How a united Ireland would work
German reunification offers most straightforward constitutional model
“There would be a Pandora’s box of symbolic issues, from flags to language, that could require negotiation.”
With the spectre of a new hard Border haunting the island, the recently dormant question of Irish unity has received renewed attention. Unification was a major issue in the recent Fine Gael leadership contest, Fianna Fáil have promised a White Paper, and Sinn Féin have again called for a referendum. The DUP’s support for Brexit and its customs and immigration restrictions – against public opinion in Northern Ireland – means we now require serious, long-term engagement with all parts of Northern society about the best shared future for the island. This must include thinking about how, if it were ultimately desired on both sides of the Border, a united Ireland could be constructed.
The Belfast Agreement envisages a united Ireland created through the passage of referendums on both sides of the Border. Beyond these mandates, there is no clarity about what would happen next. How would unification be executed? What would be the constitutional structure of a united Ireland? What negotiations and compromises might be necessary? We need look no further than the Brexit negotiations to see that popular will alone does not constitute a coherent plan.