DUP Border Poll bluff wrong-foots SF

The DUP has made some disastrous wrong turns recently – for itself and for Northern Ireland – but the recent “bluff” on a Border Poll was really very clever. It earned political points, without ever the slightest prospect of such a poll actually happening.

There are two reasons a Border Poll shouldn’t happen. Firstly, the campaign around it would be anything but rational, causing deep divisions and encouraging anyone with even the slightest interest in a United Ireland to get out and vote for one (safe in the knowledge that it wouldn’t actually happen) – such divisions would take a long time to heal. Secondly, the principle must be established that a referendum can only happen once people are clear what type of United Ireland is on offer – for example, there is a world of difference between incorporating Northern Ireland into the current Republic of Ireland on one hand; and uniting Ireland as a new, federal, Commonwealth of Ireland with the monarch as Head of State on the other. For both of these reasons, a Border Poll currently would create a dangerous vacuum.

However, the DUP’s bluff had the added benefit of demonstrating the utter vacuousness of the Irish Nationalist cause. On BBC NI’s Nolan Show, Sinn Fein proved utterly incapable of even beginning to answer the question of why a Unionist should vote for a United Ireland – somewhat giving away the underlying suspicion that really it is all about demographics. The DUP was even let off with quoting statistics based on current numbers to “prove” the UK’s economy is better than Ireland’s (which is dubious, actually), without any hint of a challenge – laying bare Sinn Fein’s economic illiteracy on top of its lack of vision. Sinn Fein got one thing right – its vote is based on hard work in communities across Ireland; it is evident that it is not because of detailed vision, well thought-out priorities or rational policies!

By hinting at potential support for a Border Poll, the DUP called Sinn Fein’s bluff and probably ended any hint of a call for one.


11 thoughts on “DUP Border Poll bluff wrong-foots SF

  1. james McKerrow says:

    The added bonus for the DUP is the potential to increase voter registration in loyalist heartlands. Currently, figures as low as 40 percent are quoted for NIHE loyalist estates, against a Province wide estimate of 15 percent, a figure which is heavily influenced by the loyalist estates.

    Many of those in the loyalist estates have reasons, positive for themselves, for nt registering. It is far from all being voter apathy. But an increase in voter registration in the loyalist estates would have advantaged the DUP in recent elections.

    The results in future elections will depend upon how salient the DUP remain within loyalism, and whether, if that saliency is maintained, they can retain their recent level of support amongst the more affluent!

    There is still everything to play for in non nationalist Ulster politics.

  2. The DUP didn’t call Sinn Féin’s bluff, if they did we would have a border poll, instead all they’ve got is the same political inertia. I don’t see the issue creating divisions that don’t exist, I don’t see the absence of the issue healing divisions. Issues don’t heal or divide, Attitudes heal and divide.

    Sinn Fein and the SDLP might lose it but at the same time, they would have given people a “choice”. All the DUP have done is said they might give people a choice, but it’s the DUP’s choice if they have one or not. We should expect this from the DUP because they never signed up to the “principle of consent”. The fact is it’s in the Good Friday Agreement, if the UUP or Alliance Party or the PUP had a problem with the “principle of consent” then why did they sign up?

    And the principe of consent isn’t just about the border, it does focus on how we run this place now with the affirmation of the people. i.e choice. Mike Nesbit tried to give people a choice with regards a referendum on opposition. Not about winning political points or power but by being public servants. Loyalism might realise Irish nationalism is doing it a favour by challenging one party domination.

    We are simply seeing the Despot Unionist Party denying the people a choice on anything they disagree with and the Unionist Unity party simply falling into line, such a move undermines the “principle of consent” as it did in Fermanagh-South Tyrone which became a sectarian headcount.

    On the two provisions you mentioned, I feel you might be slightly prejudicial to Sinn Féin here. The Good Friday Agreement referendum wasn’t about the state the pro-Agreement parties were going to create, it was sold under the banner of “It’s Your Choice”… The people here would decide their relationships within, down South and across the water, that constitution belonged to all of us.

    So on the first issue, would the campaign be rational?, It would be Sinn Féin’s modes operandi and deepest passion but they have signed up to the “principle of consent” something the DUP did not sign up to. In the same way it didn’t get always its own way on several European referenda it lost in the Republic, it knows it can’t assert its own way on Irish unity. It’s not even in power in the Republic. Eamon De Valera tried, under the Sinn Féin banner, from a much more politically powerful position and failed to unify the independent state, his party couldn’t even remain united. So it would have to be rational to gain consent.

    Similarly on the second issue Sinn Féin couldn’t sell a United Ireland by itself alone (ironically enough), it would have to find a new Agreement with parties and people on the island and make concessions for a new constitution for a new state. It would have to be an Ireland of its own making. Does Ireland have the passion to be unified? Would it benefit both sides? What are the solutions to the economic issues effecting both sides? How should the state change? Who will hold power? What hard choices will we have to make in the future? How would it relate to the world outside of itself. Etc.

    Replace Ireland with Northern Ireland and ask the same question to the DUP or even the Alliance Party and I doubt you’d have rational well thought answers to all. Indeed some would be experimental at best. At the end of the day Sinn Féin and the SDLP have to ask these questions too, even if it doesn’t meet their bottom line.

