A border poll is inevitable, it is just a question of when

Posted By: March 13, 2019


Distributed to Congress by Irish National Congress
“Brian Feeney, columnist for the Irish News of Belfast, continues to speak truth to power, cutting through all the nonsense.
As Blessed Martin Luther King, Jr. liked to quote, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice’ (Theodore Parker,1810-1860). That arc is now finally bending toward a United Ireland—without England’s damn Border, symbol of sectarianism, division, anti-Catholicism, and denial of national self-determination and democracy. The attached article is important reading for all Members of Congress committed to solidarity, justice, unity, and peace on the island nation of St. Patrick.
A Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all.”—Fr. Sean Mc Manus

Joe Brolly said the GAA’s “endorsement and support for a unity poll… is entirely legitimate, peaceable and reflective of our membership’s views.”… For the first time an Irish Times columnist, Una Mullally, has tried to raise consciousness in the Republic of why it’s an important matter for Northerners, a far cry from that newspaper’s usual wide of the mark editorial line on The North.

Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Now we have three famous influential GAA figures, Peter Canavan, Jarlath Burns, and Joe Brolly, supporting a Border Poll, or advocating that the GAA support Irish unity in a Border Poll….

Characteristically Brolly is the most explicit. He says The North is, ‘a dysfunctional entity, a pretense that cannot survive’. Who could disagree?

The support of these men is more evidence of the unstoppable momentum that has built up for a poll. For the first time an Irish Times columnist, Una Mullally, has tried to raise consciousness in the Republic of why it’s an important matter for Northerners, a far cry from that newspaper’s usual wide of the mark editorial line on The North.

It’s OK to say it out loud. A Border Poll is inevitable now. It’s only a question of when. There are other critical matters, of which more anon. The present stance of the two main parties in The South is hypocritical and intellectually dishonest. The short version of their response, ‘the time is not right’ is just unforgivably disingenuous. Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil know perfectly well that if our dim, witless, proconsul [Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, MP] were to call next week for a Border Poll, it would be at least 2021 before it took place.

Let’s have a brief look at the political logistics. The two governments would have to agree on the question or questions. Yes, a Border Poll isn’t just for The North; the south must vote too. Before any such polls, there would have to be agreement on the critical matters. Would it be a unitary state, a federal state, a confederal state? Would there be a single legislature or would The North have a legislature subordinate to the Oireachtas, as already provided for in Bunreacht na hÉireann? Depending on the answer, there might have to be a constitutional referendum in The South.

All that, and more, would need to have been agreed in a forum of some kind, a citizens assembly, all-party round table talks, some mechanism to answer questions about pensions, savings, health service, education, currency (well OK, the Euro, because we’d be in the EU again), transfer of financial obligations, and so on. Remember, the SNP produced a 602-page booklet laying out what an independent Scotland would look like. So the cant, ‘the time is not right’, is a disgraceful excuse for doing nothing.

The momentum for a Border Poll is not driven by any single motor. Yes, there is rapid demographic change, there is the catastrophe of Brexit, and there is the refusal of Unionism to operate equitably the place [the Six County State] they were given in 1921. They had a decade to behave decently: they blew it. Hence Brolly’s description of this place as dysfunctional and a pretense.

Now here are a few points you mightn’t have thought of. First, as soon as a proconsul announces a border poll, the legitimacy of The North’s existence is gone. It means the British believe most people here want out of the UK. Secondly, if Unionists had any wit, which they haven’t, they would opt for a unitary state. Here’s why. They are a community in retreat. Their current majority is like snow on a pitched roof. They are a diminishing minority in Ireland.

They would be nuts to opt to keep a Stormont assembly in which they would be an ever diminishing minority, entering Stormont at a roundabout with a statue of Bobby Sands on the pedestal. Far preferable to be constantly in government in a unitary state where they would always constitute a sufficiently large group to be a junior partner in a coalition, guaranteed by The South’s electoral system. Who remembers the last single-party government?

There is, of course, the basic democratic reason for a poll. That wouldn’t appeal to Unionists, but unification is the solution which avoids the backstop and allows the British to leave the EU and give everyone else in Europe peace and quiet. It is provided for in the Good Friday Agreement and allows the will of the majority North and South to prevail.

All we need now is for an Irish government to start thinking about it before its necessity hits them in the face after an election here.