piece that featured on the website of the Societies.Patrick Roche of the 1916 Societies, at Queen’s University Belfast with a
Sean Fearon, Chairman of QUB Sinn Fein, when recently discussing the proposed referendum on Irish Unity at Queen’s, insinuates that the choice facing us all is between an all-Ireland republic and an ‘unaccountable and unelected government in Westminster’.
While seeing nothing wrong with that analysis in itself, it’s somewhat bizarre to hear it directly from someone aligned to Provisional Sinn Fein. His words contradict his party’s position that the Stormont Assembly represents a meaningful change in the power structure of British rule in Ireland and how that rule is administered, conflicting with Sinn Fein’s core belief that the 1998 dispensation relegated Britain to an outside role in the political process, with power transferred to a locally-elected Executive. Some one of the two then is being disingenuous for both positions are irreconcilable – it simply can’t be both.
While in agreement with the idea all and any debate on Irish Unity should be seen as positive, nevertheless it’s incumbent on Sinn Fein, whether at QUB or elsewhere, to map out how Irish reunification might be achieved given their acceptance of the ‘unity by consent’ model as set out in the 1998 legislation and the ‘triple lock’ contained within. Schedule 1 of that legislation gives the British Secretary of State a supreme veto over Irish self-determination, awarding him or her exclusive rights to determine if and when a border poll may be called, to decide on its wording and to decide who may or may not vote in any such poll. Indeed Britain clearly states it will only call a poll if and when there is satisfaction as to its outcome.
Even after all of that, any decision is legally non-binding and subject to the further assent of the British Parliament at Westminster, a process effectively barring movement towards ending partition without British agreement, with Irish Unity no more than an aspiration with little prospect of being physically realised.
We in the 1916 Societies believe instead that the Irish people have the absolute and sovereign right to determine the future of this island and hold that national self-determination in the form of a singular all-Ireland referendum – One Ireland-One Vote – will give every Irish citizen an equal say on the vexed issue of partition and speed the formation of a sovereign, independent, unitary state to replace its failed political arrangements. Recent developments in both Scotland and Catalonia demonstrate that such a referenda-type initiative can offer a credible and democratic alternative to the failed border poll strategy promoted by Sean Fearon and those in the Sinn Fein leadership from whom he takes direction.
A genuine national debate on the future of our country is required rather than the type of disingenuous stunt we see with this exercise at Queen’s, itself an effort to distract from the fact Sinn Fein has no credible strategy for Irish Unity, its subservience to mechanisms for constitutional change as defined and controlled by an ‘unaccountable British government at Westminster’ the biggest end of the problem.