Referendum demands may be catching


In that interview trailed by Pete below, the Examiner itself highlights the DPM’s soft voiced approach to an early referendum on unity. Have Alex Salmond’s  tactics found their Irish imitator?

The deputy first minister believes the Democratic Unionist Party can be persuaded to agree to such a dramatic move.




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  • Brian, the interview is now online.

    I’ve looked at the DUP website. Gregory Campbell welcomes the decision on the Fleadh as have Peter and Martin but, as yet, no comment on a referendum on NI’s constitutional status.

  • john

    As a Nationalist I dont see the point of a referendum yet as it will obviously be a vote to retain the Union. Better to wait until the Nationalist parties at least have the majority of seats in Stormont. It still wouldnt guarantee a United Ireland but it would be a more sensible time to have a referendum than now or in a few years when Unionism still has a safe majority, Maybe Marty agrees but just thinks by the next election Nationalism will be in the majority in Stormont – I dont share his optimism and think it will take at least another 4 or 5 stormont elections before it is close (ie after 2030).

  • Obelisk

    I agree with John. The only time to have a referendum on Unity is when it seems there maybe a majority in favour of such a move. A good indicator would be a Nationalist majority in the Assembly in a few decades.

    Holding a referendum now would be polarising, especially when it would simply return the status quo. An expensive waste of money.

  • Scheduling a referendum is the only way we’re going to get a serious debate on what any proposed reunited country will look like. That debate will be more important than the result in the first referendum.

  • Reader

    While a referendum might stir things up a bit out on the street, it would at least settle the rumbling dispute on slugger between those who prefer to extrapolate from a political attitudes survey, and those who prefer to infer political attitudes from votes for political parties.
    Once the results are in, then SF can work out whether they want to continue to rely on demographic shifts, or if they have to try something completely different – e.g. outreach, or violence, or despair.
    (Ulick, there isn’t going to be a serious debate involving unionists until *after* a close referendum – another reason to kick off the process even before you might hope to get your preferred result)

  • michael-mcivor

    Whilst having the D.U.P happy with a referendum would be the best way forward it is not up to them- Martin McGuinness wants one held during the life of the next assembly- 2016-2021- and it will be the secretary of state who will give the green light for this election who ever that will be at that stage or what ever political party- if there is not a united Ireland out-come then there will be one held every 7 years untill there is a 32 county Ireland-

  • Marascal

    This is all very well, but don’t we get a say south of the border? Times are becoming increasingly more difficult in the Republic and there’s a real danger that it’ll be seen as a burden to try and absorb the north. It would have been ignored in the celtic tiger era but now I’m not so sure.

    Worse case scenario – you end up with the referendum in NI going through but a parallel one in ROI voting it down. A fine mess that would be.

  • PaulT

    Reader, more likely tis a bit mischievous of SF, we have seen the reaction of HMG and Labour and (unionism in NI) to the the Scottish referendum.

    If this announcement grows legs and goes somewhere how will HMG and Labour respond, will they cry ‘no’ as they are doing for Scotland and be seen to be fighting Independence on two fronts, well that would look bad, before you know it Wales might start having ideas

    What if HMG and Labour say ‘whatever’ how would a unionist feel, being made to feel less wanted than the Scots.

    If they did cry ‘no’ how does that sit with the GFA, could an Irish Gov get away with saying ‘whatever’ or would they be obliged to shout ‘yes’

    SF hit 17% in a RedC poll this weekend, meanwhile mick tweeted a FF lackeys blog who couldn’t spell Adams name correctly, tried to spin that MM wasn’t part of the ‘old FF’ and that staying at the same % as the GE was a victory.

    It ain’t looking good north or south for the nice people who inhabit Slugger, I imagine there’s a lot more to come from SF over the next few years

  • Henry94

    It would be a great log-jam breaker. If the united Ireland vote came close to the nationalist party vote then we would need to start serious planning for a 32 county state.

    If on the other hand a significant number of SF/SDLP voters were closet unionists then unity would be off the table as a realistic proposition.

    In Scotland of course there is much talk of a third option. Maybe we should consider what a third option may be in this case. Should a Scottish referendum pass we would need to look at the future of these islands as a totality. If the political union no longer serves there may be a better form for the relationships beyond it. One that would include all of Ireland.

    The lunacy of Ireland participating in a European fiscal union without Britain is something we must strive to avoid yet we are all still talking about the relationships on this island based on old ideas of either/or political arrangements.

