Right then, let’s think hard about a border poll

The political conditions for the Scottish referendum were simple compared to anything likely to apply in Ireland.  With the dominance of the proportionality principle in the institutions, the weight of the GFA is against it and a new political chapter would have to be turned before it is conceivable. It would become a potential result of a good long time of stability not a way out of the present near- deadlock. So sorry to disappoint, but there won’t be a referendum anytime soon.

The law says the decision is up to the Secretary of State, in effect the British government in cooperation with the Irish government. S/he “shall lay before Parliament such proposals to give effect to that wish as may be agreed between Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and the Government of Ireland.” – not, note, to forestall the chance of unity, which seems to have been Peter Robinson’s motive for flirting with it.  It also locks the Republic into the decision. Even if Sinn Fein were to win a place  in a future Irish government it’s hard to see how  the Dail would vote for possible unity in anything  like present circumstances.

The Act is silent on the criteria for assessing support. This presents  the opportunity for  the sort of game Sinn Fein were inevitably  going to play in the wake of the Scotland vote whatever the verdict, with  the DUP squaring up to them. It’s a silly game of double bluff. A wider  Numbers Game may have begun at last in order to throw a political feint to distract the unwary from SF’s mulish obstructionism over the budget and the DUP’s over the Haas agenda. But they know it’s only an empty blame game.

Self-determination, the basic principle of our complicated little local democracy would have to apply. What would be the basic test of opinion in favour of a poll? A majority in favour in the Assembly? A majority of designated nationalists only? A majority of voters supporting nationalists who write a border poll into their 2015 and 2016 manifestos? What sort of majority – simple or weighted? (I guess simple because of the precedents). Would the Irish government and people have an effective veto (a) on a Northern poll (b) in the form of reluctance to hold their corresponding poll? There’s enough there to keep political onanists in agreeable fantasy for a decade or two at least.

However the two national governments and parliaments would be well advised to consider better criteria than the guesswork of a secretary of state.  I speculate that they would not allow a border poll if there was a serious threat to stability, even if they thought there was a narrow majority in favour. In that event nationalists could argue that a 1912 style crisis would be back in force with the threat of unionist violence behind it. A unionist boycott would be a simpler destructive tactic.  Such a situation would present a challenge to the whole community to consider stability before that point is reached.  This time however a simple unionist veto could not apply. Joint sovereignty might be the temporary default Who knows- the ranks of “other”  might  swell to become a  bigger factor.

More importantly, the rival main parties would do better to win cross community respect  by governing better. Some measure of cross community support is the essential test of political progress of any kind. And who can argue that at the moment that the DUP are the only obstacle  to progress? The key point to grasp is that a border poll would be a product of stability, not a threat to it.

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  • Bryan Magee

    In official circles the assumption has been that a first poll would be called if and only if nationalist MLAs were more than 50% of all MLAs, this is also the precedent in previous legislation, the Scottish case, and UK parliamentary procedure generally. Thereafter, if the poll was decisive, this criterion need not apply for another generation.

  • Zeno1

    “However the two national governments and parliaments would be well advised to consider better criteria than the guesswork of a secretary of state.”

    Guesswork? Lets be clear. There isn’t a single shred of evidence that there will ever be a United Ireland. What guesswork are you talking about?

  • Mark Dingwall

    You’ll not get a border poll until the powers that be think it will deliver ‘the right result’

  • personalhelicon

    How are the ranks of “other” factored into that equation, if at all?

  • Rugfan

    One thing the Scottish referendum teaches us is that identity is not the overriding consideration for many voters. There is plenty of evidence which suggests that economics would play just as significant a role in a border poll in NI. So why would anybody think we are anywhere near a position where the Secretary of State might think that a vote for a united Ireland would have the slightest glimmer of success?

  • Zeno1

    I agree with you. People are slowly realising that patriotism isn’t necessarily a a good deal for them. But it is good for the people who want their votes to achieve power.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    We discussed the trigger for a border poll at length a few weeks back.

    Basically there isn’t going to be one any time soon, but it is tactically smart for SF to call for one, because it shores up their own narrative of Britain denying Ireland self-determination, without exposing the failure of Nationalists to convince a majority of the electorate of their case.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    That’s pretty much what the Good Friday Agreeement says.

