Taoiseach on Border Poll: “There are much more serious issues to deal with in the immediate terms and that is where our focus is.”

Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, was, rightly, quick to dismiss Sinn Féin’s attempted distraction predictably opportunistic call for a border poll following the EU referendum result.  Here’s what she told Radio Ulster listeners

“The Good Friday Agreement sets out the conditions under which I am required to call for a border poll – those are when I believe that there’s a reasonable likelihood that there would be a majority for a united Ireland,” [Theresa Villiers] said.

“There’s nothing to indicate that that would be the case – quite the contrary, the research and opinion polls have tended all to make it very clear that the majority in Northern Ireland support the political settlement under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and hence Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom.”


Additionally, on the night of the count, both Lee Reynolds of the Leave campaign, and Tom Kelly of Remain, acknowledged the somewhat cross-community nature of the vote to the BBC NI’s Mark Devenport.  Furthermore, Sinn Féin national chairman, Declan Kearney, MLA, whilst contriving to blame Brexit on “partition”, and complaining of a “democratic deficit”, also told Mark Devenport that “both republican and unionist, catholic and protestant, those of no faith background” had voted for Remain.  I’ll return to the “democratic deficit” in a later post.

The helpful people on the BBC’s EU referendum team also provided a Reality Check on a referendum for a united Ireland.

None of which prevented Sinn Féin issuing seven separate press releases yesterday on the same topic. [For seven separate audiences? – Ed]  Perhaps…

What was notable amongst the seven,  in comparison to, say, Gerry Adams’ call for an “all-island, all-Ireland view”, was Martin McGuinness’ hypocritical [and partitionist? – Ed] complaint that “the people of the north of Ireland” were being “[dragged] out of the European Union against our democratically expressed wishes” when Sinn Féin continues to campaign for an unconstitutional all-island referendum on a united Ireland – which has the potential to see “the people of the north of Ireland” “[dragged] out of the [United Kingdom] against our democratically expressed wishes”.

But, perhaps, the best response to Sinn Féin”s attempted distraction came from Taoiseach Enda Kenny – as the Irish News reports

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said there was no evidence of a shift in the Northern Ireland electorate that would prompt a border poll.

“There is no such evidence,” Mr Kenny said.

There are much more serious issues to deal with in the immediate terms and that is where our focus is.” [added emphasis]

Indeed – redux.

  • Abucs

    I suppose Sinn Fein needs to follow on the coat-tails of the SNP to keep their supporters happy but they won’t win any new friends in what looks like a divisive call which disrespects the GFA.

    Befriending unionists is always going to be a pre-requisite now for a United Ireland. This doesn’t help IMHO.

  • hotdogx

    An all Ireland referendum is constitutional depending on how you look at it. It can be two separate referendums north & south on the same question, or One referendum on one question to all of Ireland, but the last time this was done before partition the Brits ignored the result and divided and conquered how they saw fit & now they have done it to themselves with Brexit. nowadays and post GFA we had to agree to the status of NI just to get peace so it will be two referendums regardless of what SF want.

  • Roger

    An all Ireland referendum is an “all Ireland” referendum.
    It’s not two referendums carried out in two separate jurisdictions; regardless of whether the same question is asked.
    “…this was done…”. No. It was never done before. There was never a referendum in the former Ireland.
    “…so it will be two referendums”; Yes. One in Ireland and one in the UK, NI region.

  • Surveyor

    Does an editor actually write those “witty” asides or is that your doing Pete?

  • Reader

    Enda Kenny: There are much more serious issues to deal with in the immediate terms and that is where our focus is.
    Yes, you can look forward to harmonisation of Corporate Tax rates across the EU now the Brits aren’t going to be obstructing it any more. Or Ireland could join the EU Awkward Squad?

  • Reader

    Ciaran. Brexit doesn’t take us out of the ECHR. That’s a separate membership which would have to be dealt with by Parliament.
    (The same applies to UEFA, in case you were wondering)

  • Reader

    Ciaran, I think the idea was put forward by Cameron years ago. In case you didn’t know, he was a prominent member of the Remain campaign.
    Now, what do you reckon are the chances of getting that one through the current Parliament?

  • Jag

    When “computer says no” Madame Villiers arrogantly reneges on the Good Friday Agreement and undermines the democratic wishes of people on this island, she opens a Pandora’s Box of horrors which won’t be easy to contain. Croppy won’t lie down when Scotland gets not just one, but two referendums on its constitutional future outside the UK.

  • Zig70

    Enda Kenny is no friend of Northern nationalists, we knew that anyway though in the current Dail situation the parties committed to unification are in the majority and should remind him of that. Surely Michael Martins viewpoint is more relevant, just a pity no party can unify nationalists never mind Ireland. SF are completely divisive and Martin has spent the last few years slagging the northern politicians.

