside NI.

    And Comrade, you need to know about these outside providers because, believe me, they know about you and your market and they’re coming there soon whether you realize it or not.

    This is the heart of the issue. People may well love the NHS today. But the NHS, regardless of constitutional arrangements in the future, will change and will lose more of its market dominance. That change is coming whether you are aware of it or not.

    Finally CS, if you think that as a member of NI’s Alliance Party who lives in NI who is, by your own admission, ignorant even of the basics of Southern Ireland’s health care system that you’re well placed to talk to me about who’s “in touch”, good luck with that brother. Yes, I’m based in DC and travel for work almost constantly. I get back to Ireland very regularly and am in constant contact with friends and family there. I’d say that my perspective on NI has been helped not harmed by years on the move.

    It certainly wouldn’t be quick to presume things are “painfully obvious” based on blog postings.

  • Ruarai

    DC,

    you’re right about the differences in the two economies and their cultures. I don’t play that down and yes, that’s another challenge to Nationalists.

    But it’s a challenge I’m up for in the years ahead and here’s why. You yourself say:

    I for one am clinging to my Barnett Formula cushy job for dear life and i have no moral qualms about in doing so because I’ve always appreciated the subvention and way of life that the union to date has offered me and sheltered me from that pro-market, pro-business storm. I haven’t done the dirt on the union, unlike Alliance.

    That’s almost the poster-child comment for all that can’t last about NI.

    Just because it cannot last doesn’t mean that what comes next will be Greener or better.

    But DC, you’re living on an unsustainable model. It. Has. To. Change.

    Nationalism is a project based on changed. It’s one of the reasons a UI, properly conceived and achieved, may be much more hospitable to your young neighbours when faced with a future NI that’s post-Barnett, post-welfare State, post Britain-as-a-strong voice in the EU, post Britain even in the EU?

    Nationalist don’t currently have a viable model on the table.

    I accept that. BUT…

    NI is built on an unsustainble model anyway.

    Change is coming.

    And the totally unsustainable nature of your “cushy govt job for life” is more the reason change is coming – much more so than the efforts of those engaged in drunken verses of “We’re on the One Road!”

  • DC

    @brian walker

    This is what happens – give an inch over the union flag, SF taketh a mile.

  • DC

    @Ruarai, if your dream comes to pass, as Eric Cartman would say, screw you guys i’m going home!

  • http://openunionism.wordpress.com/ st etienne

    Politics isn’t just a computer comment game.

    The answer to my own question, would an era of referendum politics (necessary to settle the details) produce constructive or creative politics is surely in the negative.

    I’d just like to put on record that despite coming up with his own computer comment in the space of a sentence by replying to his own question, this is the first time I’ve ever agreed with Brian Walker on anything.

  • GoldenFleece

    Here is an old fashioned idea!

    How about Sinn Fein actually get a mandate for this border poll? You know votes… like how the Scottish Nationalist Party did it? How the Conservative Party is going to work to get a mandate for an EU vote at the next election?

    Why are they being lazy and demanding something for nothing. Why are they not willing to work for a mandate?

    Also who is stopping them from having a debate about an United Ireland? Free country to argue what they want.

  • Red Lion

    Border Poll? An excuse for the SF/DUP carve up to engage in a good old fashioned slanging match with a good few dirty tricks thrown for good measure, rather than have to deal with actually running and improving NI.

    They love it.

  • New Yorker

    Ruarai

    You state ” But the NHS, regardless of constitutional arrangements in the future, will change and will lose more of its market dominance. That change is coming whether you are aware of it or not.”

    On what do you base that statement? Facts, theory, or something else?

    I’m interested because from a cost standpoint private insurance seems inherently inefficient to consumers when one compares the overhead of Medicare with private insurers – something like a 20-30% difference in non-medical costs.

  • Ruarai

    New Yorker,

    a bit of all of the above but, for now, let me make a comparison. The Third Level Education Fees debate in the UK.

    A decade and half or so ago, it was anathema in Britain to advocate for private uni fees, let alone steep fees. Yet rightly or wrongly this debate was a forgone conclusion because of the global economy and the competition/opportunities it unleashed.

