Why Sinn Fein would actually want to call a ‘friendly’ Border Poll now…

This is from Good Morning Ulster with a great take from our own Chris Donnelly on Sinn Fein’s motives for calling a border poll the day after the Independence referendum result in Scotland was announced..

  1. to keep the issue of a united Ireland at the centre of political discourse in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein fear a normalisation of politics at Stormont.
  2. with a buoyant position in the south and dominance in the north a border poll would force other nationalist parties to take unification more seriously to reawaken an island wide unity movement beyond the ranks of Sinn Fein.
  3. it would very clearly be accepted by nationalists that this would be a dry run, this is a friendly, this isn’t the main match so there wouldn’t be the same pressures on people to think long and hard about it because they know it would be lost and therefore it would be more of a call to reaffirm an aspiration.

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  • Michael Henry

    The Quicker the Election is held to get ( or try to get )- a All Ireland the better- NO one saw the large late surge that came in the Scottish Referendum for the YES vote and it would be pointless if Ones predicted a YES or NO here unless a election is held- then we will know where we are at once and for all-

    Let the People speak-

  • Devil Eire

    4. To force the hand of other ‘republican’ parties in the south to take a position of either i) promoting a united Ireland (good result for SF) or, ii) remaining neutral thus allowing SF to claim the (southern-style) ‘republican’ mantle (good result for SF).

  • mickfealty

    Not dissimilar to the SNP’s effect in Scotland, drawing Greens, pushing Labour out.

  • Zeno1

    The problem for SF is they are on the hook in not even being able to get a referendum. The Unionists know this and will let them squirm. When Arlene Foster said on TV “Bring it on” (the Border Poll) SF nearly wet themselves with relief. They welcomed the opportunity to get the debate started and celebrated their luck for a short time, until Arlene was reined in. A Border Poll will only strengthen SF and will benefit no one else. It won’t happen in the foreseeable future.

  • Zig70

    Unionists only have a poll from a unionist paper to tell them the union is safe, a wee change in the wording could? Tomorrow is hardly enough time to prepare. They choose to ignore the actual voting of nationalists. Their nationalist acquaintances wouldn’t admit directly to their intentions on the matter much in the same way they wouldn’t say how evil Paisley was considered in polite company. Next time you air your views on how far off a united Ireland is, don’t listen for the affirmation, listen for the cutting short of the conversation or the vagueness of the answer. In a lot of work places, being openly nationalist in mixed company is seen as a career shortener. Unionists don’t seem to have the same hangup. Which all suits SF. Keep them busy foaming about flags and parades( art of war), keep Storming looking like a basket case. The yes camp came from 30% in 2yrs to 45%, all to play for. I just don’t think the leader is there who could build the necessary alliances. Who knows what could happen if Micheal Martin started to look to build some consensus with SF on the issue? You used to always hear ‘not in my lifetime’ but you’re more likely now to hear the opinion that it is a certainty in this lifetime. It would be good to see past the bull, I’m for a vote on it.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Zig

    I’d also imagine that the sure-to-follow gloating from unionist quarters in the event of a ‘no’ vote would only serve to shore up the ‘yes’ vote for ’round 2′

    Can you imagine Robinson or Frazer or the like being humble and conciliatory in the event of a ‘no’? Not something I’d bet on.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Interesting.

    What happens if another nationalist party does in fact take unification more seriously and comes up with some good ideas regarding a potential UI and even get some unionists interested??

    Would that be good for SF?
    Would they adopt said ideas?
    Would they castigate the party that comes out with the good ideas and deride them as traitors/British boot licks (or whatever nationalists call each other when they’re trying to discredit one another, the term ‘Lundy’ is hardly appropriate I’d imagine?)

    Interesting though.

  • Micheàl O Teamhneàn

    Let the English have a referendum on whether they wish to continue to pay 10 billion a year in subventions for this wee province and we would soon see a border poll

  • Bryan Magee

    These don’t seem like very good reasons.

