If they let it drift too long, we could be back to 1969

I was very struck by the passion and eloquence of  comments on my post calling on the governments to make firm proposals to get the Assembly back. Most of it came from Sinn Fein supporters insisting that moment has passed because the  DUP  failed to honour their agreements and  still behave like a majority without realising (“the fools, the fools”) that those days are over. They’re set on believing that the DUP will never change so  the time has come  in some unspecified way  for the new nationalist majority to take the gloves off.  So far, so familiar and slightly alarming.

I presumptuously laid out a programme which addressed the Sinn Fein agenda  (why not? somebody’s got to). I wasn’t surprised  that this was brushed aside or ignored altogether. It’s  never the policy it’s the politics that counts. Now you may say this is what you get in blogs. But no, I think these were authentic voices of millennials mainly, who are fed up with being stuck with the old IRA tag. What I  saw was something uncannily familiar from a past they could not know, that  they’re looking for recognition and respect  with an impatience  that reminds me strongly of  my civil rights contemporaries of a generation  ago.

Are we any the wiser today?  Come on, discrimination is dead, there are no baton-wielding cops weighing into demos at the whim of a minister and hey we’ve got power sharing. You can’t argue that the unionists have nothing left except the border and at the same time claim  you’re still unequal . You’re still at the old game, your one aim and object… you’ll never  give up  until you‘ve achieved it… how  can we ever trust you… etc etc. Well indeed!

Both sides may be miscalculating, just as the old unionist government did when they accused the civil rights movement of being IRA puppets and the CR movement lost control of itself  in the drift to disaster.  You may say again that the big difference is that today, these people really do believe  they can “overthrow the state” by peaceful means.

The alternative view – which was certainly the case in 1969 – is what they  really want is proper acknowledgement within the system and they must be taken seriously because they sincerely  believe it. It isn’t good enough  or politic enough to  protest with facts. There is a big difference  between these  two interpretations. A lot hangs on choosing the right one. It could mean the  difference between a better or worse peace.

A programme of reform is not enough  just as it was too little, too late in 1969-70. On the legacy you could throw open all the state archives like East Berlin 1989 and it would make no difference. People will believe what they want to believe from the very considerable evidence  now available. The state – now or in any different future form – will never accept  equivalence between  state forces and insurgents. You can enact all the equality laws you can think of and some people will remain alienated.

This perhaps is why the parties are talking past each other in a dialogue of the deaf the British government  do not understand.  Unionist behaviour has changed more than angry republicans give it credit for but nowhere near enough.   Sinn Fein’s  low cunning is as great as ever.

My lesson is this: In power sharing it is not enough to look after your own side within a framework that regulates equality. Cold equality  is not enough either and can never be symmetrical.  A reform agenda is essential but it will need a genuine  commitment from unionists this time  to make it work. It’s commitment more than the detail – admissions that yes, we got it wrong and we will  give our necessary approval for some things for the very reason you want them and they don’t hurt us.  That just might  make the difference and produce the “sea change.”

The  proper response from republicans would be  just as demanding  after the surge. They must stop pressing for a border poll and look ahead to developments without trying to control them at every stage. This is exactly what unionism got so terribly wrong for half a century of single party government. The prospect is tantalising of a second election that comes near to touching 50% for nationalism, so how could a border poll be denied? It takes mighty judgement to accept that mirror image triumphalism is not appropriate for nationalism even  in this atmosphere of elation and  anticipation.  Monopoly government will never be an option for Sinn Fein  north or south or both. They should remember they will always need partners.

I’m resigned to the charge  that asking for yet more republican patience  as they see it,will seem like the  request a unionist  pleading for mercy and desperate to avoid the inevitable.  But it’s  bigger than that. It’s asking them calmly to consider that although it may seem to them that the republican ducks are lining up nicely  in a row, now is not the time and this is not the way, because unity, if it is to be the  settled will of the people, will not be a happy outcome unless it has a significant margin of appreciation among those who think profoundly differently from them. In short, unionists in the sharpest contrast to nationalists a century ago must be persuaded and that will take time and with no guarantee of success.

This is the hardest of bullets to bite but it is surely the big lesson of history. However if the point is reached when the numbers for unity really are decisive, it will be time to think again. A border poll now, imagined as the beginning of a climactic seven year countdown to unity, would serve only to alienate unionists more, without any real prospect of the result. It is a windup, not a strategy.