    UK universities – to give one small but illustrative example – were destined to lose ever more of their “world class academics” to US institutions because they simply couldn’t compete with the salaries the better funded US colleges could offer. Fees were certain for many reasons but not least among them was the need for UK institutions to compete in a well-financed global market for both grad students and for “top researchers”.

    Similarly, current health care specialists in the UK health care system will increasingly come to realize how much more they can charge and make and how much more time they can devote to specializing if they’re self-employed and niche experts. Currently the incentives to opt-out are less than they will be as more and more providers do it. And as more and more do it, more and more people will choose to go to specialists.

    (Just now look at how many UK citizens go to their dentists for root canals. Incredible. Like going to a rave when in search of the ballet.)

    The increasing footprint of private providers coming to and growing within the UK market will only catalyze the process and growing size of private sector based health care.

    To put it in more trite terms. People may love the BBC but they would never settle for just it these days when they know HBO is out there, now would they?

  • derrydave

    Have to disagree with Brian Walker above in claiming that the whole issue of a border poll needs to be a negative. Look at the posts above – how many have concentrated on flags, anthems etc etc ? Very few – now we are talking about healthcare, economics, public finances…..you know, like real politics !!! Surely this has to be a positive ?

    Without doubt, there are currently way to many unknowns – there is a genuine and real need for a ‘white paper’ on unification in order to spell out to the populace exactly what a United Ireland would mean, what it would look and feel like. I believe this is one of the main motivations behind Sinn Feins drive for a border poll – the conversations need to begin, and the push for a government funded white paper needs to be made.

    Fow what it’s worth, my belief is that the whole arguement that Ireland could not afford reunification is simply incorrect.

    1. The value of the annual subvention is not clear. It appears to be a maximum of 11billion pounds Stlg, though as this does not include any Corporation Tax income, and possibly not any VAT or duties (?), then it is likely the cost will be much less annually.
    2. It is clear that significant savings would be made through rationalisation of the public service and elimination of duplication.
    3. The republic has faced a much more difficult situation financially in recent years and ,despite all the hysteria, has not collapsed in on itself. Recovery is actually underway, with I believe the 2nd highest level of growth in the eurozone in 2012. Recovery will continue and the economy will grow strong once again due to its inherently strong fundamentals. To put things in perspective – the economy down south took a Eur 50billion hit from the banking collapse. It has gone through a number of budgets cutting around Eur 4billion at a time. The world has not ended, and their remains plenty of fat in the civil service to cut if there were the political appetite. The cost of NI’s annual subvention would be managed, and would eventually be reduced through the economic recovery.
    4. Any border poll would likely happen in 5 years time at the absolute earliest. The Irish economy and public finances will undoubtedly be in a much different position at that time. The Irish economy and the Irish people are bouncing back as we speak and this will become ever more apparant over the coming years. Ireland is a very attractive place in which to do business, and will remain so.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    So, what advantages will accrue to people in N.I. if unification takes place, excluding any romantic ideas? And what disadvantages will accrue?

  • derrydave

    All very subjective Joe, but my input tor starters would be:

    Advantages:
    1. More say and influence in shaping our own destiny in a young, modern, vibrant European state.
    2. Much higher levels of FDI in attractive value-added areas of business, attracted by the low corporation tax rate, business friendly environment, membership of the eurozone, and highly educated english-speaking workforce.
    3. Higher levels of social provision for the unemployed.
    4. Structural Support, Investment, and Goodwill from the EU, and the US to help in the integration of the new state.

    Disadvantages:
    1. Higher cost of living.
    2. Risk of civil disorder and strife initially.
    3. Loss of large number of civil service positions as civil service north and south is rationalised.

  • New Yorker

    Ruarai

    If you compare the NIH and the US private system I think you will find that the non medical costs in the US are much higher. Therefore, it seems to me the best thing to do is improve the NIH by improving incentives for the specialists and other upgrades. Additionally, there is the issue of legal responsibility. I don’t think a patient can sue a NIH hospital in the UK. I believe the Portland Hospital in London owned by HCA (Hospital Corporation of America) has been sued by patients, and that is an additional cost plus it says something about profit driven healthcare.

    How are potential patients going to pay for private medical care? Out of pocket or via private insurance? It seems to me that either way it is going to be much more costly than if the specialist was part of the NIH.

    I’m told by friends that in medical school in Dublin they say the graduates that hunger for money go to the US. Do you think that sort of person makes a good doctor?

    I live in both the US and NI. When I see my GP in NI he does not have to worry about insurance companies, getting paid, etc., and generally seems quite happy. When I see my internist in NY he tells me that probably 20% of his time is spent on the phone with insurance companies or filling out forms when what he really wants to do is practice medicine 100%.

    In my view there may be some small place for private in the UK but the major emphasis should be on improving the NIH. Add HBO to BBC, if you like. And, i also think that would be the opinion of the majority in the UK.

    BTW, there are still many “world class academics” in the UK and it is an area I am familiar with. I even know several US academics who took positions in the UK and Ireland because they preferred the location. The ones I know who came to the US are mostly in science, technology and business, so the comparison only holds for those faculties to my knowledge.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    derrydave,

    Very good.
    But about 300 years ago a movement arose whose intent was to explain the world and to free the people from the freeloading parasites who until then had controlled everything that happened to them. It was called “The Enlightenment”. Its success was spotty, to say the least. Many countries continued to revere the “priests” who claimed to know all. Ireland is such a country. A few years ago, it was revealed that a significant number of these “leaders” were serial sexual abusers of children. The government of Ireland Justice minister vowed that they would all be hunted down and prosecuted. Since then, I have not heard of any single investigation let alone a prosecution. Why is that.? Who would want to freely vote to live in such a country?

  • Ruarai

    New Yorker,

    “Add HBO to BBC, if you like.”

    Brother, that’s exactly the position I advocated above at the outset: “explore the best mix of private-public health care provision based on a minimum standard of universal care, reactive and preemptive for all citizens and residents.”

    Now, as for the present UK set-up and the best way forward, I’m generally a Burkean on these policy questions so I’m not advocating that the UK end the NHS – work with what’s there, improve it as possible: “Add the HBO”, if you like.

    Regarding doctors: There are many aspects that go into what makes a good doctor and a good professional in any field and I certainly don’t think wanting to make money is necessarily a disqualifier or a red flag. I may have been more concerned by that in years gone by and though I’d never overlook personal incentives – to the extent to which it’s possible to detect them – the most amazing medical people I’ve encountered have been specialists in the US who are very well paid.

    I don’t think any of them were in it primarily for the money but I know for sure that their ability to work on cutting edge new approaches was partly dependent on mega finance/funding/wealth institutions being available to train and learn in.

    If you were starting a new country and seeking the top specialists in various medical fields, it’s safe to say that you’d be looking in the US (or for US trained) in many instances.

    One more thing, there’s lots of things I think are wrong and more that are sub-standard with the NHS. But one of them is the assumption that it’s a stand-alone alternative model. Is it hell. How many of the best practices currently available there or soon-to-be available there are generally the result of break-throughs and treatments and research that were developed in the US?

    The extent to which many of Europe’s social models are simply models that free-ride on US innovation, investment and risk-taking is consistently overlooked by Europeans. But more on that later.

    Regarding UK academics, I’m sure there are more than a few great ones still there. Some because their institutions are now better funded, many for reasons that have nothing to do wih that. I didn’t suggest there was a collapse within British academia, simply that a very real global market pressure resulted in a radical move towards fees – and that similar transnational market drivers will eventually impact health care service options and models in the UK too, in my view.

    Old British institutions like the BBC, NHS, military, Fleet street, and so on will all be challenged and transformed dramatically, even unrecognizably, in the years ahead.

    This is one of the aspects of the argument over NI’s future and the UK’s future generally that’s insufficiently dealth with. People are entitled to fight for the union by all means but no one should kid themselves that such a fight is one between the status quo vs. change.

    Radical, immense change is coming your way and soon, regardless of your constitutional arrangements and preferences.

  • derrydave

    Ahhh…… Joe……., I actually thought you wanted a sensible discussion on the pro’s and con’s of re-unification – didn’t realise you were just setting yourself up to talk shite !

    For someone who usually posts quite sensibly that really is a stupid, stupid post. Congratulations, you’ve just wasted 5 minutes of my time as well as your own. Thanks.

  • New Yorker

    Ruarai

    As I read your posts I’m reminded of a CV referred to me by an Antrim doctor who heads a political party. Is that you?

    You have the same positive spirit and optimism as the lad with that CV, if memory does not deceive me.

