Nationalists must keep their heads, when all others are losing theirs.

IF you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs

Rudyard Kipling

Chris Donnelly and Pete Baker have very diligently summed up the problems (folly) with the immediate calls for a Border Poll.

We are constitutionally and politically in no mans land. What most of us thought was going to be a narrow Remain win was shattered at 4:40 am on Friday morning with David Dimbleby’s call that “the decision this country made in 1975 has been reversed.”

This morning we are already reading stories about calls for another Scottish Independence Referendum and whether the devolved legislatures have a role in repealing EU regulations and whether their permission has to be sought before we are taken out of the European Union.

All of this is quite frankly immensely confusing for the media, commentariat and the public.

The absolute worst thing that politicians can do is to pile more uncertainty on top of more uncertainty.  This is exactly what a call for a border poll does, it is essentially a distraction from the main task at hand.

We have real debates coming up as a community such as when will Article 50 be activated? What role will the Executive have in these negotiations? How will our interests be protected and respected? Most importantly, how will our relationship with the South change after the UK leaves the European Union?

All of these will take time to get through and answers will be needed before any border poll happens.

This brings me to my next point, if a genuine attempt is going to be made to hold a border poll, then there needs to be quiet and serious private talks with other like-minded parties to hammer out a common platform. Making unilateral declarations about this issue just simply turns people off.

There is painstaking work to be done in terms of devising a strategy about what way a campaign can be fought. We have just seen for ourselves where a disjointed and incoherent campaign gets you electorally and to those who want to rush head first into this, they need to learn serious lessons from the failure of the Remain campaign.

We have a real opportunity when all the nuts and bolts are thrashed out with the EU exit deal to show that Nationalism has a plan to both keep Northern Ireland in the EU and that it is our Unionist colleagues who now represent economic insecurity.

We can paint a united Ireland as the genuinely internationalist option with EU membership and as the only English-speaking country left as the new main bridge between the United States and the EU. Depending on how talks go on trade agreements, Dublin could become a major destination for many financial services looking for EU access.

This is essentially a new way for Nationalism, a new opportunity to move away from the old rhetoric that spouts the economic policies of the 1970’s along with the political talking points of the 1980’s.

We can have the EU debate as the critical bridge that is needed between Northern and Southern Nationalism, instead of having a disjointed campaign with incompatible promises being made by the two sides (Remember the Republic of Ireland has to vote to accept NI).

We also have an opportunity to use these new dimensions to speak to a host of people who previously might not have listened to these type of arguments before. This needs to be carefully thought about in terms of how you broaden the tent beyond the usual suspects.

All of this will take time, hard work and quiet discussions. It will also depend on how EU discussions end up, Nationalists should take the time to work out all of these issues.

Rome wasn’t built-in a day and you won’t get a short cut to a United Ireland through a snap border poll.

To those arguing for one, I go back to Kipling who spoke of the virtue of being able to dream, yet not having dreams becoming your master. Sadly for many, the dreams have become the master, what we need now are for people to have dreams at night and during the day get ready for hard work.

A key part of the Nationalist consensus is about to come to an end, our political leaders need to suit up and meet that challenge.





David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs

  • OneNI

    Yeah were are ‘reading stories’ about Sturgeon blocking Brexit – absolute rubbish, not accurate, tomorrows fish and chips.
    The question nationalists and nationalist representatives need to ask is: Is the REPUBLIC going to join Schegen and see a Hard Border introduced. How ironic will it be if nationalists reinforce partition?
    SF are leading the way – and destroying nationalisms credibility by it abrasive nonsense about Border Poll and ‘resisting NI being taken out of the EU’.
    Reality bites – to get the best deal for NI you have to accept the reality of UK sovereignty. Remember nationalism has nothing to negotiate with the UK govt with

  • Roger

    “We are constitutionally and politically in no mans land.”
    Northern Ireland is not. It’s as much part of the UK as it ever was, it’s constitutional position is crystal clear.
    Certainly, Brexit does change the picture but it doesn’t affect anything constitutionally.

  • Roger

    Presumably the Republic being referred to is Ireland. I’ve no idea what that sentence concerning Schengen was about. There’s nothing to support the notion that Ireland is about to join Schengen or would want to do so.
    Agreed with the “reality bites” sentiment. The idea that UKNI is a “no mans land” is proper nonsense.