It may take more time for this penny to drop among the the eager and impatient but the  pragmatists of the leadership must  realise that is overreach today.   Sinn Fein must do that difficult thing and  urge restraint from the very  grass roots  who created the surge in order to settle, later perhaps than sooner. Unionists  in turn must realise that  any republican forbearance must be matched by adopting a reasonable version of an agenda  which in no way threatens their position, unless the very fact of last ditch resistance makes it so. It ought to come as a blessed relief to unionists to drop the burden of pretending that it is “our” state any more, when it manifestly has to be shared.

Then from each side we the people who are excluded from this encounter will  need to see the shape of things to come. That is only possible in debate and action in government in the resumed Assembly. On Brexit whatever your outlook,  it is surely obvious that all the institutions of the GFA should be up and running and ready to work together, to exert maximum impact on the outcome. It may well be that the advantages of placing the economic border in the Irish sea outweigh the national symbolism of shifting it.  Unionists should have the self confidence and maturity to support it.

The people can probably navigate the cultural streams better than the politcians whose unfortunate instinct is to weaponise them.

The future is unpredictable and it could be dangerous.  Hopefully  the elation of the Sinn Fein  “victory” will not turn to ugly disillusion and provoke a matching unionist response Or unionist insecurity provokes etc etc.. .  But if they all let it drift too long we may be back to 1969. And we know what happened then.

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  • AntrimGael

    In other words Irish Nationalists should just stop being…..Irish…. and……Nationalist because it offends Unionism…..and if you don’t it’ll be 1912 and another Ulster Covenant with a further arms importation?
    Why does the political and media narrative always have to revolve around Unionist ‘insecurities, fears, anxieties, worries’ etc. Do Nationalists not have these either? Many people, especially around the border, are really concerned at Brexit and the unknown. The story and focus cannot continually be about one section of the community.
    While I agree there are probably more pressing concerns currently why, however, SHOULD people stop talking about a border poll because someone else doesn’t like it? Is it not a legitimate position to be in favour of Irish unity?
    Instead of burying their heads and pretending it’s not real Unionist politicians and elements of the media should be straight with the PUL community and tell them that demographics will ultimately, in the near future, result in a border poll. No amount of scaremongering, denial, anarchy or threats of violence will change this.

  • Starviking

    I think the message is, focus on the now and make things work now. However, you are totally within your rights to vigourously and fortrightly assert your rights as an Irish Nationalist. You can push and harangue if that is what you wish. However, that will not contribute to civil society in Northern Ireland/The North of Ireland, and may well start up the Troubles again.

  • AntrimGael

    Most Nationalists will say we did focus on making the political institutions work but, on equality issues and shared government, they weren’t working for us.
    DUP ministers taking £50,000 off children trying to improve their Irish language skills, just before Christmas, while at the same time handing 100’s of 1000’s of pounds to Loyalist bands and Orange halls, could hardly be construed as partnership government.
    Furthermore to harangue is to lecture aggressively. I seek neither to lecture or be aggressive to anyone in my legitimate desire to argue for, and ultimately see, Irish unity. ‘Civil’ society should let me pursue such an issue and I have no desire to see the Troubles start up again.
    However those who scaremonger and throw up the bogeyman of strife, anarchy and potential violence should state from what quarter this would come and, if a democratic vote does result in 50+1% in favour of unity, what grounds or right would they have for anarchy other than usurping democracy.

  • Brian Walker

    A border poll is not “talking about unity”. But thanks, I should develop the point in the text.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c1ff5e9a2e5467dbaa47bd95ec9e53d85acfd9a7e139f86b2109b2de54b287e3.jpg What’s your prediction AG ? How many people would sign such an Ulster Covenant today in Northern Ireland ?

  • aquifer

    Croppies lie down. I don’t think so. Try Unionists wise up and do the GFA.

  • the keep

    Hang on you didn’t have any trouble when a SF minister stripped the band grants did you? However I suppose that’s different isn’t it?

  • The Irishman

    Well said AG.

  • Barneyt

    Its six of one…..

    NI status can only change with consent. Its true that the call for a border poll may be designed to rattle unionism or remind them of the eventual inevitable. Had this been called without any trace of Brexit, I might agree that now is not the time.

