The problem, however, is that we do not know what is actually meant by those who employ the term. There is a real danger that it intends towards a continuing British involvement in our country — post-any ‘Yes’ vote border poll — and that this is what stands to be ‘agreed’ in that event (i.e. the nature of whatever role is to be afforded London).
My own views on agreeing any would-be ‘new Ireland’ are that Britain must declare her intent to withdraw and that a constitutional convention, from there, should determine new governmental arrangements. These arrangements should be island-wide, proceeding upon the uninterrupted sovereignty and unity of the Republic. Prisoner releases, with a full and proper amnesty, must be integral here too. Is the post-border poll ‘agreed’ Ireland construct of constitutional nationalism in line with such a framework?
That the Irish Republic should be reconstituted by referendum is a revolutionary political notion. That this same Republic should proceed upon the winning of a border poll is a reduced derivative of the same demand. Ultimately, however, it would still set towards the same prescription — this being the Irish Republic. What matters less, through all of this, is the means employed to effect such a shift. What matters more is the nature of that shift itself, and the political order it speeds.
Much, here, depends on the specifics as to what any border poll vote will be ‘on’ and in this lies the key point of danger. Thus, we must be wary of internalising its legitimacy, for it seems destined towards an ‘agreed’ Ireland framework still bound within the totality of relationships — which if so would put pay to any notion or pretence of a stand-alone republic.
On whether people should vote or how they should vote, should they vote at all, much here depends on what is actually being asked come the time. In the meantime, the work needing done is to grow the idea that Ireland, reunified, should be an independent 32-county republic — for there is no guarantee, whatsoever, that this will wash out on the far side of a ‘Yes’ (indeed it reads to me that this won’t be the case as things stand).
I think we can work on securing this core understanding without necessarily having to buy into a border poll, as though it were a fair means to determine our future. If we can get this much in the bag then we can take the rest as it comes, as this is the critical matter.
On the forward relationship with Britain, there will always be a relationship between Ireland and Britain and few would dispute that. They are our nearest neighbours and we have a lot of connections with those on that island — be they economic, cultural or whatever. But that relationship must be predicated on respect for the other’s sovereignty.
Britain has no more right to be involved in Ireland or to be shaping our affairs than does France or Spain, even China. It is long past time that Britain recognised and made way for the sovereignty of the Irish people. If and when she has done so, we will no doubt work together on many issues of a mutual concern and interest.
With regards to the decision of others to engage the border poll in a similar fashion to the Brexit vote — as a means to impact how the wider political process develops — I’ve always sought to encourage that effort, though yes being critical of some things, such as what I perceive as the unnecessary focus on the border poll itself over all else — namely the wider process around it and which we do not have sufficient detail of. Unfettered support for a border poll, absent such detail, is surely problematic (to say the least).
My position at the time of the Brexit vote was that it was a matter for the British people of themselves, as it related to their sovereignty and not ours. But I said this in the context and on the basis that they should afford to us the same dignity, which they should. I also expressed hope that the British would go for EU withdrawal as it surely would destabilise normalisation, as was then ongoing, which it clearly has done in the years since that vote.
There are some who took this logic further and who argued at that time for an active participation — for a ‘Leave’ vote to be entered into as it would serve to destabilise the state. Some of those concerned now argue for a similar approach to be taken to any border poll, as it too could destabilise the state. For them, thus, we should be active participants canvassing for a ‘Yes’. It’s a valid argument that warrants consideration, the pitfalls I’ve spoken of aside.
Through all of this, we must speed greater efforts towards securing an understanding that if Ireland is to be reunified — by border poll vote or by whatever else — that it is then automatic that full British withdrawal proceeds and that a 32-county sovereignty is birthed, in the form of an all-Ireland republic. I can work with anyone on this particular aspect of campaign without having to share in the particulars of their approach to a border poll. There, indeed, lies the scope for cooperation between Irish Republicans of whatever hue.
At the finish of the matter, a border poll has no right or jurisdiction to determine Ireland’s political status. Should one be held and passed, however, it should not prevent us from arguing that it establishes a further imperative on Britain to leave. This is perhaps the most important thing to note of the process unfolding. To those already engaging it, keep doing the things you are doing — some of the campaign work is excellent. Just don’t bind your appeals and efforts so tightly to a border poll alone of itself. Make the campaign not for a border poll, per se, with that as the frontispiece, but instead for the Irish Republic.