Constituent Assembly, The All-Ireland Dáil And The Pathway To Irish Freedom

Sean Bresnahan argues that a Constituent Assembly is best-placed to determine the form and structure of a 'New Ireland'. Sean Bresnahan is a member of the Thomas Ashe Society in Omagh. He writes here in an individual capacity.

The common objective of all Irish republicans is to restore Irish sovereignty and with it the All-Ireland Republic – building from there a progressive society where the wealth and wealth-producing processes of the nation are subordinate to the public interest.

Towards that purpose what is now required in Ireland, with the Overseas Diaspora in support, is a broad-based initiative that set towards a Constituent Assembly. There, new constitutional arrangements for the whole of Ireland can be agreed by the representatives of the people, in turn to be put to their number by National Plebiscite for popular approval.

The exceptional republican thinker Daithi Ó Conaill, shortly before his untimely death, envisaged such a process in ‘Towards A Peaceful Ireland’, issued by Republican Sinn Féin in 1991. The issue for republicans, now as then, is how such an Assembly can be constituted in the face of the existing order.

The current political order is subservient to partition and concedes in full its legitimacy, holding likewise that it should remain in place while a majority in the North support that position – denying thus the national rights of Ireland and her people.

Dáil Éireann was the National Assembly of the Irish people whose usurp was effected by the Government of Ireland Act and the subsequent Treaty of Surrender. The Treaty bowed to the legitimacy of the Act – at the expense of the Declaration of Independence – when, to ratify its terms, its proponents assembled the Southern House of Commons (which the people had already rejected at the 1921 Election in favour of the Republican Dáil).

It is from here – that being British constitutional theory – that the current political order proceeds and not from the Republican Constitution, which is rooted in the 1916 Proclamation and the revolution that followed in its wake, culminating in the historic Declaration of Irish Independence on 21st January 1919.

The struggle in Ireland at this time then is to restore the democratic / constitutional process – and with it the All-Ireland Republic. It is there within that Republic, of itself and as a lawfully-constituted entity, that the rights of the Irish people to national freedom and sovereignty set out under the Proclamation reside.

The election of a Third All-Ireland Dáil, to sit in Constituent Assembly – where the form and particulars of a new constitutional order would in turn be determined – would give effect to those rights. But absent a means to constitute such a process, while a worthy idea it remains just that: no more than a good idea.

To bridge that gap an All-Ireland Referendum could provide a mandate direct from the people, in recognition that constitutional authority resides within their rank, overcoming thus the restraints imposed by the partition system – whose governing purpose is to subvert that authority at the behest of external agencies. The referendum would serve to restore the Republic, mandating in turn the required transition to a new constitutional order.

A referendum as that imagined will neither come from or be beholden to the partition system of itself but instead will proceed from the people – of their rightful position as the font of constitutional authority and of their demand to be free to determine their own affairs. It would effect the renewal of the democratic process, giving rise in turn to a Second All-Ireland Republic – a lineal successor to that usurped by the Treaty at Britain’s behest.

Ireland’s rights to freedom and sovereignty are inalienable and not subject to a vote among this or any other generation of her people. They have been set out in the Proclamation as indefeasible tenets which exist in their own space and right. But this does not preclude that a referendum can determine the views and wishes of the people, affording the position that they choose to endorse the imprimatur of their number.

At a time when the republican argument has been marginalised to the point of despair, facing off with the brick wall of partition, the process above offers viable means to reconnect the Republic with its people, affording them opportunity to endorse its renewal and to bring to an end its usurp. Onwards to the Republic – An Phoblacht Abú.


  1. It is staggering how little you understand of modern Ireland or her place in the modern world. The article is littered to references from history from 1919 to 1991. You are truly stuck in the past. No-one is listening. Also it must be noted that there is not one mention of OIOV. What happened to that particular "vehicle for unity"?

  2. Pater,

    while you might say no one is listening, the articles from the Societies have been taking more page views than most others. This is a trend that has been sustained for quite a while. The last piece that Sean Bres wrote drew an unusually high level of interest. We can never know why people read what they do but I imagine not listening is not among their reasons.

  3. AM
    How many read them? He is preaching dross to the converted.

  4. if we take a page view to equate with a read then thousands read them. A lot of converted. You also think the bible dross, as do I. But you can't assert with any degree of plausibility that people don't listen to the bible.

    We don't know why people read what they do: but I doubt they do so because they find what they read uninteresting.

  5. Traditional republicanism is making little impression on the Irish people. They can't even win over the republican base and these articles show why, in my humble opinion. They are always taking a backward view and indulging in fantasy strategising. I guess they want to remain a niche political grouping.

  6. I can only assume Peter himself didn't read the article as there is explicit mention of a national referendum within. Visibly angered, he suggests people like myself are stuck in the past, ignoring that recent shifts internal to the northern sectarian gerrymander indicate it is he and his ilk who reside there. Change and the Irish Republic are coming - one way or the other - and that is our shared future.

    What I propose is that in that eventuality of Irish Unity the Irish people, freely and of themselves, should determine the shape and form of the 'New Ireland' - as is and will be their right. That he disagrees with their right to do so hardly matters as this is what will proceed. He might well note that people across ALL of Ireland are demanding change - not just nationalists in the Six Counties. Change and a 'New Republic' are coming. Best get used to the idea.

  7. And thanks for carrying the piece Anthony. I hope it is well received.

  8. Peter,

    while it is probably right to say that traditional republican arguments make very little impact that is a somewhat different point from saying that the case made above is simply ignored. The rate at which the above piece is being read suggests otherwise.

  9. Peter,

    while OIIV was not mentioned Sean is right when he says it was there by implication. It jumped out at me.