    Given events (Brexit mostly) the ground has shifted as SF see an opportunity, as do others. More than SF want unification. If there is any way to secure even a slight majority in favour of unificiation, then its legitimate to press for such a poll without worrying if unionism will have a shite attack.

    Even if a vote in favour is nailed on, it will still be seen as a windup and an attempt to antagonise, even though they are exercising agreed mechanims. Are we really saying that Irish nationalism and republcanism cannot agitate for unity?

    We all know what there is no certainty in the border poll outcome. Smart money suggests that most might still favour being retained in the British union, even at the expense of losing the European Union. Why dont the unionists call for the border poll and put this baby to bed for a few more years? Too ricky?

    I have to say, we are a long way away from the 1969 scenario. Back then it was quite hopeless for the Irish. Today there is a remote prospect of SF and SDLP moving directly ahead of the DUP and UUP (latter more damaged than the former). That is more attractive than returning to the gun and combined with pressuring for a poll, serves up more ammunition against the Unionism state than any active campaign can have.

    Whilst there may not be any baton-weilding, the failure to implement the St Andrews agreement serves as a reminder of the past and how immovable unionism can be. It also brings out their apologists from all walks of life, who are prepared to paint SF requests for an Irish language act as an unreasonable request. Its in black and white. It matters little if SF has not pressed sufficiently on this previously. There are other plays who are responsible for ensuring all aspects of the agreement are met. It also demonstrates that agreements are perhaps futile. So in that sense, I see where you are going.

  • Korhomme

    There is a view, perhaps cynical, perhaps realistic, that neither SF nor the DUP actually want these talks to succeed. There’s not much information coming from the talks, but what there is sounds very much like the ‘blame game’ in action; with both major parties saying we ‘can’t’ agree. Replace ‘can’t’ with ‘won’t’ for a different perspective, as if both parties want or need to ‘keep faith’ with their political constituencies.

    Both parties have a ‘security blanket’ or ‘comforter’ to fall back on; they know, or think they know, that if they cannot (will not) form an Executive, then Nanny will intervene with Direct Rule. Both parties can continue to blame the other, and blame the UK government and the SoS when things don’t happen.

    Now, Nanny has far more important matters at present; the government is overwhelmed with the complexity of Brexit, and there is the difficulty of keeping the Foreign Secretary on a tight leash.

    Nanny might well think; I’ll legislate to keep essential services going, but I won’t do much more, for that is your responsibility. Nanny might even say, you can talk a bit more, but then it’s another election; and if you still won’t agree, then another election with the aim of getting the population to see how their political parties are failing them.

    Nanny might even have secret talks with the Au Pair next door, expressing her frustration with the kids’ antics, and looking not just for moral support. And then where would we all be?

  • Cushy Glen

    The plan is that Direct Rule will become so unattractive to all sides that the union will be renegotiated.
    It’s all part of the Brexit shenanigans.

  • Reader

    Barneyt: If there is any way to secure even a slight majority in favour of unificiation, then its legitimate to press for such a poll without worrying if unionism will have a shite attack.
    Because you started your sentence with “If”, I agree with you utterly.

  • DanCan

    Ive been an Irish unity advocate all my adult life. I was tough about it too and experienced actual injustices along the way from the 70s, through the 80s and into the 90s. I remember parades being forced down Ormeau for years, I even recall an orange parade that came down Cliftonville road, along Antrim road and down Duncairn, needless to say that parade didnt happen again. But the police and politicians were always there to support what the OO wanted to do and thats what I saw as Unionist.
    In my vision of a UI it was to hell with Unionists and their hatred because they have been like bullies their entire existence and they still try to be. They just look stupid now in an enlightened age (of sorts) as they bellow their wise cracks with a jag that only they think are funny.
    But since Brexit a UI has become a more serious possibility than it ever has been and for the first time also I am considering what that UI might look like. I also find my heart softening at the thought of what Unionists must be feeling – this hatred and dominance was their being. I am quickly reminded though when I see some videos on youtube of the RUC forcing marches down Ormeau rd of what that could still be like, and in some places here, still is.
    Ive always thought of Unionists here as wanting to be Scotsmen who want to be Englishmen (and I read that elsewhere so it wasnt mine), anything but Irish. Its going to be a tough slog getting Unionists on board. Their very naming suggests they are nothing without the other countries involved and are deeply coupled and in a complex connection that cannot exist in independence. Scotland, England nor Wales have that. They are very independent countries with huge cultures and
    NI Unionists need them so it can exist, they don’t need NI in order for them to exist.

