In the final report on unification referendums on the island of Ireland, the unionist case goes by default.

   First a critical  assessment of  the Report on Referendums within the island of Ireland by an old colleague with definitive cross border credentials, Andy Pollak,  A brilliantly reasoned but not balanced exploration of future Irish unity referendums….  If a majority opts for unification, then the transfer of sovereignty must occur, whether governing arrangements [for a new united Ireland] can be agreed consensually or not.” This is the report’s central contradiction (as it may be in the 1998 Agreement itself)…  This …

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If Edwin Poots tried to crash the Assembly it would open the door to a border poll

Let’s assume Edwin Poots is a shoo-in for the DUP leadership. Comfortable in his minor elder statesman role at Westminster, Jeffrey Donaldson hasn’t the stomach for a contest. He might be willing to accept  it on a plate but that’s not going to happen. With more than a hint of desperation, some of us have been foisting the Nixon goes to China model onto Poots, meaning that the hardliner in politics may be better placed to compromise than the liberal. …

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Lecture – Rory Montgomery: ‘The Good Friday Agreement and a United Ireland’

The former Irish ambassador to the EU, Rory Montgomery, delivered his inaugural lecture as honorary professor of practice at the QUB Mitchell Institute on Tuesday evening. His topic – The Good Friday Agreement and a United Ireland – had a contemporary feel as the civic conversation intensifies around whether to and how to hold border polls. The 45 minute lecture was followed by half an hour of questions from the audience moderated by Professor Christopher McCrudden.  While Belfast Agreement …

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Northern Ireland at 100: Unionism failing; Nationalism stuck; Moderates thriving…

One hundred years after Partition, Northern Ireland is still in existence. It would surely come as a big surprise to many who thronged the streets of Belfast on June 22nd 1921 – the date King George V opened the first NI Parliament in City Hall – that unionism is now a minority in Stormont. It would also surely come as a big surprise to many nationalists in 1972 that the state set up to guarantee unionist rule in north-east Ireland …

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Ten Ways Irish Unity Could Benefit the Republic of Ireland…

The topic of Irish unity has been propelled into the mainstream of political debate to an extent that would have been inconceivable even five years ago. And it’s not just the usual Republican voices engaged either. Most of Nationalism’s moderate mainstream, plus some elements within Unionism, are also pondering the question of what form Northern Ireland’s future could or should take in a world where Brexit has happened and demography is shifting. It still remains very early days in that …

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Unionism Playing Senior Hurling?

For many in the Nationalist community, the ‘United Ireland’ debate broadcast on RTE and hosted by Claire Byrne was highly significant as it represented the first such debate on mainstream Irish media. Following the debate, I was sent a short message from a Nationalist friend that went, “Unionism is now playing senior hurling and you’ve lost the first match”. My last article for Slugger outlining why I felt it was an apt time for Unionism to be confident and call …

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Brexit breakthrough on the protocol? Try this for size

If you’re  one of those souls who follow every twist and turn of Stormont politics, there’s one thing you shouldn’t overlook; that  sorting out the Brexit rows which are stoking division are largely  beyond local control. Another is what Newton reminded us recently, that  Stormont  boycott is now  a risky strategy. The Executive can stagger on for the best part of a year in the absence of one leading party – guess who? –  but with an election somewhere along …

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Irish Political leaders building cautious consensus on a United Ireland

It was quite refreshing to see a reasonable debate on a United Ireland on Claire Byrne Live on Monday. There were pivotal moments from the get-go with Mary Lou McDonald and Leo Varadkar seeming to build a cautious consensus together in regard to the Northern Ireland question and how to go about it. It certainly felt from the outside looking in, a true start to the conversation of seeking Irish unity in the South in the modern era. For many …

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Unionism needs to step out from the shadows on the Unity referendum question…

It’s difficult to avoid the reality that discussions about a referendum on the constitutional position of Northern Ireland are gaining momentum. For better or for worse it has become part of our daily lexicon in which every problem within Northern Ireland that arises is a result of partition which can easily be rectified if only the island was united. It also means that every mistake Unionism makes (and there are innumerable) make the demands for a referendum louder. The conversations …

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“To hell with the future and long live the past”. Allison Morris turns it around when contemplating a border poll. But has the EU Commission just changed the odds by uniting north and south against them ?

