Letters to the Editor: Prospect of a border referendum is now probable
A statelet artificially created 100 years ago on a purely sectarian headcount to ensure Protestant dominance now finds itself with a Catholic majority. The Protestant hegemony was to ensure that Catholics could be treated as second-class citizens and to keep them subjugated and under the control of a Protestant parliament, which was to prove to be a very cold and unwelcoming place for Catholics.
With the publication of last year’s census results, the Catholic population is now seen to be the majority population for the first time ever. This trend looks certain to continue and the Protestant citizens now have to face up to the new scenario here in the north, and what all this will mean to them and their constitutional position within the UK.
The prospect of a border referendum is now probable, rather than just possible, and Britain has agreed that if a majority for the reunification of the island is achieved it will play its role in making that a reality. Political and civic nationalism is currently working tirelessly to plan, in specific detail, the shape that a new Ireland would take so that when a vote is taken people will understand exactly what they are voting for. The unionist population have been invited to join these talks and ensure that their beliefs and culture is part of this structure, and their participation has now become even more urgent.
The recent census results will, of course, be of major concern to those in the Protestant community who still support the union. Nationalists will view these results in a much more positive fashion, and it will certainly focus them more on the need for a border referendum sooner rather than later. The unionist political representatives will have to sit down with political representatives from the nationalist community and take part in the discussions as to what structures the new dispensation will need to include.
To date the unionist political parties have refused to even consider constitutional changes for the six counties, but now it is beyond argument that change is going to happen and they need to face up to this reality. The leaders of political unionism can continue to ignore this fact and fail to prepare their people for the inevitable, they can continue to live in the past despite the now indisputable changes, but the outcome will be the same. Nationalists do not want the new Ireland created on a sectarian head count as happened 100 ago, they want it built on agreement and
co-operation of all the people.
However, change is now inevitable, unionism can join the progress or refuse to acknowledge what is happening and face the consequences. Sinn Féin has shown how it has moved on, while the DUP has remained stuck in the past and is being increasingly isolated by the Irish government and their own UK government. Britain could not be more clear that these six counties are of no interest to them.
Craigavon, Co Armagh
Unionism remains trapped
The publication of the census results will prompt much talk about what unionism must do now to safeguard its position.
The correct starting point for this discussion is the rationale for creating a polity with religious bigotry as its central organising principle.
The partition line did not create a state, a country or a nation but instead delineated the largest area within which Protestant majoritarianism and unionist political hegemony could be enforced. Neither of those positions is now sustainable. The demographic and societal changes confirmed by the latest census ensure that unionists will never again be in a position to dominate others in the six counties.
If unionism is to reinvent itself in any meaningful way it must therefore accept that privilege can no longer be derived through sectarian supremacism.
To do this would however entail the rejection of the entire basis on which the polity in the north was created.
There is, at present, no unionist politician whose career could survive so radical a repositioning.
As a result unionism will remain trapped within the increasingly hopeless defence of what the first northern prime minister James Craig described as, “the undisturbed position of the citadel”. This in turn requires the rejection of every piece of progressive legislation that would shape an inclusive, rights-based society.
It is thus the continued adherence to its founding principles that renders unionism fundamentally incapable of ‘making NI work’ when the citadel has been not merely disturbed but overthrown.
An Chúil Mhór, Doire
Key actions required for Irish politics to evolve
Abundant comment on the census is understandable. However, there are key actions now required as Irish politics evolve. As part of strategising for a border poll and hopefully Irish unity we need to:
1: regularly, and in a detailed fashion, survey the Irish-only, Northern Ireland-only and ‘other’ identity respondents as to their views on Irish unity within the EU;
2: regularly, and in similar depth, survey the British-only respondents to confirm what exactly are their ongoing feelings of attachment to Britain, the UK’s standing, and if they see any advantages to EU membership;
3: given that England was the main ‘seat’ of the Brexit vote, survey (again in an in-depth manner) English people’s attitudes to Northern Ireland’s position in the UK and contemporary personal attitudes to Brexit effects and the standing of the UK.
Identity, political aspiration and potential membership of the EU are now pivotal. These actions would regularly shine a light on their evolution.
DR BILLY LEONARD
Kilkee, Co Clare
No surprise at Sinn Féin’s actions
The behaviour of Sinn Féin elected representatives lavishing praise on the former British queen may have surprised some of their supporters but it was certainly no shock.
As Michelle O’Neill and others fell over themselves to shower praise on the decades of service she had given, I wonder how the families of fallen IRA members felt. Many of their sons and daughters along with scores of innocent nationalist civilians had been killed by the queen’s forces.
Glengormley, Co Antrim