  • El Daddy

    Excellent article!

  • 1729torus

    This article should definitely be read in conjunction with a previous Slugger piece: Perhaps the Irish kept changing the question because the British weren’t listening?

  • 1729torus

    Now that FF are getting in on the unity game, there is less need for SF to appeal to the “middle”. Instead, they can play “bad cop” and appeal to their base; let others worry about bringing Unionists along.

  • doopa

    ‘discrimination is dead’ – really Brian is it?

  • Starviking

    Point taken, harangue is not applicable to yourself. However, it does apply to a lot on both sides.

    As for the strife, it will come as it always does: slights taken hard on both sides, one side pushing for a wee victory without regard for reactions on the other side, one murder, another in reaction, more murders, more in reaction…

  • Neil

    The author writes an article based on the assumption that the GFA is up for wholesale renegotiation because there seem to be a lot of people of a Catholic background all of a sudden. Then, shockingly, Nationalists ignore his generous offer of shifting the goalposts from 50/50 as agreed to 60/40 because Unionists are frankly not happy about the way the demographics are panning out.

    We ignore your offer because there is no negotiation. We did our negotiating and in accordance with international norms, should the people express a democratic wish to cease our participation in the Union then that’s it. The bigger the majority the better but a majority of one single person will do. That’s the counter offer, and it’s final.

  • Obelisk

    I have to concur. I’m all for accommodating former Unionists within a United Ireland, but I am not prepared to surrender them a veto forever.

    50%+1. That’s the minimum target and if we get there, it’s not ideal but we will take it and sort out the mess afterwards.

  • The Merovingian

    Quite. If 50% +1 was sufficient for Brexit, and the independence referendum in Scotland, why should it be any different for a border poll here?

  • North Down dup

    Good blog Brian. Republicans in general don’t care about NI, never have never will, they do not want stormont to work, how can they a happy stormont is a happy NI equals the pipe dream of a UI.
    Am sick of hearing this crap about poor Catholics being discriminated during the troubles you do know the prods houses were in the same condition as their Catholic neighbours some cases worse. If you wanted a house with a garden you went to ballymurphy.
    Unionists will not fall for the crocodile tears

  • Tarlas

    “The union has been an economic disaster for all the people of Northern Ireland, Protestant and Catholic, Unionist and Nationalist. They’ve all been impoverished by the Union and this shows no sign of letting up. “ (David Mc Williams economist).

    With Brexit looming there is a dearth of current opinion data relating to issues/options such as a border poll , Eu special status, etc. What there is comes from quite a narrow base in comparison to Scottish data.

    Should poll data figures similar to Scotland set the benchmark for a border poll ?


    I believe that between now and 2019/2020; it is time to have a border poll v union debate and maturely examine the positives that either option /position can bring to
    the table, concluding with a border poll. It could mark the turning point from
    the downward economic begging bowl trajectory expressed by economists.

  • North Down dup

    I agree, who is getting all the top jobs doopa in the puplic sector.

  • The Merovingian

    Maybe not, but they still have to feed the crocodile!

  • Brian Walker

    The offer or non-offer is not only yours to make. No one seriously disputes the 50% qualification at a referendum. Getting to that point is more complex than you confidently assume.

  • Brian Walker

    Kind of you Obelisk. Nice to see people so confidently and solely in charge. Craigavon and Dev would have recognised you immediately!

  • Brian Walker

    Kind of you Obelisk. Nice to see people so confidently and solely in charge. Craigavon would have recognised you immediately!

  • Brian Walker

    One loss, one gain.But who’s disputing 50%. A red herring.

  • Brian Walker

    A guarded thanks dup. But yours is not my case?

  • Obelisk

    Brian what would you have me say? That after a hundred years of waiting we have to wait even more even if over half the people are ready for unity?

    I have not heard one feasible reason for a supermajority in a border poll. I’ve heard talk of the potential instability, but has the potential instability of denying a majority for reunification been discounted?

    We have to use 50%+1 because it is the only acceptable yardstick that everyone can agree on.