  • Mister_Joe

    The legislation (GFA, and SAA) doesn’t say anything about any designation for the purposes.. Only that the SOS will call a border poll if he or she thinks it has a chance of delivering Irish Unity. So that would be unlikely if there wasn’t a majority of Nationalist and Republican MLAs.

  • Mister_Joe

    In my opinion, that is. The SOS is given no guidance on how to make that call.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Given that Cameron’s gamble just about paid off with Scotland (a bit of the UK that they want to keep) then surely he could twist the rules a wee bit and call one for NI.

    You never know, he might get lucky again and be freed of Northern Ireland’s demands.

    And IF the votes don’t correlate with the sectarian head count then our politicians may have to re-evaluate their strategies.

    I say go for it.

  • Morpheus

    As I said yesterday,

    Northern Ireland is so far off a border poll it almost doesn’t warrant saying. From the PM’s speech yesterday:

    “But I am also a democrat. And it was right that we respected the SNP’s majority in Holyrood and gave the Scottish people their right to have their say”

    …so I think it is safe to assume that a nationalist majority in Stormont will ‘give the nationalist people the right to have their say’. We are waaaaaaaaay off that at the minute. 108 seats, 43 ‘Nationalist’, 9 ‘Other’ and 56 ‘Unionist’ – it’s not even close, especially considering nationalist seats have increased by a grand total of 1 since 1998. I can’t help but think it’s a bit of “Yeah there are 45% in Scotland but there is a load over here too.” Maybe it is a game of double bluff.

    As for the triggers for a border poll then you are right, we don’t know. As Nicholas pointed out we discussed it at length a few weeks ago and for me it was clear that if you asked 10 different people you got 10 different interpretations – except for 1 contributor of course who knows exactly what the triggers are (as does anyone with a modium of intelligence apparently) but it’s a secret he doesn’t want to share.

    But the fact SF/SDLP haven’t even bothered to ask highlights perfectly how lazy and complacent the nationalist politicians have become about the one issue they rank above all others.

    I do not think however that the threat of violence should supercede democracy – that’s why we have the police. Certain elements are always going to try to destabilize but if they debates are carried out respectfully then I don’t see why they shouldn’t proceed.

  • Morpheus

    Not sure nationalists would fall for the whole “Britain denying Ireland self-determination” line en masse – things have moved on, they walked into the GFA with their eyes open as well, it has been in there for close on 2 decades. To me this shout out is nothing more than “Yeah there are 45% in Scotland but there is a load over here too.” Or that God-awful phrase that is repeated ad nauseum in every scenario ending in ‘y’know’

  • Ernekid

    As a Fermanagh nationalist I’m open to the idea of a border poll but I think that there is dozens of opportunitys for cross border cooperation that would make the border less of an issue and would make any discussion of the border less volatile. I think it’s time to seriously beef up the all-ireland bodies. We could have cross border bodies for Tourism, agriculture, food regulation, energy, coastal protection and green technology.

    They could Also turn the North West into a genuine economic development zone. Turn Magee College and Letterkenny IT into the University of the North West. Promote the North Western counties of Fermanagh, Tyrone, Donegal,Derry, Cavan, Lietrim as an area of investment and Tourism. Upgrade cross border infrastructure. Upgrade the roads between, Sligo, enniskillen, Monaghan Omagh, Cavan and Armagh. Up grade the A5 to a dual carriage way so Derry and Donegal have access to Dublin easier. Upgrade cross border rail links turn the Dublin Belfast line to a High Speed railway so there would only be an hour between cities.

    Turn the East Coast into a economic corridor increase trade and development between Belfast and Dublin, make it easier for Northern kids to go to Southern universities and vice versa.

    Politically there could be joint committees for economic development, agriculture and European affairs between Northern and Southern ministers, change the Seanad so northern members can be elected to it and allow northerners and the diaspora to vote in Presidential elections. Have bimonthly meetings between the First minister and deputy FM and the Toiseach and the Irish government have a dedicated cabinet position for Northern affairs with the ability to advise northern politicians and works very closely with the NI Secretary of State.

    A list of the top of my head that would minimise the impact of the border and it wouldn’t lead to the division of a border poll.