  • Ruarai

    New Yorker,

    crikey, that’s hard to say. If it was about 10 years ago, maybe. These days I’ve my own consultancy so I haven’t been circulating the resume for a while.

    If it was me and it was Big Al, thanks to him! (I don’t remember any offer letter though! :) )

  • New Yorker

    Ruarai

    I’m an old friend of Big Al and it was several years ago. As I recall, he wanted to get you a job in DC and perhaps help the party as well. The party had a good network in the US due largely to Big Al.

    Good luck with your consultancy.

  • http://footballcliches.wordpress.com/ footballcliches

    ‘Northern Ireland would have to join the Euro – how would that be dealt with’

    I would guess within some kind of European framework and rules, tbh, it would require some thinking on our feet but not too big a problem, NI is only 1.8 million people after all. Of more concern would be savings deposits and bank accounts but again, it would be sorted.

    ‘Would a United Ireland be a unitary State or would there still be a devolved Stormont?’

    If there’s a vote for a UI then this would be discussed or negotiated. Personally, I would think Stormont would stick around for a considerable time.

    ‘What happens to Northern Irish civil servants, firemen, police officers etc?’

    They become part of the southern varieties? Depends, if you have Stormont about and the Dail has replaced Westminster there may actually be very little change on this score.

    ‘What happens to the NHS?’

    Probably gone, or exists with money coming from Dublin, Brussels and some EPL like parachute payments from London for a few years, then we’re on our own. Granted, I don’t expect much of a NHS to exist in the North come 2020.

    ‘What happens on pensions and benefits?’

    Good news, you get more down South! I should know, I was on unemployment benefits for 2 months in Dublin, I was on the same as a wage up North, great times! :)

    ‘What about the subvention Northern Ireland receives – could the South afford it?’

    Probably not, and nor should it have to dole out that kind of money. This place needs to figure out ways to bring home the bacon and the subvention it receives is outrageous and unhelpful.

    ‘Will the Union flag be hoisted alongside the Tri Colour on the Dail in the name of parity and equality?’

    Not a chance. The 26 counties is not a contested space like the northern 6 are. It would be akin to saying will the Tri Colour fly over Westminster, it’s a nonsense suggestion and your piece is a lot better than this lazy thinking.

    ‘Will we get a new agreed all-Ireland flag?’

    We’ll get a new flag, something tells me that we will not all agree to it though.

    ‘Will we get a new agreed all-Ireland National Anthem?’

    Again, probably, though see above answer.

    ‘Will we be entitled to dual British & Irish citizenship and passports?’

    If you are born in the North, probably.

    ‘What happens to the cross-border bodies?’

    They become all-Ireland bodies to help co-ordinate operations in a possible new federal Ireland or we get rid of them and have a unitary state.

    ‘Will mandatory powersharing be implemented in the Dail with D`Hondt?’

    I suspect not. Unionism will have to grow up and actually argue for policy without resorting to sectarian, dog whistle politics. It would be great to see though I suspect this will only happen after they have tried some political kamikaze stunt of ignoring the will of the newly enlarged Dail, see that this will get it no where fast and then skulk into the chamber with its tail between it’s leg.

    ‘Will their be an all-Ireland parades commission?”

    Probably not. Contentious parades are a problem in the North as a bunch of medieval nut jobs want to let the natives know there place, this doesn’t happen in the South.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Derrydave,

    Sorry to disappoint. I did want some genuine ideas. But you didn’t address a concern of many “Protestants” for over a hundred years that “Home rule will be Rome rule”. I was simply suggesting that that fear may still be there.

  • Ruarai

    Cheers New Yorker.

    Yes, I’ve helped a few Irish groups out here, not all green and few political though.

    Good luck yourself.

  • Mick Fealty

    In other words, ‘run fat boy, run!’?

  • Brian Walker

    Of course, it’s entirely possible to have a civilised discussion about referendum issues in blogs and school rooms. Many of the comments above prove it. We can have it any time, all the time. I’d guess the arguments are finely balanced.

    But transferred to real politics can the debate have a civilising effect? With such a divided community it can only mean pressure. Let’s recall the context: Sinn Fein are calling for a border poll. Is the wider community ready for it? I’d say not. Nor is it clear that nationalists are gagging for it. My priority would be for each party to show far greater mutual respect and understanding for each other’s fears and hopes first before the wider community is able to consider a referendum. And each side to offer the other some win:win.

