Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Border Poll: It’s Just Democracy – People Before Profit

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New Fianna Fáil taoiseach Mícheál Martin rejects a border poll about the partition of Ireland – People Before Profit has issued a good political statement on the issue.

The welcome statement highlights a number of issues the radical left needs to address, urgently. The looming threat of Brexit – a right-wing British Exit from the European Union – should be a wake-up call.

He has only been a week in office but already Micheál Martin has ruled out a border poll, saying that it would be ‘divisive’.

Under the provisions of the Belfast Agreement, the British government has the power to call a border poll. But with the Irish government saying they do not want one, they have got cover to refuse.

This is a disgraceful rejection of democracy.

People have every right to aspire to a United Ireland and they should be able to put their case before the people of the North – and the South.

The unification of Ireland would require the writing of a new constitution and so the people on both sides of the Irish border should be consulted.

Martin’s claim that a poll would be divisive is pure nonsense. The same argument was deployed to stop a referendum on gay marriage and on Repeal. Every referendum divides opinion. Every call for change divides opinion. But this is not a reason to hold up democracy.

The reality is that Northern Ireland is becoming an increasingly unviable state. It relies on a British government subvention – but there will soon be customs posts between this statelet and the rest of Britain.

The notion of a ‘Protestant parliament for a Protestant people’ is dying – just as a major movement for social change has rocked Catholic domination in the South.

Winning a border poll to end partition will require politics that advocates the full transformation of Ireland. It will mean a different type of economy that puts people before profit – one that is not a tax haven for multi-nationals.

Only by linking an end to partition with real economic change can we win a vote. This will ensure that a United Ireland benefits all workers, whatever their background.   

We can all live in peace and harmony and without having one tradition dictate to another.
— Read on

Nobody should underestimate the obstacles.

The Good Friday Agreement was endorsed by huge majorities on both sides of the border in 1998 – 72% in the North, 95% in the South.  It stated that if a majority of voters in the North favoured an end to partition, the border would go.  That meant acceptance of a Unionist Veto.

Probably, there is not a realistic chance of partition ending within the next 10 years at least, via the GFA Unionist Veto mechanism.

But Brexit makes the leaders of the Dublin FFFGGG coalition – taoiseach and tánaiste, Mssrs Martin and Varadkar – very nervous.

They want to strengthen the GFA Unionist Veto.  In 2019 Former chief of the NI Electoral Office Mr Pat Bradley, called for a “weighted majority“.

Pat Bradley, who oversaw the 1998 referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, is the latest figure to caution against securing a united Ireland on the basis of a simple majority. Last year, taoiseach Leo Varadkar appeared to suggest that the consent of significantly more than half of voters would be required for constitutional change.

But facts are extremely stubborn things.

Brexit Changing Irish Borders

Brexit will force a change in the “constitutional” position of the North from the beginning of 2021 – EU Brexit Chief Michel Barnier clarifies, without bullshit words :

There will be a border in the Irish Sea under the Brexit deal negotiated by Boris Johnson, the EU’s chief negotiator has said. 

Michel Barnier confirmed there would be “checks and controls” between Britain and Northern Ireland under the agreement that will govern the UK’s exit from the EU.

Boris Johnson claimed several times during the general election campaign that there would be no checks on the Irish Sea, and was accused by the Opposition of lying. 

Whether the Prime Minister had misunderstood the agreement he had signed, or was indeed lying to the public, the text of the deal signed in November is clear that there will indeed be checks.

Some electoral evidence suggests small but very significant shifts in six-county electoral loyalties. The December 2019 North and South Belfast Westminster results were significant defeats for the anti-Brexit far-right Democratic Unionist Party. Previous unionist voters, anti-Brexit, mobilised behind the successful candidates – John Finucane (Sinn Féin) and Claire Hanna (SDLP).

The centre is not holding, and the partition of Ireland is beginning to shudder on shaky foundations. Can the radical left face up to the challenges ahead?

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