  • Bryan Magee

    Emerald, one good thing that seems to have happened is that ministers in the NI Assembly, regardless of party, seem very happy to cooperate work with counterparts from the south to deal with the sort of issues you mention.

  • smcgiff

    Forget what the GFA says about a border poll. If a majority of parties call for a border poll it will be allowed.

    So, why would the DUP/UUP offer to accept a border poll? They would if they got something seriously desirable in return (especially as there should be no fear of it being a yes for Irish unification).

    SF and nationalists could offer the end to power sharing, and government by the majority if a border poll was called.

    Would SF/SDLP turn it down?

  • Michael Henry

    It’s time got the Secretary of State job to become democratic like the GFA-We can no longer accept a Un democratic person having any say on the GFA-the only ones who oppose democracy are the oppressors -the people in the six can vote for a person who wants to be Secretary of State- it’s democracy-

  • Ernekid

    Well the SoS is elected but by English constituents who couldn’t give a damn about NI or it’s inhabitants. The role of Secretary of State is the Spirtual successor to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. A disinterested Englishman who is posted to Ireland to deal with the troublesome natives trying to bring them to the table and keep them at arms length at the same time. The secretary of State is a bit obsolete since devolution is up and running. Maybe it could be replaced by a northern Irish MLA or MP selected by the assembly to act as a representative to Downing street and advise the British cabinet on NI affairs?

  • Zeno1

    Well over half a million people didn’t bother to vote. Probably a lot of them thought it was a foregone conclusion and there was little point. No doubt some would say it doesn’t matter who is in power ,so no point in voting. The rest must be real Don’t Cares. It would be interesting if Voting was made compulsory as the Ballot slip could read, YES, NO and WHO CARES.

  • Zeno1

    It’s not the Secretary of States fault that you can’t get a referendum. That is down to the “sharpest political party in Western Europe”.
    The real question is whether they made a serious misjudgement and actually did believe a United Ireland was on the cards for 2016………… OR……….. whether they realised in a moment of clarity that it was impossible and have been cynically trying to shift the blame to those evil Brits ever since………….OR………. United Ireland was a red herring all along and just used to get votes.

  • Michael Henry

    Like I said- The Secretary of State has not got a Vote here- and could not pay one person here to vote for them- they know that the Tory’s are dirt in ( Northern ) Ireland-it’s time for the democratic way-

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Excellent thinking Ernekid.

  • Tacapall

    If the GFA is up for renegotiation and with unionists wanting a
    return to majority rule then surely the quid pro quo for nationalists
    would be that with majority rule comes the authority to call a border
    poll by the party in government. The GFA is clear, it is up to the
    people of this part of Ireland alone who can and will decide their own
    destiny but as usual perfidious albion shafted those who seek change
    after the agreement was signed, just like they are now doing to the
    Scottish people, by interpreting the section of the GFA dealing with the
    border poll as only being applicable whenever our overlord decides its
    applicable, this will surely be changed in any renegotiation of the GFA.

  • Morpheus

    That was in the GFA which was distributed to every home in NI, it was agreed and voted on. The people spoke.

    The SNP got the referendum by becoming a majority in Holyrood. It’s clear what nationalism has to do. There are years of hard work, analysis and debate ahead before NI is even close to a referendum so nationalism as a whole needs to get it’s ass in gear and stop being lazy on the one issue they have as number 1 on their lists. Nationalists need to get off their asses come election day, safe seats or not

  • Tacapall

    Morpheus it was also agreed and voted on for power sharing now thats up for renegotiation and I dont think anyone interpreted that section of the GFA the way the British SOS did. Yes there is years of hard work for nationalism convincing unionists on the benefits of a united Ireland but just as many years hard work for unionism convincing their fellow countrymen that we are all equal in corporate UK. By the way you should reread the GFA its pretty clear about any future referendum and who’s responsibility it is to promote the benefits of a 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;

    Article 3

    1. It is the firm will of the Irish nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions, recognising that a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island. Until
    then, the laws enacted by the Parliament established by this Constitution shall have the like area and extent of application as the laws enacted by the Parliament that existed immediately before the coming into operation of this Constitution

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Why on earth would SF or the SDLP be interested in such a deal???

  • Zeno1

    “SF and nationalists could offer the end to power sharing”

    To get a Border Poll they can’t possibly win? I really really don’t see that happening.