  • derrydave

    Get real Joe – not even the DUP are coming out with that crap any more – you know you’re in a bad place when even the DUP have moved on further than you.
    To claim you did want genuine ideas and then to come out with that lazy nonsense is really rather pathetic. When exactly was it that you left NI ? Methinks you need to catch up a decade or two.

  • http://nwhyte.livejournal.com Nicholas Whyte

    ‘Would a United Ireland be a unitary State or would there still be a devolved Stormont?’

    If there’s a vote for a UI then this would be discussed or negotiated.

    Actually it needs to be clarified in advance of a vote, not left until afterwards. There is a huge difference between merging NI into a unitary state and retaining Stormont in a united Ireland, to the extent that they are essentially two different propositions. If the UI side are serious about holding and winning such a vote (which, of course, they may not be) they need to get their lines clear on this very early in the game.

  • http://footballcliches.wordpress.com/ footballcliches

    ‘Actually it needs to be clarified in advance of a vote, not left until afterwards. There is a huge difference between merging NI into a unitary state and retaining Stormont in a united Ireland, to the extent that they are essentially two different propositions. If the UI side are serious about holding and winning such a vote (which, of course, they may not be) they need to get their lines clear on this very early in the game.’

    No, it actually does not need to be clarified before a vote for a UI. Why would one side try and tie it’s own hand behind it’s back before a vote for a major constitutional change? How would Stormont being a subservient assembly to the Dail instead of Westminster NOT be in a UI?

    A vote on what machinations to have in a UI is so very different than whether to have a UI, please focus Nicholas.

  • Granni Trixie

    Completely agree with Brian:I would like to see ni politicians showing respect for each other and have a WILLINGNESS not only to understand each others position but also the position of hybrids such as myself.

  • http://www.ulster-scots.co.uk Kilsally

    I would agree with Nicholas Whyte – the SNP in Scotland are under the same pressure to define an Independent Scotland which has now become rather murky with a joint Monarch, joint currency etc post `independence`

  • Mark

    Thanks for those words of comfort last night Granni …

    Ruarai – re my comment about healthcare and sectarianism , that was just the pessimist in me coming out last night .

  • Kevsterino

    I think a referendum can be useful for all sides of the issue, in that it would reveal the current views of all those living there. It isn’t as if the issue will go away by ignoring it.

    Let people be clear on the perceived benefits of the union/unification/whatever. At least then people will know the public will.

    What have you got to lose?

  • David Crookes

    In the period preceding a referendum, the RoI parties should put their own ideas for a UI on the table.

    A UI is not going to be based on what SF thinks or what SF wants.

    Unionists who play their cards intelligently may help to create a civilized UI in which SF need will have very little say.

    If Mr Adams wants a UI he should stop milking the green cows of America, recruit an ideas person, get a decent speechwriter, and then retire. His last big speech was unimaginably awful. It might as well have been written by an educational theorist.

    Some people on my side of the fence dislike the idea of a UI being designed by a person who has done what Mr Adams has done.

    I dislike the idea of a UI being designed by an unintelligent man whose mind is almost completely unfurnished.

  • Kevsterino

    “green cows of America” I gotta admit, that one gave me a chuckle. My bovine yank identity acknowledged, David, may I ask you a question? Is any idea, once spoken by Mssr. Adams, automatically rejected by your good self?

  • David Crookes

    Thanks for your great tolerance, Kevsterino, and the answer is no: but on my side of the fence, as on the other side, ordinary folk like short words and clear images. At times manner may be nearly as important as matter. When I hear a lot of gloriified sociology-speak, I wonder if the speaker has anything exciting in his mind. Lots of people go asleep as soon as they hear the word ‘mutual’.

    Sorry about them cows. That was very rude of me.

    Here are nine of the things that would excite me about a UI. Clean air. Clean rivers. Children making musical instruments in school time. New forests. Equal respect for different occupations. An end of men feeling obliged to wear international suits. An end of fatuous litigation. An end of fatuous paperwork. Many thousands of adults going to evening classes for Latin, Irish, woodwork, bricklaying, and gardening.

    Ireland’s population is small enough for many good things to be possible.