  • Reader

    michael-mcivor: if there is not a united Ireland out-come then there will be one held every 7 years untill there is a 32 county Ireland-
    The GFA only says that it will not be more often than every 7 years. It could be a far longer wait than that if it looks like a waste of time.

  • “there’s a real danger that it’ll be seen as a burden to try and absorb the north.”

    That’s precisely why debate is needed – to clear out the widespread misconception that an reunited country implies one absorbing the other.

  • Freaked-out-Unionist

    You’re right about the sets of relationships
    particularly vis-a-vis Ireland N- S
    within the EU itself , & within the UK
    hard to predict outcomes here
    best choices and so on.

    One thing I do know is HM the Queen on the mantelpiece
    The Union Flag flying on the roof comforts me less these days.

    Change is coming, I have a tri-colour in the draw
    But a terrible fear comes over me when I look at it .
    I feel very guilty, not sure why though !
    I’m scared of feeling naked – vulnerable without my Union Jack

  • MrPMartin

    Smart unionists would begin negotiating for a UI now when their bargaining position is strong. If a referendum in NI ended up against the Union, then unionisms position would be weak. Think about it- how could unionists walk away from reunification talks after having lost the election? What leverag would they have in crafting a new 32 county state? However if they say “ok, if we negotiate a UI from a position where a majority are pro Union and if the following was agreed on:
    A new name for the new nation
    A new flag 
    A new anthem
    A new system of governance that protects the interests and rights of the British minority

    then Unionism can present the case to its people and ask them to accept it as all guarantees would be met. 

    However if such per referendum talks do not take place , unionisms bargaining power vanishes if the referendum votes for a united Ireland

  • Reader

    MrPMartin: then Unionism can present the case to its people and ask them to accept it as all guarantees would be met.
    Even supposing that a united Ireland can be made more palatable through the changes that you mention; there is *still* no reason for unionists to actually vote for it rather than against it.
    Therefore the purpose of concessions would be to undermine and soften the unionist vote, not to win it over. For that reason, unionist parties aren’t going to be involved in setting this up.
    So, since nationalists are going to have to work through all of this on their own, here’s a hint. Visualise the protections and concessions that a nationalist minority would want, and offer the same to unionists. Then the only decision to make would be to decide whether to offer that across the 32 counties, or just within the reservation.

  • MrPMartin

    That’s a fair point Reader. Why haven’t we agreed a new flag and anthem acceptable to all for NI? We cannot have economic progress in a territory here politics is based on constitutionality and not economics. Our parties are parties of war and it’s fall out – even the Alliance for why would we need them in an undivided society. I don’t care what political territory I live in as long as all rights and cultures are institutionally respected and at least 95% of the people can identify with that state so then we can move onto a normal political system. Who do monetarist nationalists and socialisy unionists vote for in NI?

  • PaulT

    MrPMartin, unionists fear people like you more than they fear MMcG, not sure what name you have in mind for a new country, but I don’t think you’d hear any real arguements from nationalists, republicans or Irish people in general on what you want, in fact, Ireland plans on re-writing the consituation soon anyway, so why not get involved, as a republican I find the flag boring, I’d much prefer the harp on a blue background, I think the theme music from Dr Who would be a great anthem, and yes please change the system of government. Really interested to hear any suggestions on a new name for the country tho.

  • PaulT
  • MrPMartin

    PaulT, the new nation would be culturally Irish and British in all institutions; in actual fact, republicans may find themselves shocked to be living in a 32 county republic, as a member of the Commonwealth, with a the harp on a blue background in a new nation named The United Republic of Ireland and Ulster.

  • latcheeco

    Peter’s at a GAA game and Martin’s suddenly calling for a referendum on unity. People need to calm down and not be so jumpy. In good time the forces of law and order will no doubt have other (surgical) gloves they can lay on that released fella then everybody on the hilltop can go back to sleep.

  • john

    Just had a look at on this subject. 400 post in 12 hours mainly from a handfull of bloggers – I thought some of us had no life on this site me included but those boys! – are they permanently glued to their keyboard! By the way most of the debate was just waffle and a slagging match.

  • PaulT

    John, try the link again, I think you went somewhere else, quick peek at it again shows it is a lively broad based conversation among approx 40 people, and when you include all the sock puppets on slugger for some its a fulltime job here, speaking of sock puppets is that you Mic………….

    MrP, I thought you were on to something but now I’m lost, apart from giving 2nd rate athletes an opportunity to win medals what are the benefits of the commonwealth?

