Border Poll: “We may just call your bluff on this one Mitchel…”

So Arlene Foster tells Stephen Nolan:

“If we have the border poll then that instability goes away and, in actual fact, what we have is a very clear validation of the union and that’s something we’re looking at at the moment. So I’m saying to Mitchel McLaughlin and I’m saying to him very clearly, ‘We may just call your bluff on this one Mitchel, and be very careful what you wish for’.”

Hmmmm… Wee bit of dancing on the brink there from Arlene, yet not quite diving in… I suspect if there had been any clear will within the party to shove Sinn Fein into a border poll, we’d have had a clearer answer than that.  A ministerial slip is more likely. And more reflective of the sustained pressure the party’s been under for the last two months, than a new party policy.Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 13.35.09

As noted before, legislation makes clear, it won’t fall to the DUP or to Sinn Fein but the Secretary of State to call one. And then only when certain, albeit loosely defined, conditions are fulfilled. So to repeat what I said on Sunday’s This Week programme this is a useful fiction, but it’s little more than that.

If Mr Adams  is asking for something he knows he cannot get, Ms Foster knows it too. So tell me again, what has OFMdFM done in the last six months?

Or, as our friend Mr Martin put it back in December, is this yet another “distraction from the fact that politicians are not delivering on the issues that actually make a difference to the quality of people’s lives?”

Update: Secretary of State says, “Aye, right!”

“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.

“We believe that political attention is really better focused elsewhere. It is crucial that political leaders here concentrate on working together on pressing economic and social issues, including the rebalancing of the Northern Ireland economy and building a genuinely shared society, rather than being diverted into divisive constitutional debates.”

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty