Sinn Féin should stop its milquestoast calls for a border poll

Much will be vaunted around Easter time of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, as we had last year around the centenary of partition. On both occasions it signified that the more things change the more one thing stayed the same – the ease at which the British government hoodwinks republicans in agreements.

In Michael Collins’ time to face a British delegation, he was hoodwinked with the promise of a Border Commission who would re-examine things in no time if they would just sign on the line there and then and we would worry about that later. The Border Commission, of course, did nothing and were used as leverage a few years down the line when Britain offered to wipe away the Free State’s national debt in return for their agreement to disband the commission. When you realise part of that debt were reparations Collins and co agreed to pay Britain for the War of Independence, it is sure to leave a bad taste in the mouth, that they agreed to compensate Britain for us having the temerity to fight for our own freedom.

In 1998, things didn’t get better when Sinn Féin faced British delegations – when they agreed to the principle of consent, which is something that is diametrical to Irish republicanism. Add to that, the mechanism in which a partitioned border poll can be called is as vague as the aforementioned Border Commission. Only a British Secretary of State can call this poll, when they think there may be a majority for unity. This could be never and how they can see fit to call it nobody really knows as no clarity was given and 25 years on we still don’t have anything set in stone, despite the increased discussion about said poll in the mainstream.

With the impasse due to the protocol, why are they not using their leverage to demand the implementation of a process that a border poll can come about into reality? And why have they never done so in the past given its supposed to be their signature policy? They should stop the milquetoast calls for one, which will easily be swatted aside by Britain and they know it.


Greencastle, Co Tyrone

Relationship guidance for unionism

If you have been married for a decade or more you will know that long-term relationships change over time. The 55-year-old you woke up with this morning might be the same person you married 25 years ago but they are certainly not identical. Your marriage certificate, the legal contract you signed in Church has not changed, but your relationship will have changed. Why are you still married, why do you stay together? Is it mainly because of the unchanging, precise nature of that legal contract from 25 years previously?

Possibly, but not if yours is a happy marriage.

If you are fortunate, you each have had the confidence to allow each other to develop over the years and adapted as your relationship changed. If your marriage is working you certainly do not keep referring back to that original contract.

Countries are not people but they do develop and change in similar ways. Currently some political activists argue that a change to a 220-year-old Act of Union is intolerable, that even a three per cent change in the rules is a crisis. Happy relationships don’t work like that and unhappy relationships often do not last. Are we in the unionist community taking our relationship guidance from the wrong people?


Belfast BT6

‘Anything does us’ in Northern Ireland

The lack of customs checks and the lack of surveillance on the Northern Ireland border has produced winners. These are most noticeably the cross-border crime gangs who ply their trade in murder, drugs, people smuggling, fuel laundering, livestock smuggling etc. The losers are vulnerable communities north and south who these crime gangs prey upon.

Not that such minor matters played on the minds of Rishi, Leo and Ursula as they wrestled with the political subterfuge that is the Northern Ireland Protocol to make it more palatable to the people of Northern Ireland. The wish for a democratic, civil, reconciled and prosperous country has always been an inconvenience to the British, Irish and European governments and as such the normal rules of diplomacy, honesty and due process don’t apply to Northern Ireland people.

Instead the political subterfuge of the Northern Ireland Protocol has been superseded by the subterfuge of the Windsor Framework and we are expected to be grateful. When it comes to Northern Ireland people, we are all well used to ‘the anything will do us’ attitude of the British, Irish and European governments.


Dungannon, Co Tyrone

Vladimir watch out: Micheál is watching you

Micheál Martin’s decision to offer 30 Irish soldiers, hopefully fully armed, to help train the Ukrainian army has been called “preposterous”. It is argued that the Irish defence forces are possibly the most ill-equipped in western Europe – with no tanks, fighter planes, fighter helicopters or submarines. Its air defence system has been described as a “joke” and protection of its air space is outsourced to Britain. It equates to the Irish variant of Dad’s Army and the home guard. An obvious consequence of having no sophisticated military hardware (Leopard tanks, Typhoon aircraft etc) is that it cannot offer training in such weaponry. Vladimir Putin will be shaking in his boots at this potentially game-changing intervention.

However, if we refer back to 1898 when another Russian despot (are there any other kind?) was terrorising Europe – namely Czar Nicholas 2nd – the plucky local Irish paper the Skibbereen Eagle, proclaimed that it would “keep its eye on the Emperor of Russia and all such despotic enemies – whether at home or abroad”. Net result – the Czar was gone in the 1917 revolution. Ouch. Vladimir you had better watch out. Micheál is watching you.


Donabate, Dublin