Slugger O'Toole

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Villiers: “It is crucial that political leaders here concentrate on working together on pressing economic and social issues…”

Wed 23 January 2013, 2:05pm

Both the Irish and British Governments have given their answer to Sinn Féin’s fanciful notion of a border poll[Catch yourselves on? - Ed]  Indeed.  Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil

“I think we have a lot of work to do both here and up North before people’s mentality and views change about the future of the island,” he told Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

The Taoiseach said it was a matter for the British government to decide whether to agree to have a Border poll now or not.

“Clearly if that were to happen, depending on the result, we would have to consider what would happen here, but I don’t think now is the time to do it.”

And from a separate Irish Times report

Any plebiscite is strictly within the gift of the Northern secretary as laid out in the Belfast Agreement. The secretary of state may order a referendum if he or she believes there is evidence of a desire for a change in the constitutional status.

In a statement Ms Villiers said this was not the case.

“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.

It is crucial that political leaders here concentrate on working together on pressing economic and social issues, including the rebalancing of the NI economy and building a genuinely shared society, rather than being diverted into divisive, constitutional debates.” [added emphasis]

Well, as Mark Devenport points out

Whether it’s a him or a her, my reading of the law is that the Northern Ireland secretary “may” call a border poll at any time. However, if there’s clear evidence that a majority of people in Northern Ireland want to leave the UK and join a united Ireland, then the agreement places a duty on the secretary of state who “shall” arrange a referendum.

But if Gerry Adams is as keen to “test it” as he claims, and the DUP are as willing to play along as Arlene Foster suggested, the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers could always organise a, non-binding, referendum glorified opinion poll of their own.  They’ve done it before.  Might be more difficult to game the result

In the meantime, there’s some governing administrating to be done.

Adds  And, as I’ve mentioned before, there’s a journey to be undertaken…

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Comments (19)

  1. FDM (profile) black spot says:

    “Sinn Féin’s fanciful notion of a border poll.”

    This fanciful “notion” is actually enshrined in an international agreement, not penned by the likes of Hans Christiann Andersen.

    Could I respectfuly request if you a) want to be taken seriously and b) want anyone to even read the rest of your OP, that you try and couch your introductory phrasing in less disingenuous ( and obviously baiting) language.

    Arlene Foster might soundbite on statements like “fantasy politics”, but to be fair I think the small list of people who ever took her seriously is sadly diminished these days.

    I am certainly “minded” not to.

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  2. tacapall (profile) says:

    “(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 SOS can call a border at any time, however reading the above, what right has any British politician got to decide when the people of Ireland can or cannot decide when a border poll can be called. The DUP and Sinn Fein are the biggest political parties with the largest voter bases therefore they speak for the majority and they both want a border poll in the future. The SOS denying that call is a denial of democracy.

    Do we have to have a poll calling on the SOS to call a border poll, is that what is meant by -

    “2. Subject to paragraph 3, the Secretary of State shall exercise the power under paragraph 1 if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.”

    If the government we elect does not speak on our behalf on constitutional issues then just how will the SOS decide when a border poll can be called.

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  3. GoldenFleece (profile) says:

    tacapall, I suspect the SOS will know to call a poll when parties who want an United Ireland get close to or above 50% of the vote.

    Like what happened in Scotland for example.

    It’s called getting a mandate.

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  4. ArdoyneUnionist (profile) says:

    “what right has any British politician got to decide when the people of Ireland can or cannot decide when a border poll can be called”.

    Because this part of the island of Ireland is under British administration, and whether republicans like it or not that is the reality. That is what republican’s signed up to in the GFA, and by taking their seats up in the big house on the hill they are recognising those indisputable facts by administrating British rule in a United Kingdom regional assembly, here in Northern Ireland.

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  5. tacapall (profile) says:

    Add the mandates of Sinn Fein and the DUP together and you have well over that 50%, what your saying Golden Fleece is that only when nationalists become a majority would the SOS call a border poll, unionists have no say in the matter in regards to the actual calling of a border poll.

    Thanks for your input AU, no-one else knew that but yourself.

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  6. ArdoyneUnionist (profile) says:

    Seems that fact is lost on Gerry tacapall.

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  7. GoldenFleece (profile) says:

    If the DUP changes its stance to an United Ireland, they hell yeah a border poll would be called.

    There is no point of calling a border poll if the status quo is certain to win, waste of time, money and resources that can be better wasted on stuff that actually matters at this point and time.

