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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Why is the UK sleepwalking into final Brexit chaos and towards breakup?

As the notional deadline of October for final Brexit negotiations draws ever closer, the clouds if anything are growing darker. The UK’s statements on their withdrawal position and the NI protocol have clarified very little. Johnson and co seem like General de Gaulle in 1940, holding out for an impossible position of victory against the odds. But at least de Gaulle had allies. A City University webinar I linked up with yesterday confirmed growing pessimism over Northern Ireland prospects.( video …

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Complacent Assumptions vs Political Reality: a border poll is not inevitable…

Following the vote for Brexit in 2016, a persistent media drumbeat has highlighted the enhanced likelihood of a future border poll – a referendum for a United Ireland. Many Irish nationalists, noting the changing demographics and loss of Unionism’s political majority, have already priced it in. But is this assumption complacent, and if it does happen what are the consequences? The key to unlocking a border poll is the view of the people who live in Northern Ireland (the Republic …

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There’s more to it than polling. Ireland needs more than one choice of political future.

Although Irish unity has been a common obsession for more a century we can only marvel at how little it has been considered as a realistic proposition. In the Republic Sinn Fein’s surge at the general election has promoted it to a higher but still uncertain place in an agenda preoccupied with economic reform.  In the GFA, the issue was from the start insulated from what really mattered at the time, the  winning of the peace and the  effective operation …

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On key issues, the general election survey shows the uncommitted or don’t knows are growing in number

Mick has dug deep for his reflections into the Northern Ireland general election survey commissioned by Liverpool University’s Institute of Irish Studies and conducted by Social Market Research (SMR). In this piece I wrote before I logged into Slugger (and I frankly don’t want to waste it) I gnaw more at the bone of opinion on unity. The survey and its questions surely show how sensitive to events is general opinion and how volatile the events affecting long lasting themes. …

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Opinion on a border poll “on a knife edge” – the latest from The Detail

Here we go again.  Just a bit of cross posting here to draw attention m to a special edition of The Detail, about a border poll. The comment is based a Lucid Talk opinion poll conducted north and south, showing opinion “ on a knife edge” –   46.8%  to stay in the UK and 45.4 % for a United Ireland. The disparity now among three polls in succession can partly be accounted for by different methodology, this one on line, …

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‘Brexit means that Northern Ireland’s constitutional future has become an issue for Europe’, says Denis Bradley

Denis Bradley was keen to move on in the latest Forward Together podcast interview to discuss the constitutional position of Northern Ireland.  “Well that’s the one that intrigues me because I don’t know the answer!,” he says. “First of all I think something very important happened within the last couple of weeks and has not received attention. And that is that the Europeans have said if there a no deal situation we will still have to deal with the Northern …

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No Deal would mean ” a blockade” of Northern Ireland. Is anybody listening? Does anybody care?

David Sterling, head of the Northern Ireland civil service Tony Connelly RTE’s ace Europe editor, has pulled together in its full awfulness the impact of No Deal on the Northern Ireland economy, amounting  “to a full blockade.”  Clearly well briefed by officials in Belfast, Dublin and Brussels, the message isn’t getting through in London where it matters most at the moment. Just consider this for a wee opener…. When the original exit date of 29 March approached, officials fretted that …

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‘Let’s create an all-island, integrated, health service, and let’s begin now’

There needs to be an all-island, integrated, health service, and its creation should not be dependent upon the agreement or timing of a united Ireland, argues Professor Jim Dornan – one of the architects of existing cross-border co-operation in health services.  Jim was interviewed in the latest Forward Together podcast. “In many ways Ireland is a Goldilocks sized country for health provision,” he explains.  “We can cherry pick the best of health provision throughout the world and let’s introduce it …

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Border poll ferment hits a high spot in the Euros exit poll

The Red C exit poll records an astounding result on Irish Unity – so amazing that it’s presented as tucked in after another positive result on the Irish language, as if they don’t quite  believe it. Newton tweets Support for a united Ireland rises as support for Sinn Fein falls. Perhaps the southern electorate is more sophisticated on this point than it gets credit for.   What’s happening to them down there, so drunk with euphoria about what a terrific …

