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50%+1 August 11, 2022

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

In response to Andy Pollak’s piece recently, Frank Schnittger had a useful piece on Slugger. In it he makes a key point about the rhetoric around the 50%+1 GFA requirement. He states:

There has been a lot of debate below about the necessity (or otherwise) of achieving a majority for a UI far in excess of the minimal 50%+1 GFA requirement. Obviously the bigger the majority, the better, but is it necessary, and if so, how is it achievable? And if it is achievable, must it be achieved prior to, or after a border poll?

Obviously, if you wait long enough – Pollak suggested 50 years – demographic and other changes may do the job for you. But that requires the non-unionist majority to tolerate a system they don’t want for a long time longer. My suggestion is they are unwilling to do so, as the drift in support for a border poll now seems to indicate.

He continues:

So my proposals take unionist opposition to a UI before (and to a much lesser extent, after) a successful 50% +1 border poll more or less as a given, about which we can do little. We must do them the honour of respecting their position which no economic or political inducement can change in the short term.

And he argues for appealing to 20% or so ‘persuadables’ in the ‘middle of the political spectrum’ for whom the idea of a UI is not so anathema. The offer to them would be:

  • A credible promise of a secure, stable, settled political future in a UI.
  • Much better economic prospects in a UI.
  • Protection of minority rights and identities in the new political dispensation.
  • A planned, structured, well organised, agreed and legally binding transition process between Britain and Ireland which guarantees pensions, quality of life, healthcare, integrated education, social security and a programme of infrastructural development for a long transition period. There might even be provision for a second border poll ten years down the line where people will have the opportunity to change their minds if the above hasn’t been delivered to their satisfaction.

The point in a way is not to undermine the democratic power of a majority because even as it stands it is that which underpins the current dispensation. Alter that, to the benefit of unionism and it brings everything into question.That said the second border poll, perhaps a decade after the first. That seems like a recipe for indefinite instability. 

But back to 50%+1 and amending that to a larger percentage.

On paper that seems more democratic but in truth it merely tilts the democratic scales. Again, the point is not that a larger majority would not be optimal, it is that any majority is legitimate. And practically I cannot imagine that a referendum will be called without a good chance of 55% plus. None of which is to argue that a referendum will in and of itself solve all the challenges that will manifest. That’s where preparation by this state becomes absolutely essential so that there is the greatest possible degree of clarity as to what the shape of the dispensation ahead will be. That is, surely, the least that is owed to the people of this island?


1. 6to5against - August 11, 2022

The whole thing is going to be very difficult, no matter how it plays out.
To avoid pointless division and purposeless argument – and to avoid the sort of nonsense that surrounded Brexit – it seems clear to me that the vote would have to be for a specific plan rather than a vague concept.
That would mean that all the issues alluded to above – pensions, quality of life, healthcare, integrated education, social security etc – (plus currency) would have to be ironed out in advance. And the negotiations would have to include representatives from as much of society as possible,
But what unionists would want to get constructively involved in talks for an outcome that they would then campaign against? How could they, in conventional political terms?
It could, perhaps, be managed if there was serious commitment and real engagement from London. But that’s a big if…..

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - August 11, 2022

I think it is near impossible to see under a Tory govt and even under Labour would be very difficult given it has unionising (in the sense of the UK) tendencies of its own.

Liked by 1 person

benmadigan - August 11, 2022

the UK Secretary of State has to trigger the Referendum/Border Poll on the basis of very vague criteria that the UK has refused to clarify, obtaining court judgements supporting the vagueness.

How long will the Irish (have to) wait for the UK’s permission?

Liked by 1 person

John Goodwillie - August 11, 2022

It seems to me that there would need to be several stages:
(1) Possibility of a majority.
(2) Process in the Republic on the basis of What are we offering them? Unionists would obviously not participate.
(3) Vote in principle.
(4) All-Ireland constitutional process, subject to some sort of ratification.

Liked by 1 person

Jim Monaghan - August 11, 2022

I think a is needed to tease out all the problems and maybe suggest a new constitution.


Jim Monaghan - August 11, 2022

https://www.citizensassembly.ie/en/ forgot to add this to t he above

Liked by 1 person

2. Wes Ferry - August 11, 2022

The UK voted for Brexit and to leave the EU by 52% to 48%.

Unionists (DUP, UUP and TUV) and the Conservative Party accepted that, as did the Liberal Democrats and UK Labour, albeit reluctantly.

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Fergal - August 11, 2022

The Greens used to plug something along the lines of a multi referendum. I’m sure there’s a technical term for it. A ballot with multiple options… united ireland, federal state, joint authority, status quo, nine county reverse GFA… could this be a runner?
The Alliance type voters will ultimately decide… and they’re agnostic on the national question! In the meantime, are the loyal sons of Ulster ready to die in the ditches for the protocol?
A UI will happen eventually thing is… what kind of one?🤷‍♂️

Liked by 1 person

Wes Ferry - August 11, 2022

‘What kind of country will we become?’ is the question for all constitutional change/independence movements, past and present.

It will depend not only on those who manage that process to try and retain power but the forces that realign after reunification and the strength they can muster to effect change.

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John Goodwillie - August 11, 2022

The term is Borda Count. Basically it finds the highest level of consensus.

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roddy - August 12, 2022

I thought a “Borda count” was an FGer from Dundalk or Letterkenny.

Liked by 1 person

Dr Nightdub - August 12, 2022

Maybe I’m a bad person, but I couldn’t help instantly re-phrasing that as “are the loyal sons of Ulster ready to kill from the ditches to stop the protocol?”

All you read about Twelfth bonfires, threatening to break teenage girls’ arms, toxic reactions to Irish language classes or GAA pitches in East Belfast, etc etc just seems a constant depressing reminder that there’s another crowd(s) that haven’t gone away you know.

Liked by 1 person

3. Colm B - August 11, 2022

I think it is good that the practicalities of the process of moving towards UI is being discussed but I also think we need to keep in mind why socialists, as opposed to others, favour a united Ireland. For me there are three reasons why a UI is a desirable goal from a socialist perspective:

1. The right of nations/people’s ( however defined) to self-determination, in this case that of the Irish people to decide their own future. This also raises the vexed question how such a right applies (or does not apply) to the Protestant population of the North.
2. The role that the creation of UI would play in the break up of Britain, helping to bring to an end that reactionary post-imperial state.
3. Most importantly, that a UI and the break up of Britain would open up the prospects for a radical transformation of Irish society and tilt the playing field in favour of the working class.

These are important because the process will have an impact on the outcome – so socialists need to push for a process that favours the most radical outcome.

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