  • Tacapall

    A border poll will happen because it is a bargaining tool for the British and a carrot for Sinn Fein. No-one within unionism thinks its a serious possibility of having popular support but then again thats what they thought in the last few weeks of the Scottish referendum and look what they eventually got from it, virtual independence. If anything a border poll would give nationalism and the British a rough guide on the numbers a starting point for the future generation.

  • These reasons are utter nonsense.

    1. The keeping unity on the agenda reason would be seriously stuffed by a significant vote in favour of the status quo.
    2. Forcing other parties to take unity more seriously? Also stuffed by a significant vote in favour of the status quo.
    3. And this “dry-run” idea is just completely made-up.

  • Steve Crawford

    Of course, the Unionists could just tell there electorate not to vote in it thereby rendering it meaningless.

  • Zeno1

    “Unionists only have a poll from a unionist paper to tell them the union is safe, ”

    Really ,even though………..
    Less than 23% of the Electorate vote for Nationalist Parties.
    (Why if more people want UI won’t they support Nationalist Parties)
    Less than 26% of the Electorate say they are Nationalist.
    (If you wanted a UI would you not call yourself Irish?)
    Less than 26% of the Electorate say they are Irish.
    (If you wanted a UI why not describe yourself as Irish)
    The Ipsos Mori Poll for Spotlight last year said less than 18% would vote for UI and there has never been a poll that says the people of Northern Ireland want to a United Ireland, yet you claim the only evidence is one unionist poll?
    You really are kidding yourself.

  • Zeno1

    Mick I know Chris is one of your bloggers but He really does spout some nonsense.

    “there wouldn’t be the same pressures on people to think long and hard about it because they know it would be lost”

    So we want to have a Border Poll but we don’t want anyone to think to much about it cos it just an oul bit of fun? What??
    Also why did he keep referring to Sinn Fein as “They”? Has he left the party or is he distancing himself from the reasons why SF want this Fun Poll?

  • Neil

    I personally think both sides have potentially plenty to gain by getting it out of the way. From the Unionist perspective, there seems to be confidence that the result would be very much in their favour. At the minute you have a significant group of people who are actively against the status quo living here. If Unionists wanted to make this place work in the current setup they’d benefit from putting the argument to bed by having a landslide victory. Sinn Fein would be forced to accept that unification wouldn’t happen for a long time. Should that happen a number of scenarios open up: SF could well take a severe electoral beating in the Republican heartlands, if not their partitionist credentials would be hard to deny.

    On the flip side, I and many others believe the surveys are clearly not very accurate. If they were the SDLP would be the largest nationalist party. I think there are a huge number of off the grid voters in this part of the world who don’t feature on electoral rolls or the census. I know a large number of them in West Belfast who would probably vote for unification, but wouldn’t consider voting in an election. I believe that if you polled people in East Belfast, and people in West Belfast you’d get a different picture from the NILT surveys, so the area that people are randomly selected from can make a big difference.

    In short, Republicans are unlikely to believe what they’re told on this one. If Unionists think it’s sensible for their long term aspirations for the Union to maintain this instability by not crushing the pro UI movement through a democratic vote then so be it. NI will continue to be inhabited by a sizeable minority (we’re told, but we cannot know obviously) who want to end the Union. Obviously there is now a sizeable minority in Scotland who have recently moved from fringe status to full on movement who feel the same way (we’re expected to believe that this minority is in fact larger in Scotland than in NI). The only way to gain any stability here is to lance the boil, get it done, deal with the outcome and move on. The head in the sand approach might keep the Union in place, for now, but it’s at the expense of the society that exists here.

  • Zeno1

    “On the flip side, I and many others believe the surveys are clearly not very accurate. If they were the SDLP would be the largest nationalist party.”

    So you don’t believe all the surveys and polls because one of them is clearly wrong? Obviously people are telling lies to the Survey because they are too embarrassed to admit that the support SF/DUP. The same thing happened in the Scottish Referendum as people in the No Camp also told fibs because they were also embarrassed not to be a positive Yes Voter.
    Surveys and Polls differ in the sense that a Poll is a snapshot and Surveys are ongoing. No one can take the result of one poll and claim that is fact. We know that the SDLP are not the biggest party because of the election results but we can take all of the available information and reach a valid conclusion. Around 1/4 of the electorate vote for Nationalist Parties (Elections), describe them selves as Irish (Census), claim to be Nationalist (NILT), and say they want a UI in the long term to the Polling Companies. There may be a few more but even if we use a 5% margin of error the maximum support can only be 30% at the very most.