    The problem with the above argument is that it is confronted with the same problem that OIOV faced and which we discussed here at length in the past. How is it to be put in place? The despair that Sean referred to shows no sign of being overcome. The weakness of the republican position was exposed in the last northern election. Republicans actually abandoned their position and gave their vote to SF. It might have had the effect of slapping the DUP but advanced republicanism not one iota

  10. Anthony, there is every possibility, and indeed it is increasingly likely, that a nationalist majority internal to the Six Counties - regardless our position as to the legitimacy of a border poll - will come to effect Irish Unity. Should that prove the case then there is every likelihood a Constituent Assembly would be employed to agree the 'New Ireland'. Republicans should row in behind this as a policy to go forward in any eventuality - as in REGARDLESS how Irish Unity is to be achieved.

  11. "Visibly angry"? Not me, I don't care about traditional republicanism, in fact it suits me to see you floundering. It is somewhat exasperating though to see traditional republicanism (and traditional unionism) to be so fixated on the past.

    You talk of a referendum without specifically mentioning OIOV. Has that been quietly dropped?

  12. Peter, for someone who doesn't care about 'traditional Irish republicanism' you appear quite exercised to the contrary. I'm not interested in the past but the future. That future for me is the Irish Republic. What you will find in due course is that this is likewise the preferred option of the ordinary people of Ireland and it is this which will go forward when the time comes, when your sectarian veto has been disembowelled by a nationalist majority in the north - which you've already agreed to be bound by. 'Plucky Little Ulster' and its days are numbered, with the All-Ireland Republic in train. It is a matter for agreement, among and between our people, as to how that republic will appear. That will soon be the task before us. Speed that day...

  13. Sean, there is nothing wrong Republican theorists, I think they/you offer something trascendental, something more romantic that just functional or practical suggestions. I think the best movements will offer a home to both traditions, the worst might be an over representation of one or the other. A more general idea for a United Ireland could be seen as an invitation for others to engage and bring better resolution.

  14. Peter,

    To be fair to Sean he writes this as opinion piece so leeway should be given to his thoughts.

    The mechanics of the hypothetical OIOV plebiscite which is inferred (albeit not implicitly) in the piece is missing and that's the crux of the matter.

    There would just be a small matter of convincing the Southern Government to commit Hari-Kari and the Unionists in OWC to agree to a border poll!

  15. Sean,

    it would be a foolish republican who refused to vote in a northern border poll on the grounds of principle. The border poll is not a republican strategy but a constitutional nationalist one and also a British one. But it does displace the OIOV strategy in substantive ways maybe even to the point of redundancy.

    But this is where I think a serious mistake is being made. A nationalist majority does not equate with a vote for unity. There are nationalists who want a united Ireland and there are nationalists who are happy to live within the UK. Strategic unionism recognises this and knows that it will have to abandon the Foster strategy (more akin to Molyneaux do nothingism than Trimble's active consent). The push/pull factor has always worked in unionism's favour. Unionism is a monolith in favour of the union in a way that nationalism is not a monolith against it. Whether Brexit changes that to any transformative degree remains to be seen. But I doubt it.

    But if the border poll were to prove successful, it is hard to see what role any assembly would play. Far from it being a likelihood I imagine it is highly unlikely given that there is no demand for it.

  16. Anthony, there will only be a demand for it should we build such a demand. I think many people in Ireland would welcome a new constitution and not just for reasons relating to the Six Counties. So it's not without merit, at least from where I sit.

  17. Sean,

    it will take a lot more than wish being father to the thought

  18. No doubt Anthony - which is why a solid proposal should be put together and built upon, to be argued in the event of Irish Unity no matter its likelihood and no matter what 'vehicle' should bring it to be: whether national referendum, border poll, declaration of intent or whatever may be the case.

  19. Sean,

    the French have a saying about lack of influence or irrelevance: they refer to a cow in a field watching a train go by. Other than look the cow has no bearing on what the train does. Republicanism has been reduced to that position. It might make more strategic sense for OIOV to be shelved and the energy of the Societies directed towards a Northern border poll. There would be an immediate shift from slogan to strategy; the Societies could outline how such a referendum could be organised in a way that they can't explain the OIOV referendum; the objective would be possible rather than impossibilist; there would be no loss of principle merely a tactical switch to exploit strategic potential.

    That said, I doubt it will produce the result hoped for but spin off for the Societies could be significant.

  20. Children - children BEHAVE!!

    There is possibly an unofficial 6 county referendum on the border coming up shortly. After the death of Michael Oatley's favourite disciple SF will have what they love best, an election after a funeral. The unionist majority in the wee 6 is gone. We may get an indication of the nationalist mindset then. Much as it may 'turn the stomach' of those who don't like SF I would suggest getting out there and voting for them. There is no justification for a minority within all but 2 of 32 counties being permitted to divide a nation they despise.

    In other news Channel 4 announce the arrest of Colin Duffy for the Westminster attacks.
    Londoners woke up in shock this morning to the news Germany only beat England 1-0 in football.

  21. Larry,

    why vote SF if it is just about getting a nationalist assembly majority? Voting the SDLP will do that just as well.

    Election or not it will not be a unofficial border poll because of the myriad of reasons people vote. What will count is the official border poll ... and if it comes people will be voting for something other than political parties.

    The one certainty is this life apart from knowing it will end, is that neither you or I are of an age where either of us will see a United Ireland. Not one volunteer who fought in the ranks of the Provisional IRA will see it either.

    I think the Societies could consider fronting a campaign - even if they have to hold their noses while doing it - for legislation to make it mandatory for a border poll every seven years or whatever. It would be an advance on the current situation where a British secretary of state can decide the timing.

    I don't think we will be seeing a border poll any time soon. Even at every seven years I think we will see quite a few of them. You and me won't but I am sure our kids will even if they have no vote given their current residence.