  • It’s unsurprising that Kenny doesn’t consider Irish unity as being amongst the “more serious issues” or one where his focus should be.

  • Katyusha

    The only thing Theresa Villiers needs to be quick to do is resign. Win or lose, she has shown herself to be remarkably out of touch with the Northern electorate.

  • Brendan Heading

    they won’t win any new friends in what looks like a divisive call which disrespects the GFA.

    Calling for a border poll does not disrespect the GFA. It may be stupid, divisive, electioneering or any number of other things, but it is not prohibited by the GFA.

  • hotdogx

    yes there was, the Irish general election of 1918, who did we all overwhelmingly vote for, ill let you tell me roger

  • Reader

    Hmm, a 49% vote for parties supporting Irish Independence. Not actually overwhelming. Three percentage points short of the Brexit vote, and an even more embarassing geographical split.
    Have you changed your mind about counting an election as a referendum?

  • ted hagan

    Hear, hear. Here arrogance and condescension is breathtaking.

  • Declan Doyle

    Enda Kenny? Seriously? Fine Gael are a Unionist party so let’s not get too fixed on anything their leader might say. Also, you deliberately tell untruths, nobody has suggested northern citizens get dragged out of the UK against their wishes. Being scared by a border poll is ur issue.

  • ted hagan

    I think you will find if you research it properly it was at least 53 per cent because of the SF seats that went unopposed. Unionists I think had 23pc, Hard to argue with that. Maybe you should check your calculations instead of trying to appear smart?

  • John Collins

    WTF are you talking about? In 25 constituencies in the most Nationalist of constituencies there was no election, as the HR Party and Unionists refused to even put up a candidate, so dismal were their chances of making a decent showing. never mind winning. Nobody disputes that 52% was a clear cut victory in the Brexit Referendum. It is quite clear, and indeed acknowledged by observers. who were never friends of Sinn Fein, that if all 104 constituencies were contested the 60% or close to it mark would have been struck by the separatists. But of course even that would not have been ‘overwhelming’ enough for some people.

  • notimetoshine

    Thing is and something I’ve never been sure of, is she here to represent the people of northern Ireland or is she here to represent and carry out the policies of the Westminster government as they pertain to NI?

  • Anglo-Irish

    I can only assume that you are being sarcastic, she is obviously there to represent the interests of Westminster, just like every Northern Ireland Minister and Irish Viceroy before her.

  • notimetoshine

    No I as honestly curious, what she does and what she is supposed to do are two different things after all. But I always wondered when I heard various secretaries of state saying they are serving or helping the people of NI, when they are members of a government not elected by people in NI or indeed accountable to the people of NI

  • Jollyraj

    It’s been obvious for at least a decade, arguably several, that a lion’s share of the population of the Irish Republic have no real interest in forming a new country with the people of NI.

  • Jollyraj

    “Fine Gael are a Unionist party so let’s not get too fixed on anything their leader might say”

    So you’re only interested in the views of that portion of Irish people who already agree with you? Small wonder the canny Irish keep the nationalists of NI at a very safe distance…..

  • NotNowJohnny

    Fine Gael is not a unionist party and never was. How did you come to the conclusion that it was?

  • murdockp

    I feel we are finally moving away from religion and Unionist / Republican / Nationalism and moving towards ‘values’ which is very different indeed.

    We are moving away from those who want to aspire to live in the 1950’s england looking backwards at the England last seen on the Darling Buds of May and towards those that see themselves as living in a modern, prosperous, outward looking progressive European economy.

    SF will not be leading this vision, they and their supporters are more likely to be seen dressed in period paramilitary costume with faux facsimiles of the proclamation declaration singing folk songs about how great things use to be.

    The day they pack away the tricolours and and the period costumes is the day the penny will have finally dropped, Irish unification can be secured by focusing on hope and aspiration.

    I think the progressive 46% of the NI population who don’t vote are the people who will latch on to this as they have been ignored to date by the politicians.

  • Zig70

    Every poll in the south has been in favour of a UI. The problem is they think a vote for a UI will restart the conflict and they aren’t equipped to handle terrorism on their own.

  • murdockp

    The legislation is very clear, the order for making the poll is perfectly reasonable and can only be done ever seven years which again is reasonable.

    Asking for a poll to happen would not be disrespecting the agreement, it would in fact be due process.

    See below;


    The Secretary of State may by order direct the holding of a poll for the purposes of section 1 on a date specified in the order.