    “I think there are a huge number of off the grid voters in this part of the world who don’t feature on electoral rolls or the census.”

    Almost half the electorate don’t vote, but the non voters in Unionist areas are higher than in Nationalist areas, so they would at least cancel each other out.

  • Twilight of the Prods

    ‘1-to keep the issue of a united Ireland at the centre of political discourse in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein fear a normalisation of politics at Stormont.’

    For SF that makes sense -but it’s a lazy reactive approach that lacks strategy – and won’t really catch light- the lesson SF should learn from the SNP is the potential of constructing a transformative civic nationalism. They are currently light years from this – and are at a disadvantage given the communal structure of our national identities here. But it could be a goal.

    ‘2-with a buoyant position in the south and dominance in the north a border poll would force other nationalist parties to take unification more seriously to reawaken an island wide unity movement beyond the ranks of Sinn Fein.’

    Maybe. I don’t know. To have any success I think that southern aspect would have to borrow heavily from the civic national approach outlined above- SF is doing well down south because it is a capable organised and populist rejoinder to ‘establishment’ parties not becasue of its credentials on unification/the peace process. The party consensus down south is deeply partitionist. Difficult to challenge.

    ‘3-it would very clearly be accepted by nationalists that this would be a dry run, this is a friendly, this isn’t the main match so there wouldn’t be the same pressures on people to think long and hard about it because they know it would be lost and therefore it would be more of a call to reaffirm an aspiration.’
    This is an enormous admission of anti-partitionist weakness and the paucity of the SF strategy. Tumbleweeds must waft thru Connolly House if that is a reflection of their thinking. You are effectively saying ‘don’t take the issue seriously, this is just to register how many of ‘our lot’ there are as opposed to ‘themmuns’ – but we can project it as a narrative for unification, even though we realise people aren’t thinking long and hard about the issues, and its thus not representative of the real thing’
    We unfortunately have a superabundance of those type of polls here- they are called ‘any NI election’.
    Rethink all of this. Go back to basics like Salmond. Build something ground up and transformative. Even though you are unlikely to convince me to break the union it might help to give the whole political set up a bit of shake – and that is something I would be grateful to Republicans for.

  • Alan N/Ards

    I’m looking forward to the parties in the south coming forward with some good ideas about a UI.
    I wonder if SF has any good ideas about what would entice unionists in NI to give a UI a go? If they have none, they could/should ask ordinary unionists their opinion on what sort of UI they could live with.

  • Neil

    The percentage of the electorate that does not vote is based on census information. If they don’t fill out the census, then they don’t figure in the non voters column. It’s merely my opinion and is beside the point.

    Around 1/4 of the electorate vote for Nationalist Parties (Elections),

    40% of the electorate at the last election. So around 1 in 4 if you’re determined to undercut it as significantly as possible. Or put another way, damn near half, and 4% behind the Unionist parties. Sounds a lot closer when you put it like that doesn’t it?

    NILT may well say around 1 in 4. See election results above. Obviously if they’re 15% out at a figure of 25% then the error margin is over 50%, which makes the survey *drum roll* toilet paper. Maybe they’re ringing around North Down too much and not calling West Belfast as much as they should.

    It’s all a bit pointless and beside the point anyway. If Unionists want a stable NI in the Union, it’s my opinion that their cause would be helped by having a border poll – if they’re as correct as you seem to think they are. However if you think the way forward for Unionism is to keep the instability inherent in having a serious chunk of the electorate wanting to secede, and still believing (rightly or wrongly depending on your point of view) that they’re in with a shout of winning a referendum then by all means resist the poll.
    If you think Unionism will win as significantly as you suggest above my point is that you will kill the argument, you quite possibly damage SF irreparably and you leave NI (and that’s both Unionists and Nationalists btw) in no doubt about it’s constitutional future.

