Northern Ireland news

Former Chief Electoral Officer Pat Bradley urges weighted majority for border poll

Former Chief Electoral Officer Pat Bradley announces the 1998 referendum result

NORTHERN Ireland's former chief electoral officer believes Irish unity cannot be secured on the basis '50 per cent plus one' in a border poll.

Pat Bradley, who oversaw the 1998 referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, believes securing a united Ireland with a narrow majority will lead to greater political and social instability.

The former Electoral Office head, who retired from the post in 2000, also argues that claims about a majority of British citizens voting for Brexit are wrong because almost 12 million people did not cast their vote in the 2016 EU referendum.

Mr Bradley, who says he is neutral on the constitutional question, is the latest figure to caution against securing Irish unity by a simple majority in the north.

Last year Taoiseach Leo Varadkar appeared to suggest that the consent of significantly more than half of voters would be required for constitutional change

"I wouldn't like us to get to the point whereby we are changing the constitutional position here in Northern Ireland on a 50 per cent plus one basis," he said.

Former Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon has also warned that a slim simple majority would not deliver the “kind of agreed and peaceful Ireland we seek” and could lead to violence.

Mr Bradley told The Irish News that referendums were "very crude instruments" and believes that without a weighted majority – which he declines to specify – the transition to Irish unity would be perilous.

"I don't think Northern Ireland could join the Republic on the basis of 50.01 per cent – it's not going to work; it's just too close a split," he said.

"You won't get stability on that basis, you're going to have major political and social problems."

He believes Scottish independence must also be secured through a weighted majority.

The former chief electoral officer is also sceptical about British government claims that the majority of people back Brexit.

"The government's talking about a majority of people but they fail to talk into account those that didn't vote – which number more than 11m," he said.

"They say they have the backing of the country but you can't count support where it hasn't been expressed."

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