Fake Democracy: A Super-Majority Requirement For A United Ireland

The former deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, John Taylor, has taken to making the headlines in recent years after a prolonged absence from frontline politics. Beginning with suggestions that an independent Scotland should be partitioned, with “loyalist” regions of Glasgow and the south remaining in the United Kingdom, he has moved on to arguing that Irish northern nationalists have no right to expect equality with unionists in the UK-administered north-east of Ireland.

His latest remarks spin off a deeply irresponsible statement by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, putting forward the odd notion that any referendum on reunification would require a super-majority in the Six Counties in order to be passed (with an implication of a minimum 70% or more threshold). This of course flies in the face of the Irish-British peace accords of the late 1990s and early 2000s, which effectively ended three decades of conflict in the north of the country. The Good Friday or Belfast Agreement of 1998 makes it explicit that the British legacy colony will cease to exist when a simple majority vote of 50%+1 is achieved in a democratic plebiscite. It was this guaranteed mechanism for political progress which brought relative stability to an otherwise ungovernable region. Arbitrary changes to it, as put forward by the Fine Gael leader and others, are utterly reckless and invite a return to gerrymandering and bloodshed. Simply put, if a super-majority becomes a mandatory requirement for unification, then it is in the interest of militant unionism to suppress any potential nationalist turnout knowing that a lower count would nullify even a majority pro-reunification result.

Speaking to the union-supporting News Letter, John Taylor, in his faux-aristocratic guise of Lord Kilclooney, illustrates how some unionist leaders will exploit the dangerous theories being thrown about by Leo Varadkar.

Peer: Tiny majority for united Ireland would spark civil war

He said the bulk of the Catholic community vote for nationalist parties for “reasons of community division and not because they actually want a united Ireland”.

He added: “Assuming we were wrong on this, and there was a 50.1% in favour of a united Ireland, in no way would one dare have a united Ireland.

“Because the reality on the ground in Northern Ireland is there would be civil war.

“You cannot force Northern Ireland out of the UK by a 1% majority. Can you imagine the loyalists in Belfast taking it quietly? I couldn’t.

If such warnings are listened to, then violence or the threat of violence by a separatist pro-British minority in Ireland, in support of Britain’s anachronistic colony on our island, will once again take precedence over notions of democracy or the supremacy of the ballot box.

To coin a phrase, they promise war and call it peace…

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9 comments

  1. “The Good Friday or Belfast Agreement of 1998 makes it explicit that the British legacy colony will cease to exist when a simple majority vote of 50%+1 is achieved in a democratic plebiscite.”

    This is actually only half the truth. The GFA actually stipulates that it is for the people of Ireland alone to decide their fate and so there must be two Referendums – One in the North, and following a 50%+1 or greater result in favour of reunification, then the South too, must vote on Unity. So it is not the case that this British legacy colony will cease to exist after one Vote, but rather after 2. And what happens in the event of a tight vote in the North? What happens if the loyalists do bring carnage to the streets before the South votes? Do you think a Positive result in the South is so assured? I’m not, if i’m perfectly honest, and i’m speaking as a republican from the North! And what happens after a no vote in the South? The North stays part of the UK (even after a majority voted against it.) This is the nightmare scenario that the south must take action to prevent.

    The south has a moral obligation towards Northern Nationalists – all we ask is that you take a greater interest in Irish affairs north of the border and begin preparing the ground for reunification. Political mobilisation in the north from the southern parties would be a great first step. It is shameful of FF & FG that they do not stand in the North. We challenge the political establishment to come north, if you think Sinn Féin et al is doing such a miserable job then we dare you to do better.

    On another note and with regards to An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar’s comments hinting at a supermajority. I don’t think republicans and nationalist should be quick to shoot this notion down. Let me explain why:

    If a supermajority border poll is to be realised then the GFA would need changed. Currently, as i understand it, the referendum question will be something like “should Northern Ireland leave the UK?” given the terminology contained in the GFA itself. But if the GFA is changed to include a supermajority option then so can the terms of the referendum question. How would Leo feel if we held a border poll that required a supermajority for a positive result of 70%+1 for the following question “Do you want to maintain the status quo and remain part of the UK?” – Anything less than 70%+1 would then mean reunification with the south! (following a border poll there of course).

    I think Leo would choke at this supermajority idea as posed in this fashion – which reinforces my impression of him, not as a republican, but as supporter of Partition. Shame on you Leo V.

    1. Interesting points. Of course, it’s the regional referendum in the Six Counties which would count, more so than the national plebiscite in the rest of the country.

      I’m (fairly?) confident that the latter would have a positive outcome. Pro-unity voters would be more driven to come out that anti-unity ones at the polls. The anti-reunification camp is more apathetic or indifferent than actively hostile.

      Excluding the media of course. Admittedly, a partitionist “project fear” campaign would probably be launched by the Sunday Independent, etc. calling for a NO vote.

      The super-majority suggestion is a dangerous one to my mind, and another nail in the coffin of the peace process, if taken alongside Brexit and a Hard Border.

      My gut instinct, and I might post this later for discussion, is that Varadkar and company are hoping to get a bespoke arrangement for the north, as a special UK-EU region, and the super-majority stipulation for any referendum will be used to buy off unionists consent for this deal.

    2. John & Leo have their own interests to protect .the country was divided by the bourgeois ,north & south on sectarian grounds.Mr kilcolly leave the working class protestants out of it ,,they can make their own minds up ,they don’t need you making trouble “you have nothing in common with them”…. Dublin

  2. I agree with the thrust of your article but would just like to point out that any vote in the six counties cannot ever be considered democratic. The people of Ireland, when they could vote as a unit, voted for freedom. Britain partitioned Ireland by force to suit its own interests, as it did in India and Palestine and as its colonial policies resulted in in Cyprus, Honduras, Sudan etc. Divisa et empira.

    1. Oh, I agree. Personally I voted against the GFA in 1998, on the basis that Articles 2 and 3 were correct. However, you play the hand you’re given not the one you formerly had or wish you have.

  3. “You cannot force Northern Ireland out of the UK by a 1% majority. Can you imagine the loyalists in Belfast taking it quietly? I couldn’t.

    How about forcing NI out of the EU by majority of less than 4% of UK voters? Are remainers now to threaten violence, is this the lesson here? Or is “not taking things quietly” marching with Lambeg drums? So much for democracy. He would no doubt for NI to remain in the UK with a 1% margin in favour of doing so. Clearly therefore, unionist votes count for more than nationalist votes.

    The loyalists of Belfast need to be allowed to remain British and fly their flags and paint the kerbstones and die in British uniforms Afghanistan and wherever else they choose if it’s what’s needed to prevent them oppressing any part of the Irish population, it would be pointless to try to prevent them from doing so. But their days of forcing others to accept their hegemony will indeed end at 50%+1 or above. It is certainly the case that Republic has no desire to acquire them against their will or to treat them as they have treated nationalists in NI and will not be in a hurry to do so, but if London makes an exit deal to be relieved of them, they’ll learn where their bread is buttered overnight.

    1. No one would argue with unionists retaining their ties to Britain, following reunification. Practically speaking, most people – including myself – presume a Reverse GFA will be agreed between Dublin and London, with the latter taking on the “Dublin role”. But on behalf of the pro-union minority on the island. Which is entirely fair.

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