  • Zig70

    I could well be kidding myself. I’d like to see a poll that asked if they thought a ui was the best status for Ni or some other aspirational question and balance it with another unionist leading question. Maybe even frame the poll in 5yrs. All would give varying responses, but we’d see a range. Also though, only the people that vote count. Definitely worth a rattle. Nothing to lose for me.

  • Zeno1

    The Electorate is over 1.2 million and less than 300,000 vote Nationalist.
    A referendum will be divisive, even Scotland have had problems and it would be much worse here. A conclusve NO Vote would only serve to bolster extreme Republicans who already claim SF have been bough and sold for English gold. There would be claims that it was a fix and a lot of people would refuse to believe it in much the same way they don’t believe the polls.

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    I don’t believe for a minute that Sinn Féin want a border poll now or even in the short/mid term. They’re merely using the opportunity presented by the Scottish referendum to remind people that the party hasn’t completely forgotten about their supposed main aim.

  • Neil

    The Electorate is over 1.2 million and less than 300,000 vote Nationalist.

    Yeah, and The Electorate is over 1.2 million and less than 310,000 vote Unionist. That doesn’t really prove anything though.

    A referendum will be divisive, even Scotland have had problems and it would be much worse here. A conclusve NO Vote would only serve to bolster extreme Republicans who already claim SF have been bough and sold for English gold. There would be claims that it was a fix and a lot of people would refuse to believe it in much the same way they don’t believe the polls.

    I disagree that it would be in the same way they disbelieve poll(s), because, for example, when poll(s) – basically NILT, tell us that SF is lagging behind the SDLP in support, one could be forgiven for questioning the veracity of that due to the election results. What we’re expected to believe is that the NILT poll is wrong about everything except support for unity.

  • Big Yellow Crane

    Alex Kane is right that the triggering method for a referendum is too vague. We’d be better to adopt a bit of direct democracy from the US with petitions for the inclusion of a proposition in the next NI-wide ballot. If we copied Michigan’s rules for constitutional amendment then 10% of the number of people who voted in the last election (about 67,000) would be enough to add a proposition for something like “Should Northern Ireland Stay In The United Kingdom” to the next Westminster election or Assembly election. Westminster would make more sense as a new UK government would have a whole term to act on he outcome.

    http://ballotpedia.org/Initiated_constitutional_amendment

    http://ballotpedia.org/Laws_governing_the_initiative_process_in_Michigan

    If 500,000 were happy to sign the covenant then you’d hope SF and the SDLP could find 67,000 to sign a ballot petition.

  • Max

    Zeno you have been told time and time again about the figures. You are obsessed about the Nationalist Vote. Yet you made no mention to the similar levels for the unionist vote.

    2011 Stormont Elections (Excluding APNI)
    Total Unionist Vote was 25% of an electorate of 1,213,136
    Total Nationalist Vote was 23% of an electorate of 1,213,136
    Only 2% difference

    Lets make it even more interesting for you.using census figures.

    875,717 Protestant or Protestant Background
    = 681,915 over the age of 20
    so 681,915 / 1,213,136 electorate = 56%

    817,385 Catholic or Catholic Background
    = 580,621 over the age of 20
    so 580,621 / 1,213,136 electorate = 47%

    Only 9% difference !

    2010 Westminister Elections
    Total Unionist Vote was 51%
    Total Nationalist Vote was 43%
    Only 8% Difference (Considering its not that important to
    Republicans, even i did not bother voting)

    I would suggest that the unionist community have a major problem here getting the vote out, much worse than Nationalists. We all know that the Protestant community are older and hence more inclined to vote. Whilst the Catholic community are much younger (theres over 100,00 more protestants over the age of 20) yet they can only manage a small 9% difference..

    Also I am Northern irish and proud and a Republican. I am sick to death you claiming my identity as somewhat unionist. I am certainly not. You would be as well to remember that the vast majority here rejected the British identity.

    Unionism cannot dictate the pace of change here anymore.
    Of course dont let actual facts get in the way of your precious wee polls that you fawn over.

  • Zeno1

    The BT Poll asked if people would like to see a UI in 20 years time. If I remember correctly 26% said they would.