    Subject to paragraph 3, the Secretary of State shall exercise the power under paragraph 1 if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.
    The Secretary of State shall not make an order under paragraph 1 earlier than seven years after the holding of a previous poll under this Schedule.

  • murdockp

    Resign, I don’t think so, she is due a promotion as a prominent leave campaigner.

  • Anglo-Irish

    When Garret Fitzgerald was Taoiseach he tried to persuade Margaret Thatcher to invest in NI, because he thought – wrongly in my opinion – that if people had jobs they would be less inclined to violence.

    Her response led him to the conclusion that ” She wasn’t a Prime Minister for the United Kingdom, she wasn’t even a Prime Minister for England, she was a Prime Minister for the South East of England “.

    That is basically how it works in the UK. In England the government waffle on about the ‘Northern Powerhouse’. Since that bold comment the only government move we have seen take place in Sheffield is the closing of the local BIS office and it’s relocation to London.

    The referendum result was in my opinion a backlash against this type of attitude from the political class.

    There have been numerous instances of people who voted leave stating that they didn’t want to leave the EU they just wanted to register a protest.

    The regions are regarded as second class citizens and a drain on the London financial elite.

    In order of interest I’m afraid NI comes bottom of the pile, the English regions and Scotland and Wales may be a nuisance but they are connected by geography NI is in another country.

  • murdockp

    Ireland joining the commonwealth would achieve this at a stroke and open up new markets as well.

    It is something to think about, the heritage and culture of the Unionists needs to be respected. Ireland is a confident enough nation to do this now.

  • LiamÓhÉ

    Any potential for an NI border poll to achieve reunification with the EU and Irish unity is dependent on the will to achieve it. First of all, with Scotland about to push as soon as possible, we should work with them to help them achieve this, pressuring Westminster to accept the referendum request. Secondly, a border poll would probably fail if it were before the Scottish referendum, but we are now in a good position to discuss immediately (as the Scots are doing) what options are open to Northern Ireland. Third, the special case of NI could be worked out in relation to Scotland, creating a formal constitutional link between a newly independent Scotland and a new Ireland. Our two countries are cut from the same cloth and we can simply weave them together.

  • How can Villiers and the British government claim to be committed to the GFA when Brexit explicitly contravenes it?

    The agreement states that the British and Irish governments wish “to develop still further the unique relationship between their peoples and the close co-operation between their countries as friendly neighbours and as partners in the European Union”.

    How can the UK fulfil that wish if it isn’t a member of the EU?

    The GFA also contains the following provision:

    “The [North/South Ministerial] Council to consider the European Union dimension of relevant matters, including the implementation of EU policies and programmes and proposals under consideration in the EU framework. Arrangements to be made to ensure that the views of the Council are taken into account and represented appropriately at relevant EU meetings.”

    Is Kenny’s dismissal of talk of a border poll essentially his way of saying that he has no interest whatsoever in trying to develop a set of conditions that would be conducive to ensuring that all in the north would feel part of a new Ireland that would, in turn, enable everyone on the island to remain part of the EU, in accordance with majority wishes in both jurisdictions?

    If trying to find a way for the north to remain part of the EU isn’t a serious matter for Kenny, what the hell is?! What planet is he on? Brexit and the fact English/Welsh votes have dragged of the north out of the EU against the will of a democratic majority is seismic. It radically changes things.

  • Surveyor

    I can well imagine how it would go down with the constituents of Chipping Barnet if someone with no affiliation to the area and unelected by them, went over there and told them what their best interests are.

  • John Devane

    Sounds like wishful thinking tbh

  • Roger

    I’m thankful to Reader and John Collins. They pointed out better than I would have the differences are between a general election, especially that of 1918 and a referendum. I was just going to refer you to a dictionary. There has never been an all-Ireland referendum.

  • mickfealty

    Yes, don’t hold your breath on that one. Cameron’s first AG told them it was not practical or desireable. It won’t happen in this mandate, but if Labour concede new elections I would not rule out an attempt to change them in parallel with a long slow Brexit process.

    Personally, I think they’d have to replace it with provisions that were a carbon copy of the HRA, but in practice (if there was a credible opposition at Westminster) there ought to be hell to pay.

    If there is a further drift to the right within the English and Welsh electorate the ‘unspeakable’ may be further encouraged to pursue the ‘inedible’…

    I also fear that some of the more trivial applications of Human Rights law we’ve seen may make it a much harder sell than it rightfully should be. Trivia sells.

  • Reader

    Daniel Collins: How can the UK fulfil that wish if it isn’t a member of the EU?
    There is nothing “unique” about common membership of the EU. Here are the things that are unique:
    1) The Common Travel Area.
    2) The unique exceptions and voting rights both the UK and Ireland grant to each other’s citizens.
    Let’s develop those, shall we? Will you help to protect the Common Travel Area against possible threats from the EU?

