Border poll and the principle of consent


Sir, – In his letter of April 23rd, Proinsias De Rossa admonishes those who seek to have a democratic discussion on the constitutional future of this island.

Throughout most of his political career, Mr De Rossa has consistently advocated the principle of consent regarding the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. Now that a possible pro-united Ireland majority is upon us, he seems to have revised this position.

Moreover, he alludes to the violence that engulfed Northern Ireland for three decades and suggests that current discourse around a future referendum, or as he puts it “Border poll nonsense”, could return us back to those dark days.

Likewise, one could argue that it was precisely a lack of dialogue and disregard for a section of the Northern electorate that caused and perpetuated the conflict for 30 years.

Surely if we have learned anything from our tragic past, it is that dialogue and an inclusive, democratic discussion on our constitutional future are the way forward. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 13.

Sir, – Proinsias De Rossa is right (Letters, April 26th). Anyone familiar with the “peace walls” in Northern Ireland surely knows that a united Ireland is not a realistic aspiration and a Border poll would only inflame a volatile situation.

The Belfast Agreement was a triumph of compromise and hope over dogma and irredentism. It remains a work in progress and can only work through the continuing efforts of communities and politicians committed to making it work. Sadly, it has been allowed to atrophy in recent years. The three-year suspension of Stormont did not help.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the entirely lamentable Brexit is that it threatens the fragile peace in the North.

Responsibility for this lies with the British government and those who callously disregarded the implications for Ireland in the wretched Leave campaign in 2016.

It is now essential that London does everything possible to uphold the Northern Ireland protocol that British prime minister Boris Johnson agreed to.

Without a better solution forthcoming from the unionist community, this must be the way forward. It will be difficult, contested, and continually inconvenient. But short of the UK rejoining the EU single market and customs union, it is the only option. – Yours, etc,


University of York,