  • Brian Walker

    Nicholas, Sorry I missed your discussion. I don’t see how the absence of a border poll supports SF’s narrative of denial. A majority of nationalists would surely have to register support for a specific proposal wither in an election or at least on the floor of the Assembly. Self determination is what we have already.

  • chrisjones2

    ANd the reason that the legislation is as it is is that is what they wanted so they could exploit this line

  • chrisjones2

    Yes she has. Shes the UK Minister responsible.

    Yes the Tories are derided in NI. But then this is a dependency economy and they advocate things like work that re unpopular

  • Comrade Stalin

    Brian,

    Some strange observations there :

    which seems to have been Peter Robinson’s motive for flirting with it.

    Peter Robinson hasn’t been flirting with it. In fact any time the question of holding a poll has come up Robinson has indicated that it should not happen.

    . Even if Sinn Fein were to win a place in a future Irish government it’s hard to see how the Dail would vote for possible unity in anything like present circumstances.

    The Dáil cannot vote for or against “possible unity” and I’m not sure the Dáil would have any involvement in the decision of whether or not to hold a border poll. This is a matter which is governed by the British-Irish Agreement and the Northern Ireland Act. If it appears likely to the Secretary of State that a majority in NI favour reunification then the Secretary of State must hold a poll, and the BIA requires that the Irish government most hold a parallel poll. The exact details would have to be negotiated between the two governments but there is no obvious provision on the Irish side to prevent a poll from occurring.

    If the poll occurs and indicates a majority in favour of reunification, then the British Irish Agreement, an international treaty, binds the governments to enact legislation to make this happen.

    What would be the basic test of opinion in favour of a poll? A majority in favour in the Assembly? A majority of designated nationalists only?

    You have correctly identified a hole in the legislation. The Secretary of State must believe that a majority in Northern Ireland are likely in favour of Irish reunification before he/she can call a poll. This is interesting on many levels, not least that the Secretary of State would be giving a speech in the House of Commons announcing that Irish reunification is now likely and therefore a referendum must be held.

    On the other hand, I think it will be very difficult for the British to avoid a referendum when nationalism manages to win 50%+1 of the vote in any election within NI at any level. This does not make reunification likely, though, so a minor constitutional crisis will arise which will have to be resolved by agreement.

    Given that the nationalist vote in the European election has dropped from a peak of 45.4% in the 1999 European parliamentary election down to 38.5% in the 2014 European elections and 38% in the 2014 council elections, though, the trends are showing that Irish nationalism within Northern Ireland is on the decline and there is no predictable prospect of a nationalist majority in NI. It is a question for SF and the SDLP to answer why the nationalist vote is dropping in the face of a built-in demographic advantage.

    In that event nationalists could argue that a 1912 style crisis would be back in force with the threat of unionist violence behind it. A unionist boycott would be a simpler destructive tactic.

    It is in the interest of unionists to hold a border poll right now. This has the benefit of calling Sinn Féin’s bluff (who cannot back away from a poll having now requested it) and effectively killing the debate over the border stone dead in the event that the nationalists inevitably lose. Nationalism will lose out in particular by there being electoral confirmation that not all SDLP and SF voters will vote for reunification.

  • Comrade Stalin

    So, why would the DUP/UUP offer to accept a border poll?

    Because the nationalists are guaranteed to lose without a single concession having to be made to buy them off. This would severely undermine Sinn Féin and the SDLP and rebuild confidence within unionism. It may be the catalyst for unsticking some of our sticking points.

    (especially as there should be no fear of it being a yes for Irish unification).

    But aren’t nationalists afraid of a no (which is what the election results and opinion polls all point to) ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    I think it’s time to seriously beef up the all-ireland bodies.

    I find this funny as well. The SDLP and Sinn Féin insisted on the all-Ireland dimension during the talks, for them it was a deal breaker.

    But those bodies have accomplished almost nothing since they were set up. Even when SF and SDLP ministers have been in charge of the relevant departments dealing with cross-border issues they’ve failed to use the possibilities of cross border work.

    Why open up more powers when nationalists show no appetite to use them ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    That’s a deliberate ambiguity.

