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I have made the following comment on Slugger in response to a lot of debate there:

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There has been a lot of debate below about the necessity (or otherwise) of achieving a majority for a UI far in excess of the minimal 50%+1 GFA requirement. Obviously the bigger the majority, the better, but is it necessary, and if so, how is it achievable? And if it is achievable, must it be achieved prior to, or after a border poll?

Obviously, if you wait long enough - Pollak suggested 50 years - demographic and other changes may do the job for you. But that requires the non-unionist majority to tolerate a system they don't want for a long time longer. My suggestion is they are unwilling to do so, as the drift in support for a border poll now seems to indicate.

Andy Pollak's paper focuses on a lot of constitutional concessions to unionists' sense of Britishness in an effort to achieve this. My response to this is:

  1. In the absence of unionist/UK government engagement, this is purely speculative, and even major concessions may buy you nothing. Indeed they may just fuel the demand for more concessions without any guarantee of shifting the dial of unionist support significantly.
  2. Most unionists vote out of a sense of identity which is essentially non-negotiable. It is an insult to them to suggest they can be bought off with constitutional tinkering or promises of economic advantage. They may even respect you all the less for it.
  3. Any concessions made which diminish nationalists' sense of Irishness or independence from Britain risks the UI proposals being rejected by nationalists north and south, and lose you more votes than you might gain.

So my proposals take unionist opposition to a UI before (and to a much lesser extent, after) a successful 50% +1 border poll more or less as a given, about which we can do little. We must do them the honour of respecting their position which no economic or political inducement can change in the short term.

The focus of my proposals is the 20% or so "persuadables" in the middle of the political spectrum for whom national identity is not the over-riding factor determining their vote. My contention is a majority of them could be won over by a combination of:

  1. A credible promise of a secure, stable, settled political future in a UI.
  2. Much better economic prospects in a UI.
  3. Protection of minority rights and identities in the new political dispensation.
  4. A planned, structured, well organised, agreed and legally binding transition process between Britain and Ireland which guarantees pensions, quality of life, healthcare, integrated education, social security and a programme of infrastructural development for a long transition period. There might even be provision for a second border poll ten years down the line where people will have the opportunity to change their minds if the above hasn't been delivered to their satisfaction.

Many, if not most unionists will still be unionists 10 years down the line. Let us celebrate that as long as they celebrate their identity within the law. Hopefully some will have accepted the new dispensation as having delivered them a fair deal in any second border poll 10 years hence, and so, together with further demographic change any 50%+1 initial majority will have changed to 60:40 or better by then.

But to expect an instant transfer of allegiance the moment a 50%+1 poll is passed is pie-in-the-sky. Some will do so out of a principled support for democracy much as some Remain voters now support Brexit. But we must give people credit for the integrity of their beliefs and the dignity of changing their perceptions in their own time, if at all.

Any takers?

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Aug 7th, 2022 at 10:51:10 AM EST

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