Border poll – time for sensible plans


Sir, – Pat Leahy has found out the hard way that saying “not now” to a border poll is widely interpreted as being an excuse for either not having one, or else pushing it away into the distant future (“Now is not the time for an Irish Border referendum”, Opinion & Analysis, September 7th). He has been widely, and rudely, criticised on social media.

There is a lesson here. When commentators suggest this is not the time, it would be better to also discuss when that time should be. A border poll is coming, and it has a strong chance of being supported in the north – if the time and conditions are right.

What we need now are sensible preparations for a referendum, including a timetable and a programme for how reunification would be made a success. I welcome the initiative from a range of universities – including Dublin City University and Ulster University – on what the questions in the two referendums (north and south) would be and who would be eligible to vote.

But it is also important that all of us, north and south, can see the Irish Government is making preparations. And, I believe, it is vital that all the political parties that seek Irish unity put forward their own detailed plans for achieving that. This is necessary from Sinn Féin, just as much as from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the SDLP. Failure to put forward a programme will be perceived also as not being serious about unity.

My book – A New Ireland – suggests what that programme might be. But it also, as Pat Leahy, suggests not now, while considering a realistic timetable. I do not claim the book’s programme is perfect, but it is essential that we discuss ideas for the future. We need to make progress by saying “when and how”. – Yours, etc,