    Is there anything fundamentally wrong or objectionable with my basic position: Strive to get as many votes in favour as possible but a majority is a majority?

    We’ve been told this over and over and over again, the constitutional position of Northern Ireland is dependent on the wishes of the majority.

    This talk of a supermajority, no matter how it is presented as trying to avoid the mistakes of the past, is just going to be seen as moving the goalposts to suit Unionism BECAUSE THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT IT IS.

    You are trying to appeal our better nature I suspect. I do see your point, I really do. And in a better world maybe…

    I just can’t ever agree to what you are suggesting. Not now, not ever. 50%+1, Northern Ireland ends. It is that simple.

    And we deal with the consequences then whatever they maybe.

  • Anon Anon

    Views will differ on what constitutes a “slight chance”.

  • Anon Anon

    Your fundamental mistake is thinking that if there is a 50%+1 majority for unity, NI remains a stable entity while a UI doesn’t. That isn’t even remotely true; NI is a barely stable entity as is.

    Also, Brexit: I must have missed the build moves by Unionism to accommodate the inevitable Nationalist freak out on it.

  • Peggy kelly

    Many people seem to be making the assumption that SF are playing the game in such a way as to secure another election and hope to return as the largest party. However, It is probably more accurate to state the opposite. The DUP’s dogged refusal to countenance any compromise and force another election is probably more accurate. All parties have access to demographic specialists, the hard reality on the ground is that Unionism still has a potential heavy majority in the over 18 age category.
    In terms of community background the figures stack up as 52/42/6 – P/C/O. The most recent election results were 45/41/14 (Note how closely the Nat vote mirrors their community background). Overall 35% of the electorate did not show up. The DUP are most likely and correctly judging that most of those are pro Union in mindset. Another election with a reasonable push behind it could shift the seat numbers significantly.
    Very few commentators thought that Unionism would drop to just one seat in places like WT/MU/N&A/SD; demographically speaking, North Belfast should have produced three Unionist seats and two Nationalist, not the other way around. So for Unionism and their number crunchers there are at least six seats out there which are very winnable given the small margin of votes involved.
    If another election is called, SF and the very very very Lucky SDLP; could find themselves wringing a very dry sponge.

  • Obelisk

    But if you aren’t pushing for a supermajority in a border poll what exactly are you asking of us?

    You want us to stop pushing for a border poll or any progress on reunification until we have achieved sufficient consensus that it isn’t a traumatic event for Unionists.

    You want us to show the consideration to Unionism that Unionism never showed us when it tore our country apart.

    You want us to put off Irish unity for the sake of those who even to this day scorn us.

    Brian I don’t think anyone has it in them to be that magnanimous. You can’t ask this of us. It is too difficult.

  • Neil

    I confidently assume nothing. It’s in the air, may never happen. But when and if it does we know exactly what will be required for change to occur. 60/40 it ain’t.

  • Fear Éireannach

    Nationalists are “not pressing for a border poll”. Provided the spirit of the GFA is maintained, with equality in government, recognition of human rights and Irish identity , and no new harassment of people crossing the border, then a border poll is not an urgent. Indeed no poll should be held until there is a proper plan.

    What is such a problem about the aims of equality in government, recognition of human rights and Irish identity , and an absence of harassment of people crossing the border? Were these things already not part of the GFA agreed two decades ago? What is the problem?

  • Dónall

    Bertie was indirectly setting out the southern possition on Unity when he addressed the Senate last week. Although when faced with a referendum on Irish unity I would be bound to vote YES but I think there is alot of work needed before we can reach the point where we would win such a referendum. Do we really want to have 800,000 really angry and alienated people in our new Ireland? That said there is a real danger that partition would solidify both north and south if we leave it much longer – I don’t think you have factored that into your argument Brian.

  • 1729torus

    SF aren’t going to give up such a means of exerting constant pressure on Unionist politicians after being strung along for the past few years.

    Especially since it will become more effective as the demographics shift and United Ireland plans become more developed and numerous. Now that FF are advocating a “12 point plan”, SF might in fact very subtly and gradually start to make noises about a unitary state administered from Dublin.

    If the DUP wanted a renegotiation of the GFA, they had 10-15 years to articulate an alternative, and build up trust and goodwill.

  • doopa

    I wonder if there is an organisation that captures this kind of information?

