A border poll: time to stop playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey

I was talking to two friends the other day, one a nationalist, the other a republican. The subject of a border poll came up and both agreed that it would make no sense, since there is no way it would be won by those who favour a reunited Ireland. In that they’re in agreement with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who has declared that “I’ve been very consistent in my view that the conditions for a referendum do not currently exist.”

There are a number of responses could be made to that statement, the most obvious being “How do you know?” To refer to polls is akin to pinning a tail on the donkey in the dark – you might hit the spot and you might not. Besides, it doesn’t matter what Enda or any of us thinks, it’s the British Secretary of State who gets to decide if there’ll be a referendum When he figures there’s a good chance it’ll be won by the reunite Irelanders, he’ll declare we can make our mark.

Enda, of course, is making this firm statement about no border poll because, if we’re to believe the PR, almost single –handedly, he’s persuaded EU leaders to make Ireland a priority in their talks with the British. In fact what the EU has declared is that, in the event of Ireland reuniting, the new state will immediately become an EU member. That’s actually a simple restatement of fact – it’s what happened when Germany became reunited. The new state became automatically a member of the EU.

But I suppose there’s no harm in stressing what is a fact. Having covered the “I believe in a reunited Ireland” angle, Enda goes into St Augustine mode and prays “Lord, let me have a a reunited country – but not yet.”

What would have been a victory for Enda would have been if he had persuaded the EU leaders to declare Ireland north and south a special case, given its border between an EU state and a soon-to-be non-EU state. He didn’t do that. In fact he didn’t even try.

But back to the border poll. The fact that the Good Friday Agreement allows decision-making about a border poll to rest with the British Secretary of State is an absurd state of affairs. The border poll should be triggered when  people here figure it’s important it be triggered. Scotland had an independence referendum, and those keen on independence were defeated. This hasn’t dismayed them; if anything the clarification that came with the independence referendum has energized Scottish people who are pro-independence.

I believe the same would obtain in Ireland. A border poll on independence might be won and it might not be won. But what it would give for sure is clarity. All parties would know what the actual state of affairs was, rather than relying on daft information such as how many people described themselves as ‘Northern Irish’ in the census and then deciding that meant they wanted to remain in the UK. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.

Irish reunification is the No 1 issue in the north of Ireland and, had they any self-respect, would be the No 1 issue in the south of Ireland. Given these facts, it would be most instructive to have hard evidence about how many people in the north want reunification.

That would give us the truth of our situation. And who’s afraid of the truth?



23 Responses to A border poll: time to stop playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey

  1. Wolfe tone April 30, 2017 at 12:31 pm #

    There’s a lot of people afraid of a border poll, not least those within GAA and Catholic Church circles as well as nationalist political party circles I.e they’ll have to show their hand. Their usual fudging of the issue would be unacceptable and revealing.

    • Colmán April 30, 2017 at 2:33 pm #

      GAA? I think the GAA has been one of the only organisations uniting this country for the past 100 years.

      • Wolfe tone April 30, 2017 at 2:58 pm #

        Yip, but will high ranking GAA figures get fully behind a ‘yes’ vote or will they wring their hands and pretend it has nothing to do with them? A declaration from the GAA rulers urging all members if the GAA to vote yes would be the least I expect.

        • Michael May 1, 2017 at 4:17 pm #

          The GAA is non political so they won’t come out with any statement. Rightly so.

          Individual members will have their own views.

          • Wolfe tone May 1, 2017 at 4:49 pm #

            Aye Tesco and other supermarket chains are non political too but that didn’t stop them trying to influence voters in the Scottish referendum. Btw, a vote on unity effects everybody including the GAA and isn’t your bog standard general election so everyone should have their say. Alas the fudgers will always seek a way to fudge.

  2. TheHist April 30, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

    The SoS is surely not objective and impartial when it comes to the call for a border poll – where does the actual evidence come from to demonstrate there’s an appetite for a border poll? How does he prove / disprove there’s an appetite unless there’s an actual referendum on the issue or a border poll? How does he know when the “right time” is? And based on what? As you say Jude the opinion polls are meaningless and in my opinion should be completely disregarded in relation to this – same way most opinion polls over the past few years have been proven wrong.

  3. Colmán April 30, 2017 at 2:36 pm #

    I would imagine that a pro-united Ireland majority in the elections would help move matters forth. It’s also time for nationalists to stop voting Alliance – according to them if you’re in favour of a United Ireland you are sectarian.

    • kevin connolly May 1, 2017 at 1:35 pm #

      Have you a link?

      • Colmán May 1, 2017 at 2:45 pm #

        It is implied in their election material. But they don’t state it that way. Pacts are sectarian ect ect.

        • kevin connolly May 1, 2017 at 3:55 pm #

          So you’ve just mangled what they actually said to smear them.

          Where is the “Integrity” in that?

  4. giordanobruno April 30, 2017 at 5:24 pm #

    ” Irish reunification is the No 1 issue in the north of Ireland”
    Is it? Maybe it is but what is the evidence for saying this.
    U to now most people have seemed content to wait for demographics to force a border poll.
    Surely abortion should be the number 1 issue for those who believe it involves the killing of hundreds if not thousands of innocents on an annual basis?
    What could be more important and more urgent than that?

    • Jude Collins April 30, 2017 at 7:03 pm #

      You may be right about ‘should’, gio, but the DUP are certainly primarily a unionist party and SF have Irish reunification at the top of theirs. We might or might not like it, but I think that’s pretty obviously the case.

