SF to launch border poll campaign

Published Thursday, 17 January 2013
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With a campaign for a so-called border poll due to be launched, UTV asks whether there is an appetite for one and looks at whether Sinn Féin could ever hope to persuade unionists to leave the United Kingdom.

SF to launch border poll campaign
UTV looks at whether there is demand for a referendum on the Irish border. (© Pacemaker)

To some it's just a line on a map - but to many others the border is a burning issue.

Its influence isn't just felt in politics, but in the economy, education, health and even sport.

In theory, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, a referendum could be held once every seven years, and in the next few days Sinn Féin is expected to ratchet up its campaign for one.

But is there real support for such a move?

"I suppose Sinn Féin has to be doing something about the Irish dimension, as we used to call it, and promoting or calling for a border poll is one way of expressing to their own followers their continuing commitment to a united Ireland," said author and journalist Eamonn McCann.

"I think a Border poll would literally be a flag-waving exercise, as you would see political parties on each side of the communal divide identifying themselves, they would march into political battle on a border referendum carrying their particular flags. Do we really want that?"

A referendum rejected a united Ireland in 1973. Now 40 years on, and with tensions over flags still polarising communities, it's still hard to sell the proposition to unionists.

The recent census provided interesting reading for those looking for twitches on the web of Northern Ireland society.

There is this evolving Northern Irish identity where many people feel safe and content to call themselves Northern Irish and they want to focus on how Northern Ireland can fulfil its potential and how we can create economic stability in Northern Ireland, rather than looking at Irishness or Britishness

Prof. Deirdre Heenan

It showed that attitudes towards identity and nationality are evolving.

Professor Deirdre Heenan said: "I think the recent census took many people by surprise because what it shows is it's no longer correct to talk in terms of a British or an Irish identity, that it's a simple dichotomy between the two."

Tourists may barely notice when they cross the border, but it's not so simple for businesses.

Economic analyst Paul Gosling said: "In Northern Ireland we're a half-way house.

"We're half-way between the Irish Republic and half-way between Great Britain.

"So we haven't got a fair system in terms of competing with the south because of corporation tax, yet we're not integrated with the Great British economy either, so we've got the worst of both worlds.

"But I think the real threat to the economy of Northern Ireland would be if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, and I think if Northern Ireland, with the rest of the UK, left the European Union that would create enormous problems in terms of separating our economy from the South because in many ways we are integrated now."

Debating the issue on UTV Live Tonight, Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty defended the timing of the campaign, amid unrest over the Union flag.

"That shouldn't be an excuse to not pursue a campaign which the majority of people on the island of Ireland would like to see," he explained.

"The majority of people in the island of Ireland want to see Irish reunification but we recognise that the Good Friday Agreement allowed for a border poll and it would be a decision for people within the north.

"This isn't about sectarianism, this is about having a conversation with Unionists.

"This is about allowing people to make their own decision and to have that option of where they would like to see their future lie and what is in the best interests of them economically."

Meanwhile the Enterprise Minister for Enterprise, the DUP's Arlene Foster, described it as a "stunt politics".

She said: "I think very much it is stunt politics because it is very lazy sectarianism to look at the census and say that there has been a change.

"If there has been a change, it is actually the fact that people in the Nationalist community are content in calling themselves Northern Irish and I think that is very significant because people are content in their identity here in Northern Ireland.

"They accept that that is the case and in actual fact a border poll can only take place if the Secretary of State - and Sinn Féin know this, so it is a stunt - it can only take place if the Secretary of State decides that there is evidence to support such a change and there is no such evidence."

While Sinn Féin tries to persuade unionists to hitch their wagon to the United Ireland train, commerce and manufacturing may be keeping a wary eye - not on removing the Irish border, but on whether the UK is likely to resurrect its old borders with the rest of Europe.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
68 Comments
chris in Tyrone wrote (674 days ago):
@ Tommy Akins the Journal.ie just commissioned a poll on line and 51% of "Southeners Voted in Favour of a Border Poll, with only 26% against, also i find it strange that Unionists are running scared of this poll, yet claim without evidence that it will be defeated, only one way to find out guys, Nationalists have nothing to lose remember!
Paul in Northern Ireland wrote (674 days ago):
oh dear sinn fein what planet do you live on, who is going to pay for your pipe dream, certainly not the voters in may i give it its official of Ireland as in the Republic of..half of west Belfast are on Benefits who is going to pay for this? who is going to pay for the Prescriptions that Currently free in NI? who is going to pay for the visits that cost 40 euros in Ireland to see a doctor?, dream on the people dont want it, im against it but if it happened democratically then fine, but the only person whom can call it is the secretary of state for NI and i have no doubt that she is going to bow to the calls of SF and call a border poll!
Turlough Brennan in Canada wrote (675 days ago):
...IRELAND will be re-united when the people of Ireland decide and the only way this can be tested is by holding a bordr poll. What are Loyalists, Unionists of all shades afraid of... Would it be somethging called DEMOCRACY! ... Lets face it people, its going to happen and there is nobody on Gods Green Earth can stop the tide of a Nation determined to be FREE!
Tong po in Belfast wrote (675 days ago):
Regardless whether theres a United Ireland or not, Nationalists/Catholics are becoming the majority. 50 years ago we were an Orange statelet, i see in less than 30 years we'll be a GREEN statelet purely due to demographics. And before anyone says "not all catholics are nationalists" i could also say "not all protestants are unionists" but lets cut the nonsense here, every single election the vast majority of catholics vote SF/SDLP and the vast majority of protestants vote DUP/UUP. Our political system has been tribal for centuries, literally, thats not going to change overnight, in fact it might take centuries just to change it if it changes at all. Catholics are going to vote for a United Ireland at the first oppotunity.
realistc in planet earth wrote (675 days ago):
what's the big problem, it's a DEMOCRATIC vote..... nationalists cannot MAKE or FORCE a united ireland, unionists cannot MAKE or FORCE the UK to keep them.....
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