    If the DUP had a poll defending the Northern Ireland it was creating would it pass and would it work? Probably not. Is it in the rational self interest of loyalism or the UUP to stop standing against the DUP and stand behind it? Maybe not. And if not, where are the choices and alternatives?

    In contrast to Sinn Féin and De Valera’s Ireland, Unwatched the DUP might end up following the mistakes of Carson and Craig and so detached from direct democracy it sews the seeds of its own destruction. Now, De Valera was a physics lecturer in Maynooth and Carson a successful lawyer, probably both very rational, probably good strategists but at the end of the day, the only thing separating Sinn Féin and the DUP making the same mistakes is US, I.e. the “principle of consent”, but then both are based on the “principle of dissent” I.e. THEM.

    Politics is ultimately about determining were the borders of these two principles lie, it might be too basic to call it “Them and Us”, but its better than “Them OR Us” or “Us OR Them” anyway. It’s better to have a choice you don’t want than no choice at all.

    • That assumes politicians’ objective is to govern well…

      • If the voters hold them accountable in their governance as the Irish did Fianna Fáil, as the British did the Labour Party, and if they join alternative parties creating alternative networks to the power struggle they will be.

        At the moment Sinn Féin and the DUP are playing for pride.

  3. Seymour Major says:

    I agree with the point made about Sinn Fein’s vacuousness but it was always ever thus and they never lost support because of it.

    In fact, today, their support base in Northern Ireland is almost immune to any adverse piece of political news which might weaken a “normal” political party. I think back to the child abuse scandal involving Gerry Adam’s brother and the seamy question of whether he remained an official in the Sinn Fein party after his niece made her accusation. Nothing lasts forever and Sinn Fein’s power base will weaken eventually but not for a long time, by my reckoning.

    For a political party to “score points” you have to have floating voters who will award them. I ask the question, on this issue is there really a significant number of floating voters out there? If so, is it seriously being suggested that they support Sinn Fein for the moment? I don’t believe they do.

  4. nationaliberal1972 says:

    So when would there be a good time for such a referendum to be called? All I hear is how divisive it would be but surely this is the vacuousness of ‘unionism’ (which is really Little Ulsterism’) not to put its money where its mouth is.

    Arlene Foster’s “bring it on” statement still is not DUP policy therefore DUP are still officially against such a poll.

    I do like the idea of an Irish Commonwealth however. I consider myself British and I am an Anglophile but I am also Irish yet I see Ulster unionism is its attitude and stance as the antithesis of modern day Britishness.

    Modern day Britishness is progressive, tolerant, multi ethnic. But these positive qualities are not quintessentially or unique to Britain. I look down south and I see similar qualities. Ideally I would like NI to remain in the UK if NI unionists were tolerant and intelligent like unionists are in Wales and Scotland.

    But they are not however.

    Ironically, I would vote for a united Ireland as NI is politically a hateful little entity. NI should have been politically integrated into the UK with Lib/Lab/Con/Nat politics as in Wales/Scotland but since it wasnt, it has always been a place apart.

    Sure, remaining in the UK may be economically better but as a progressive minded citizen, I feel psychologically abused by the polity of NI largely which is largely borne from a loyalism/unionism that in its heart believes itself to be religiously/ethnically superior to those of the Gaelic persuasion.

    This supremacism is kept on a ventilator by continuance of the Union. Take away the Union, I truly believe such supremacism would wither just as it did when the ANC took over in South Africa

    • Goodness me, I know South Africa well and trust me, supremacism is alive and well – on both sides. I have heard otherwise generous and civilised whites refer to blacks as “no better than apes”; on the other hand, once Mandela passes on, the future is bleak with nothing to stop South Africa going the way of all its neighbours. The notion that South Africa suddenly cured itself is laughable – as, in fact, is the notion that NI would be any less sectarian if you just “removed the border”.

      When would be a good time? When the Southern economy recovers and someone has the foresight to propose something akin to your vision. Take the Anglophobia out, and you at least have half a chance of a bit of rationality in the debate.

      • nationaliberal1972 says:

        Granted South Africa has many many problems and the ANC was never a panacea but it slayed the dragon of ethnic supremacy of ever being a realistic basis of political power ever again.

        Sure there are many dragons left to slay but let’s start with the biggest and one at a time

        A politician entity will never ever prosper economically when it’s ruled by political parties who do not claim to rule for the benefit of all and from the consent of all. The ANC gets votes from across the ethnic spectrum. DUP/SF do not.

        As for Anglophobia, yes it exists but its a fading fading fog in Eire. It exists with more vigour in Scotland but like any unfounded and needless hatred, its adherents should be challenged, not accommodated. Ditto for those who are anti Irish

  5. nationaliberal1972 says:

    Further to this, while racism still exists in SA as elsewhere, it has no mainstream polity or party to hide behind. Anyone with racist inclinations are facing the reality that the apartheid days are gone for good and that they have to engage with the progressive present future.

    I truly believe the same could happen here if a united Ireland occurred. Loyalism would be forced to face up to the reality that its people are at one with every one and republicans would have to face up to the fact that the new Irishness would have to be an umbrella/supranationality that covers the Gael, the Ulster Scot, the Brit and the Pole, the Indian or whoever else lives here just as Britishness does in GB

    There would be an economic tumult to start with but my goodness, the prize within a generation or two would be truly glittering

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