  • Barneyt

    well thats right. They are no longer cutting a lone furrow. Even FG has made noises that are not too distant.

    This is why I cannot accept that SF are completely siezing the opportunity and 100% rattling the unionists for the sake of it. Of course you’d expect them to, but there are other factors at work here.

  • Barneyt

    Thing is, the NI unionists know a thing or two about unionism. They rightly challenged the english votes for english laws as being anti-union. So, it must be dishearening to see their natural cousins talking about going it alone and England and Wales doing all they can to wreck. Oh yeh and the DUP did the union no favours by pushing for Brexit. Brexit was always going to destroy the union and force it apart. Not just because of Irish and Scots aspirations but because of the increasing English centric view taken in Westmister and the removal of the secret ingredient that allowed us all to think on a common level ……Europeanism. We all share that EU mark on our passport and it will have served some psychological purpose to lessen our differences. Now those differences are blantently exposed.

  • Barneyt

    I cant see Unionisms end game if they want the talks to fail. SF can stick this on Unionism and the British government and come out relatively unscathed, as clearly part of an agreement has not been delivered. Add to that the recent actions of Givan and Arlene, and it articulates their argument for them.

    Unionism, if they do want it to fail, will get direct rule, providing there are no obstacles. Then what? a return to the past? perhaps you are right

  • Trasna

    Oh dear, the old threat of violence.

    Some things never change for unionisml

  • Redstar

    Interesting today that GA now says SF will reluctantly return to Stormont without agreement on legacy as it was not a devolved issue. Have they blinked first?

  • Redstar

    So you reckon there was no gerrymandering?

    Explain how Derry a 85% Nat city was run by unionists?????

  • Brian Walker

    Anon..I don’t know how old you are but you write as if you don’t know what real instability is..

  • AntrimGael

    The Tour of the North Dan, the last one that was forced through Nationalist North Belfast was eventful to say the least. The poor oul traffic lights at the bottom of the Cliftonville suffered dreadfully, they burnt for 2 days I recall.

  • North Down dup

    What year

  • Anon Anon

    So what’s your take here? A successful UI poll with a 50%+1 result – or maybe just calling the poll? – sends us back to the 70s, but frustrating a 50%+1 majority a for a UI has NI trundle along without trouble?

    I’m genuinely struggling to see your position.

  • Anon Anon

    The problems with that position is manifold, too. It’s not about being magnanimous.

    Firstly, as a Republican I believe everyone will be better off in a UI over the medium term. Secondly, I believe there is a section of Unionism that will never come to terms with it until it happens; going slow where a majority exists only prolongs the inevitable. Thirdly, there is a section of Republicanism that will cause mayhem if a democratic majority is denied. Or even a suspected majority.

    If the position is wait to keep Unionism happy, the request is actually immoral.

    Not saying it’ll happen soon to make any pronouncements, but we’re talking hypotheticals.

  • Gopher

    I’m not sure what would have to happen to get the 40% that dont bother to vote East of the Bann to the ballot box

  • Paddy Reilly

    As far as I can tell your figures assume that Catholic population growth stopped dead in 2011 and will never go up.

    I don’t think so. I assume that the growth experienced between 2001 and 2011 continued at exactly the same rate. The Catholic population between 2001 and 2011 grew from 737,412 to 817,385, a total of 79,973. This implies a Catholic population which is growing by 7,997 per annum. The Protestant population however has declined in the same 10 year period from 895,377 to 875,717. This gives them an annual shrinkage of 1,966. So we would expect that in the period 2011-17 it continued as:


    Accordingly, the number of Catholics first exceeded the number of Protestants in December 2016. That is why the recent election produced equal numbers of Nationalist and Unionist MLAs, if you count the single PBP MLA as Nationalist.

    Consequently talk of elections and referendums from now on will assume the same popularity among Unionists that talk of Christmas has among turkeys. Unionists henceforth will concentrate on delaying, refusing and obstructing elections and referendums for as long as possible.

    Very few commentators thought that Unionism would drop to just one seat in places like WT/MU/N&A/SD; demographically speaking, North Belfast should have produced three Unionist seats and two Nationalist, not the other way around.

    From this we deduce that you and your commentators are living in the past. I am sufficiently old to remember the time when Unionists thought they stood a good chance of winning back West Belfast: their optimism knows no bounds. Every election they lose they spend the next five years talking about how they can win it back. It goes on and on, with Unionists thinking they have the power to make water run uphill. I’m sorry: there are just too many papes now for any of your best-laid schemes to succeed.

