The Union will not survive the end of the NI Protocol

I’m sure everyone must be feeling as exhausted and frustrated as I am to see that once again we’re back to groundhog day once again with the European Union and the UK launching into another period of tense negotiations. I don’t want to spend a lot of time going over what is currently going on when there is plenty of fine – and infinitely more qualified – commentary available elsewhere, except to say that it sounds like the UK is …

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Historical determinism is holding Nationalism back and needs to be ditched.

“A United Ireland is inevitable” For anyone who comes from a Nationalist family you will have heard an older relative say this statement over and over again. Like an article of faith, you believe that with just a few simple demographic changes and a patient waiting game that the promised land will be ours. After all, Northern Ireland was only going to be a temporary stop gap solution, right? The British government would be shot of us tomorrow,  because we …

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Talking about constitutional status change

Colin Harvey is Professor of Human Rights Law, School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast. The debate about constitutional change remains odd. Status here is intended to rest on nothing more robust than majority support. It is accepted that if Northern Ireland wants to leave the Union it can, provided the mechanisms of concurrent consent in the Good Friday Agreement are followed. This is not a radical proposition dreamed up by a subversive academic conspirator, but an accepted and agreed part …

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Varadkar “I believe in the unification of our island and I believe it can happen in my lifetime”

The Tanaiste and Fine Gael Leader, Leo Varadkar is opening his party’s Ard Fheis tonight. In his speech he makes a strong pitch for Irish unification and speaks about the protocol. On the protocol the decision to opt for a hard Brexit made it inevitable that checks and controls would have to happen somewhere and it is much better that these should take place at two or three ports and airports rather than at multiple border posts along 10 border …

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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 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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Unionism: so what’s the plan ?

The BBC reports this evening the following remarks from DUP North Antrim MP, Ian Paisley: Northern Ireland will not be used as a pawn – we opposed the withdrawal agreement, we warned about this protocol, we said it would damage the integrity. “I am glad, maybe at the last minute, the PM has wakened up to the serious threat that this poses to the union,” he said. “If the prime minister has the mettle to finish the job I welcome …

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‘It is absolutely crazy to think that constitutional change in Ireland would happen overnight’

Consideration of Irish unity needs careful preparation, argues Seamus McGuinness, research professor at the Republic’s Economic and Social Research Institute. He suggests looking to the example of Hong Kong, where the handover of control was undertaken over a 13 year period. Seamus was talking in the latest Holywell Trust Forward Together podcast.  The difference in economic performance, North and South, sits “at the centre of debate around constitutional change,” believes Seamus. “I come at it from the perspective of someone who worked …

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’The unity conversation needs to be open, transparent, and let’s keep open minds, because we need to flesh out what Irish unity would look like and what the UK union would look like’

Ian Marshall is a beef farmer, a former dairy farmer, and was president of the Ulster Farmers Union from 2014 to 2016. But more significantly he was until earlier this year a senator in Ireland’s Oireachtas – a unionist in Ireland’s second legislative chamber. A quite remarkable situation. Many observers were disappointed – as was Ian – that he was not elected back into the Seanad’s agricultural panel, nor appointed on the lists of new Taoiseach Micheál Martin or the …

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Wanting to win the argument in a viable long term is not talking down Nationalism

As David has noted on Slugger, the establishment of the shared island unit in the office of An Taoiseach has intensified the discussion about our constitutional future on the island of Ireland.  There is little detail in what the work of this unit will look like and how it will approach the monumental task of restarting a conversation that caused a civil war and decades of violence North and South, but we shouldn’t be surprised. That’s how coalition governments work …

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A Song for a Shared Island…

There are many conversations happening across the island about what a shared island might look like. Talking is vitally important but so, too, is singing. What might a shared island sound like? To be emotionally carried along by – and to sing along with – a beautiful song that appeals to the more noble, inclusive and generous parts of our common humanity is one of the greatest creative acts we can experience. Is there a song that encapsulates the desire …

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Why the Shared Island unit doesn’t need to shy away from constitutional questions

Interesting article by Aiden Corkery in yesterdays Sunday Business Post on the new Shared Island Unit to be established within the Department of the Taoiseach.  In it he quotes the views of the former Fianna Fail TD and advisor, Martin Mansergh Martin Mansergh, the former Fianna Fáil TD and adviser to Bertie Ahern during the Good Friday Agreement, disagreed. He said he believed the new unit would be more focused on the more pragmatic details of north-south cooperation. These included …

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There is more than one vision of a new Ireland

I’ve yet to read Paul Gosling’s book with the vaultingly ambitious yet carefully ambiguous title “A New Ireland: a new Union, a New Society.”   Judging from the discussion and its antecedents from the Holywell Trust, it makes an important contribution to enriching the debate on the future of the island.  But the logic of ideas seldom reproduces easily in politics. Political will is something else entirely. Broadly there are two contrasting approaches to the future: to follow the logic of …

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A debate on our constitutional future is not just the Border. It’s about re-imagining the State…

In 2018 Unionist Commentator Alex Kane travelled to Dublin to speak at a conference on Irish Unity. His message to the nationalist audience? Discussing a United Ireland was not a topic on which Unionism would engage. Kane has a keen mind and I am sure the irony of his message was not lost. But he subsequently went on to say that trying to persuade him about the merits of a United Ireland was futile, while the premise of talks based …

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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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Would all nationalists vote for a new Ireland?

As discussion of a border poll has risen within the wider nationalist community, the debate about what would be needed to accommodate all identities in a new Ireland has barely begun. Ian Clarke’s thoughtful piece on Slugger about whether pro union voices were wanted threw the lack of engagement between nationalists and unionists into sharp relief. In a largely nationalist milieu, it’s easy to see how a new Ireland would look much like the current republic, but what if the proposals from …

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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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The mystery of the ‘shy nationalists’ – online and face-to-face polling on Irish unity continues to give different results

The results of an opinion poll organized by Liverpool University and Britain’s Economic and Social Research have been published this week. The poll, carried out by Social Market Research, showed 29% of voters would vote for a united Ireland, with 52% against and 19% indicating that they don’t know or wouldn’t vote. Polling on Irish unity over the last couple of years has painted a confusing picture. A poll commissioned by Lord Ashcroft last year was the first to show …

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A Border Poll one day? Then let’s do it right

In yet another eventful couple of weeks in politics, what caught my eye the most wasn’t plans for a national broadband service, fanciful budget splurges or cringey speeches and interviews. It wasn’t mini-electoral pacts across dozens of seats in England and the ever-changing sands of political alignment over the Great Brexit Divide. Closer to home, it wasn’t even Lady Hermon stepping down, loyalist paramilitary threats to UUP candidates, a stage-managed Sinn Fein leadership contest or the tiny dramas of other …

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Considering the future of Northern Ireland

A panel considered how to engage in a friendly and unthreatening conversation about the future constitutional arrangements for Northern Ireland. This was held as part of a concluding reflection on the Holywell Trust’s series of 35 Forward Together podcast interviews. The panel comprised author Julieann Campbell, the commentator Denis Bradley (who was co-chair of the Consultative Group on the Past and former deputy chair of the Northern Ireland Policing Board) and Maureen Hetherington of the Junction, plus myself as the …

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