Thursday 20 November 2008

Fifty per cent plus one?

Bertie Ahern, Iar-Thaoiseach, is reported as believing that a 'united Ireland could not be achieved by a simple majority poll in favour of constitutional change'.

He apparently believes that a narrow 50% plus one in favour of unification would not work, and that “a sizeable amount of people” north and south would be required to move to a united Ireland.

The only way it can be done is if there’s a sizeable amount of people on the island of Ireland, North and South, believe this is the way forward,” he said. “Fifty per cent plus one is not the way to do it. That would be a divisive thing to do. There’s no point having votes to find out that you’re 1 percent short or 1 percent over. That’s not the way to do it.”

Of course Bertie Ahern is no longer in a position to decide whether steps towards unity should be taken. In any event, nothing will happen for a decade, by which time he will be but a distant memory.

The corollary of this Ahern Doctrine is, of course, that if nationalists cannot have Irish unity even when they are a narrow majority, then unionists cannot have unfettered Britishness when they are a narrow majority. Hence, if unionists agree with Ahern's position, they must accept the progressive removal of the trappings of British rule as their majority gets smaller. After all, '50% plus one in favour of the union with Britain' is no more acceptable as a solution, presumably, than 50% plus one in favour of Irish re-unification.

Ahern also said that "the sooner we engage in the process of addressing Irish unity, in all its complexities, with all of its challenges, and the many opportunities it will present, the sooner the reality will occur.” Amen to that!


Anonymous said...

I think you're both right, it's a matter of perspective.

The British have said they would cede sovereignty if a majority wish it - a majority can only mean 50% +1.

On the flipside, 50%+1 isn't a good base to integrate a new region into a nation.

As we approach that situation, brinkmanship notwithstanding, both sides might feel more comfortable with a combined Irish & British sovereignty / greater joint authority. If the majorority in favour of unity continued to rise, then that arrangement could further evolve - before the final handover.

Anonymous said...

50 plus 1 is all that is needed for major change. How that change occurs the Irish people will decide. It is then, by the principles of democracy, out of the hands of the British.

The Irish people in the 32 counties cannot have our country's unity perpetually held to ransom by a minority. It would be nothing short of ridiculous.

Safeguards for the Ulster Protestanr heritage will have to become part of the new constitution etc.. along with a new anthem and national flag - but to still delay unification at the behest of a Protestant minority in North East Ireland would be a throwback to dark centuries past where a Catholic's vote was meaningless. It cannot, and will not happen once 50 plus 1 is attained by nationalists in the six counties.

Anonymous said...

'On the flipside, 50%+1 isn't a good base to integrate a new region into a nation.'

Since when has the six counties of the north east of Ireland become a 'new region'?
It's been part of Ireland since the Island was born.

Furthermore, partion of a country on the basis of a 60% to 40% majority in favour of protestants over catholics in 1921 and governed by sectarianism and gerrymandering would not be considered 'a good base' for an artificial statelet either.

The sooner unionists realise that unity with equal rights for all is the best option, the better for all of us.

Anonymous said...

"Since when has the six counties of the north east of Ireland become a 'new region'? "

A few points.

1/ I'm not a unionist

2/ It's not all about what northerners want.

3/ I live in the south (internationally recognised state of the Republic of Ireland which does not currently include the territory of the 6 counties that make up Northern Ireland)

4/ Integrating a territory where 49.99% are hostile won't fill the vast majority in the republic with relish. The Republic is successful, Northern Ireland is at best a recovering deliquent.

5/ The flipside of not pushing for full unity at 50%+1 is expanding the Irish influence as the proportion in favour approaches 50%. In fairness, with nationalists making up just over 40% of the electorate there are cross-border bodies and a joint approach in place already. This could easily be expanded upon. The process may help persuade unionists that unity may be in their best interest.

6/ If unionists try to obstruct progress prior to the 50% threshold being crossed, they'd be in an incredibly weak position once it is crossed.

7/ NI demographics are not the only factor that may increase the proportion in favour of unity. Economic growth in RoI has significantly outpaced growth in the north for decades. Once this recession ends, I believe that trend will resume. Southerners are already wealthier than northerners. That gap could widen much further.

In Cypress the communities opposing and favouring unity switched sides recently based on economic arguments. The possibility of increased wealth may entice some unionists to consider unity in the future. (Didn't an Ulster Unionist councilor with business dealings in the south join Fianna Fáil in the north recently?)