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Synthesis

In my previous post I outlined the various models available for a sovereign Ireland – a unitary state, asymmetric devolution, federalism and a confederal union. Asymmetric devolution is unstable and inequitable, while federalism is too heavy for such a small country as Ireland. That leaves a unitary state and a confederal union as the only serious options, and each involves a different set of compromises. A unitary state is more efficient, more equitable and arguably simpler in its daily operation; …

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The escape hatch

Mike Nesbitt states plainly what should by now be painfully obvious. With Brexit, Unionism has shot itself in the foot, and many people are now quietly contemplating the previously unthinkable. But this has merely upped the ante for those who advocate constitutional change. Appealing to nationalists, he said: “If you’re going to have a border poll…don’t let it be like Brexit. Before there’s a border poll it has to be spelled out in enormous detail – and truthfully, unlike Brexit …

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The mechanics of a Border Poll

Mark Bassett and Colin Harvey have this week produced an important paper, which works through the mechanics of a border poll. Although as the authors point out, this might not be the best choice of words: When people use the term “border poll” they are referring to the question of whether Northern Ireland will remain within the United Kingdom or join a united Ireland. Although it is widely used and adopted, we question how helpful it is in capturing the …

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Plan for a border poll certainly, but as part of new British- Irish and North-South relationships

Deep in the last ditch before Tuesday’s meaningful vote, the UK government are warning that the DUP’s refusal to back Mrs May’s deal brings a border poll nearer. The warning was put into the mouth of Karen Bradley who political anoraks may just remember is the minister with nominal responsibility for Northern Ireland affairs. No 10 put out one of their coy little  briefings to say that she  “told the Cabinet” that a border poll on the reunification of Ireland …

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The time has come for the next Assembly to vote on a border poll

In a brave attempt to discuss a border poll dispassionately, Newton Emerson is tentatively suggesting that it might be a good idea to hold a sort of test poll outside the terms of the GFA “to clear the air.” Unfortunately his analysis is better than his prescription, as a poll of any sort  under official sponsorship, even one declared in some way not to count,  would  inevitably still stimulate  the  seven year itch  among nationalists he rightly identifies , to …

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From the London broadsheets, rare interest in Irish developing positions is to be welcomed

The criticism  is well made that  British  interest in Irish positions is generally self serving and fails to recognise their independent validity. Any slight shift in this is to be welcomed. The London broadsheets  have paid Sinn Fein the rare compliment of taking seriously the party’s think-in at Cavan. It’s worth noting that they have yet to broach the notion that a  Brexit solution would  be so much easier if Northern Ireland were to join the Republic.  Quite apart from …

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Slugger TV with Christopher Stalford

In this months episode I speak with the DUP MLA, Christopher Stalford about the DUP, going to Clones and a border poll. David McCannDavid McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs

Mike Nesbitt “Rather than Carson’s dream of a government for all, we are hurtling into the record books for the length of time we have had no government for anyone”

Mike Nesbitt has released a response to Peter Robinson’s comments on a border poll; “A couple of months ago, Peter Robinson said he was pulling the pin out of the grenade – a curious analogy for a man making his inaugural speech as an Honorary Professor of Peace Studies. He was referring to the manner in which a Border Poll might be called and conducted, an issue he returned to in great detail last week. It is time to explore …

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An Irish Border Poll – learning the lessons of Brexit

Demographic changes and some recent polls have injected an air of optimism, arguably even complacency into the campaign for Irish unity to the extent that its proponents regard it as inevitable within the medium-term. A quick review of the past two years in the United Kingdom however, offers a vivid example of how major constitutional change is not a simple matter, far from it. The problem began with a referendum, posing the simple question: Should the United Kingdom remain a …

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How has opinion in Northern Ireland on the border question changed since the Brexit referendum?

It is perhaps ironic that, given politics in Northern Ireland has revolved around the border question since its inception, there is a significant amount of uncertainty regarding whether the people of Northern Ireland want to stay in the United Kingdom or become part of a united Ireland. There have been a number of opinion polls and surveys on the question since the Brexit referendum in June 2016, which have yielded significantly varying results on the question of support for Irish …

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