  • Tarlas

    I don’t think Kipling , had nationalist Ireland in mind when he wrote the poem Ulster 1912 . I believe Irish Nationalists today are very capable of holding their own, when debating and negotiating our future, with out referring to patronising quotes from old colonialists.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’d largely agree, Kipling would’ve been a patronising colonialist with very little affinity with Ireland but the poem If has inspired people across Ireland, just like say a unionist might be inspired by a nationalist like William Butler Yeats.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well the clear green water between Sinn Féin and say SDLP, Fianna Fáil etc. is they may try to be immediate nationalist when the rest are gradualism activists. I’m actually quite sympathetic but realistic to the referendum call.

    This is a defeat for Irish nationalism which largely pro-EU, young people largely pro-EU and quite a few liberals and economic pro-EU unionists/others. They need not only to deal with the new normal but become part of it.

    We know from the Irish republican campaigns of nearly a century and before, the economics of this and the issue of liberties have as much to define the character of self-determination movements as ideologues and cultures and even loyalties.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Father, Mother, and Me
    Sister and Auntie say
    All the people like us are We,
    And every one else is They.
    And They live over the sea,
    While We live over the way,
    But – would you believe it? – They look upon We
    As only a sort of They!

    We eat pork and beef
    With cow-horn-handled knives.
    They who gobble Their rice off a leaf,
    Are horrified out of Their lives;
    And They who live up a tree,
    And feast on grubs and clay,
    (Isn’t it scandalous?) look upon We
    As a simply disgusting They!

    We shoot birds with a gun.
    They stick lions with spears.
    Their full-dress is un-.
    We dress up to Our ears.
    They like Their friends for tea.
    We like Our friends to stay;
    And, after all that, They look upon We
    As an utterly ignorant They!

    We eat kitcheny food.
    We have doors that latch.
    They drink milk or blood,
    Under an open thatch.
    We have Doctors to fee.
    They have Wizards to pay.
    And (impudent heathen!) They look upon We
    As a quite impossible They!

    All good people agree,
    And all good people say,
    All nice people, like Us, are We
    And every one else is They:
    But if you cross over the sea,
    Instead of over the way,
    You may end by (think of it!) looking on We
    As only a sort of They!

  • Chingford Man

    “We are constitutionally and politically in no mans land.”

    No, we aren’t. It’s you who is in the Twilight Zone if you think that pro-Remain unionists will give you a united Ireland in a border poll, whenever it is held. You’ve lost every single border poll (i.e. every election) in the last 95 years.

    Some people really need to wise up and get on with bread and butter issues.

  • chrisjones2

    Will it have a choice under closer union?

    None of the debate so far considers the future of Ireland as a self governing republic. All the parties are like ostriches with their heads firmly buried in the sand while humming la la to them selves

    The reason the UK is in this position is the issue of governance

  • chrisjones2

    You missed the NI spectacle today of our esteemed Finance Minister declaring that (as a supplicant to London) he WILL NOT ACCEPT Brexit and will negotiate direct with Europe too. While this may just be another SF wrecking tactic I think a new Chancellor in a few weeks may need to give him a short sharp lesson in financial real politik along with the reminder that, in essence, he is helping run a County Council

  • chrisjones2

    One might think that all of this would call for an Executive meeting …..but none is planned. There may be one next week or not

  • Paddy Reilly

    Who in NI voted Leave and who Remain? To me it seems fairly clear that the core Leave vote came from the TUV and DUP: it’s their sort of world view. They will also have had the bulk of the UUP vote, of course. The Remain vote is strongest next to the border, and indicates a Nationalist origin. Basically all constituencies held by Nationalist M.P.s voted Remain. Also voting Remain was Fermanagh and South Tyrone: no real surprises here, as the sitting unopposed Unionist candidate only won 46.4% of the vote, against a higher, but divided, Nationalist vote.

    But one interesting development was that Belfast North also voted Remain. This probably means that given a high turnout and an unopposed Nationalist Unity candidate, a Nationalist could also win here. And in fact, Nigel Dodds, the unopposed Unionist candidate, only won 47% of the vote, not much better than the F/ST returns. So there are probably 9 out of 18 constituencies with potential Nationalist majorities, if the candidature was right. (Except of course that the constituencies are due a reduction and a reshape, but the new result could not be very far from the old.)

