On The Border Poll
The Border Poll is a bitter pill to swallow for Irish Republicans - a massive compromise and headache for all concerned. On this issue alone republicans have been split into two distinct camps: those who reject the idea in all it’s forms and those who are willing to explore it’s potential and use it as another tool in their dwindling toolbox.
The Border Poll mechanism within the terms of the Good Friday Agreement is typical from the British establishment. Firstly, regardless of voting preferences North and South the final say rests with the British establishment and Secretary of State. Secondly, there is a misconception that it is an all-Ireland vote when in fact this can not be further from the truth. On paper, it looks like an all-Ireland document but in reality it forces the participant to recognise and accept partition and engage in a split-process: i.e. two distinct and separate referendums North and South occurring at different times and being under differing legislation and oversight. In this way, who is to say whether the vote in the 6 counties or the vote in the Free State takes precedence, and who is to say how or when the voting process will be carried out. Thirdly, there is a misconception that in light of the recent census in the 6 counties (indicative of the first Catholic majority in 100 years) that the Border Poll is now a foregone conclusion in favour of Irish Unity. Yet, the truth is that this is no longer a religious preference or ideological issue for the masses, rather in today’s climate of peace and relative stability for the average voter it is one of pure economics and affordability. Finally, swathes of Irish republicans seem to be convinced that the border poll must solely be fought in the 6 counties and that a Free State vote will be in favour of Irish Unity by default. Yet such thinking is a tactical error because in reality there remains a high level of suspicion and animosity to the ‘black North’ from our southern counterparts; who by now are highly suspicious of Irish Unity, are unwilling to provoke Northern Unionism and are quite happy to maintain the status-quo and FF/FG party-line on the issue.
To conclude, in my mind the British must be congratulated for coming up with such a mechanism that may be solely designed to divert all the time, effort and resources of Irish republicans away from genuine struggle. It (the border poll) is an exercise that inherently communicates to the British: ‘we remain your loyal subjects and are content to be subjugated to the whims of the British state.’ By it’s very design it forces the participant to accept partition and negotiate under the terms of the British state. In this way, it is no different to cozying up to the establishment and having tea and scones with the King. Indeed, if viewed harshly participating in the border-poll mechanism may be no different to the actions of Michael Collin's and the negotiation of the Irish Treaty and foundation of the Irish Free State. On the other side of the coin it may be viewed as another 'stepping stone' to Irish Unity.
Regardless of one's viewpoint on the issue it is no doubt a tedious, complex and perhaps futile exercise. Perhaps it is just best to keep things simple: I mean whatever happened to ‘Brits Out’.
~ Gamhain MacCionaoith
mí Mheán Fómhair, 2022
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