    Mr Adams should start telling us about the good things that he and SF want to see. If his UI is going to be a barbaric as-you-were of mobile phones and minibus-jeeps and watching football on TV in crowded pubs under a different flag, forget about it.

  • Kevsterino

    I think I get it, David. Let me share some verdant bovine moosings. Would it not be for everybody, not merely politicians, to define this thing and put substance into the concept? From this side of the Atlantic, looking at a population of under 10 million, it would appear the opportunity for participation in national governance would be terrific for the individual. Each person on the island has real power on a much greater scale than myself or my countrymen.

  • Neil

    But only 55 TDs per province I think? Now there’s a thought. Unionists could (would) lump in with some other party and the Shinners would have very little sway in a UI. That’s assuming Nationalists would vote SF when FF, FG or Labour were an option – many I suggest would not.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Kevsterino and Neil. The more ordinary people get into the UI project, the better it will be. What we need is people telling politicians what they want, not vice versa. Something like JMcC in Louth might be regarded as step one. Step two might be a transmuting unionist addressing a FF or FG conference But underneath everything there must be thousands of meetings — in homes first, and then in halls..

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    Nicholas Whyte makes the key point here.

    To Unionists proposing a Border Poll, I say “Be careful what you wish for” for two main reasons:

    Firstly, there is at least a chance that everyone remotely disposed towards a United Ireland would vote for one tomorrow, in the safe knowledge that it won’t happen. That would risk (from a Unionist point of view) an outcome of something like 58/42, which would merely see SF making the case for a referendum every seven years. (It is in their interests to do that to steer conversation away from their appalling performance in government on bread-and-butter issues.)

    Secondly, the principle should be established that a Border Poll is only ever reasonable if a specific option is given as to what type of “United Ireland” is meant. There is a world of difference between, say, a) incorporation of Northern Ireland into the existing Republic of Ireland; and b) a new federal “Commonwealth of Ireland” with the British Monarch as Head of State. You cannot ask people to vote without knowing specifically what they are voting for or against!

    Brian Walker also makes the key point, if he will forgive me paraphrasing, that while a rational debate on the constitution may be a good thing, such a debate in the current climate would be anything but rational.

    The Agreement stipulates that a referendum should only happen if it appears there may be a majority in favour of a United Ireland. It does so for a very good reason. Let’s stick to it!

  • PaddyReilly

    I think the answer to the question is inherent in its precise wording.

    When an Orangeman specifically inquires into the architecture of a United Ireland, the exercise is invariably the beginning of a long and increasing list of unreasonable and futile demands designed to put the would-be uniter off the whole project.

    Indeed as one Unionist orientated contributor pointed out only a few days ago, there is a rapidly expanding chasm appearing between ordinary Unionist voters and the Orangey lot. For any serious all Ireland politician, it would be a grave error not to exploit this. Under no circumstances should you allow a committee of Grand-masters to come forth and state, Good Day, we are the United Ireland negotiating committee. They are not: nobody elected them.

    A United Ireland I see as a place where the Orange tail no longer can wag the Protestant dog, and where the Protestant tail is not in a position to wag the All-Ireland dog. The position of the Orange Lodge in such an entity would be analogous to that of the position of the German Nazi Party in a recently liberated France.

    Will the Union flag be hoisted alongside the Tri Colour on the Dail in the name of parity and equality?
    Will we get a new agreed all-Ireland flag?
    Will we get a new agreed all-Ireland National Anthem?

    I think that you should realise that ‘agreed’, in Orange speak if not in Unionist speak, means that you have the right to spend weeks negotiating with the Orangey lot and then give in to them: nothing more. That is what agreement means: doing what the Orangemen want, not what the majority want.

    Unionists are 11% of the voting population of Ireland: by the time a United Ireland is possible that will have fallen to 10%. In the unlikely event of them remaining a coherent entity in a United Ireland they might occasionally hold the balance of power, but probably if they do they will make outrageous demands which will unite both Nationalist factions against them.

    Irish Catholics of recent immigration constitute a significant minority in British society. Will the tricolour be raised over the Houses of Parliament? Will there be a new agreed flag and anthem? Of course not. The U.K. may change its national institutions to suit the wishes of the majority, but it is not going to do so to suit Gerry Adams.