    However, the first major surprise is that the next Remain win is East Londonderry. I suppose this was made possible by Alliance voters voting on the Remain side: possibly also a section of those who voted for Claire Sugden. I would suggest that this indicates the shape of things to come. The East Londonderry constituency, or whatever succeeds it, will move into the Nationalist camp in the near future. However, there is no such evidence for Upper Bann, which came perilously close to being a Nationalist 3 seater in the Stormont election.

    The last Remain constituency is North Down. Here it appears to be the No Religion, Green, Alliance and Sylvia Harmon voting Liberal School who are responsible, not any kind of Nationalist.

    But all in all, what we have here is NI’s first progressive result. The shape, I hope, of things to come. We must wait to see what Scotland does, but assuming they remain in the EU, we must campaign for an off-shore Schengen area, which would include Scotland, a distinct Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. The name of the game is EU and Schengen, for which we have a proven mandate, even within the confines of the partititionist gerrymander, not an Immediate United Ireland.

  • Paddy Reilly

    The UK was as much a part of the EU as it ever was. Last week. A week is a long time in politics.

  • Ciaran74

    The drama of a border poll is just that but SF didn’t orchestrate the current swirl. I agree that any push for a re-order of either states constitutional position cannot be owned by SF alone.

    That said, whilst not agreeing with any of the pro-Union pro-Leavers on Slugger, I agree with them that it will not happen or a snap poll would not be successful. I do think the result would be stronger on a platform of progression, prosperity and the common cause via the European dimension than they might imagine.

    What I find disturbing is the approach of our First Minister. Pro-Leave and the Union I will be stronger, no Plan B or planning for a Leave result, but the Union is stronger, drawn on comments regarding Scotland and NI’s majority Remain, the economic effects with ROI, farmers etc etc and it’s all Union, Union, union……I despair. No mention of Single Farm Payment for 90% of our farmers, no concern for the thousands of jobs employed by food processing which are mostly domiciled in the south, and buy our farmers produce, etc.

    Whether Empire building in the DUP or obsessed with the Union or both, this narrow view of what the priorities are, especially in the short term is going to strangle the north in the long term.

  • Roger

    The EU treaties continue on post-Brexit. The world doesn’t end.
    Ireland isn’t required to join Schengen under the treaties. It has an opt out. There’s no reason to think it will opt in now.

  • Roger

    Northern Ireland was as much a part of the UK as it ever was. Last week. It’s still the same this week and will be next week.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Monsieur de la Palisse, Stephen sneered, was alive fifteen minutes before his death. Ulysses, James Joyce.

  • Glenn

    If the EU impose a hard exit deal on the UK, the first casualty will be the RoI. The UK are their main trading partner of the RoI and if Juncker and the EU commission get spiteful with the UK, the EU’s spite will be the RoI’s woe.

  • Thomas Barber

    Every single border poll ! How many border polls do you think theres been ?

    Sinn Fein should just sit back and wait, the benefits of being an Irish citizen will not only change mindsets but could well be that yardstick that any future SOS might need in order to call a border poll.

    “Post Offices across Northern Ireland have run out of Irish
    passport forms as demand sky-rocketed following Britain’s decision to
    Leave the EU”

  • Roger

    I generally agree.
    I’d go further and say that whatever deal is reached, IRL will be a looser. Not as big a looser as the UK but IRL will be a bigger looser than say Finland. Ireland’s second biggest trading partner is leaving the EU…that’s bad news for IRL.
    The only bit I wouldn’t agree with is the tone around “spiteful”. The UK will be a third country. Whatever terms it gets won’t be as good as those of an EU country. That’s not spite; that’s only fair.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Tarlas, even old colonialists can be extraordinarily good poets and short story writers! In his introduction to his selection of Kipling’s verse no less a poet than T.S. Elliot “spoke warmly of Kipling’s “consummate gift of word, phrase, and rhythm” and praised his technical mastery: “no writer has ever cared for the craft of words more than Kipling.”

    We have had centuries over which the English chose to know nothing of our brilliant local poetry in Irish from such as Piaras Feiritéar, Dáibhí Ó Bruadair, Seán “Clárach” Mac Domhnaill, or from the south Ulster poets such as Art Mac Cumhaigh or Séamas Dall Mac Cuarta because they were judged to be “political poets” in much the same manner as you are dismissing Kipling. “Poetry,” T. S. Eliot, noted, “is condemned as ‘political’ when we disagree with the politics.” There’s a lot more to Kipling than simply being a cheer leader for Imperialism! But you have to read him to find this out, not simply ideologically dismiss him. Billy Bragg’s personal reclamation of Kipling is worth paying attention to in this context.