D The new Ulster University campus  under construction  In this year of different centenary  commemorations north and south (sorry,”markings”),  Allison Morris has written a terrifically interesting piece in  the Irish News . When it comes to  weighing the issues for a border poll, she raises the desire for a better life above the call of background, tradition and history, yes even the history of the Troubles. Without labouring the point, contrast this with the run of comment in the Newsletter …

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A border poll can be held at any time – redux

With border polls remaining a major topic of conversation, particularly following today’s Sunday Times/Lucid Talk reporting of a poll which found that a majority of voters in Northern Ireland wish a border poll to be held within the next five years, I still find that there remain widespread misconceptions around the Secretary of State’s powers to call a border poll. In particular, people still seem to think that the Secretary of State has no discretionary power to call a border …

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UK breakup. The vacuum where the Union case should be stands exposed

 Will the drum roll start for a border poll and  wreck the prospects for even slim collaboration for dealing with the massive and more immediate  challenges of Covid and Brexit –  and just governing ?   Or will it promote a virtuous competition  between the DUP and Sinn Fein over which of them will be the better collaborator in government, with the hope of  wooing the uncommitted to their existential cause? Will the minor parties get squeezed or flourish amid growing …

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Real world pressures are complicating neat arguments over unification

I begin with  more inexplicable partitionism from Dublin, as discussed by Newton who has a hawkeye for this subject “Genuine mystery surrounds the Irish Government’s lengthy refusal to share Covid passenger data with Northern Ireland. The Government will not explain it and nobody else can see what the issue might be. There is increasing urgency for a solution as Britain, Ireland and Northern Ireland introduce negative Covid test requirements for travellers, with varying sets of self-isolation periods that cannot be …

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George Osborne: Northern Ireland is already heading for the exit door…

Former Chancellor, and now editor of The Evening Standard, George Osborne, has been writing about the potential break up of the Union. Not any more. By unleashing English nationalism, Brexit has made the future of the UK the central political issue of the coming decade. Northern Ireland is already heading for the exit door. By remaining in the EU single market, it is for all economic intents and purposes now slowly becoming part of a united Ireland. Its prosperity now …

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Border Poll: Take Stormont off the table

Strand one was the name given to the collective socio-legal structures of devolution and inter-community governance in Northern Ireland as part of the Good Friday Agreement. Unlike the North-South Ministerial Council (strand two) or the British-Irish council (strand three) it is the part of the agreement most relevant to and most recognised by the NI population. At its heart strand one is beyond the structural concerns of the Assembly and Executive, it is about the principle of subsidiarity so that …

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Unionism Fighting a Border Poll…

There are two fixed rules within Unionism – (1) you do not talk about a ‘Border Referendum’ and (2) you do not talk about a ‘Border Referendum’. However, today I will break that cardinal rule and discuss how Unionism approaches such a referendum and what we can learn from the two recent big referendums, namely ‘Scottish Independence’ and ‘Brexit’. It’s difficult to hide that calls for a ‘Border Referendum’ have been growing in recent years. We may not be quite …

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A more refreshing debate on Ireland’s future has just been ignited

We are looking at a border poll within the next ten years, and reunification could happen within 20 years. I believe events will move a lot faster than any of us could ever envisage. Just look at Brexit, who could have predicted that five years ago?  Brian O’Neill may be right or he may be wrong. But we need something more than speculation.  A new debate has been ignited in the Irish Times.  Prof Pete Shirlow  goes for developing the …

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Mary McAleese and Peter Robinson should lead a commission on reunification proposals…

Mary McAleese was on this week’s Sunday with Miriam show on RTE Radio 1. It was a reminder of what a class act she is, very sharp and well informed. Mary McAleese would have made a great Taoiseach or First Minister. If got me thinking about how we should make use of the considerable talents of our leaders who are no longer in office, but still have a lot to contribute to society. With the passing of Seamus Mallon and …

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Nicola Sturgeon, the Angela Merkel of UK politics…

In this week’s Spectator Magazine, Alex Massie has a profile of Nicola Sturgeon. Being a Conservative Unionist publication, The Spectator has no love for the SNP. But there was grudging respect for the popularity of the First Minister of Scotland and her almost Donald Trump levels of Teflon. Nicola Sturgeon is seen by the public as the perfect counterweight to the blustering, bumbling Boris Johnston. From the article: But in modern Scotland, relative success counts for more than absolute success. …

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Confronting the issues of organising Unity referendums. Academics in London, Dublin and Belfast show the way. Will the politicians follow?

In addressing the existential core of politics north and south in Ireland, a working group of academics has laboured long on grappling with the issues on Referendums on Irish unity and delivered a modest proposal in the form of an “interim report”. But unlike Swift’s biting satire, theirs is an impeccably rational approach to procedural issues and the broad context for holding twin if not quite simultaneous referendums. They recommend as best option a model of what unity would look …

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