Calm down, dears…

Wilful or otherwise, there’s been a degree of misrepresentation of Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s apparently unscripted, and qualified, comments at the MacGill Summer School yesterday – you can read the official version of his speech here.

As the initial reported quote demonstrated, his focus was not on preparing for the prospect of referendums on a united Ireland, but on seeking clarification of what would happen, in the new post-Brexit world, in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote.

Because if that possibility were to happen, you would have Northern Ireland wishing to leave the United Kingdom, not being a member of the European Union, and joining the Republic which will be a member of the EU.

That is arguably more of a concern now than when the Belfast Agreement was signed in 1998 because, post-Brexit, with Northern Ireland no longer in the European Union, different international treaties and agreements will apply to the two separate jurisdictions on this island.

As Enda Kenny pointed out in his speech, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about the final arrangements for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU

We recognise that detailed contingency planning for a Brexit is particularly challenging because we do not yet know the precise arrangements, or the timescale for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and we don’t know what the new relationship between the UK and the EU will be.

But, contrary to the mutterings from some, both the British and Irish Governments have stated their commitment to seeking to maintain the Common Travel Area through the negotiations with the EU.

That’s likely to be one of the points Kenny would seek clarification on in discussions on the situation post-unification referendums – with both the EU and the UK.  Another would be maintaining Ireland’s exemptions from Schengen.   And it kind of makes sense to seek that clarification during the forthcoming negotiations.

But what he would, primarily, be concerned with is ensuring that any new state emerging after unification would not be seen by the EU as a successor state.

Because a successor state could be required to renegotiate all those treaties, all over again.

That’s why, despite Brian’s imagined slight “to all the architects of the Good Friday Agreement”, he referenced the unification of East and West Germany.  From the BBC report

Speaking to the audience at the summer school, he said he had “not favoured the holding of a border poll” because the necessary conditions, set out under the Good Friday Agreement did not exist.

However, he added that the forthcoming negotiations should foresee the possibility that support for joining the Republic “in an all-island situation” could grow in Northern Ireland as a result of Brexit.

He added: “It may be, in the eyes of some, a fanciful theory but who knows what happens in 10, 20 years time?”

The taoiseach also referred to the reunification of Germany as an example of how the process could be considered.

In the same way as it was possible for the former East Germany to be associated with West Germany, and not to have to go through a very long and tortuous process to join the European Union – and these negotiations should take these kinds of things into account as well,” Mr Kenny said. [added emphasis]

However, in the absence of any serious objections from other EU states, that clarification shouldn’t take long.

Of course, the unified Germany was able to claim to be a ‘continuing state’, rather than a successor, in part because they opted for the minimum constitutional change.

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  • cu chulainn

    The main point here is while Scotland may have problems getting in, NI can join the rest of the country and stay in seamlessly. Perhaps Scotland would like to join too/

  • Alan N/Ards

    If Scotland joined with the ROI then maybe that could be a way of getting NI unionists to come on board. The Presbyterian connection could be the way forward.

  • Declan Doyle

    There is no way Scotland would willingly take on ulster unionism.

  • Glenn

    Taken from a link in this post to another of Pete’s posts.

    Can someone confirm if there is going to be 1, 2 or 3 referendums on a united Ireland. 1. Northern Ireland leaving the uk?
    2. Northern Ireland votes to join the south
    3. the south votes to agree Northern Ireland, joining a united Ireland???

    “Build support for island wide referendums on Irish unity; [added emphasis]

    A superficial reading, which is all the party expected, of that Northern Ireland manifesto commitment might suggest compliance with the Good Friday Agreement’s principle of consent – and the requirement for a majority vote in referendums north and south. But that would be wrong. It is the same commitment as the previous one, but re-worded to allow for the question of a united Ireland to be asked more than once – hence the use of the plural, referendums. Confirmation of this can be found on the Sinn Féin website, where the party policy is clearly stated

    Continue to campaign for an island-wide referendum on Irish unity – allow the people to have their say.

    As I pointed out in 2011, the right of self-determination of the people of Northern Ireland to decide the constitutional status of Northern Ireland is not an optional extra. It is the fundamental building block on which the 1998 Agreement, and all subsequent agreements, is based.


    1. The participants endorse the commitment made by the British and Irish Governments that, in a new British-Irish Agreement replacing the Anglo-Irish Agreement, they will:

    (i) recognise the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status, whether they prefer to continue to support the Union with Great Britain or a sovereign united Ireland;

    (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; [added emphasis throughout]

    (iii) acknowledge that while a substantial section of the people in Northern Ireland share the legitimate wish of a majority of the people of the island of Ireland for a united Ireland, the present wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, freely exercised and legitimate, is to maintain the Union and, accordingly, that Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom reflects and relies upon that wish; and that it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people;

    (iv) affirm that if, in the future, the people of the island of Ireland exercise their right of self-determination on the basis set out in sections (i) and (ii) above to bring about a united Ireland, it will be a binding obligation on both Governments to introduce and support in their respective Parliaments legislation to give effect to that wish”;

  • Declan Doyle

    It’s quite interesting to observe how the mere mention of a border poll causes such consternation as if a perfectly reasonable call for the public to take part in a legitimate exercise in democracy is somehow offensive to certain sections of Unionism. Calm down, dears is correct. Chill a bit.

  • AntrimGael

    Democracy IS offensive to Unionism. The 3rd Home Rule Bill in 1912; the subversion of British Parliamentary procedure; importation of German guns and ammunition; the Curragh mutiny; the Special Powers Act; the Belfast City Council Union Flag vote; the Parades Commission; I could go on.