  22. That said, I am not going to feign a strong interest in it. Was reading yesterday that the PUP woman, Sophie offered condolences to the family of Martin McGuinness? She met with howls of disapproval. Maybe I am too old to have any patience for it but when I see that I just feel glad I am not anywhere near it. Years ago I used to despise the fact that down here found up there a tune off. Now I understand better why they did even if it is unpardonable. The personal battle is not to allow it to become infectious. But there is not the slightest interest that I can detect down here. Is it the same where you are?

  23. Where 'One Ireland One Vote' has the advantage on a border poll is in its inclusion of all Irish people - without difference or circumstance - within the proposed constituency to answer a referendum. In that respect it is a much fairer proposal. Where a border poll enjoys the advantage is in its ability to be legislated for according to mechanisms already agreed by those who hold power in Ireland.

    If 'One Ireland One Vote' is to eclipse demands for a border poll it must account for this difficulty. To succeed in achieving its stated goal, if it is serious towards that end (presuming this is the actual objective), will require altering the fundamental viewpoint of those who hold power - itself no easy task. Some, as yourself, would deem it an impossible one.

    You might be surprised if I told you my own view. Without going too far down that route what I will say is that for me 'One Ireland One Vote' has always been a vehicle to rebuild Irish republicanism, to give it a perch in the interim for those who say 'you have no alternative'. I have long been aware of its strategic limitations and regard it more as a holding position than something to be physically achieved. If it were to be achieved though then that, of course, would be welcome. And we might do well to bear in mind that nothing is impossible - especially given the new context of Brexit and its pending impact on both Ireland and the now 'dis-United Kingdom'.

    With all that said, I would like to see a process as that I've set out and I would prefer it be triggered by national referendum - for reasons already spoken of. But should we prove unable to deliver this and a border poll is what goes forward instead - as is more likely and for the reasons you've identified - then I have no qualms arguing that this same process should in turn be triggered. Personally, I'd like to see republicans commit this to paper and build the demand from there.

  24. Mackers

    Vote SF as it makes a lot more sense than voting SDLP with their 12 seats. The important thing is for a nationalist party to become the biggest and for a nationalist majority to be the reality not the suspicion or trajectory.

    I beg to differ regarding unity. I fully intend to live for another 40/50 years and there will be Irish re-unification sooner than you think. Although as Peter correctly points out it wont be the one pronounced at Easter 1916. You may not live to see it coz lets face it you're ancient already ffs.

    I agree on a day to day basis it is good to be distanced from the north. Once a border poll is announced however peoples minds would be much more focused than at present. But I have every confidence in Donegal. Louth does OK come elections too, have you not seen the results there? Your second favourite beard is your TD.

    All we can hope is that Arlene is still about verbally abusing taigs and missing her dad come the vote! I worry more about Paisley Jnr.

  25. "The wishes of the majority of the people of N.Ireland to remain a part of the United Kingdom..." is and has been the bulwark, the core, the heart and Britain's justification (and to the world as well as 'N.Ireland') as the supposed reason why Britain is still involved in 'N.Ireland'. It has been the large 'democratic' stick used to beat Nationalists and Republicans alike since the state was formed.

    If the recent election proved anything I think it was the Catholic/Nationalist/Republican electorate stole a march on the politicians. This large unexpected turnout means, I think, that the large democratic stick cannot be waved as fervently anymore (if indeed it can be waved at all)

    I think the tables have being turned by the recent election. Instead of the British insisting that we persuade and seek the consent of others for an United Ireland, the onus is now on others to try to convince 'us' to want to remain a part of the UK.

    In this respect only the foolish would still try to beat us with their big stick majority rule favourite weapon.

    The Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist hardliners might have to do a volte face and tell their constituencies 'we' are not bogeymen anymore and have to be cherished instead.

    So I am of the opinion that the recent election provides substantial grounds for believing that that is a chance for meaningful change in the relative near future, and that it will be a case of how cards are played as opposed to how the cards are stacked.

    It may well be an anathema for Republican traditionalists to partake in a British border poll and I can understand that.

    In the aftermath of the hunger strikes Republican's were faced with a stark choice.

    Republicans could remain in their cells albeit in their own clothes (and consequently do a whole lot more prison time than they were due to do ; or Republicans could make themselves 'available' for prison work.

    Coming after the Hunger Strike deaths and were prison work was a major issue (if not thee major issue in the Hunger Strikes) one can only imagine how individuals felt about partaking in the British penal system.

    As it turned out the prisoners went into the system and the system collapsed and political status was fully attained in all but name.

    Sometimes when an opportunity comes along it has to be seized even if it does not sit easy with core beliefs and some risk is involved.

    I think any risk is minimal be cause in my opinion we are drifting aimlessly along - just like the prisoners might have found themselves spending unnecessary time in jail had they not been bold.

  26. Larry,

    in terms of getting a order poll it makes no difference who is voted: SF or the SDLP. If both combined produced a nationalist majority in the assembly, that would add oomph to the demand for a border poll. The question then is would the border poll actually achieve a withdrawal. Not in my view. It could take many border polls. A nationalist majority in the assembly is not what would decide the outcome but the poll itself.


    OIOV doesn't amount to anything if it can't be kick started. From a purist republican position, a border boll would be avoided but how many purist republicans are there? The Societie3s have an opportunity to do some solid work that would have a real impact. A tunnel to the moon might sound a good idea until you start tying to construct it. OIOV has no way of being made realisable but a border poll has. But I think you sense that anyway.

  27. I don't propose a border poll or agree to be bound by its outcome. I will not, though, ignore one should it be called or its result should it favour Irish Unity. In that instance we should demand that Britain fully withdraw from Ireland, on the basis that her own terms for doing so have been met. We didn't set those terms - she did so herself. In that sense we need to plan for the event that such a scenario unfolds. As Eddie suggested, it's quite possible the 'consent' shoe will soon be on the other foot. Indeed for all we know that could already be the case. We cannot then sit tight in our ivory towers and it would be a mistake for us to do so. We need to take account of the emerging dynamics and be better positioned accordingly.