  • Chingford Man

    Every NI election is a border poll, for goodness sake. When nationalists do well (obviously not recently), they like to remind us of the fact.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Oh please…. try and change from msm mind control. The People want out of the EU. They don’t want waves of foreign culture immigrants swamping communities.
    Try and get behind the will of the British people. The MSM is a tool of the globalists that are trying to destroy the western countries.
    Get educated in the alternative media.

  • Chingford Man

    Good. I imagine Gove or Andrea Leadsom could be quite pointed to the NI county council when they want to be.

  • Chingford Man

    And up comes Slugger’s official Counter of Catholics to amuse us by conflating the Remain vote with the normal nationalist vote.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Paddy Power is offering 9/2 for Irish reunification before 2030 … that’s better than England’s odds of winning Euro 2016.

    In fact it’s the same odds as second favourites France.

  • austin mcclafferty

    What an opportunistic and dismal play on words, not to mention flag waving rallying cries.

    Maybe unionism will try to circumvent the need for a border poll,by calling for for a non binding referendum in northern Ireland on whether it’s people would like to remain a part of the United kingdom or would you like to remain part of the EU.

    Wonder what the answer would be?.

    At the very least it could be taken as a litmus test and vindication of SOS posture regarding having a border poll.

  • Paddy Reilly

    You fail to acknowledge my role as a counter of the non-religious as well. Basically, with the right issue Unionism can be bested by a coalition of these two.

    However, it should be pointed out that in the above post the word ‘Catholic’ does not appear.

  • Chingford Man

    “with the right issue Unionism can be bested by a coalition of these two.”

    True, in theory. In the real world, I can’t see the soggy centrists lining up behind the Shinners and the SDLP in some anti-unionist coalition. Such people are centrists because they have developed their own identity and don’t identify with either unionism or nationalism. Also , it looks like many Remain votes would be unionist ones in other elections.

  • Paddy Reilly

    They just have, I’m afraid.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Wikipedia informs me that Joyce was quoting a well-known French song, full of Lapalissades or tautologies/statements of the obvious:-

    Monsieur d’la Palisse est mort,
    (Sir de la Palisse is dead),
    Il est mort devant Pavie,
    (He died before Pavia,)
    Un quart d’heure avant sa mort,
    (A quarter hour before his death,)
    il était encore en vie.
    (He was still quite alive.)

  • Paddy Reilly

    This is an interesting article, which demonstrates, on the Danish model, that there is no need for all the parts of a country to be in the EU. Mainland Denmark is, but the Faroes and Greenland ain’t. So NI, Scotland and London can remain in the EU, while most of England and Wales can exit.

  • Tarlas

    Thank you all for your feedback, just back from a long walk
    in the Mournes. I am an admirer of the
    poets like Gerard Manley Hopkins and Edgar Allen Poe and some works of Seamus
    Heeney. And I agree with Kevin that unionists
    (British Nationalists) might be inspired by an Irish nationalist like William
    Butler Yeats. I also grasp the sentiment of the poem WE And They; and having
    lived outside of NI and been immersed in different cultures agree with it.

    However as people dig into the constitutional and legal
    issues around Brexit. Anyone that watched the first two minutes of the Andrew
    Marr show this Morning will see the legitimate ideology of the disenfranchised
    people in middle England that voted to Leave the Eu.

    Having travelled to Cardiff,
    Pontypridd, and Methrytidfil , and observed the economic deprivation of people
    my age 40-50 Y/O sons and daughters of hard working Miners; a large number now benefit
    dependant, a high level young overweight people on mobility vehicles and a
    multitude of other social problems, it comes as no surprise that there is
    strain on the NHS. I observe the
    unaffordability of education. Some of my children attend Uni in England £9k per
    annum fees, £6 k per annum rent, £5k per annum food/etc. Despite the IMF
    bailout, the ROI governments have maintained their goals to provide high level
    affordable education, and I admire that. And
    as a result their society shall reap what it sows.

    If I were a Unionist (British Nationalist) I would be asking
    myself: Is this what the great United Kingdom has to offer? Call centres, zero
    hr contract etc. Was this the fault of
    the EU or 4 decades of social mismanagement by UK Governments?

