What baffles me is who’s calling for it. About a week ago Gerry Adams made a speech in the Dail where, among other things, he requested the Taoiseach to support the notion of a referendum on constitutional change in Ireland. Translated, that means he asked for a poll about the border. No, ‘fraid not, Enda told him. There is no call for that at the moment at all at all. Last week also, Declan Kearney of Sinn Féin made a speech in Westminster (no, Virginia, not actually in the House of Commons chamber – in Westminster) in which he called, among other things, for a referendum on the border.
Both these requests were a bit surprising. Because as John Taylor has been telling us for about twenty years now, anywhere around 30% of Catholics are very happy where they are, in the United Kingdom. The Belfast Telegraph had a poll and they found that there were about four Catholics in the entire state in favour of a united Ireland. That Sinn Féin and anybody else who thought there was a will for a united Ireland was talking out of the back of his or her neck.
So there’s disagrement. Despite John Taylor, despite the Belfast Telegraph, Gerry Adams and Declan Kearney and presumably a lot of other people would like an official referendum on the subject. Well, count me in on that. And my surprise is that Enda Kenny and Peter Robinson and all of the DUP and the UUP (or what’s left of its badly-mangled semi-corpse) would be in favour of it. You’d also think that Gerry Adams and Declan Kearney would be trying to AVOID having a border poll, given that there’s only four Catholics in favour of it. Or 30%. Or whatever. Because the result would be a ringing endorsement of staying in the UK. Right?
Well, I don’t know. Neither does John Taylor or Declan or Gerry or Peter. Or the Belfast Tele. There’s only one way to find out: have the referendum. Let’s have the facts of the matter. If there’s a majority in favour of constitutional change, well, then everybody will have to read the bit in the Good Friday Agreement that tells us what happens next. If there’s a majority in favour of no constitutional change, well, then everybody will have to readjust their thinking or, if they believe in a united Ireland, ask themselves how they can persuade people. One way or another, we’ll know the truth. And then we won’t have to take Enda or Peter or John or the Belfast Tele’s word for it any more.
I always think it’s easier judging what a room looks like when you switch on the light, don’t you?