  28. Sean,

    I think the process of "active consent" has been in place for quite some time, beginning with Trimble. Strategic unionism if we may call it that realised the best way to bed down the union was have a substantial number of nationalists buy into it. I think their task is an easier one than the nationalist task of persuading unionists to buy into a UI.

    In any border referendum watch for the clauses.

  29. It is for that reason, the likelihood of a British-inserted clause, that we should be extremely wary of internalising the Unionist Veto - of being sucked into the position that a border poll has legitimate rights to decide on Irish Unity. It has none and is, of itself, in violation of our right to self-determine. We should hold fast to that no matter how we proceed. We can, though, adopt a nuanced approach and I'm open to the discussion as to what that should be.

    That aside and in line with what you're pointing toward, ultimately my concern would not be whether such a poll could realise a 'Yes Vote' but what such a vote would bring forward. The demographics suggest a 'Yes Vote' is inevitable - sooner than you think as Larry mentioned earlier. What will be important in this instance is whether it gives rise to a full republic or speeds yet another compromise with the Brit occupation.

    Either way, without a hand in the game we will be like the French and their cows. As myself and Eddie have discussed elsewhere, there is no sense standing shouting after the bus as it peels off into the distance, content that at least we were right all along. We must be on that bus, even if to begin with we're hiding in the luggage compartment. We must be on the bus to be in with a chance of deciding its final destination.

  30. Sean,

    demographics don't suggest a yes vote as being inevitable. In my view a weak interpretation of demographics suggests that but not demographics per se. The history suggests that a nationalist majority will not be as monolithic on favouring unity as unionism will be in opposition to it. The challenge to republicans like yourself is not in making a UI attractive to the unionists but to those nationalists who could so easily upend the unity cart.

  31. Sean, I would agree that a positive outcome from a border poll is more likely than others might think.

    Even that said however I dont think its necessary to get bogged down in the minutiae of the demographics, I think a border poll/independence referendum could be a rallying cause and would motivate, mobilise and energise a lot of people to maybe get the matter sorted once and for all.(and with the added mixture of Brexit threw into the brew).

    I think Unionists will be looking at the demographics and with a view to having a border poll at a time that best suits them, that is to have one in the near future, say 3 or 4 years, and which they feel will give a best return for them; and then they might feel they would have another 7 years to try and woo certain Catholics for future polls/referendum

  32. I can't help but think republicans have an over simplistic view of the future. You seem to think that there will be a catholic majority in the north, and that Brexit will force a border poll which nationalists will win, and then we will all sail off to a Brit-free Irish republic. That isn't going to happen. Unless Brexit bankrupts Britain enough RCs will vote to maintain the union. Also, Ireland has a massive debt and unity will be a massive cost. Are the southerners prepared to pay for all of this? Do they want so many unionists about the place? As I understand it there has to be a poll in the south before any poll in the north. Republicans may get a rude shock. And if by chance a border poll is successful joint authority to me is the obvious fudge which will arise just to make sure the English tap is kept running.

  33. Peter,

    for all Sean's insistence on OIOV regardless of the improbability, it seems pretty obvious he has an ear for nuance and is far from tone death to the complexities.

  34. Peter, there does not need to be a vote in the south in advance of a northern border poll. It is likely though - and this is what Sinn Fein are demanding - that 'joint referenda', held and counted together in the one day (a la 'Good Friday'), is how it will play out. Every survey regards the matter of Irish Unity in the south has returned heavy majorities in its favour. The problem will be the north.

    When we look at the northern demographics, while yes there is - as Tony has pointed out - a section of the nationalist community content with the status quo, it is also the case that they, unlike the unionists, are not implacably opposed to the idea of a United Ireland. They are therefore more amenable to change their position. But such is the differential further down the cohort that even these votes will not be needed - never mind those of unionism.

    In that event, which is not unforeseeable, the British-Irish Agreement (which governs the process) will come into play. That agreement holds that there are two options on the table - continued 'Union with Britain' or the effecting of a 'sovereign united Ireland'. In terms of the latter I would imagine it will be subject to agreement among and between the Irish people and that presents me no difficulty. The only thing that concerns me is a rowing back on the commitment to full Irish sovereignty. This cannot be allowed.

  35. Peter

    To what exactly do you credit this sudden longing amongst the RCs for the union? Do you think they have suddenly realised Northern Ireland was a wonderful wee place all along and they were mistaken in opposing it? As for economics, the UK is not in a very healthy position and despite your assertion on the NHS there was a program a week or so ago about GPs leaving it like lemmings off a cliff. You need to remove your rose tinted glasses. The north cannot stand alone, between the EU and GB it is kept on a life support 24/7/365. I am certain the Tories won't replace any EU portion of that support once Brexit kicks in. Maybe the EU will see the logic in floating the wee 6 with Dublin once the time arrives.

    There are plenty of Presbyterians and COI here in Donegal doing very well. My friend's wife is COI and a primary school teacher who speaks Irish too. She is proud to be Irish. When her English husband messaged me Happy Saint Patricks Day I replied thanks and tell yer Mrs she's a better Irish woman than I'll ever be... and I don't care what Bruce Jenner says about it.

    Do you not think Peter with Englishmen now killing each other in London over religion it is time we all moved on here? Come over to Donegal and have a few Guinness with us here see how you enjoy it.

  36. Peter
    To borrow the phrase from you, - I can't help but think Unionists have an over simplistic view of the future - Peter, the days of the supposed 66/33 majority rule are over.

    I would trust that Unionists, like other peoples have done elsewhere, will come to terms with the fact that they have a greatly reduced majority, its not so much a case of 'if' but 'when'.

    Who then knows the whys or wherefores of the outworking for a new dispensation?

    The alternative is that the Unionists will dig their heels in and get further into a no surrender bunker. nobody could think that that is realistic or going to happen

  37. Sean,

    "I don't propose a border poll or agree to be bound by its outcome. I will not, though, ignore one should it be called or its result should it favour Irish Unity."