  • Barneyt

    Its about balance. of course there are going to be some casualties in either side, but as long as balance is achieved. If its glaringly obvious that SF ensured their culturually linked interests were served whilst loyal organisations suffered, then we are dealing with the same thing. The DUP have gone out on a limb to make it clear that they have no intention of showing respect to any Irish tradition, language or interest. If SF do the same in return to the same degree, then we have the same problem in reverse.

  • Barneyt

    There is however a theme running here and on other threads that seems to regard previous agreements as being back on the table. Is it unreasonable for SF to demand their implementation, despite the fact there may have been oportunity to bang this drum since St Andrews. It matters little how small the protestation was previously and it should not detract for the justifiable footstamping now? I would support unionism in the same regard.

    Taking a very simplistic view, which I am good at, can we put the agreed measures on the backlog to be implemented as an when, without modification? For me this is important to show that agreements are binding and have a role to play. Without this, its a constant merrygoround. The DUP could grasp the nettle and debase the current SF campaign, but instead they fuel it and drag others non-SF-aligned into the debate.

  • Barneyt

    50+1 has to be good for both sides. It would gain wide-spread support if this figure was acheived to maintain the current status quo. I suspect the nationalistrepublican loss would not achieve equal status with the unionist impact should a unity vote achieve the same 51%. If 51% is good enough to maintain the union, we have to accept the same score to break it up.

    The reality is that Brokenshire and anyone the follows up will not regard a small pro-unity majority as a trigger for a vote. Double standards seems to be then theme.

    Granted there will be a greater impact in bringing two “countries” together and leaving the border in place, but this should not influence the decision. Its a hit that has to be taken should a border poll favour unity.

    I do hope in such an event, that small unionism invests in unity and moves any unity vote (should it occur) towards a stronger majority.

  • Barneyt

    Pro-union wins 51% – stability or instability?
    Pro-unity wins 51% – stability ot instability?

    If we take in other factors, such as the impact of the trasition, absorption of NI into all-Ireland, then its no longer about a democratic vote and a simple majority.

    Common sense tells me (having lived through the whole saga) that a slim pro-union majority will give us more of the same and perhaps more stability. SF will revert to the longer game, pressurise for another vote 7 years later, and hope for democraphic change (albeit it small) and a UI becoming more generally appealing to more than just nationalists and republicans. It may give the “dissidents” cause to continue and ramp up, but I cant see SF and associates throwing the towel in and advocating a return to the old campaign or anything similar.

    On the other hand, any kind of win for unity is going to generate some form of rising in the loyalist community. The will of the people will be dismissed and regardless of their actions, I see the British rowing in behind them to some degree and presenting the notion of a repartition. I cant see the democratic decision being respected and adhered to

  • T.E.Lawrence

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/32c21dcb7797da89b66702dda43ce01f067aa2efe9b1865c37c1d475d60677e1.jpg They are working on it already ! Frank McCoubrey just delivered 300 new registration forms to the electoral office with a Register canpaign across North & West Belfast which is continueing . More on the Way ! The DUP is not the only Pro Union Party carrying out this activity it is also being driven by Local Community Groups ! A lot of work is currently being done in the unionist sticks at present which no commentators have picked up on yet !

  • Brian Walker

    I’m saying that referendums are best used to ratify an already stable situation when large minorities are reconciled to change. We are a long way off that here but in time it is not impossible.
    Putting it off increases your frustration for well understood reasons but is the lesser of two evils. It will take time effort and goodwill all round to create even the preconditions.

  • Marcus Orr

    “The prospect is tantalising of a second election that comes near to touching 50% for nationalism, so how could a border poll be denied? ”

    I don’t understand why unionists don’t jump at the suggestion of a border poll.

    Taking the results of the recent election, and assuming 100% of SF / SDLP vote for a UI and 30% of the Alliance & Greens, that makes a result of approx. 55-45% pro UK. I think that’s about the high watermark for nationalism at this moment. In 10-15 years that may well change and it’ll get much closer.