  • the rich get richer

    Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Republic to stay in the EU and we even try to tempt the Welsh to join the club .

    Could it get any better for England !

  • Kevin Breslin

    London, Merseyside, and other English Remain strongholds don’t succeed with them.

  • Obelisk

    The English have their own destiny now. Either they will prosper outside the EU as some have always claimed they would, or in thirty years they’ll go crawling back.

    That’s partially up to them, partially up to how events play out from here on.

    The question for us is whether they and the Welsh will walk that road alone.


  • Two referendums, held concurrently, in Ireland and in Northern Ireland, majority required in both jurisdictions. Specifically, a majority required in Northern Ireland – that covers your points 1 and 2.

    That’s the requirement of the 1998 Belfast Agreement, and the Irish Constitution.

    When the Northern Ireland Secretary of State decides that it would be appropriate to hold such referendums…

  • It’s not unionists getting over-excited at the erroneous reports.

    But the ‘Calm down, dears’ was directed at all sections – bloggers and commenters, in particular.

  • Declan Doyle

    Pete, you are in no position to advise. Your own post claiming SF have abandoned the GFA and its requirement for both parts of Ireland to approve Unification despite whatever John O Dowd’s ‘personal’ view is; was dangerous, disengenuous and deliberately constructed to create conflict and division.

  • Zig70

    Oh dear, I thought Brian had taken over repeating a line that varied between a lack of empathy with the nationalist psychosis that partition never happened and croppies lie down.

  • the keep

    Yeah i hear Republicanism have problems with democracy or was the IRA campaign just an illusion?

  • Thomas Barber

    “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”

    All that really means is whenever its in Britain’s best interests to allow the Irish people in the British controlled part of Ireland the right to have a referendum on Irish unity they will endeavour to do so.

    The reality is, If there are more Irish citizens in the British controlled part of Ireland than there are British citizens then it can be argued that the marker for a referendum has been set because the Irish government would already be speaking and acting on behalf of the majority of people in the British controlled part of Ireland.

  • the keep

    Would the rest of Ireland take on willingly Irish Republicanism and all their baggage from such lovely places as Derry Belfast and Crossmaglen?

  • Declan Doyle

    Happily take you both

  • And accurate.

  • Surveyor

    He/she will Pete one day. It’s just a matter of time…

  • Perhaps…

    It’s still their decision.

  • Declan Doyle

    I only wish you could even try to be accurate.

  • Declan Doyle

    The IRA campaign delivered democracy.

  • You have had every opportunity to prove me wrong.

  • Declan Doyle

    SF Signed the GFA. There, you are wrong.

  • eireanne3

    Ziggy – the difficulty lies in trying to work out the equation to establish the politically correct (PC) relationship (rectilinear, tangential, reflexive or other ) between the Vertical, Poppy-wearing Chappy (VPwC) and the Horizontal, non-Poppy-wearing Croppy (H-nPwC).

    Hope that clarifies everything for you and everyone else!

  • They didn’t. And it’s irrelevant given their subsequent commitment to campaign for a single all-island referendum.

  • eireanne3

    does anyone else notice a tiny little contradiction between

    “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”


    “When the Northern Ireland Secretary of State decides that it would be appropriate to hold such referendums…”

  • No, because the Northern Ireland Secretary of State is compelled to hold the referendums when it is likely that the people of the island of Ireland, and particularly the people of Northern Ireland, would consent to a united Ireland.

  • Thomas Barber

    That not the answer she was expecting Pete. Its obvious what she’s asking.

  • Jollyraj

    Hmmm… not sure you understand democracy. It certainly does not involve shooting those who don’t vote for you.

  • It’s the correct answer she got.

  • Thomas Barber

    So will that SOS just out of the blue call a border poll or is he/she likely to act on a call or demand ?

    I think Eireanne was pointing out the hypocrisy of the “without external impediment” bit of the agreement.

  • eireanne3

    it may well be the correct PC answer but it does not reconcile that ” it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone”
    with “the NI SOS decides”
    The SOS is appointed/nominated by the Westminster government.
    NI doesn’t decide on the outcome of Westminster elections and, given the disparity in population, NI has no real say in decisions made at Westminster because its votes count for nothing.
    So what does this ” without external impediment “mean?

  • Declan Doyle

    One single referendum is allowed under the terms of the GFA.

  • Declan Doyle

    The DUP gun runners might disagree with you there

  • Declan Doyle

    The SOS can decide to hold a ref whenever he she wants. There is no restriction around the possibility of majority in favour. He/she can do so if the dublin Gove requests one, if polls show a move towards it, if he or she is having bad hair day.

  • Declan Doyle

    Nope, when he or she ‘believes’ it is likely….. big big difference, huge in fact.

  • Jollyraj

    Do you think Sinn Fein would disagree?

  • the keep

    Really thats an interesting take on what happened here though completely factually incorrect.

  • the keep

    Being stuck in Northern Ireland frustrates you i suspect you will be frustrated for a long time to come.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Monkey see, monkey do…….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And by 1922 the UVF espousal of violence was not simply implied:

  • Declan Doyle

    I love living in iteland

  • NMS

    As there is highly unlikely to be a majority in Ireland (the State) for a unitary State, particularly once they understand the cost, e.g. taking possession of 3% UK’s national debt, say €60,000M etc.

    Kris Nixon’s needs to be re-read by many commenting here.

  • Glenn

    Thanks Pete.

  • John Collins

    So the McMahons were not murdered after all.