    But...what if a border poll is called and the results are 'no'? Would you respect that decision?

    One thing about the recent elections though, if we are talking demographics, the silent nominally small 'u' unionists didn't bother their a*se going out to vote this time due to being fed up with Foster I suspect. I suspect there is a great deal of indifference at play these days.

    Just a thought though, how about trying to entice Unionists to embrace their Irishness instead of playing a numbers waiting game, as this is viewed sinisterly by the PUL community? The DUP only get votes through fear and ignorance, not countering that narrative helps them not you.

  38. Larry
    As I have said before I have no problem with a UI if thats what the people want. But, republicans thinking that Brexit and the demographic shift equals a nailed on UI is, in my opinion, wrong. And if there is a UI it will not be a Brit-free 32 county republic.

    I go to Downings every year, lovely part of the world with lovely people and even better Guinness in the Harbour Bar.

  39. Steve R,

    there is no more reason for Sean to respect a no outcome of the border poll than there is for him to respect the current situation. I would not respect it either. We can respect the right of people to make a decision but don't have to respect the decision they make. It is how we express our lack of respect that is a more pertinent question. In Sean's case it would be to press for a more encompassing poll inclusive of the 32 counties. In my case I'll probably drink whiskey and shake my fist at the moon!!!

  40. Very interesting comments. When Brexit was first announced a few of my work colleagues came in completely shocked to the core and some had bitterly fallen out among each other over supporting it...these are Unionists I'm talking about, one of them stated that her father who is an Orange man said he would rather be in Europe through a united Ireland than standing outside of it.
    The other aspect of Brexit was that 3 year business plans were now obsolete due to no clear perspective where funding was going to come from.
    Now the other interesting aspect of this is that she was standing with Irish passport forms in her hand that she picked up that morning on her way in...she even asked me to help her fill it in which before you ask I did....after the local Stormont elections they couldn't even speak!
    Changing times but changing to what?

  41. Peter

    That is a surprise to be honest, your regular trips to Downings. I think the beard has a gaff up there lol. Glad you enjoy it, more power to you!

  42. Very interesting that Niall and likely no isolated incidence. In the context you set out, given recent demographic changes and the emerging likelihood of a nationalist majority in the north, republicans need to figure out whether they can involve themselves in a campaign for a border poll - to see it effected, to see it pass or both - without resiling from the standpoint it is without legitimacy and has no right to arbitrate the matter of Irish Unity.

    It will take a nuanced discussion but in all probability it will be strangled at birth, castigated as an anathema to the republican project in every instance and with no exceptions. I feel, though, that a failure to do so, in the clear absence of our own ability to trigger Irish Unity through our own preferred means, will ensure that whatever follows and how change manifests will have little to do with us or what we'd prefer. All I'll say at this point is that for me it's what happens post-Unity that will matter, rather than how it is brought into being.

    I don't know if republicans of our persuasion are prepared to entertain such a discussion. It's more likely those who raise it will be cast as 'closet Shinners' and that, unfortunately, is the nature of the beast. But what people need to get their heads around is that all of this is much bigger than Sinn Fein and in fact has little to do with them and their strategy of pandering to their betters (as Larry has neatly exposed in another thread). As I said to Anthony elsewhere, should there be a United Ireland it will be in spite of and not because of them.

    Much to consider. At a confirmation today there were people talking about a United Ireland and what it might look like; business people with money that would have been very wary of talking politics on any other occasion I've been in their company - and that's on countless occasion. There's no doubt that the public mood has changed. Will we take heed or retreat into the safety of our ivory tower? If it's the latter then in all probability we will also have abandoned the field. Just my thoughts...

  43. Sean,

    there is another article in the latest comment.

  44. Sean Bres

    Ivory tower republicanism is only good for back biting and one up-man-ship. Who is the more 'super-republican' gamesmanship. The political landscape is crying out for a dignified and honest approach to what is now the inevitable. But it needs to be approached from a 2017 perspective and in the reality of today. It seems to me reading Peter's posts and Steve R that in fairness there is an acceptability there of reality. But whilst we could never return to a Carson Stormont they cannot in all good faith be expected to countenance a 1916 IRA 32 county 'total victory' Ireland. Would you as a republican wish that?

    The time is right, an honest and dignified assessment is needed and not lies, deception, underhand back channel (rear end) dealings with intelligence services stage managed smoke and mirrors. It is a potentially great time in our history. The RC church is where it belongs, religion in general has had its day as an alternative empire. The UK has more to concern itself with running away from Europe and it's home grown terror threat. Englishmen killing each other in the name of religion, how ironic.

    I for one really hope you guys get your act together, because the SF media and intelligence assisted program will require replacing in the longer term having served their purpose.

  45. In my view any border poll will unite unionists like never before but will not do the same within nationalism. Nobody can show otherwise, nor can it be shown that what I feel will come to pass either. We can only go on past trends.


    I understand the concerns you have about promoting new ideas and the cold house that can be to live in once you do it. But you are not making a case for major ideological compromise and more a case for strategic readjustment to allow for a changes that have to be factored into any strategic considerations.

    You have prompted one of the better debates that has occurred on this site. If people want to dismiss you because you forgot to take your purification tablets, then let them. It is not often we see signs of serious thinking within republican circles: more of the same from the stuck in the groove.

    Larry, you too should expand in article form on the idea of what a border poll might actually produce.

    But fair play to Sean for not only writing the piece but also expanding on the ideas in the comments section. If republicans can conduct the type of discussion that has gone on above without ranting at each other for thinking outside the box, it will be much healthier.