  • Tacapall

    “It is in the interest of unionists to hold a border poll right now. This
    has the benefit of calling Sinn Féin’s bluff (who cannot back away from
    a poll having now requested it) and effectively killing the debate over
    the border stone dead in the event that the nationalists inevitably
    lose. Nationalism will lose out in particular by there being electoral
    confirmation that not all SDLP and SF voters will vote for
    reunification”

    Comrade Nationalism might very well lose a border poll if called tomorrow but depending on the numbers the genie will be let out of the bottle. Calling a border poll triggers the neverendum poll every seven years until such times as we do have a majority and if not, more local powers opens new doors, like Scotland we might not need a border poll, if we have the numbers we can, just like Scotland, Wales or England declare ourselves free from the union.

  • Comrade Stalin

    calling a border poll triggers the neverendum poll every seven years

    You are wrong – it does no such thing. A poll can only happen if the Secretary of State believes that a majority favour a UI. If an electorate which is 51% nationalist vote only 45% in favour of reunification, why would the Secretary of State call for a second poll unless nationalism significantly increased its vote beyond 51% ?

    if not, more local powers opens new doors

    What makes you think any of our local politicians have an appetite for new powers given that they can’t even be bothered to exercise the existing ones ?

    like Scotland we might not need a border poll, if we have the numbers we can, just like Scotland, Wales or England declare ourselves free from the union.

    Yeah but you can’t declare yourselves part of a united Ireland, so you’ll end up as some sort of bizarre Rhodesia entity with no recognition in international law and most likely caught up in civil war. But when did nationalists ever have two feet on the ground eh ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    (bangs head against wall)

    Michael, the provision granting the Secretary of State the power to determine when referenda are called is lifted directly from the text of the Good Friday Agreement which SF and the SDLP signed up to and which the Irish people endorsed.

  • Comrade Stalin

    They do ? What sort of issues have they dealt with ?

  • Tacapall

    Comrade when Irish nationalists become a majority in Stormont it wont matter what any British overlord says, if Irish citizens in this part of Ireland want a border poll there will be one and if they want one every seven years they wont need the permission of some English politician, if Cameron can promise only English MPs can vote on issues that effect England then im sure that same logic can be applied in this part of Ireland.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Comrade when Irish nationalists become a majority in Stormont it wont matter what any British overlord says,

    You are wrong. The Good Friday Agreement is very clear on this. You can believe what you like about a majority of nationalists but the text of the Agreement is clear and nationalists are committed to its implementation.

    if Irish citizens in this part of Ireland want a border poll there will be one

    The Good Friday Agreement says that there won’t unless the Secretary of State believes that it is likely to result in reunification.

    if Cameron can promise only English MPs can vote on issues that effect England then im sure that same logic can be applied in this part of Ireland.

    You are simply wrong and apparently you have not read the Agreement.

  • smcgiff

    But why call for a border poll then?

  • Big Yellow Crane

    Couldn’t agree more. Well said. I can understand that Sinn Fein might be in too much competition with FG/Labour to work with them but what’s the SDLP’s problem? They were always the proxy for the Republic’s government so where’s their North-South project?

  • Zeno1

    Republicans are just looking for someone to blame, repeating the myth that a Poll will be held every 7 years and inventing scenarios where a poll has to be called. All of this is because they can’t bring themselves to blame Sinn Fein for signing up to an agreement where they can’t even get a referendum.

  • Zeno1

    It’s a bluff.

  • Guest

    I agree the lack of any solid or coherent cross border ideas and policies from the SDLP is another factor in my continuing disillusionment and dislike of the pointless SDLP.

  • Tacapall

    Comrade you can quote the GFA all you like, everyone voted for all aspects of it to be implemented but weren’t some parts like the Irish language act and bill of rights reneged on and lately unionists are demanding the return of majority rule and it seems our overlord and Sinn Fein are open to discussing the matter so telling us Irish we cant decide our own future unless some British overlord allows us is not only arrogant but undemocratic if this is happening –

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/scottish-independence/david-cameron-faces-backbench-pressure-over-english-votes-for-english-laws-following-scottish-referendum-vow-9747266.html

    Mr Cameron’s decision that “English votes for English MPs” should proceed “at the same pace” as more Scottish devolution, saying that Labour and Conservative positions were now “irreconcilable”.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Are you saying that the Good Friday Agreement is invalid then ? That’s not the position taken by nationalists.

