New constitution will be needed for a united Ireland, says FF’s O’Callaghan

Prominent backbencher says unionists must be part of any future all-Ireland government

Fianna Fáil backbencher Jim O’Callaghan believes   a border poll is likely over the next decade. Photograph:  Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Fianna Fáil backbencher Jim O’Callaghan believes a border poll is likely over the next decade. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

 

A new constitution will be needed for a united Ireland and it could be a requirement that every government of an all-Ireland state would require a unionist component, Fianna Fáil backbencher Jim O’Callaghan has said.

In a paper delivered to Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge on Tuesday evening, Mr O’Callaghan - seen by some in Fianna Fáil as a successor to Taoiseach Micheál Martin - will say discussions need to begin on preparing for the possibility of a border poll. This, he said , is likely “at some stage over the coming decade”.

He said unionism “would have a much greater influence in the governance of a new united Ireland than it currently enjoys in the governance of the United Kingdom”.

Mr O’Callaghan also recommended that the new of Taoiseach or First Minister and Tánaiste or Deputy First Minister in a new all-Ireland government could be directly elected by popular vote.

“It would be beneficial for a new united Ireland to retain a bicameral system with one house sitting in Dublin and the other sitting in Stormont. One could be an Irish Assembly/Dáil Éireann and the other could be an Irish Senate/Seanad Éireann,” his paper proposed.

Mr O’Callaghan’s paper comes after the Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald all contributed to a wide-ranging discussion on a united Ireland on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Show on Monday night.

Mr Martin, who has launched a Shared Island unit in his department to support cross-border projects with a half a billion euros over the next four years, argued against setting a date for a border poll.

“We agree that the tectonic plates of Irish politics have changed and this conversation has begun,” Mr Varadkar said, though he also argued against setting a date for a border poll.

Ms McDonald said that it would be “reckless” for the Government not to prepare for a border poll.

Political sources in various parties noted the level of agreement between Ms McDonald and Mr Varadkar on the issue.

Under the Belfast Agreement, it is the responsibility of the British secretary of state for Northern Ireland to call a border poll if he believes that it is likely to pass. A referendum would also be necessary in the Republic.

RTÉ reported the results of an Amárach poll of 1,000 people on the question, which showed that 53 per cent in the Republic were in favour of a united Ireland, 19 per cent opposed, with 28 per cent saying they didn’t know.

Also on the programme, former Ireland rugby international Andrew Trimble described “a growing middle ground in Northern Ireland and they don’t want to be forced to choose” in a potential border poll.

The North’s Justice Minister Naomi Long, the leader of the Alliance Party said that the North remained a deeply divided society.

“How can you unite this island when in Northern Ireland we are divided and segregated?” she asked.