Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor: Time of reckoning for Sinn Féin

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald (right) listens as Deputy Leader Michelle O'Neill (left) speaks to the media at a post election press conference in Belfast (Mark Marlow/PA)

Time of reckoning for Sinn Féin

After the council elections Jeffrey Donaldson is faced with an impossible task – convincing the unionist people that they are second fiddle to Sinn Féin.

Imagine the psychological shock it will be to unionism to be second in line in the sham Northern Ireland parliament. For years unionists have sniggered that Deputy First Minister had no real power and was only a sop to angry nationalists.

The process began last week when the DUP changed its stance and said that money was now the main object of the talks with the government. This was a not-so-subtle chance to slip into negotiations by the back door. Jeffrey either has realised or been told in no uncertain terms that the protocol, and the EU rules that accompany it, are here to stay.

However, the council elections were not really good news for Sinn Féin either. Wolfe Tone famously said that he wanted to “substitute the common name of Irishman in place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter”. Irish republicanism has for many years been besmirched by those who would want to kill their Protestant neighbour rather than try to make them welcome. John Hume was right when he said, following the ideas of Wolfe Tone, that “you have to unite the people before you unite the country”.

From its inception the Northern Ireland state has been a superb example of colonialism gone wrong. We need £14bn a year to keep us – the ROI has a €10bn surplus (2022). Does anyone seriously think they are going to give up that surplus to take Northern Ireland off the hands of the English?

Unionism was never going to reconstruct Northern Ireland. All they ever did was hanker after the past. The ball has firmly passed over into the hands of we, the nationalist people. Are we willing to tell Sinn Féin in no uncertain terms that we want our new leaders to use their best efforts to build a province that can hold its head high and take its place in these islands and Europe?

If Sinn Féin pushes for a border poll without doing the ground work of making Northern Ireland sustainable, it will be clear to everyone that what they want is victory, not partnership. Time will tell if they are up to the task.

Portglenone, Co Antrim


Maximising loser’s consent after a vote for Irish reunification

Tom Collins’s column (May 25) opened with ‘Loser’s consent is a new one on me’. That, unfortunately, was obvious. He should have checked that he understood the concept before calling it ‘pernicious’.

‘Loser’s consent’ is used in political science to describe what makes democratic elections and referendums work. Namely, the willingness of the losers to accept the outcome of democratic votes. When losers do not consent, political life becomes more difficult. Donald Trump’s refusal to accept that he lost the last US presidential election is a brutal example of a bad loser.

Recent ARINS-Irish Times surveys show that about two-thirds of northern Protestants would accept the outcomes of future referendums that led to Irish unity. One third of the same group, however, would find losing “almost impossible to accept”. What that means may be reasonably debated. It could mean some would choose to emigrate – as Arlene Foster has suggested she might do. I would hope that is not the consequence of such an attitude.

Simply put, the successful implementation of a referendum in favour of Irish reunification requires careful thought about how to reduce the numbers who would find losing “almost impossible to accept”. Projecting forward, they might number 1 in 21 of the adult population of a united Ireland.

Minimally, they need to be assured that they will not lose everything, eg their British citizenship rights. Maximally, and more ethically, it will mean addressing all their fears and anxieties – but without granting them a veto as the late Seamus Mallon unwisely proposed.

In my book Making Sense of a United Ireland I emphasise that the Good Friday Agreement requires that a simple majority of those entitled to vote in each of the two jurisdictions will be decisive in future referendums. There are no qualified majority requirements, no threshold or turnout quotas, and no unionist or nationalist community veto rights. Nor should there be.

Those building a potential pro-unification majority in the two jurisdictions must, however, address two strategic questions: how to maximise loser’s consent and how to avoid ‘losing the base’. The latter means that the model of a united Ireland proposed by the government of Ireland must be recognisably consistent with Irish nationalist aspirations.

Addressing these questions jointly is politically imperative, not pernicious.

Lauder Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania, US


A credit to Poleglass

There has been a lot of bad press regarding Poleglass over the years. However, last week I spent the most wonderful hour and a half or so in St Kieran’s Primary School watching their production of Oliver Twist. I can only say that this production by everyone involved was as good as any professional stage show. The kids were outstanding and their enthusiasm showed in their performance. The singing and acting was flawless and natural. The choir, lighting and sound were top class. The background artistry was brilliant. To pick out any single performer would be remiss as it was definitely a team effort. All credit to those teachers who produced and organised this. To generate such a spirit in children takes dedication. And to the children who had large or small parts, they are a credit to the school and to Poleglass. A great show worth catching if you can. I am sure there will be calls for this to run and run.

Dunmurry, Co Antrim


Letters to the Editor