  • Reader

    Good Friday Agreement: Arrangements to be made to ensure that the views of the Council are taken into account and represented appropriately at relevant EU meetings.
    OK then – the UK delegation to write the minutes and the Irish delegation to carry them over to the EU. Sorted.
    Daniel Collins: If trying to find a way for the north to remain part of the EU isn’t a serious matter for Kenny, what the hell is?
    By definition, any activity that is a hopeless waste of time would be pointless. He’s the Taoiseach, for goodness sake – howling at the moon is your job.

  • Reader

    Ted, John – I was replying to someone who tried to treat an election as a referendum. Do you acknowledge that they aren’t the same thing? The question is different, the voting options are different, and the count is different.
    For instance, the UK general election in 2015 produced an overwhelming (90%) win on the count for parties supporting “Remain”. A year later the actual referendum produced a 52/48 result for Brexit.

  • Declan Doyle

    Or maybe I was saying to ignore the advice of a Unionist trying to deprive nation issues of a free and democratic vote.

  • Mer Curial

    I wasn’t surprised in the least when I learnt Villiers is a direct descendant of Longshanks!

  • Jollyraj

    Republicans tried that for decades. Demonstrably doesn’t work.

  • Jollyraj

    So people in Ireland favour a UI – even though they believe it would restart the conflict, and know they couldn’t handle that.


  • John Collins

    Did she not say with deep emotion that ‘Crossmaglen was more British than Finchley’?

  • John Collins

    Well if you settle down and read the newspapers nationally, and locally where there were contests, in the weeks prior to 1918 you will see the HR and Unionist argument was almost totally centred around threatening the electorate of the dire consequences of voting SF, but it failed dismally. People were left in no doubt that totally separating from the UK would be a disastrous step , yet they boldly stepped forward and voted to go it alone. In many ways HR and Unionist arguments failed in the same way that those of the Remainers did in the past week.

  • John Collins

    So Unionist violence would work in the same way as that of the IRA. Double Hmmm

  • Jollyraj

    Half cocked as ever John. Perhaps you might try reading the comment mine was responding to, then you might understand mine, hmmm?

  • Anglo-Irish

    Not sure if that was her, but whoever it was showed an incredible lack of knowledge of either place.

    Mrs Thatcher never struck me as someone particularly in tune with Irish viewpoints, despite the fact that her great grandmother was Catherine Sullivan from Dromanassig Bonane in the County Kerry.

    She was probably a cousin of Jackie Healy-Rae, both political ‘cute hoors’, must be something in the Kerry air!

  • hotdogx

    Well call it what you like but, when SF get over 70% across the whole of Ireland that generally means that there will be a united independent ireland. But Britain divided the island for her own personal interest & gain & threatened war and screw democracy.
    This still might be hard for some from the north to understand where such things as one man one vote & votes for women are a relatively new event!

  • hotdogx

    You are right about the 1918 election not being a referendum but you have to remember SF completely replaced IPP (what was their mandate at the time?) to everyone’s surprise mostly the Brits who decided to drive a wedge through SF of the time, sign our treaty or war! (Nice choice from our friends the Brits) splitting the movement and giving us our civil war! After that we had to quietly abandon our fellow Irishmen on the other side of an artificial border that they drew!
    It’s been fun hasn’t it, and that’s only the beginning let’s put the union to bed forever! All Anglo Irish & Irish will be equal for the first time in everywhere in Ireland.

  • Reader

    hotdogx: to everyone’s surprise mostly the Brits who decided to drive a wedge through SF of the time, sign our treaty or war!
    You got the timing wrong – that remark was made after the war of Independence, not after the election, and referred to “renewal of immediate and terrible war”. You can probably guess that peace treaties are always negotiated that way, and Robert Barton’s reply would have been similar but obviously less convincing.

  • LiamÓhÉ
  • Jollyraj

    “because he thought – wrongly in my opinion – that if people had jobs they would be less inclined to violence.”

    Worked for Sinn Fein.

  • Jollyraj

    No, John, she didn’t. If you repeat it often enough quite a few of the less bright Republican brotherhood will accept it as fact, but no she didn’t say that.

  • Anglo-Irish

    What worked for Sinn Fein was the realisation that a United Ireland will happen eventually through demographic, economic and political means, and that loss of life can be reduced to a minimum – if not totally eliminated – providing that patience is used.

    Once Britain officially stated that it had no further strategic or selfish interest in NI and would accept a majority vote for reunification it became a question not of if but of when.