  • Tacapall

    If Sinn Fein are prepared to let the Executive fall over Welfare reform why would they not push for a Border poll on the 100th anniversary of the 1916 rising ?

  • Zeno1

    “I would suggest that the unionist community have a major problem here getting the vote out, much worse than Nationalists”

    Those who favour the union or the status quo don’t need to go out and vote, but nationalists must if they want change and they don’t turn out.

    What evidence do you have that all Catholic want a UI? All the available informations says less than half do. Only about 1/3rd of Catholics vote for SF.

    “Also I am Northern irish and proud and a Republican. I am sick to death you claiming my identity as somewhat unionist. I am certainly not.”

    Hilarious. Republicans won’t ever use the words Northern Ireland. Yet claim to be Northern Irish.

    But no matter, if you believe yourself to be correct and the number of people here that want a UI is close to those that don’t every single poll is wrong and an awful lot of people are telling lies when only 25% actually say they are Nationalist. And an awful lot of those that want to be Irish are describing themselves as Northern Irish instead.

  • Morpheus

    And the first YouGov poll for Scottish independence had support at 29% – things change.

  • Morpheus

    Because it is incredibly lazy and is doomed to fail. Years of graft and debate are needed first.

  • Morpheus

    A referendum is always going to be divisive – some will say yes and some will say no, that’s the nature of the beast.

    Is this where you mention the number of gun licenses in Northern Ireland again? 🙂

  • Tacapall

    “Because it is incredibly lazy and is doomed to fail”

    I bet thats what some people said in 1916 about the Easter Rising too Morpheus. Anything, anything at all as long as its peaceful that brings us one step closer to removing the Crown from Ireland is always worth it no matter, even if it fails it still puts the ball back into the British court.

  • Zeno1

    The NILT is a survey. The Polls all say the same thing and that is there is little support for a UI. Are all the polls wrong? Every single poll? That is almost mathematically impossible.

  • Neil

    All both of them? That depends. If they stood on the Malone Road asking people then yeah. If they used phone interviews then yeah. If they consistently come up with the result that SF is getting spanked by the stoops then yeah. The only poll that matters is the one in the booth. Every survey I’ve seen has been wildly inaccurate on that one measurable count, therefore there’s a trust issue with the rest of the conclusions.
    I’ve always found it strange that Unionism would resist a referendum on their key issue that they are so certain they would win and win well. I suspect that many of them don’t believe the survey(s) themselves otherwise they’d be itching to stick to to SF and their electorate. Instead they seem to have come over all sympathetic and don’t want a poll because they’d win it by too much.

  • Alan N/Ards

    If you want to remove the Crown from NI then why not push for an independent NI. Surely that could please all sides in NI. No London rule for nationalists and no Dublin rule for unionists. I would happily vote for that. Just a thought.

  • Zeno1

    So even though Polling is incredibly accurate you just don’t want to believe the results is what I’m hearing.
    The Unionists won’t let a referendum happen easily because the have SF on the hook. SF would love even a losing referendum. They would then wink and say it’s a long war etc. But now they can’t even get a poll because they signed up to letting the Brits call one when it suits.

  • Neil

    Incredibly accurate? What you mean the way there’s an error margin of around 50% regarding election results and party share? Or is it only accurate regarding the border poll aspirations? What I’m hearing is that you will continue to believe the poll is accurate regardless of proof to the contrary.
    I don’t believe they have SF on a hook, because I think the shinners are scared to hold a poll. Sure they have to say they want it, but if you’re right regarding support they are in deep trouble. SF would not love a losing referendum in my opinion because it will expose the fact that they have misjudged things completely. They’ll start losing support in West Belfast, Derry and elsewhere.

  • Morpheus

    YouGov poll showing support for Scottish Independence:

    24/10/2012: 29% support independence
    16/09/2013: 32% support independence
    09/12/2013: 33% support independence
    24/04/2014: 37% support independence
    15/08/2014: 38% support independence
    05/09/2014: 47% support independence

    Things change.

    “The Brits” don’t call one when it suits, the SoS calls one when he/she is confident of success.