  46. Mackers

    There's not much to write about any potential border poll. It is a sad fact that SF desperation to over-take the SDLP was not for radical purposes but to become the SDLP in diluted form. They seem to be tailing the mood of the people rather than blazing a trail and leading as a vanguard. The future of the wee 6 will be decided in the final analysis by a sectarian, or nationalist/unionist head count. After a census shows a clear nationalist majority, in which case unionist cohesion wont matter a jot. London has to give permission for it to take place as in the case of Scotland. If there is a yes vote change will be glacial rather than rapid. It will be interesting to see how a unionist aging minority reacts to the eventuality. Will it be democratic acceptance or UVF 1912 and Gusty Spence 1966 we get I wonder. In any case, with the freedom of movement between British isles nations etc and strong economic and family ties it may end up all a bit of a damp squib in reality. Depends on loyalist reaction come the time I expect.

  47. Larry,

    I think there is quite a lot to write about it, particularly the type of change you think might come or not as a result of it.

    I think in approaching the idea of a border poll, people are showing signs of doing what they did with the GFA - forgetting our own experience and the lessons of history. Many nationalists have been content to remain within the UK. Republicanism always grappled with it and was aware of it. Now some seem to be buying into the Gerry Kelly school of political thought whereby Wolfe Tone would have voted against a united Ireland because he was a Protestant. There are no grounds that I can see for believing that a sectarian headcount is going to translate into a pro-unity majority. For me to think otherwise would be to ignore what I have long observed. That does not mean that I am right but experience is a good teacher. A clear nationalist majority or otherwise can be inferred to some extent from the primary one school figures for the schools. From that there is an idea of what the voting population will be. When all this came up about a nationalist majority a lot of years ago, the figures suggested otherwise and turned out to be such. We will need to have access to a lot more information before we can be confident about our projections. That leaves us to go with our instinct.

    Then there is the added problem of a Southern partitionist mentality. Garret Fitzgerald in his autobiography spoke about the extent of opposition in the South that he was witnessing when Sunningdale came into being. How that might weave its way into legislation is anybody's guess.

  48. Mackers

    I tend to agree with Gerry Kelly regarding Tone were he alive today being anti-unity. The Presbyterians back then attempted to emulate the American success in breaking free from London control. It was about profits. When that was swatted like a fly they turned to the opposite and became the most loyal of loyal subjects of London and the Crown. I think perhaps SF are now attempting the same strategy, if you cannot beat them - join them'. It was just the first in a long line of republican sell-outs, they certainly began as they intended to continue! The likes of Fitzgerald and Ruth 'deadly' Edwards in the South are Anglo's in any event and I wouldn't worry too much about them. They can always relocate to their Mayfair gaffs in London if they get too depressed. Obviously not Garret he's 'boots up' and no loss. There is admittedly already a sense of trepidation in political circles in the south about just what Brexit will bring and on the Vincent Brown show it was easy to see a little discomfort. Those who have done very well fear any type of change. But as in Brexit it may be the people of no property, either here or in the Bahama's or Marbella, who will make the difference. Not many can actually buy a house these days.

    The sectarian antagonism kept the unionists in place for decades and it will also be the sword they fall on once the poll is announced and campaigning gets people motivated. Keep the faith lol.

  49. This comment has been removed by the author.

  50. Larry,

    when wish is father to the thought we can conjure up any scenario: Like me writing a piece and thinking thousands might read it lol.

    It was suggested to me that there might be a reluctance to embrace your take because it might lead to a conclusion SF were right. While that is a possibility, it would be foolish, allowing vanity to get in the way of progress. A more substantive reason for not being infected by the hype is that nobody has shown how it might work. A hope is neither a process nor a strategy.

    The reason we need to be concerned about the South is that they may well work out a referendum to secure agreement that the North will only become part of a unified state if two thirds of the North agree. They would seek to sell that on the grounds that anything closer would be more destabilising.

    So a best case scenario from your perspective is a border poll might take the North out of the UK but not into a united Ireland. I think Sean has been thinking something along the same lines - that some clause will be introduced to derail your hopes.

  51. "The reason we need to be concerned about the South is that they may well work out a referendum to secure agreement that the North will only become part of a unified state if two thirds of the North agree"

    I've said several times that I don't believe Dublin want a Ui and get shouted down every time. Why would Dublin with a national debt of €210 bn want the expense and sheer fucking hassle of a UI?

  52. Mackers

    In regard to SF I think once the decision was taken to go all out down the constitutional politics route by the few in the loop and the weapons imports were deemed a hindrance then their progress regarding vote count has been nothing short of terrific. I have voted for them myself in spite of slagging them off regularly and have great friends still in it. My disappointment with them was the depth to which they sank at a rate of knots. The dishonesty and underhand manner of their dealings. It has been said before by others, who cares if SF slithers over the finishing line. To a certain degree it is difficult to argue against although I would despair to see Gerry Adams running any country no harm to him or big Bobby Storey. As for any border poll clause, why should there be one? 52% was sufficient for GB to exit the EU. Different treatment for the natives AGAIN? Surely not! SF must have their tail up there's no return to that an old slogan? lol If there's another election/head count, it will be great practice for the border poll.

  53. Larry,

    that is right - if there is a majority vote in the North for a UI. Problem is that we know from experience it is unlikely to go that way if we rely on a count the Catholics approach.

    What impact Brexit has on unionism is the new factor. We need to see the dust settle before we can make a better judgement.

    And still we are left with the attitude down here. Living here ten years has led me to believe there is no interest. It is not something that ever comes up in conversation. If there is opposition expressed to anything down here it looks like it is to water charges and "foreigners". They seem to be the two biggest gripes. And there has been a noticeable reduction in the level of opposition to people from other countries. Nobody mentions the Brits.

    Adams running a democracy seems something of a contradiction.

  54. Peter,

    Dublin doesn't want a UI - but there is a chance, however small, that a referendum might take it outside of their control. The Cameron government didn't want Brexit but ...