  • Tacapall

    How can it be valid Comrade when some parts have not been implemented after how many years and now unionist parties want to go back to where we started, majority rule, no-one voted for majority rule they voted for a power sharing system and I dont remember the people being asked to support the St Andrews Agreement or Hillsborough agreement. Will it be put to the people in a referendum if there are any changes to the set up at Stormont and majority rule is returned.

  • babyface finlayson

    Ok time for the democratic way. How do we make it happen?

  • Morpheus

    The GFA most assuredly does gives nationalists the ability to ‘get a referendum’, it has been repeated on here several times already

  • Comrade Stalin

    OK, I just wanted to establish that you are proposing tearing up the constitutional provisions of the GFA on the basis of the one or two provisions of it which haven’t been implemented.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Not necessarily – please read the detailed comment I added above which explains this.

  • Gaygael

    So I think we have established that the exact conditions for a border poll are somewhat vague.
    I think there is something in the suggestion that we are about to become a collection of minorities, that nationalist parties can try to argue for the poll. This is where we are in Belfast.

    55 of our MLAs designate as Unionist. I know Nats are significantly behind at 43 which I don’t see changing much until the assembly election after the next one. There are 10 others who are apparently ‘agnostic’ on the union. Pro union sentiment is a wafer thin majority of 1 in the assembly.
    Additionally, only half of our MPs are unionist. 9/18. 8 Nat and 1 agnostic again. This may move around a little next year at Westminster (pending Unionist pacts) but the argue net must be made that pro union sentiment is about to no longer be the majority opinion in Northern.

    However, Nats have a huge amount of groundwork to do. Like the YES campaign in Scotland, it can’t be about one party, and hitching the argument to a progressive, more equal Ireland

  • babyface finlayson

    A deliberate ambiguity that the parties agreed to/overlooked during the negotiations. Whose purpose does it serve?

  • Morpheus

    If you are saying that getting a border poll is difficult then I completely agree – I have been talking about this and the vagueness of the GFA on here and on the Belfast Telegraph forum for over 2 years now. In fact I made an effort at a blog for Slugger and the superb bangordub back in April entitled ‘State of (Nationalism within) the Union, a few questions…’

    http://bangordub.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/state-of-nationalism-within-the-union-a-few-questions/

    But if you are trying to tell me that the GFA does ‘not necessarily’ give nationalists the ability to get a referendum then to quote someone else, “You are simply wrong.”

  • Big Yellow Crane

    Do you think Alliance have done everything they could/should to model cross-border cooperation Comrade? You have Justice and Higher Education – two areas that must lend themselves to North-South alliance (see what I did there) from an all-Ireland police college to harmonised university entrance of even Ernekid’s idea for a Donegal tie-up with the University of Ulster. When do we start seeing a few Alliance MLAs or even Naomi Long on RTE Prime Time? What about a big push on Educate Together or ROI Commonwealth membership? How about another John Cushnahn type migration to FG? Got anyone who could win a seat in South Dublin?

  • Mike the First

    Actually, the Conservatives and Unionists received over 100,000 votes in the last General Election.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’m saying the GFA does not “give nationalist the ability to get a referendum” because you make it sound like nationalists can say “hey, give me a referendum now” and have their request acceded to.

    The power resides with the Secretary of State, and really what was obtained in the Agreement is no more than a formal codification of what was previously the understanding about Irish reunification.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Why are you asking me questions about Alliance ? What has any of this got to do with the question I asked Ernekid ?

    Since you asked :

    – I don’t really care that much about cross-border co-operation. If it’s a good idea, then do it, if it isn’t then don’t. I find it hard to get excited about it. What I do find interesting is that the nationalist ministers who pressed hard for this haven’t done a single useful thing with the cross border powers. I assume that they’re happy with this as they haven’t complained about any restrictions.