  • Morpheus

    This was only SF saying “yeah, yeah, yeah, 45% in Scotland but there are a load over here too.”

    The key thing for SF is starting the process and debates, not the actual poll itself which would likely be years down the road even if we all agreed to have one now. To suggest they are on any sort of a hook is laughable, this shout out was a win-win situation for them: agree to referendum: great, the process begins. Don’t agree to a referendum: carry on regardless but at least it’s in the headlines

  • Zeno1

    There is a mechanism for that in YouGov petitions.

    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/41022

    That’s the only relevant one I could find.

  • Zeno1

    So because one survey gets in wrong. You think all Polls are wrong?
    Sinn Fein would love it because it is better than what they have now.

  • rabbyjohn

    Does SF think that welfare reforrm is only being enforced in NI.It’s UK wide.Tough Titties,as the man said….

  • Big Yellow Crane

    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk

    10 Downing Street already has a site. Apparently the Free State had a provision for petitions but they took it out to stop republicans petitioning to drop the oath. New Zealand has a similar law to the U.S. The online petition would help if people didn’t want to publicise their support but I don’t know how you’d avoid fraud. Seems it’s one if those things that sounds hard to do until you read how many parts of the world already do this. Even collecting the names for the petition would start the conversation and build the activist base.

  • Zig70

    Ah, back to the value of anything written in the BT on nationalist opinion. You may well be right, I just think swaying that opinion is not as challenging as some may hope.

  • Dixie Elliott

    Jim McVeigh: “Martin do you think we should push for a border poll Scotland just missed out?”

    McGuinness: “Flippin’ hell Flash, catch a grip, if we get a United Ireland the British will stop funding us!!”

    Jim McVeigh: “Fakes sake, I never thought of that…I’m getting a ladder to take all those Tricolours down!”

  • Zeno1

    It’s very simple Zig. Around 270 thousand people vote Nationalist,claim to be Nationalist and say they are Irish. That is where the core vote for a UI will come from. To win the Vote on an 85% turnout ,which doesn’t seem unreasonable. All of those would have to vote Yes and be joined by another quarter of a million voters who have up to now made no indication that they want a United Ireland.

    Does that seem remotely possible?

  • Zeno1

    “they could/should ask ordinary unionists their opinion on what sort of UI they could live with.”

    One without Sinn Fein would probably be the top answer to that question.

  • Martyn Parry

    Could Dublin afford a UI?
    Could people in NI afford to live in a UI considering the cost of living in ROI?

  • Martyn Parry

    I have some questions:-
    Could Dublin afford a UI?
    Could people in NI afford to live in a UI considering the cost of living in ROI?
    Do the people of ROI want a UI?

  • Morpheus

    All good questions – let’s find out the facts

  • Big Yellow Crane

    Alex Maskey was giving “lazy journalism” a hard time this morning for repeating the line that Northern Ireland couldn’t afford to look after itself and was being yelled at by a lazy journalist about the Barnett formula. It’s worth taking a look at the graphic below which was from the Guardian in 2012. The NI proportion (on a population basis) in 2012 of total UK expenditure is £19Bn. The actual devolved budget was just £10Bn. I don’t believe anyone has a serious clue as to what the true tax take is here. The Office of National Statistics has published a report saying they’re not capable of producing regional accounts and that they guess at regional economic activity by sampling 1% of payrolls. Which sounds like another way of saying its a wild guess. The statistics office returns I complete for my business ask about employment at different business locations but not the amount paid at those locations or where the work done comes from. Does a project manager based in NI, working on projects in Scotland and paid by a consultancy head-quartered outside London – which is where their PAYE gets paid – count towards the NI tax take?

    Short of insisting that all firms separately incorporate in NI we’re not going to get a clear picture on this so we’ll need to learn to have a more civilised conversation about it. We could start by remembering how much UK expenditure comes nowhere near us.

    http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/dec/04/government-spending-department-2011-12

  • tmitch57

    In the referendum petitions in the United States, petitioners are required to provide a valid address along with a signature–these are then carefully checked to see if they meet the eligibility standards with those using false names or addresses eliminated from the total. I know, my state had a recall campaign for governor last year.