Some people are critical of Seamus Mallon for the things he’s been saying recently. But consider the circumstances. Seamus has a book to sell, and when you’ve a book to sell you’ll do or say just about anything to capture public attention. Believe, I know – I’ve been there. Although Seamus is obviously much better at it than me.
The central issue to emerge from Seamus’s memoir is his views on a border poll. As I think the inimitable Donal Kennedy has already pointed out in an earlier blog, Seamus’s views are at odds with the Good Friday Agreement. The GFA says clearly that when and if a majority of people here want a united Ireland, then a border poll must be called. (And yes, the fact that the calling of a poll depends on what Secretary of State Karen Bradley thinks is colonialism at its most shameless. But back to Seamus’s proposal.)
Seamus says that if the poll was won 50% + 1 by nationalists, this would be disastrous. So much better to wait until a majority of unionists as well as nationalists are in favour of a united Ireland before going ahead.
Certainly no one would want hundreds of thousands of unionists filled with rage and resentment frog-marched into a state they didn’t want to be part of. As Seamus says, it’d be so much better if they were in favour of that new state as well as nationalists.
But when our MEPs are elected, do we say “Except they can command the support of opponents as well as supporters, it’s no go”? When Michelle Gildernew won Fermanagh-South Tyrone by four votes, did anyone – including unionists – suggest that this wasn’t a large enough majority?
We either accept the Good Friday Agreement or we don’t, we either accept democracy or we don’t. I’m beginning to think Seamus suffers from a wee weakness in terms of both.
But then, flogging a book can lead to mental instability.