    The Brexit result has apparently wiped almost £ 400 Billion
    of the UK’s value (15-17 years of Eu contributions) I think Farage and Co need
    a new bus.

    In NI I sometimes but seldom listen to a bit of The Nolan
    Show. A few years back during a heavy snowfall, I was listening to it , people
    were ringing in complaining about footpaths ,Road Service etc. and I flicked
    over to RTE radio; Dublin also had heavy snow and people were ringing in. But
    instead I listened to the joviality of neighbours helping neighbours, I flicked
    back to Nolan and the doom and gloom was intolerable. I thought how sick our
    society has become; we can no longer wipe our own back sides.

    NI Society have now had a taste of consensus politics from
    the EU and somehow I think it will be difficult for the UK style of Parliamentary
    politics, that I grew up with; to supress the further development of this type
    of Governance, even if some within the DUP would like to turn the clock back .

    In the EU you can trigger article 50 and leave. We have an
    unquantifiable T Villiers test.

    And since this
    article was looking back at quotes from Mr Kipling, I think I will have one of
    his pies with a nice cup of tea, and research some of the poets referred to by
    Seaan .

  • Chingford Man

    I’m sure Nesbitt, Kinahan and Nicholson would be baffled to know that they have retrospectively been pressganged in Paddy Reilly’s Fantasy Anti-Unionist Coalition.

  • Glenn

    North Belfast was almost a 50 / 50 split. The actual figures were leave 49.6% and remain 50.4%. And who do you suggest stand down on the nationalist/republican side for an agreed nationalist/republican candidate. Will it be Gerry Kelly???

  • Paddy Reilly

    Own goals do happen. It’s more of an anti-Isolationist Unionist coalition. But I do feel that within a decade or so, this trio will be working in the Oireachtas of a United Ireland while TUV and DUP politicians are still foaming at the mouth and bellowing ‘No Surrender’.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Outside the scope of this discussion, and not relevant, as the North Belfast constituency will not exist at the next election. The name of the game is establishing a common travel area within the EU for the still distinct Irish Republic, 6 Counties and Scotland, not planning for an election in 2020.

    (Correction: the current government may fall, provoking an election this year. So we will need to establish which constituencies will apply.)

  • Gerry Lynch

    It was all Catholics and Pradisints, which is why North Belfast, East Belfast, North Down, Lagan Valley and Strangford were all within 5 points of each other. #facepalm

  • Chingford Man


  • Kevin Breslin

    What about a pro-Remain in the EU unity candidate…

    The problem with Irish unity is that even when the Democratic Unionist Party arguably assists in doing more damage to the union than Sinn Féin have ever done in 40 years.

    Sinn Féin are likely to hijack the process and bring advantage back to deuce.

  • Paddy Reilly

    There is some evidence of CNR EU-phobia in that some UKIP transfers go to the SDLP, but the number is not large.

    Belfast West (leave 25.9%, remain 74.1%) does indicate a certain amount of CNR hostility to the EU, and the traditionally Unionist constituencies have a higher than expected pro-remain vote, but on the whole it is obvious where the votes are coming from.

  • Thomas Barber

    The 25.9 % in West Belfast can be attributed to Eirigi who pushed for a leave. Its was a simple opportunistic choice in that a lot of republicans believe a Brexit changes the political landscape regarding the six counties in their favour. I would tend to agree with that analysis.

  • Thomas Barber
  • Smithborough

    The SDLP political strategy since the 1970s has been primarily based on the idea that EC/EU membership delivers prosperity and north/south integration which will eventually make a united Ireland possible. What happens to that strategy post-Brexit (if Brexit actually comes to pass)?

  • Thomas Barber

    If truth be told CM theres really only been two what could be called border polls and Nationalists won by a landslide in the 1918 General Election and of course after partition there was one in 1973 an actual border poll in which the overwhelming majority of nationalists boycotted and unionists of course won by a landslide.

  • eamoncorbett

    Same with Spain and the Canary Islands , I’ve seen a few people return from Las Palmas being greeted by customs officers with a bit more duty free than allowed .

  • Declan Doyle

    In fairness, if SF had not have come out swinging for a border poll within 24 hours of the brexit vote there would have been accusations from all quarters that the party was pulling back from their UI stance or at the very least it was behind the SNP in considering the impotence of the North’s clear remain majority vote. They know as everybody does that a snap border poll will not happen but depending on how things pan out over the next few months ( and God knows everybody seems to be at sea ) the question of a border poll needs to be on the table, even if it is at the bottom of the ‘to do’ list. Colm Eastwood was pretty clear this morning in that the SDLP will not sit back and allow the North to be dragged out of the EU, in other words? …..