    – An All-Ireland police college cannot be delivered by the Justice Minister as powers relating to cross-border co-operation on police recruitment and training are an Excepted Matter and these powers are not devolved

    – I think most people would be alarmed at your proposal to withdraw Northern Ireland from the UCAS admissions system, and even if it was somehow possible (unlikely) the Minister for Employment and Learning would never get it through the Assembly

    – I imagine if RTÉ asked Naomi to appear on Prime Time to discuss a relevant issue she would happily do so

    – dunno anything about Educate Together

    – matters pertaining to the Commonwealth are international relations issues and are therefore reserved to the British government

    – I am not sure why you think Alliance would run a candidate in South Dublin given that the party is organized only in NI

    – I don’t know about anyone planning to switch to FG or any other party. How could I ?

    I trust that answers your questions, although God only knows why you asked them.

  • Big Yellow Crane

    Er…thanks is for the response. I asked because you seem a pretty vociferous champion for Alliance and I’m interested in your position. No need to sneer.

    I didn’t say anything about removing NI from UCAS. Students attending universities in the Republic use CAO. Stephen Farry is also the Minister for skills – an important role for his department is to improve the human resource available to the NI economy. The annual net loss of talent from NI to GB universities through a lack of available places in NI should be a concern even ignoring the opportunities to improve cross-border and cross-community relations through student exchange across the island. This is even more important when his department is having to refuse expansion plans for the University of Ulster at Magee and cutting back on training support for business.

    Educate Together already work with the NICIE. Highlighting the work on integrated education in the Republic would help Alliance convince nationalists in Northern Ireland that integrated eduction isn’t a unionist trick but is part of an island wide movement – apart from the practical benefits of a larger group of people working together for multi-denominational or non-denomination schooling.

    An ex leader of Alliance moved to the south to run as an MEP. The transfer benefitted both jurisdictions and provided a useful, organic link between Alliance and an Irish party of government. Why limit the opportunities for your candidates to NI positions?

    David Ford thought ROI commonwealth membership was important enought to write to the Irish Times in 2009 setting out reasons why Ireland should rejoin.

    Of course David Ford can’t unilaterally create an all-Ireland police college but he is responsible for the construction of the proposed Cookstown college and he is allowed to talk to his Irish counterpart. They’re both under budget pressure and now the fire service unions are saying they’re afraid to train with the PSNI. Joint training might make financial sense and the cross-border strategy agreed between the PSNI and An Garda Siochana includes joint training anyway. It’s not pie in the sky for some training to take place together.

    If Alliance are serious about dissolving boundaries within NI they have to be seen to be helping to dissolve boundaries across Ireland otherwise they’ll continue to be open to accusations that they’re just enlightened partitionists with nothing to offer people who’d see themselves as nationalists.

  • Robin Keogh

    I think there is an argument there regarding the Irish Governments influence on whether or not the British ever call for a poll. If its a case that Dublin approaches London and askes for a poll, I honestly cant see a London Government saying no. London might have fought to keep Scotland but no such fight will follow to save the north. Moreover, in as much as the SOS has to believe there is a possibility of unification in order to call for a border poll, there are simply no criteria set out as to how he or she might come to that conclusion. Effectively it means that the rule is very much open to interpretation and any set of circumstances could be presented to the public as a reason to believe a majority might be in favour. Even if it sounded like a load of stuff and nonsense, it still can be called. In terms of Nationalist represntation, we know its falling and we also know why. Simple numbers, more Unionists are voting over nationalists. SF and the SDLP need to have a look at this and see what the craic is, however Unionism desperately needs nationalists to stay at home come election time. The demographics are only going one way, in fact, its uite suprising how well SF and the SDLP have done in the past in terms of combined share of the vote. According to the 2011 census traditional nat community voters only make up 42% of the voting population. It will be 15 years before they overtake their neighbours in terms of numbers. Brin is quite right there will be no vote anytime soon, and I would imagine the number crunchers in SF know that the time is not right now. But getting it out for debate is most likley their priority. Warming people up to the conversation plants a seed of expectation, so whether it is called in 5 years or even 10, it will be easier to win if folk are expecting it.

  • babyface finlayson

    So if Nationalists were to unilaterally decide to have a referendum,how would that work in practice?

  • Morpheus

    Since I have quoted the relevant section of the GFA literally dozens of times I don’t know how you could possible have picked up on anything which even remotely suggests that nationalist just have to click their fingers and they get a referendum. Any chance you are arguing for the sake of it?