  55. AM
    Yes but Dublin will set the media tone and agenda prior to any referendum. It was a shock to unionists to see how compliant and passive Dublin was during the GFA negotiations. They gave up articles 2 and 3 without a peep. No demand for a timetable for Brits leaving etc. That was very telling. And nobody talks about the republic's debt, its ability to pay for a UI or whether they want to be responsible for the north's security and governance. As you say there is little interest in the south about a UI, when they see the size of the bill they will shit themselves. I feel totally confident that there will not be a 32 county republic, Brexit or not.

  56. Peter,

    Dublin wanted the place quiet nothing more.

    Dublin could hardly have asked for a withdrawal date having signed up to the consent principle.

    Dublin gave up 2 & 3 but who noticed? In jail we used to laugh at how unionism got itself worked up about 2 & 3. A constitutional imperative which it was an imperative to avoid doing anything about.

    If the status of the North was down to debt alone it would be on its own. London would just give it up and Dublin wouldn't touch it.

    I don't see it coming either. I would very much like to see the Brits get out of Ireland but I don't know how it is going to happen. The military campaign failed so coercion is out of the question. We are left only with consent. I think at the very least there should be joint authority. But I imagine that would be a logistical nightmare.

  57. Peter

    It seems Stormont is moth-balled. Might it be an idea for London and Dublin to step back and say you are on your own for a period of time and then we could all see how wonderful the blue skies of 'Ulster' actually are after all? Never mind joint authority, adopt the Ally McCoist approach, 'walk away'. lol

    The south actually has a healthy economy, it unfortunately also just has a healthy and active shower of cute hoors abusing it.

  58. AM,

    Just out of curiosity, do you prefer living the South or at some point would you still want to go up North?

  59. AM
    Dick Spring and the Ministery of Foreign affairs wanted Dublin to back SF's demand for a withdrawal date but were reigned in.

    For you Articles 2 and 3 may have been a laughing matter but for us it was a profound shift to a final official acceptance of Northern Ireland by the south. They went from enemy to neighbour overnight. I no longer cheer when the republic's football team get stuffed! lol

  60. Steve R,

    much prefer down here. Would not want to live in the North again.

  61. Peter,

    I think that they were reined in is revealing in itself.

    The unionist attitude to 2 & 3 seemed paranoia. The consent principle was inviolable. Dublin might as well have laid a constitutional claim to the moon for all it was worth. Why unionists treated it any more seriously than the British treated Idi Amin proclaiming himself King of Scotland puzzles me. The only time they really figured in the public discourse was when the McGimpsey Brothers took their case.

  62. Seán,
    Come Wednesday 27th Brexit not only voids Britain’s membership of the European Union but it also legally voids the GFA and all sub-agreements.
    As a reference point to define the reasons, the terms, aims and objectives of a border poll and its results, if used, it needs to be fully challenged. Fear of resiling or breaching inviolable tenets of republicanism is an academic discussion for another time. Time to put that to the side and focus on what is at hand.
    We, as Republicans need to, at the very least, attempt to re- set those terms of any poll especially since the British will introduce all sorts of caveats to avoid a Brexit result. The Scots will learn of this soon when May visits.

  63. AM,

    "Why unionists treated it any more seriously than the British treated Idi Amin proclaiming himself King of Scotland puzzles me."

    You have to remember the Republic was viewed as a safe haven from which Republicans could launch attacks from, then slip unmolested back over the border to live undisturbed by the State there. The indifference to this state of affairs by the South was viewed as tantamount to complicity by us in the PUL community. As far as we were concerned the Southern Government was ignoring the IRA due to tacit approval derived 'from' some sort of justification of Articles 2&3.

    The difference between various shades of Nationalism, Republicanism and the Southern Government were of no concern to us due to the goal of each of these strands was the same, ie, the destruction of NI. We quite simply had no interest in the nuances of the many different interested parties. This was in no small way due to the siege mentality my community forever suffers from.

    Quite simply, we were the Prod Sinn Fein, 'Ourselves Alone no matter what!'

  64. Steve R,

    the turn a blind eye in the South was not prevalent nor was it enduring. How easily the 73-77 government slips the mind. The jails were filled; there were hunger strikes; the Garda Heavy Gang tortured at will; there were some laws that more oppressive than anything up North - the opinion clause for example. State Censorship of republicans was an official feature in the South 16 years before it became one in the North. By the time Articles 2 & 3 really raised their head in public discourse, there were very few complaints apart from the usual suspects that Dublin was turning a blind eye to the IRA. I doubt many unionists knew the technicalities of 2 & 3. They saw the South as a threat but not because of 2 & 3.

  65. Mackers

    I too much prefer down here. Been living here since 2006 and a trip back to N. Armagh holds zero 'pull-factor.' I love Derry though, the place has been a revelation since my time at Ulster University (Magee) and it is amazing that I had no desire to visit there previous to that. Willie McGuinness owns the best pub in it and for all my slagging I have been drunk enough there to not remember exiting and woke up with all my teeth and 20/20 vision. Quality bar and quality people in Derry period. However the south holds a contentment and easy going quality of life I have no interest in extracting myself from. Peter and those like my own family back in Armagh indoctrinated by the BBC and British is best horse-shit may deride our political scoundrels, but the economy here is strong enough to have pulled itself out of catastrophe. Have the Tories never inflicted disaster upon their country? I was speaking to a woman from Edinburgh at the swings here yesterday in the park with our respective kids, she is here working trying to get her Muslim fiancee a visa sorted out. Exercising her EU rights before it is too late. And so it begins, little ingerlund runs off away from Europe lamenting loss of Empire Glory...

    Steve R

    Will it remain unionist SF (ourselves alone no-matter what)for the Protestant minority in the north from here on in then?

