The Border poll call re-surfaces

The Taoiseach has shot himself in the foot with, no doubt, a decommissioned Sinn Féin blunderbuss

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s decision to reiterate his recent Northern Ireland Border poll call has caused some surprise and bewilderment. Speaking unscripted at the MacGill Summer School on Monday, Mr Kenny insisted he did not see such a poll, or favour one, as an immediate prospect, but believed it could be included and be agreed in the negotiations on the UK departure from the EU.

And he compared the possibility of the North joining the Republic as part of Brexit – effectively never leaving the EU – to German reunification in 1990.

Part of Mr Kenny’s rationale, if it is more than a cynical chance simply to steal Sinn Féin’s nationalist colours – surely not! – lies in the provision in the Belfast Agreement allowing the secretary of state to trigger such a poll “if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the UK and form part of a united Ireland.” (Art 2, Annex A)

But Mr Kenny’s implied suggestion that the majority vote for Remain could be seen to represent such a majority sentiment for a united Ireland is not only a misrepresentation of the current reality but politically provocative and even dangerous. It hands to Leave supporters a strong political argument – right or wrong – that the many Remain unionists have been duped into accepting false colours in the Brexit referendum, and that the real agenda of the South and nationalists is not preservation of the EU, or the safeguarding of Northern interests within it, but an opportunity to promte a united Ireland.

What chance then that any unionist will be willing to be seen accepting the good offices of the South’s negotiators in talks about post-Brexit arrangements on this island?

All the more remarkable is the pointless refloating of this idea, so clearly irretrievably torpedoed by First Minister Arlene Foster at last month’s North-South ministerial conference, when Mr Kenny must know it will not go anywhere. Mr Kenny has shot himself in the foot with, no doubt, a decommissioned Sinn Féin blunderbuss.

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