  • Declan Doyle

    Trade between the UK and the free state is 1bn a week. So u are correct in that a harsh deal against Britain could damage the South. On the other hand the Republic is the UK’s fifth largest trading partner, as such both states will most likely unite at some levels in negotiations for a better deal. Personally I think the British will be bullied into a rerun of the vote. If the stink being kicked up at the moment does not die down fast and if brexiters do not come up with a plan and if Scottish polls continue to show a huge majority in favour of independence it is hard to see how a rerun can be avoided.

  • Declan Doyle

    As we stand the south could probably withstand a shock given the strength of its economy currently, there is also the potential that it could benifit overall if the financial sector and foreign investors decide that England is in for a long period of instability. The North however might suffer more than any region of europe.

  • Ryan

    Its funny the way some Unionists get angry when people say Catholics vote nationalist (which 99% of those Catholics that do vote do) but yet its OK to say all Protestants vote Unionist…..(lets just ignore fact its Protestant votes that keep South Down in SDLP hands)……

  • tmitch57

    There might be a sound case for exempting Scotland and NI from Brexit, but not London as it is the capital of the UK and surrounded by territory that voted for Brexit.

  • Kev Hughes

    No, it would appear the first casualty would be Northern Ireland, which already has a big hole in its pensions and imports have become costlier.

    But hey, I’m sure that impressive manufacturing sector will bail you out..


  • Paddy Reilly

    Ultimately, that is up to London to decide. People can get very forceful when threatened with the loss of their income.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Interesting David quotes Kipling (that dogged old unionist) “If you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs” It would appear that Kipling’s words are being listened and actioned by his political class – The Unionists !

  • Paddy Reilly

    The Canaries are in the EU, but not in the EU VAT area.

    It seems to me that the appropriate status to adopt is that of Crown Dependency, which is already enjoyed by the Isle of Man and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey:

    None of these are currently in the EU, though their activities are ultimately controlled by the UK Parliament.

    So the proposed rearrangement is as follows:-

    Scotland leaves the United Kingdom, becomes a Crown Dependency and remains in the EU;

    Northern Ireland leaves the United Kingdom, becomes either a Crown Dependency or an English (or Scottish!) Overseas Territory and remains in the EU;

    Gibraltar, currently a British Overseas Territory, becomes an English Overseas Territory and remains in the EU (it would need to: if it left the EU Spain could blockade it);

    The Isle of Man and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, not currently in the EU, remain such but join England and Wales in the Kingdom of England and Associated Territories.

    The case of London, Merseyside and Manchester we can deal with as it arises.

  • Skibo

    Interesting fact is the Unionists decided to ignore the result of the 1918 election because it was not in their favour and instead pushed to take the six counties out of Ireland.
    democracy is wonderful when it works in your favour and just ignore it when it does not.

  • Skibo

    What is the exact description of a snap border poll? The Scottish people had two years to discuss the merits and demerits of independence. Would it not be advisable of Westminster on the back or the votes in NI and Scotland to give them the ability to vote for independence and take the moral high ground.
    The experts expect article 50 and the criteria that will lead to the UK exiting the EU will take 2 to 2.5 years.
    Could Scotland and NI be given the vote 3 or 6 months prior to leaving?
    A petition of 100,000 signatures will make Westminster discuss it.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Reading the nationalist runes is not my schtick but for what it’s worth … I think there is an opportunity for the Irish nationalism opened up by Brexit and it is this: to increase actual support for Irish unity within the broadly ‘nationalist community’ from the doldrums it’s been in, to the level we all might have expected.

    The last BBC poll in 2015 had it at 13 per cent and polls over recent years have consistently had it under or around 20 per cent. Brexit I think could be an opportunity to convert some of those sympathetic in theory to a united Ireland into real believers in the project again. But I think your ceiling is probably around 35 per cent of the electorate. 40 at the very outside.

    A united Ireland still holds enough fears of another Troubles for a lot of people that I suspect there will always be at least a big chunk of ‘nationalist’ people who will vote against it. That chunk will be reduced by Brexit but is plenty big enough to make a border poll unwinnable.