    A Border poll should not be used as a propaganda tool for either SF or the DUP.

    Sinn Fein says “let’s have a debate.” Geee, what’s stopping them? Free country as far as I’m concerned to debate to their heart’s desire.

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  8. tacapall (profile) says:

    Golden Fleece does the DUP and Sinn Fein speak for the majority of voters and does the section below mean anything other than what it says.

    (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

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  9. FDM (profile) black spot says:

    @AU

    Given the current main Unionist party never signed up to the GFA and that Mike Nesbitt [and therefore UU] are now disavowing it also [http://www.u.tv/News/Basil-McCrea-votes-against-UUP/1bb1337b-702d-415a-867f-f58cf981b91d], you and Basil must be the only two Unionists in town who are for it.

    You are really just a big old tree-hugging Unionist liberal!

    Or alternatively is this just picking and choosing the bits of the GFA that you care to choose to flavour the latest edict from the Glenbryn bunker?

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  10. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Adds And, as I’ve mentioned before, there’s a journey to be undertaken…

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  11. tacapall (profile) says:

    “(vi) recognise the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to
    identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose, and accordingly confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments and would not be affected by any future change in the status of Northern Ireland.”

    What other journey is there to undertake Pete other than someone else paying the bills.

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  12. aquifer (profile) says:

    Gerry has to pretend he wants it immediately while praying he does not get it anytime soon.

    His job is a bit of a laugh really.

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  13. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Spot on, aquifer.

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  14. Nevin (profile) says:

    “Villiers: “It is crucial that political leaders here concentrate on working together on pressing economic and social issues…””

    The Secretary of State hasn’t got the message: the ’98 constitutional arrangement is the well from which the problems flow. No amount of sniping from the sidelines alters that reality.

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  15. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    “What other journey is there to undertake Pete other than someone else paying the bills.”

    Follow the link, tacapall.

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  16. Nevin The elephant in the room is that Alliance get minimal natlionalist support and yet that is primally ignored by the media here. In a referendum, nationalist votes in elections will mirror their votes in referenda, it’s not rocket science, so I believe that in the first border poll since 1973, nationalist voting citizens will follow the logic and test their voting strength in the assumption that even those who are ok with the status quo will vote for UI in the knowledge it’s a risk free vote as in that outcome, the voters down south have the last word.

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  17. Nevin (profile) says:

    “there’s a journey to be undertaken…”

    Brian Cowen, the source of the metaphor, has wandered off into the sunset.

    Meanwhile, the prisoners in OFMDFM, hobbled together by the chains of ’98, can do little else but stand and smile – or fall over when one of them tries to move in the direction the other one has no desire to go.

    Why has the metaphor become more vague? Has the train left the station without the passengers – or has it run into the buffers once again? At least Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern had a road map – must be somewhere in your archive, Pete – but, with no particular place to go, we’re still at Terence O’Neill’s ’68 crossroads or going round in circles on John Hume’s magic roundabout, looking for the missing exit strategy.

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  18. tacapall (profile) says:

    I have followed the link Pete, whats your point. At the end of the day people are just worried about their identity, their culture and their financial interests. No matter what happens they will still have the same identity if they wish, they can still practice their culture if they wish and the financial aspects could be sorted as no-one actually believes if a majority supported a united Ireland tomorrow that the status quo would be changed the following day. The change in the constitutional status would have to be gradual and would have to be negotiated and thats up to the people in the future. Personally I cant see a final solution to the constitutional problem working without some sort of connection with Britain. We are just too interrelated and too close in terms of geographical distance and I dont believe for a minute Britain has no selfish or strategic interests in having its foot in a part of Ireland. But being someone opposed to the concept of a monarchy I have no wish to be a subject, nor do I wish to be governed by a country that with each new Prime Minister we are drip fed untruths that results in invading other countries and thousands of innocent people being murdered in the name of democracy but in reality its for financial gain for the few. That same democracy that allows them to engage in war without the consent of the people, well except one, the Queen, refuses to accept the same democratic right of our government to speak on behalf of all the people when it wishes to have a border poll.

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  19. DoppiaVu (profile) says:

    “It is crucial that political leaders here concentrate on working together on pressing economic and social issues, including the rebalancing of the NI economy and building a genuinely shared society, rather than being diverted into divisive, constitutional debates.”

    Teresa – can I suggest that you take your statement above, replace NI with UK, then make the same suggestion to your boss David?

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