Mike Burke  ๐Ÿ–ƒ  Irish Times, 6-September-2022.

Sir, – Oran Doyle (“Addressing the question of unity”, Books, September 3rd) supports simultaneous reunification referendums in the North and South. He also recommends that the referendums address two questions: the principle of reunification and the model of a united Ireland. On the latter point, he notes that the “terms of unification must be fixed before the referendum in the North” and that “voters at any unification referendum should be presented with a model of a united Ireland, worked out to the maximal extent possible”.

The idea that border polls are votes on the detailed model of a united Ireland was first broached by the Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland, of which Prof Doyle was a member. The working group’s interim report (November 2020) and final report (May 2021) identified a variant of the “model approach” as one of its three favoured referendum configurations. According to Prof Doyle, the model of a united Ireland that is on the referendum ballots will address, among other things, “issues of identity, constitutional structure, social and economic policy and public administration.”

The model approach has two glaring problems, which neither Prof Doyle nor the working group satisfactorily address. First, it violates the Belfast Agreement. The Belfast Agreement effectively says, and all its predecessor documents presume, that referendums are on the principle of reunification. There is not a hint anywhere that border polls are about detailed models. Second, the model approach bestows a comprehensive veto on the North – the national symbols of a united Ireland and its constitutional form, political structures and policy directions cannot be set without the agreement of the North. Prof Doyle and the working group conjure the model approach out of thin air. The Irish people, not a collection of academics, should decide whether to grant the North a powerful veto over the form and content of a united Ireland.

There are different ways to ensure that referendum voters are informed of the choice on offer – the Scottish example comes to mind – without violating the Belfast Agreement and usurping the people’s right to set the terms and conditions of their governance. – Yours, etc,

Mike Burke 
Toronto, Canada.

⏮ Mike Burke has lectured in Politics and Public Administration in Canada for over 30 years.

The Question Of Irish Unity ✑ A Basic Proposal Or A Detailed Model?

Mike Burke  ๐Ÿ–ƒ  Irish Times, 6-September-2022.

Sir, – Oran Doyle (“Addressing the question of unity”, Books, September 3rd) supports simultaneous reunification referendums in the North and South. He also recommends that the referendums address two questions: the principle of reunification and the model of a united Ireland. On the latter point, he notes that the “terms of unification must be fixed before the referendum in the North” and that “voters at any unification referendum should be presented with a model of a united Ireland, worked out to the maximal extent possible”.

The idea that border polls are votes on the detailed model of a united Ireland was first broached by the Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland, of which Prof Doyle was a member. The working group’s interim report (November 2020) and final report (May 2021) identified a variant of the “model approach” as one of its three favoured referendum configurations. According to Prof Doyle, the model of a united Ireland that is on the referendum ballots will address, among other things, “issues of identity, constitutional structure, social and economic policy and public administration.”

The model approach has two glaring problems, which neither Prof Doyle nor the working group satisfactorily address. First, it violates the Belfast Agreement. The Belfast Agreement effectively says, and all its predecessor documents presume, that referendums are on the principle of reunification. There is not a hint anywhere that border polls are about detailed models. Second, the model approach bestows a comprehensive veto on the North – the national symbols of a united Ireland and its constitutional form, political structures and policy directions cannot be set without the agreement of the North. Prof Doyle and the working group conjure the model approach out of thin air. The Irish people, not a collection of academics, should decide whether to grant the North a powerful veto over the form and content of a united Ireland.

There are different ways to ensure that referendum voters are informed of the choice on offer – the Scottish example comes to mind – without violating the Belfast Agreement and usurping the people’s right to set the terms and conditions of their governance. – Yours, etc,

Mike Burke 
Toronto, Canada.

⏮ Mike Burke has lectured in Politics and Public Administration in Canada for over 30 years.

5 comments:

  1. Surely something so momentous would be better served if the path forward is illuminated as much as possible though? As it is a referendum would just be a head count with no real basis for advancement.

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    1. Steve - an illuminated pathway is always better to walk along than a dark one. What Mike gets to here is the first principle - are all votes equal? Is it the right of a majority of voters in the North to change the constitutional status of the place or is it not? Is a pro-Union vote to be more weighty than a pro-Unity vote? The reasons that people are fearful do not arise from any democratic sentiment but fear of instability and violence.
      Paradoxically the DUP while alienating Southern public opinion from it is possibly at the same time making that opinion feel, unity is not worth the candle.
      All I am certain about is that I will never see a United Ireland.

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  2. I think you may be wrong on this one Anthony, a united Ireland in your or my lfetime could well come about. What form of unification remains to be seen. To me, a unification without socialism is not worth much, the working class as a whole will still be exploited, just as both so-called orange and green workers are presently.

    Caoimhin O'Muraile

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    1. we can be even more certain that when it does come way down the line it will not be socialist. The Communists parties have between them ensured that.

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  3. Steve,
    The Working Group fosters the myth that the only details that really count are the details that are on the referendum ballot. But placing detailed arrangements on the ballot gives the north a veto not just over its own constitutional status but also over the shape and form of a united Ireland. This violates the meaning of consent/border poll in the GFA and is not what people voted for in the referendums ratifying the Agreement.

    The path forward can be illuminated without giving the north such a comprehensive veto. The Scottish referendum was on the principle of independence, without details on the ballot. But referendum voters felt fully informed because of the lengthy guide the SNP had produced. Something similar would work in Ireland.

    I think that the final form of a united Ireland should be decided by the people of Ireland in the post-border-poll phase. Any proposals to give the north a powerful veto over all aspects of a united Ireland could be considered then.

    As I said to Anthony earlier, I find it very frustrating that Working Group members refuse directly to address that they are proposing an all-embracing northern veto. I hope other participants in the reunification debate recognize that the granting of such a veto should properly be an explicit decision of the Irish people. It shouldn’t come about as the result of academics operating by stealth.

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