Belfast Agreement and majority consent


A chara, – While Newton Emerson may be overstating the case when he refers to the Taoiseach “[having] torn up the Belfast Agreement in unionism’s favour and ended up doing nobody any favours” (“Leo Varadkar courting trouble over Border poll”, Opinion & Analysis, October 19th), nevertheless there is a very serious point in his comment.

Concurrent majorities, North and South, was what was agreed after long and difficult negotiations. By apparently raising the bar to 70 per cent in the North, even if the sentiment in doing so was well-intentioned, Leo Varadkar has endangered the delicate balance between unionist and nationalist aspirations as reflected in the historic agreement.

As your columnist puts it, the Taoiseach could “simply [have said] he would not advocate a unification vote in the South without meaningful reconciliation in the North. That would place a positive obligation on republicans, instead of stoking negative fears.”

While no one wants to get hung up on numbers, the “50 per cent plus one” formula can be viewed positively as an incentive to unionists and nationalists alike to win the support of the other community in their divided society: for the retention of the status quo in the case of the unionists by making the North a warm place for nationalists, or for a change in the present constitutional position by nationalists convincing unionists that their concerns can be fully met in a united Ireland.

The Belfast Agreement is a finely balanced and subtle document that needs to be carefully guarded, especially in the present uncertain climate created by Brexit. – Is mise,



Co Wicklow.