      • giordanobruno April 30, 2017 at 7:15 pm #

        Ok by no.1 issue you mean for the main parties? Maybe
        I am not sure it is the no.1 issue for a majority of people in the North and it is certainly not for people in the South.
        Personally I would muchprefer to see the parties focus on so called bread and butter issues such as hospitals education jobs, anti social behaviour and so on.
        Demographics will eventually take care of unification,despite, rather than because of, Sinn Fein’s efforts at ‘outreach’

        • Colmán April 30, 2017 at 7:27 pm #

          Without tax raising powers it is next to impossible to concentrate on ‘bread and butter’ issues. We are ruled by England and they will only give us what they see fit to give us. We have never been given an indication on how much we provide to the UK economy whereas much has been made of the block grant. We need to get as much power in Ireland as we possibly can. There is currently only one party advocating this. And that is why I vote for them.

          • giordanobruno April 30, 2017 at 7:56 pm #

            What have SF been doing in the Assembly in that case .?
            Are you saying they have no role in distributing the budget?
            The DUP seemed to make a dent in it with RHI, so if it can be managed badly surely it can also be managed well?
            After all there is very little SF can do about the outcome of a border poll.
            Their own voters and SDLP will overwhelmingly vote ‘Yes’ anyway and they have demonstrated that they are the wrong party to persuade any other voters.
            Demographics will do their job for them which is just as well as they are (in my view) dismally failing in persuading anyone.
            So yes I do think they would be better concentrating on bread and butter issues and they are quick to tell us how competent they are at those are they not?

          • Colmán April 30, 2017 at 8:30 pm #

            Demographics will not do any such job. Just because you are born a Catholic doesn’t make you a Republican. The nationalist parties have successfully kept a UI on the agenda since partition just as the SNP kept Scottish Independence on the agenda.

            As for the Assembly, without tax-raising powers it will always be struggling with a budget deficit as increasing the block grant serves no political advantage to the Tory party. What is more, there is no real incentive to grow the local economy under as no matter how well the economy in the North is going there will be no increase in the block grant – it is more likely that there would be a decrease.

            The Assembly will do as a tie-over until we get a vote for unity but until then we should be trying to grab back all the political power we can from West Minister and also continue to keep a UI on the agenda.

            Regarding RHI, as far as I know when it became clear that London would not foot the bill there was a panic to shut it down.

            By the way I’m glad you guessed which party I was referring to Giordano.

          • giordanobruno April 30, 2017 at 8:59 pm #

            It may be a struggle but the budget is there to be managed (or it was) and SF and the other parties have told us how good they are at doing it, so I think they should put our money where their mouth is.
            As for demographics it is true that being a Catholic does not make you a republican but it is surely more likely and I think that will continue to hold true for a while, at least until the first opportunity for a referendum anyway.
            It is not possible for SF to persuade any current unionist voters to change due to their links to our recent violent past, and they do not appear to be serious about trying.
            Whether they can persuade any current non-voters is anybody’s guess, but it seems to me they have no strategy other than fingers crossed for demographics..

          • Colmán May 1, 2017 at 12:24 am #

            In fairness it would be pretty hard to convince Unionists to support a UI when that means giving up the Union. Perhaps if they were told that their British citizenship would be guaranteed they wouldn’t think it such a bad prospect.

          • kevin connolly May 1, 2017 at 5:13 pm #

            You di reali we that far from being shut down as you claim, RHI continues to haemorrhage £85,000 per day.

            And with the inquiry not due to be concluded til “the end of next year”, it would seem that Sinn Fein haven’t a clue how to put a financial leash on the DUP.
            This, despite the fact the DUP are repeat offenders following their Red Sky, PFI, Nama, SIF scandals.

            How would the Shinners possibly cope with the “cute hoorism” of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail in an all-Ireland structure?

  5. Argenta April 30, 2017 at 6:50 pm #

    “Irish reunification is the No 1 issue in the North of Ireland”
    Assuming that you currently articulate current Sinn Fein thinking ,Jude ,have things moved on from the last Assembly Election when we were bombarded with posters emphasising RESPECT,EQUALITY,INTEGRITY?We don’t seem to hear as much anymore about the R H I scheme.But I suppose the likely prospect of reunification has to be kept dangling before the Republican faithful before the Westminister election!

    • fiosrach April 30, 2017 at 10:05 pm #

      After re-unification all other things will follow. We can all discuss the interior design but first the house must be built. There is no unionist living in these sick counties who will be persuaded to vote for re-unification. They will try the economic argument, the logic argument, the appeal to our forefathers who gave birth to the state and finally to Fenians and Rome rule to stave off the inevitable. Eventually it will only be weight of numbers which will re-unify the island. Forget outreach and walking on your hind legs and balancing biscuits on your nose. These are but distractions.

  6. Brian Patterson April 30, 2017 at 7:54 pm #

    Be careful what you wish for lest your wish be granted. A premature poll, if lost, would set the cause of unity back for two generations. Our pro-consul could state that a vote for pro-unity parties is not necessarily anianna Fáil’s programme for unity may be inadequate but it is a start. We need a detailed fully costed programme for unity involving a 10 year convergence of the health, Educatiòn, welfare and tax systems. In most càses the 26 county must drag itself level by the bootstrings.

  7. Brian Patterson April 30, 2017 at 7:57 pm #

    Sorry fot typo “Our pro-Consul could henceforth claim that a majority vote for pro-unity parties nèed not necessarily indicate a desire on the part of fheir supporters for unity.