    Anyway the problem will be the South – they have to vote for it too, and it’s not a foregone conclusion that they will vote for re-unification (they will, but it’ll be closer than you would think). Either way it’s a poll that the Republic were certainly not anticipating at this moment in time. The Southern electorate will want answers as to the financing of the North, civil servants in the North will want answers as to whether they have jobs at all in a United Ireland, lots of open points.

    Either way unionists have nothing to fear from a border poll this year. For the British govt. it may be seen as a pain in the neck to hold it whilst negotiations are going on, but what have they got to lose ? Would they be overly bothered if we voted to leave the UK ? Er, no.

  • Obelisk

    But it only increases our frustration if we assent to wait. The vast majority of Nationalists will not, you know this. If it is sensed we will win a border poll, we will have a border poll regardless of secondary considerations.

    In fact, take a look at Scotland. The very act of the referendum itself resulted in a groundswell of support that means that support for the idea reached 45%.

    A referendum makes things real. How many of those who voted in that life and times survey (endlessly quoted back at those of us who believe reunificaton is the best course for this island) would have voted differently had the possibility of reunification not seemed so remote? How would they actually vote in the ballot box, confronted by two boxes marked ‘reunify’ and ‘remain’?

    I suspect a first border poll would result in a large upswing of those selecting reunification, maybe not enough to win but enough for everyone to realise it is not a remote prospect at all, it can be done. And I am well aware of the consequences of that awakening, potentially seven years of bedlam.

    But if we don’t have the poll, maybe polled support remains anemic because the possibility doesn’t seem sufficiently real (part of the reason why I believe tracking then support Nationalists parties get at elections is more important than surveys on the unification question itself for determing if we should have a poll).
    So if we do follow your logic, a border poll delayed until a minority is reconciled to the coming change is a border poll denied for decades, all for the sake of that minority.

    What you ask is too great of us. Please know I do understand your point and I don’t disagree lightly, because my head completely understands.

    This is one of those cases where my heart rebels and overrules reason.

    I guess this is what it must feel like to be a Brexiteer.

  • Aengus Millen

    I would never claim to speak for those who joined the IRA during the troubles but it seems clear that they did it because there was oppression in their lives and violence on their streets. They didn’t do it for more political power so it’s ridiculous to suggest that a temporary impasse like this will lead to violence.

  • Anon Anon

    What in God’s name makes you think that if the conditions for winning a UI referendum existed, or even running it close, that trying to shut down that democratic desire leads to anything other than incredible instability. What historical context gives you hope of that?

    *Even if SF don’t go for it* for some unknown reason, someone else on the Nationalist side will. You’ve opened the door to every dissident in the 6 counties. Worst case they lead it. Is the plan to hope that renewed violence would put people off?

    It’s pure motivated reasoning.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Will you sign your name in blood, T.E?

  • Hugh Davison

    Pick any year from 1921 to 1969.

  • North Down dup

    What gerrymandering went on in Derry in 1921

  • Fear Éireannach

    Let’s face it, the tide is going out on the British Empire. Soon the dreary steeples of Tyrone and Fermanagh will reappear as the yoke of oppression is lifted.

  • Hugh Davison

    Try googling: ‘Northern Ireland Electoral Boundaries 1921’. You do know how to use Google, don’t you?

  • North Down dup

    So the unionists kept moving the boundaries in Derry for 50 years

  • Marcus Orr

    What are you talking about Irishman ?
    The British Empire has ceased to exist for 50/60 years now, if not longer ago. Why are you living in the distant past ? The Empire is ancient history.
    As for the dreary steeples of Tyrone and Fermanagh, you’ve taken that quote mightily out of context (it was Churchill’s remark on the Irish question and the problem of finding a settlement for both communities in Ulster, the British Irish and the independent Irish).
    Seems to me those “dreary steeples” have never been out of focus, and in indeed even today they are as sharply in focus as in Churchill’s day.

  • Hugh Davison

    Try this:
    Why do I have to do your research for you?

  • North Down dup

    Tell me what gerrymandering was going on in 1921, I’ve picked a year now you tell me

  • Hugh Davison

    Try googling: ‘Northern Ireland Electoral Boundaries 1921’. You do know how to use Google, don’t you?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I give Blood so no probs on that score !

  • ted hagan

    ‘All for accommodating former unionists;’
    Well how jolly decent of you, old boy. Thanks a million.

  • Obelisk

    And how else should Ireland respond to former Unionists post reunification?