Nothing in politics, nor in life, is “inevitable” [except death and taxes! – Ed] Indeed. That includes a “border poll” – despite the protestations of the former International Representative for West Belfast, then temporary Crown Steward, now Louth TD, and Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams. The Irish Times reports his latest outburst
“A border poll is inevitable. Mr Patterson knows this. It is only a matter of timing,” said the Sinn Fein leader. “By definition that will come when the people of our island have formed a cordial union of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter,” Mr Adams said.
“When a border poll is held Owen Patterson will have no vote on that issue. That is as it should be, entirely a matter for the people of Ireland.”
The Louth TD, who was speaking ahead of a party meeting in Gulladuff in Co Derry, added: “The political landscape in the North has been transformed in recent years and there is growing support for a united Ireland.
“A border poll is inevitable. Mr Patterson knows this. It is only a matter of timing.”
[Riddikulus! – Ed] Well, we know Sinn Féin’s preferred “timing”… But, as the BBC reported, the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, has no intention of playing along. Here’s what Owen Paterson told the House of Commons on Wednesday.
Mr Paterson: I can reassure the right hon. Gentleman on that. As Secretary of State, I have the right to call a poll when I feel like it; I have an obligation to call a poll when there is a clear indication that there would be a vote for a united Ireland. Given that only 17.4% were in favour of that option, and the fact that I have received hardly any phone calls, e-mails or letters on the issue, I have no intention of calling a poll at the moment. We should concentrate on the economy and on building a shared future; that is the real priority for the people in Northern Ireland. [added emphasis]
“British Secretary of State Owen Paterson has dismissed the possibility of a border poll,” Mr Adams told a Sinn Fein rally in south Londonderry.
“He has also blocked an enquiry into the killing of Human Rights lawyer Pat Finucane despite this being part of an inter-governmental agreement at Weston Park.
“He is also blocking a Bill of Rights. And he has been less than helpful on other matters like the Irish language. And his imprisonment of Marion Price is entirely stupid and unjust.
“But Mr Paterson would not be one the most adroit or skilful British secretaries of state to have been imposed on us. His remarks on the border poll have to be seen in this context.”
And he didn’t “[dismiss] the possibility of a border poll”. But you’re free to make your case for unification, Gerry… Assuming you’ve revised it since 1999. Btw, “Hollow nationalist rhetoric will not do.” On the other hand, it may just be another case of that occasional nostalgia.
And if Gerry Adams is wrong about Owen Paterson “[dismissing] the possibility of a border poll”, which he is, he’s even wrong-er about the NI Secretary of State “blocking a Bill of Rights”.
The blockage to a Bill of Rights in Northern Ireland [and an Irish Language Act – Ed] is the lack of consensus within the NI Assembly. More specifically, the lack of consensus within the Office of the First and deputy First Ministers.
The logic, such as it is, behind Adams’ latest finger-pointing is that he wants those things imposed upon the NI Assembly [Direct Rule Now! – Ed] Indeed.
The UK Bill of Rights may be heading to a Commission for now, but there’s still room for a debate about it. And as Hugo Swire, on behalf of the Secretary of State, also told the House of Commons on Wednesday
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr Hugo Swire): In September, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State wrote to party leaders suggesting the possibility of the Assembly taking forward work in this area; we have yet to receive a response. Ministers and officials have continued to discuss this issue with human rights organisations since.
Paul Murphy: The Minister will know, of course, that the establishment of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland was part of the Good Friday agreement, and that it is a matter for all people in Northern Ireland. Will he not accept, however, that both he and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State have a duty to bring about consensus rather than simply to listen to what people are saying without doing what is right and proper to ensure that we get consensus among all the political parties in Northern Ireland?
Mr Swire: The House will want to acknowledge the right hon. Gentleman’s part in the Good Friday agreement in trying to pursue the Bill of Rights. Frankly, however, that was when he should have pursued it, instead of squandering the good will that he and his Government had generated at that time. Let me give the right hon. Gentleman a couple of quick examples of our problem. First, the Secretary of State wrote to the First and Deputy First Ministers and all the party leaders back in September, but he has had no reply to his letters. Secondly, the Secretary of State for Justice wrote to the Office of the First Minister, asking it to nominate someone for the commission. It is now March, but no reply has been received. We thus face a problem, as we see no way forward without consensus. [added emphasis]
Lady Hermon (North Down) (Ind): As well as corresponding with the leaders of political parties in Northern Ireland, will the Minister kindly tell us whether his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General actually believes that Northern Ireland needs a separate Bill of Rights?
Mr Swire: My right hon. and learned Friend came to Northern Ireland several times when we were in opposition. He was always of the belief, as we are, that any rights particular to Northern Ireland should be tagged on to any UK Bill of Rights. I alluded earlier to a lack of consensus. The hon. Lady will be aware that in a debate in the Assembly last year, Members voted by 46 to 42 against a motion calling for a robust, enforceable Bill of Rights. As I said in answer to the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Paul Murphy) earlier, that is a perfect example of the problem we face. We cannot impose; this has to come from within Northern Ireland. When it does, we will respond accordingly. [Added emphasis]