    And as for the new name of the state you appear to have just renamed but regions wrongly and put them together, in renaming the north ulster you kinda double count the 300,000+ people there who currently live in Ireland and why stick ‘”Republic” in front of Ireland.

    considering it is only circa 10% of the unionist community whose votes are needed I would imagine putting a good economic package on the table giving a better standard of living would do it. Esp as GB is running out of road to kick the can down, remember 80% of the deficit in 09/10 was from a drop in tax receipts and thats not improving as Gideon continues to target financial services offering them legal tax dodges as bait to bring them to the UK, if Aon is an example its a disaster, they’re moving 20 exes’ to the UK and will save 100,000,000 in tax, noone wins but Aon’s shareholders

    Ireland is the canary down the mine in Europes current economic woes, if it is not recovering in 3-4 years than the rest of Europe will have joined us and with no manufacturing base of note devaluing sterling is just an attempt inflate the UK out of trouble, but that will just damage NI even more as the cost of living continues to drop in Ireland.

    All in all, putting an extra couple of grand buying power in the hands of that 10% of unionism is all it will take, esp when they see HMG running after the Scots but disinterested in the Northern Irish\British

  • Framer

    Last time round, like the census (Joanne Mathers in Derry), the border poll was the occasion for IRA murder and bombing. Funny, now the world has turned upside down.

    Any apology offered or historic/public enquiry sought?

    The referendum under the Northern Ireland (Border Poll) Act 1972 was held on 8 March 1973 and boycotted by the nationalist population, hence the near unanimous majority vote in favour of maintaining the union. The boycott was led by the SDLP under Gerry Fitt. The day of the poll was the occasion for the London bombings by the IRA of the Old Bailey (where one man was killed) and New Scotland Yard for which Gerry Kelly, Dolours Price and Marian Price were imprisoned.

    Electorate: 1,030,084
    Votes polled: 604,256
    Non-voters: 425,828
    Percentage turnout: 58.66%
    Invalid (spoilt) votes: 5,973
    Total valid vote: 598,283

    Do you want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom?
    591,820 (98.92% or 57.45% of electorate)

    Do you want Northern Ireland to be joined with the Republic of Ireland outside the United Kingdom?
    6,463 (1.08% or 0.63% of the electorate).

    Unionist unity plus was very much in evidence – even the garden shed Protestants turned out.

  • Red Lion

    a large part of the debate – which has not even hardly been debated (quite revealing in showing where nationalism is at on the subject) is, what exactly is meant by ‘United Ireland’.

    One could argue, for instance, that a we are already living in an arrangement that is a ‘United Ireland’ or something which is not a kick in the arse off it (ie both ROI and NI endorsed the GFA and to that extent are ‘united’)

    a ‘United Ireland’ does not necessarily mean out and out Irish rule from Dublin. If you want your Ireland to be as united as possible (ie not have a too alienated and beleagered Unionist minority) has to retain a substantive British dimension in what is currently NI- substantive as in substantive input from Westminster, probably remaining in Commonwealth with Queen as head of state, and probable retaining of NI or at least Ulster for devolved government/policing purposes. Even many nationalists may prefer the stabilizing, economic and famiality(eg keep the British NHS system) of a Westminster input.

    Basically, a United Ireland entails a significant increase in input from Dublin, but measured and ongoing substantive input from London, albeit somewhat reduced and perhaps arms length, and ongoing existence of the NI state in significant form.

    In other words, some form of joint authority. The past has proven that simple majority rule politics doesnt work in NI, the GFA endorses this, and we aint gonna go back on that concept. Dublin certainly wont want to as it will live in perpetual fear of an unstable and costly NI and , paradoxically will be happy to bend over backwards to accomodate unionists in NI including keeping London on board as an insurance policy against costs, even though it may be to the dislike of many (but not all) nationalists in Ulster.

    Its hard to see how in the event of a ‘United Ireland’ it could be justified in the modern day for NI to be forced out of the Commonwealth – an over draconian act against NI’s substantial Unionist minority at that time. Again, we have moved away from absolutist majority rule in the GFA. Hard to see unless Irish nationalism shows no respect to the unionist minority and wants to be a complete bastard to the unionist minority – if Irish nationalism acts with fairness and generosity the stability of your country will be all the more likely. I actually think modern day ROI would be happy with NI remaining in the symbolic commonwealth

    The dogmatic Sinn Fein view of a United Ireland doesnt bear scrutiny and cant exist in reality.