Seamus Mallon warns against premature Border poll

Vote could deliver ‘unworkable majority for unity’, says former NI deputy first minister

Seamus Mallon: In the event of unity a separate Northern government may have to be maintained in an Irish confederation to take account of unionist concerns.  Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Seamus Mallon: In the event of unity a separate Northern government may have to be maintained in an Irish confederation to take account of unionist concerns. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Former deputy first minister of Northern Ireland Seamus Mallon has warned about a “narrow vote” for Irish unity, cautioning against a premature Border poll that would lead to a return to violence.

Mr Mallon, long-time deputy leader of the SDLP and one of the principal architects of the Belfast Agreement, says “Irish unity by numbers won’t work”.

“We made that mistake a hundred years ago when Northern Ireland was set up on the basis of a head count,” he says. “A premature Border poll may deliver a narrow and completely unworkable majority for unity.”

He adds that in the event of unity a separate Northern government may have to be maintained in an Irish confederation to take account of unionist concerns and fears about a united Ireland.

He is writing in The Irish Times today on the publication of a book, A Shared Home Place, which he co-authored with Andy Pollak.

Mr Mallon warns nationalists against imposing by majority on unionists in a united Ireland what was imposed on nationalists in the North a century ago . . . “with the two sides simply changing positions – nationalists in a majority in a ‘united’ Ireland and unionists the sullen, alienated and potentially violent minority”.

He adds: “I have come increasingly to the view that the Good Friday Agreement metric of a bare 50%+1 majority for unity in a Border Poll will not give us the kind of agreed and peaceful Ireland we seek. My concern is that a very narrow vote for unity would lead to more division, instability and probably violence.”