    The Troubles left a deeper mark on people’s attitudes and fears even than Brexit. Anything risking a return to sectarian strife is likely to scare away a lot of people.

    I am however no expert on nationalist opinion, just someone used to reading and interpreting polls and familiar with long term patterns of movement on the border issue. Take my comments in that light please (he says, pointlessly)

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I agree, SF sort of have to call for a border poll, it’s who they are. It’s not actually a meaningful reflection of one being on the cards or winnable.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    9/2 in a 2 horse race … last time I was at the bookies that indicated one of the horses wasn’t fancied much …

    Republicans and race horses, eh, there’s a sorry tale 😉

  • Skibo

    Who would the be the instigators of such a return to the troubles?

  • Skibo

    Always a dig from the past.

  • Reader

    Ryan, there’s not a big difference between their ridiculous claim of “all” and your ridiculous claim of “99%”, except that in percentage terms they are less wrong than you.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    You would expect it to be Loyalist-led this time. I really hope nothing would happen and would do everything I could to dissuade those thinking of resorting to violence (though I frankly have no influence on people like that, they would think I’m virtually a nationalist).

    Really important, I think, not to be in any way swayed by violence or the threat of it and it shouldn’t affect how people vote. But I think some nationalists would be fearful of Loyalist violence in the wake of a united Ireland vote and I suspect that may influence some of them at some level. Bottom line – the status quo equals no or very little violence and I think for a lot of people, better the devil you know.

    It is a legacy of the Troubles really – people have legitimate fears of big constitutional change that really hacks off one side. For the same reason, few unionists now push for anything other than the GFA settlement. There’s a sense of realism that the IRA could kick off again if it all goes to sh**. Not an unreasonable fear to have and arguably, a powerful force in favour of co-operation and avoiding conflict, albeit a negative one.

    The EU indeed was founded on just this: Germany and France’s common determination not to go to war again. Built on fear maybe, but none the worse for it, in the opinion of this passionate Remainer. It’s not wrong for people to want to avoid scenarios that increase the risk of renewed violence. That doesn’t mean people want that violence or are inviting it, quite the opposite. Being realistic about our history of violence and seeking close relationships so it doesn’t rear up again from either Loyalists or Republicans, is pretty sensible I’d say.

  • Skibo

    Interesting that those who claim to be loyal would revert to violence if there was a legitimate vote for a UI.
    I assume when you said that the maximum vote a UI poll would get would be 40%. Do you consider this a wholly Nationalist vote or do you think there would be an element of soft Unionists in there.
    I think the 20% of the traditional ground of Unionism could be convinced of the economics of a UI if there can be a safeguard to their British rights and a their culture.
    There has to be a large amount of courting to be carried out by the parties of the south to convince them of this.
    Should a UI come about Fine Gael would find very fertile ground in Ulster for votes.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    That 35-40 per cent would be (let’s talk Catholics and Protestants here as ‘nationalist’ and ‘unionist’ is confusing in this context) nearly all Catholic. Maybe 5 per cent of it Protestant, would be my guess. Some educated Prods in better off areas in places like South Belfast, East Belfast may become pro-united Ireland on this basis. Some Alliance voting Prods who were ambivalent about the border may swing more to a united Ireland – I can think of one or two I know.

    Bigger picture, I think we’re now looking at maybe 15-20 per cent who genuinely don’t want to be seen as ‘unionist’ or ‘nationalist’ these days (even before the Brexit vote). Some of those would be middle-class Protestants who would start to favour a united Ireland as the progressive, pro-EU choice. But not I suspect huge numbers. The block of people who vote for unionist parties will stay unionist. And I think there will still be the bottom-line calculation that the current settlement inside the UK is the best guarantor of peace.

    The ‘safeguard to British rights and culture’ stuff is a bit meaningless as an incentive. You’d expect that anyway even in a united Ireland, just as Irish rights and culture are broadly respected now.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I would dig if I knew where Shergar was buried …

  • Roger

    Though I would not refer to Ireland as ‘the South’, nor indeed to UKNI as ‘the North’, I agree.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Look, there was and is a legitimate vote for NI in the UK and we still had and have Republican terrorism. These people are maniacs, they don’t respect votes. We all need to face them down and be clear that terrorism is never the answer and was never the answer. If we don’t do that, we leave the door open for them to justify more violence in the future.

