The prospect of a poll in Northern Ireland about Irish unification, provided for in the Good Friday Agreement and often termed a “border poll”, is now widely discussed. But the provisions and wider implications of the law and the Agreement – extending to both parts of the island – are little explored. The Constitution Unit is planning a project to address these questions, with partners from both Northern Ireland and the Republic. It has so far published a report that seeks to stimulate discussion by outlining the key issues.
Written by Unit Honorary Senior Research Associate and former civil servant Alan Whysall, the report notes that, while there is scant evidence at present of a majority for a united Ireland, that could change – perhaps quickly – if the political situation becomes still more fractured. The provision in law and the Agreement relating to a border poll is stark and minimal. There are hence serious gaps and ambiguities in the process to be followed.
The report argues that it is important that the issues are considered and as far as possible resolved before the machinery is invoked. A move to Irish unity could be shaped in accordance with the principles embodied in the Agreement seeking consensus and respecting identity, but the way in which this is done needs reflection, and careful stewardship by the British and Irish governments.
- Blogpost summarising the key points and proposals
- setting out the issues in more detail