Some basic numbers for the constitutionally agnostic – by Carl Duffy


In the wake of the local election results it has become clear that Sinn Féin and Alliance – albeit to a lesser extent – are two parties in ascendancy. Some Unionist commentators have suggested that this election is a poor gauge in determining support for Irish reunification as it was more to do with local council related matters. I can only conclude that these same commentators believe Sinn Féin’s surge is best explained by their high levels of competency in bin collections.

If, however, we make the crazy assumption that people vote for nationalist parties because they support United Ireland, then it is not unreasonable to suggest that support for a change in the constitutional status has grown. Now is the time for the secretary of state for the occupied six counties to finally clarify the border poll criteria. The success of such a poll will likely be determined by the position most Alliance voters take. In a way this middle-ground has now become the kingmakers.

I have always been skeptical of what Alliance has described as ‘constitutionally agnostic.’ Afterall, support for or against the partition of Ireland is very much a binary choice with no centre ground. I also believe that an indifference on the constitutional question implies a level of comfort with the current status quo.

While I respect the spirit of cross-community ethos, when the border poll comes it will be harder to remain on the fence. With that in mind, it would be worthwhile for Alliance to consider which constitutional arrangement best advances their interests. As outspoken supporters of the EU, Irish reunification will ensure re-entry into this Union.

But the main question that should be asked is how Alliance best implements their ideas into effective governance. In the unlikely event of majority support for Alliance across all constituencies, this would yield a mere 18MPs. This would represent 2.8% of all MPs in the UK Government and is unlikely to have any real influence on policy.

In an assembly election, it is unlikely Alliance will find themselves as one of the two largest parties, and even at that they could not enter the executive without a designation. In addition to this, the devolved administration has limited powers and is normally constrained by the block grant which is determined by Westminster. As already demonstrated, NEI MPs have limited influence on the UK Government and in turn have little bearing on this block grant.

Yet if these same scenarios played out in a United Ireland, Alliance would be in a much better position to effect real change. Alliance had 116,681 votes in last year’s election, a mere 39,019 shy of what the Green Party – which was able to enter Government – achieved in the 26 counties. Far from being improbable, if Alliance continues on their current trajectory or gains some support down south, then entering the Dáil as a junior coalition partner is achievable. Whilst there, they will have greater autonomy than any form of governance in the current constitutional arrangement.

The appeal of a prominent cross-community party in the transitionary phase of constitutional change should not be understated either. Orwell’s description of the previously oppressed pigs now becoming virtually indistinguishable from their human oppressors in Animal Farm is an analogy we must always be mindful of. The treatment of Palestinians by Israel is a case in point. Therefore, a party like Alliance can be one of the best safeguards in suppressing the potential tendency of the oppressed becoming the oppressor.

Ultimately, there’s a less prominent narrative surrounding the constitutional question which is that instead of the dominant politics of ‘orange and green,’ the current arrangement leaves us with an enormous democratic deficit. The democratic empowerment that Irish reunification provides, is therefore one of the most fundamental reasons any true progressive should back it. If the middle-ground are truly indifferent, they should ask themselves which arrangement is more democratic and in turn gives them the greatest opportunity to shape real change.


One Response to Some basic numbers for the constitutionally agnostic – by Carl Duffy

  1. Ronan Owens May 23, 2023 at 10:15 am #

    Carl u r some boy