  • George

    “Northern Ireland leaves the United Kingdom, becomes either a Crown Dependency or an English (or Scottish!) Overseas Territory and remains in the EU;”

    This option is not possible under the GFA which clearly states that as regard to its status, the people of Northern Ireland have the choice whether they prefer to continue to support the Union with Great Britain or a sovereign united Ireland.

  • Paddy Reilly

    An agreement made in 1998 cannot interdict the will of the people clearly expressed in 2016 or later.

  • Skibo

    Look had Britain faced down the terrorist threat in 1912 from the UVF we would probably have an Ireland within the UK at the moment. Probably similar to Scotland they would be demanding another referendum to go independent and stay in the EU but that did not happen.
    The legitimacy of NI as a state is based on the premise that the terrorist threat against home rule for Ireland was an acceptable one.
    If terrorism worked then, how can you condemn it at a later time?

  • Skibo

    Check under the best rose bushes in Ireland!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I condemn all private use of arms, including 1912.
    N Ireland was right to be formed because of the democratic wishes of the people in the region. No guns needed and I wish they hadn’t been there.

  • George

    That’s an argument but does not change the reality that such a proposal would be against the GFA.

  • Keith

    Surely that’s not correct. The GFA is written into law, and I think is formally an international treaty. The referendum is neither.

  • Paddy Reilly

    The electorate of 2016 is not bound by the decisions of the electorate of 1998. We treat the GFA as final as long as we think that the current electorate is of the same opinion. But if there is evidence of a change of heart in the new generation, it can be amended. Changing ‘part of the UK’ to ‘a crown dependency’ or ‘part of a United Ireland’ is not a large amendment, but I agree it would require a further referendum.

  • Skibo

    “N Ireland was right to be formed because of the democratic wishes of the people in the region” Would that be the same fir NI and Scotland to break from the UK and stay in the EU? perhaps increase the connections for both regions with the ROI.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    NI has self-determination as a region, so yes of course it is free to vote to leave the UK if it wishes and could then apply to rejoin the EU. It would need a referendum to do that. I can’t see though how you can have a situation where regions within countries can be inside the EU and other regions not. The EU is an organisation of member *states* ultimately. One possible exception might be having separate arrangements for Gibraltar, due to its exceptional circumstances and geography. I know Gibraltar is pushing for something like that and I think a way should be found for it to be part of the EU while still being part of British sovereign territory. As a self-governing British Overseas Territory rather than a full part of the UK, a case can be made for having arrangements for Gibraltar that differ from UK proper. It may take a new mini-treaty to set that up legally but I’d have thought it was doable if the will is there.

  • Skibo

    You say they cannot have a different relationship and then say Gibraltar are requesting something similar?
    If we really believe that Westminster will replace the money that the EU have pumped into NI then we are severely deluded. Five years with 2 years negotiations should leave us demanding unification with Ireland inside the EU and problem solved.

  • kensei

    The map looks awfully like a demographic one though when translated to remain / leave

  • Gerry Lynch

    More likely PBP than Eirigi and a significantly higher turnout in Unionist areas.

  • Gerry Lynch

    It’s simple as long you ignore the complexity. Why was the vote almost exactly the same in Upper Bann as Lagan Valley, and in North Belfast as East Belfast?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Demanding unification with Ireland – now who’s deluded 😉

    Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory so legally it can be argued is in a special situation here.

  • Skibo

    A week is a short time in politics and two years of negotiations during economic uncertainty will be a lifetime. Stranger things have happened in NI in the last 20 years.
    now who’s deluded ;-), a statement similar to not with a forty foot barge pole and look what happened shortly after!

  • Colin Lamont

    I’d say that unionist turnout was much higher than nationalist- compare West Belfast to East Belfast or East Antrim. Turnout in my own polling station in East Antrim was about 20% up on last month by 9pm. But I would guess that nationalist sentiment was far less split on the issue compared to unionists. Hence higher unionist turnout did not translate into a Leave win, since may protestants were voting remain, particularly middle class ones- eg see the North Down results.
    I would guess that maybe about two thirds of unionists were for Leave, compared to about one fifth of catholics.
    Could Leave have won NI if the UUP had backed it??

  • Gerry Lynch

    Sound analysis, Colin. Not sure about the UUP – the Greater Belfast Unionist Remain vote seemed at least in part driven by people who don’t normally vote in NI elections and business and civil society groups who backed remain. (Note – that comment is “I’m not sure” and not “I definitely think”.)