  66. In a recent survey by the polling agency 'Lucid Talk', a previously unheard of 45 percent of those interviewed (in a poll conducted internal to the Six Counties only) supported Irish Unity in the event of Brexit. Once the full impact of Britain's withdrawal from the EU kicks in - particularly as the farming community, with others, begin losing subsidies - that number will surely rise further and beyond the 50 percent marker London has set as its requirement for leaving Ireland. Should Scotland leaves the Union it will simply be further grist to the mill. Our day is coming and faster than anyone anticipated. Republicans must get their house in order if they hope to have any say or influence over how the New Ireland will appear.

  67. AM,

    While I agree with your insight, at the time we simply did not care to spend time studying such distinctions. Most of us were just in fear and saw the 'enemy' all around us. I suppose we readily believed that narrative due to it feeding into that fear. Fear itself was currency for those who in my community who could exploit it.


    "Will it remain unionist SF (ourselves alone no-matter what)for the Protestant minority in the north from here on in then?"

    I honestly don't know but I suspect that 99% of the PUL community are sick to the backteeth of 'The Troubles', so while we make get the odd d**khead I don't believe there would be any widespread violence involved. Especially not if it's done peacefully and sensibly. A lot of people I knew were never 100% opposed to a UI, but they would never, ever give in to the Provo's. This is why I said ages ago the Provo's were the biggest barrier to a UI from our perspective.

    It's a fluid time in History, it would be a wise man who held his council until the fog clears though.

  68. Steve R

    Listening to the opening salvos regarding Brexit it looks like we may end up with a United Ireland as a joint member of both the UK and EU ... shaping up for a right jolly little love-in.

  69. Larry,

    Or a complete brothel!!

  70. Steve R

    Great start to my day, good old laugh at 7.30am, political chancers are whores globally for certain.
    I have Donegal and the odd break in Spain complemented with an occasional thrilla in Manila with wife and Pablo (son). After all the media hype and horse-shit pre/during/after the GFA I am zoning out of the upcoming 2 years of the media dumbing/numbing us down on Brexit. Only positive is while the whores are all talking for 2 years the planet may get some respite!

  71. Larry,

    wish I could say the same, it's been lashing down after cyclone Debbie does Queensland, and blowing a frigging gale to boot.

    Reminds me of Belfast summers when I was a wean!

  72. AM: "I don't see it coming either. I would very much like to see the Brits get out of Ireland but I don't know how it is going to happen. The military campaign failed so coercion is out of the question. We are left only with consent."

    Agreed, but we are left in Ireland only with British imperial gerrymandered consent, the likes of which (as with all voting frauds) ensures a predetermined non-democratic outcome by design with the future likelihood of more hegemonic goal post moving to guarantee that independent national Irish unification never happens since after all Northern Ireland is in NATO and Southern Ireland is not. And given that both are so called free market democratic regions there is no commercial push for political unification because it’s not really necessary for business given this economic unification.

    So “consent” is just more of the same rule by fooling. As I have said before (and hope to be proven wrong): North & South Korea will more than likely be united before North & South Ireland ever will be given the usual self-aggrandizing commercial and security concerns of their external powers.

    Which I think could maybe mean: the only thing we're left with is the consent of the English people who look askance at Northern Ireland Unionists much like Americans look askance at Puerto Rico. In fact Washington, DC won't permit Americans in the 50 states to vote for Puerto Rico independence (as I am sure they would given the historical bigotry and animosity between Anglos and Latinos in the US) because DC is loath to give up any security or commercial edge in the Caribbean (also see Guantanamo).

    Likewise, Whitehall and the rest of the UK deep security state are loath to give up any security or commercial edge they have in the North Sea VERSUS the English people once polled 87% for England to get out of Ireland. Work then is needed on helping the English people overcoming this democratic deficit in UK governance. In short we may need to think outside the box and also free the English to free the Irish!

  73. Owen,

    funny enough, at a conference back in London in 95 I argued that one alternative to the unionist veto was to remove the power of decision making from the NI public to the UK public. One of the academics at the conference called it a "potty idea". Another academic (unionist) later said to me that getting called potty by the Professor of pottiness was actually a compliment!!

    Unity is highly unlikely to result from any border poll but what Sean has done with the above article is stir a discussion and focus minds. I know when I was interviewed by the Irish Times yesterday on Brexit I kept thinking back to the points from the discussion started here. So these things are very useful. The one thing I have discovered over the years, it is much less important to agree with each other than it is to learn from each other. Sometimes it needs a willingness to curb intellectual vanity to do just that and that requires a willingness to laugh when our own ideas suddenly turn out like pricked balloons because somebody else has deflated them. Hold onto an idea for as long as it works. After that treat it like a used condom.

  74. Steve R

    That Debbie gets about last I knew she was doing Dallas. She must be as old as Sticky Vickie in Benidorm at this stage. uuurgh!!

  75. AM: “The one thing I have discovered over the years, it is much less important to agree with each other than it is to learn from each other. Sometimes it needs a willingness to curb intellectual vanity to do just that and that requires a willingness to laugh when our own ideas suddenly turn out like pricked balloons because somebody else has deflated them. Hold onto an idea for as long as it works. After that treat it like a used condom.”

    Well said! We must all of us avoid being jailed by our own perspectives. Otherwise we sound like doctrinaire disciples who think Mao or Milt (as in Milton Friedman) makes the pigs grow fatter.

    So yes it’s always helpful to have your bubbles pricked even if it hurts. You yourself once cited Carl Jung: “There is no coming to consciousness without pain.” Ouch! And speaking of coming to consciousness, thank you for writing that obituary for Frank O’Brien, I just stumbled on it again.

    I knew Frank O’Brien, having met him twice and talked to him on the phone a few times after reading his anti-SF commentaries back in the 1990’s. He was clearly an intelligent but fragile person who I credit for pricking my Noraid PSF bubble and helping me see that they were rotten and like FF and FG only nominally Republican to keep their punters on board. Noraid people said he was a nut, and while Frank could be nutty at times there is a fine line between prophets and fools. So it’s important that we all listen to each other because there is really no other way to learn.