    On this forum I have stated on numerous occasions that I believe it will take 30 years or so.

    Following the result of last Thursdays referendum that may now change, it will not take any longer but there is now a possibility that it may happen sooner.

    It all depends on how things transpire from here on.

    The most apt description that I have heard so far regarding the reaction of the Brexit politicians is that ” They look like the dog that has been chasing a bus, has caught it, and now has absolutely no idea as to what to do next. ”

    Unless a way is found to change the result, which is doubtful then it will all depend upon how economically successful it turns out.

    The regions and NI will suffer the most if it all goes wrong and rejoining the EU will look very tempting to most sensible people.

    As I and my immediate family live in the UK I’m hoping it all works out well, but given the caliber of the people who are currently in charge I don’t have too much confidence.

  • Anglo-Irish
  • John Collins

    When a bye pass was put in place around the town of Castleisland, Jackie RIP was still a TD and each of his sons were then County Councillors and they were not slow to brag about the wonderful part they played in getting the vital piece of infrastructure in place. Some local, with a rustic attempt at wit, promptly nicknamed the new road as the ‘triple by-pass’.

  • John Collins

    Alright JR she not mention Crossmaglen, but she did say NI (in place of Cross’)- what’s the difference?

  • Anglo-Irish

    Like it!

    My family live in East Clare near to Lough Derg, the nearest bridge across the Shannon is the one between Killaloe in Clare and Ballina in Tipperary.

    The bridge is ancient and is a bottleneck which has had traffic lights installed to make it alternate one way.

    It should be used as a footbridge and a new traffic bridge built to solve the problem.

    The discussions have been going on for years with bugger all progress being made.

    A number of years ago the bould Jackie was at a political meeting in the area, he inquired about the situation and when all the difficulties were explained to him he said ” Jaysus, what’s the holdup? I’ve had bridges built down in Kerry with no f**kin rivers under them! ”

    I’m not certain that he was joking, The Kingdoms a law unto itself!

  • Jollyraj

    The difference, John – and I’m not holding you to a particularly high standard of quality journalism – is that you cannot take a quote, change it almost completely, falsely attribute your newly minted quote to the original person and expect to be taken seriously in any argument. Just makes people doubt that any of your attempts at ‘pithy’ comments or tales of oppression can be taken with less than a large pinch of salt.

    After all, as Jesus said, let he that is without any serious sin eat the first pebble.

  • Jollyraj

    Don’t get me wrong, AI – I agree with you on precious little, but I’ve always been a Remain man myself.

    Like you, I live in the UK and would much prefer the UK not to be leaving Europe.

  • Anglo-Irish

    What I find the most worrying thing about this situation is the complete lack of positive leadership.

    The politicians who led the Leave campaign are to my mind a group of opportunists out to make a name for themselves, and with no actual thought out plans as to what happens if they won.

    I get the feeling that Boris does everything out of personal self interest and that he was hoping for a close loss leaving him in a position to become Conservative leader as the ‘hard man’ who’d show those damn foreigners what’s what.

    He didn’t look too jubilant to me following the result..

    The country needs strong leadership if it’s to make going it alone work and I can’t see where it’s going to come from.

    As they say ” Be careful what you wish for” .

  • Jollyraj

    Agreed. Biggest losers are UKIP, since they now have no reason to exist – unless Brexit for some reason doesn’t go through.

  • John Collins

    I think any ‘tales’ of oppression I quoted were not tales. However I have often pointed out, and it is never more relevant than this week, than when a large polity ignores genuine pleas, from a particular region of their domain, for their case to be understood a fracture can result. In the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries the GB Parliament did not take enough heed of genuine pleas from Constitutional Nationalist Politicians for more investment in Ireland, in the South and West especially, with disastrous consequences for the Union; the EU repeated the same mistakes with GB.

    Btw, Jesus said ‘Let he who without sin cast the first stone’ As far as I know he never mentioned any ‘serious sin’. I am also fascinated by the way he is quoted as using the word he. Would this mean that if ladies had been present it would have been OK for them to pelt the unfortunate woman with rocks.
    Dangerous business quoting and interpreting the bible too literally.

  • Jollyraj

    ” I am also fascinated by the way he is quoted as using the word he. Would this mean that if ladies had been present it would have been OK for them to pelt the unfortunate woman with rocks.”

    Quite an odd thing to be fascinated by – unless you expect to superimpose modern liberal values on the Middle East of 2,000 years ago (Heck, even today!) and re-shape the other JC’s quote to the modern he/she to suit your whim. I don’t think any woman’s opinion on judicial matters in that time and place would have been given much consideration.