  • Robin Keogh

    ” If an electorate which is 51% nationalist vote only 45% in favour of reunification, why would the Secretary of State call for a second poll unless nationalism significantly increased its vote beyond 51% ”

    Now this is just silly, I am sorry. Any number of political events in a very short time could appear to influence the opinion of people to such an extent that the SOS might well be justified in calling another referendum.

    If we all cut through the bluff and bluster and faced up to the reality, I think most rational people who are skilled at being honest with themselves would agree that at some stage in the future there will be a border poll. I think it is unavoidable to be honest given the nature of the GFA, the demographic changes, the rise in SF and the plans to enhance devolutionary powers.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I picked it up from your use of the phrase “nationalists have the ability to get an referendum”, which implies that nationalists came into possession of something new and exclusive. The law doesn’t say that.

  • Zeno1

    The power to call a Border Poll lies solely with the Secretary of State and the UK Government. That was always the case. If Nationalist MLA’s gain a majority and the Polls say for example that only 25% of the electorate would vote for UI they can still say no and cite the GFA.
    The debate should be about why SF signed up to that.

  • Morpheus

    There is no implication about it. It is a direct statement that it is contained within the GFA that referendum can be achieved

  • Morpheus

    And if Nationalist MLA’s gain a majority and the Polls say for example that only 25% of the electorate would vote for UI they can still say yes and cite the GFA. That’s the point! It’s grey. It’s subjective. It’s the opinion of one person.

    But you know the exact triggers for a border poll – everyone else must not have that “modium of intelligence” you talked about – do tell.

    PS.What happened to your “I know the result within 4 percentage’ and your ‘between 60 and 68%’ prediction for the Scottish referendum? 🙂

  • Mister_Joe

    Dublin asking London to hold a poll? I hope the Ontario Government will pay for my stitches through OHIP (our equivalent of the NHS).

  • Robin Keogh

    If you are canadian, simply go home to Ontario and have them seen to. Quite simple really.

  • Zeno1

    PS.What happened to your “I know the result within 4 percentage’ and your ‘between 60 and 68%’ prediction for the Scottish referendum? 🙂

    What are you talking about? My last prediction said “I would be surprised if more than 35% of those that vote go for Yes”. The actual percentage was 38%. So was I within my own margin of error and a lot more accurate than almost all the polls.
    So go away.

  • Morpheus

    “That being the case the No vote will win and win by a somewhere between 66/33 and 60/40 of those that actually bother voting.” The Bluffer 🙂

    My apologies, it was 66%, not 68. My bad.

  • Zeno1

    correction* 35% of those that are entitled to vote.

  • Zeno1

    Once again I have to spoon feed you.

    This is the last prediction I made on the Scottish Referendum on Slugger.
    ====================================================================
    Zeno1 • 7 days ago

    I think the No Vote will win comfortably. The main reasons being (1) that it is more “fashionable” to be in the Yes Camp and people are telling fibs to the Polling Companies as the Poll approaches and (2) a natural fear of change. Especially when the situation you are in is not exactly unbearable. I’d be surprised if many more than 35% of the electorate vote Yes. (3) The electorate in Scotland is around 4.5 million. The SNP got less that half a million votes in the last election.

    ====================================================================
    The actual percentage was 37.77% so I was less than 3 percentage points out.
    That is more accurate than almost all of the Polling Companies.
    Now please go away and stay away. I’ve got no interest in having to explain the same things to you over and over again.

  • Morpheus

    So the 60-66 was what exactly? Brain fart?

    No chance on those triggers?

    Bluffer

  • Zeno1

    You must have a really sad life when you can not stop yourself from following me around and making snide comments when you think I have made a mistake..
    Even the simple fact that you constantly get it wrong doesn’t deter you. Any normal person would apologise and bow out, but not you. You think that by changing the subject no one will notice. I can assure you that people do notice.
    Now go away.

  • Morpheus

    Hahahaha, you sir are a bluffer.

    Peace out

  • Croiteir

    Maybe they believe that unionists would vote to join the Irish Economy which has published economic figures that show it grew by 7.7% in GDP terms and by 9% in GNP terms year on year. This is the strongest growth rate recorded since the early 2000’s the domestic economy growing with consumer spending up 1.8% year on year. After all – they are loyal to the half crown aren’t they?