Jude Collins

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

That Border poll: who's right?

When I was interviewing Gregory Campbell for my book he made an interesting point regarding unionism. He said that when the south of Ireland was riding high ten years ago, unionists weren’t interested in a re-united Ireland; now that they are a bankrupt state  unionists still aren’t interested. In short, he said, economics had nothing to do with the matter. 

That’s a parallel but different track from the line that Peter Robinson has been taking of late. His argument that many Catholics are now happy to remain within the UK - that is, have become unionist - is because they have no wish to associate with the bankrupt republic to the south. In other words, they know which side their bread is buttered on. They want to stay in the union with Britain for economic reasons.

To sum up: unionists/Protestants simply can’t be bought - their commitment to Britain is total and unchanging. Nationalists/Catholics, however, can be bought - their commitment to a re-united Ireland is partial and dependent on material prosperity. 

Do you believe that? I don’t.  Certainly the past 400 years seem to give a different answer. But who knows? Times change.

Interestingly, today’s Irish Times  reports that Sinn Féin over the coming weeks will launch a campaign for a Border poll on a re-united Ireland. And the man who says that many Catholics/nationalists are now happy to be part of the UK, that less than 10% of people here want a re-united country,  says there’s no justification for such a poll and that it would only deepen division. 

Odd, that. The man who calls for a poll - Gerry Adams - is doing so in the teeth of polls suggesting it would be lost by nationalists/republicans. Why is that? Does he just want to put a re-united Ireland on the agenda? The man who’s opposed to a poll - Peter Robinson -  is convinced it would be won with a spanking majority by Protestant + Catholic unionists. Why is that? Does he want to avoid eye-balling the gorilla in the room? 

One teensy footnote: The Irish Times  today also reports Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore as predicting that a ‘post-recession’  south will emerge by the end of this year. “I believe there is going to be a commitment and understanding in Europe that the EU needs a winner to come out of a bail-out programme. Ireland is the best placed to do that”.

So supposing he’s right and the south starts to recover. What implications for a border poll would that have, especially among the finances-fixated Catholics/nationalists?  We live in interesting times.


  1. Ref to paragraph starting with 'Odd, that'
    It's a poser alright, Jude. Robinson surely knows that the nationalist electorate votes almost exclusively for the two nats parties and he must then be claiming to believe they suddenly favour a NI identity as opposed to an Irish one, in spite of realising it doesn't add up. There's the comfort blanket that for the first time was asked in the census would lead a cynic to sugggest it was created with this, indecent haste of the BBC and UTV to home in on this question stepping delicately over the unpalatable headline figure revealed in their rush to calm their people about the future. Fionuala O'Connor made reference to this skewing of the census result in yesterday's IN column and the way the local TV spun it. I've stopped bothering with the local six o'clock six thirty nonsense since the vomit inducing Titanic coverage. Nationalists should boycott both channels news programmes as they are tailored for one side of the community only. Happy new Year, by the way. Daniel Moran[as twitter].

  2. Article elsewhere (see below) on this topic - in summary it looks to me like a big mistake by Gerry to call for a border poll and/or he is relying on the SOS to ignore him.


  3. I have commented on this before on many blogs. I am a nationalist but I am also happy for the moment to remain in the UK. I see no logical reason to have a border poll at the moment as it will be voted in favour of the Union by about 2-1. This sort of result is only going to end up deflating nationalist morale. Why push for a poll when you are in such a losing position. Makes more sense to wait until nationalists have more seats in Stormont and that the Southern economy is fully recovered even better if it is out performing the UK economy, tie these factors in with a date such as 100 years of partition and you might start to have a winning shout. I think the real reason Gerry is pushing for a poll is to keep some of the more extreme elements on side and probably is half hoping the secretary of state tells him where to go

    1. Boon, you say about 2-1 in favour of the Union, only one way to find out?

  4. We random one for you Jude, check out what our current SoS Theresa had to say in 2000 in relation to British embassy's not flying the flag enough (daily mail I believe), she loves the fleg!

  5. 48 per cent in the recent census were Protestant. 40 per cent of them said they were "British only". The whole "northern Irish" identity which surprised many of us down south was clearly used by mainly Catholics.

    The "floating votes" re a border poll seem to be overwhelmingly be Catholics whose vote can be bought. Not sure what it says about a lot of the Catholics of Ulster but credit to the Protestants for their unbending loyalty to their cause.