Referendums on Irish Unity—Irish News Letters

Posted By: December 05, 2019

Uncertainty around Irish reunification only promotes instability

Colin Harvey. Belfast BT6.Letters to Editor. Irish News. Thursday, December 5, 2019

How might we address the current speculation about referendums on Irish reunification? One approach is to bring clarity and certainty to the discussion by filling in some of the existing gaps. This will only happen once a framework and time frame are in place. A sensible way forward, in addition to ongoing civic conversations, is to encourage intergovernmental dialogue. Both governments have a responsibility to sketch out, in consultation with others, a way forward. The British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference is the appropriate forum for a new joint declaration that would deal with matters such as timing, voting rights and, for example, the question to be asked in The North. The idea that this should be left to the secretary of state alone is questionable, and the current arrangements permit a partnership approach—this would not be outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

In order to encourage such prudential preparation, political parties entering negotiations on the return of power-sharing should insist on a commitment from both governments to advance such a framework. The present uncertainty simply promotes instability.

More than 21 years after the agreement, and in the light of Brexit, it is only fair that the principle of consent is tested within a defined time frame. Why not aim for May 22, 2023? Why not allow the people of this island to decide their own constitutional future in the same way they so comprehensively endorsed the Agreement in 1998?