The challenges facing unionism

Sir, – In his thoughtful and candid reflections on the challenges facing unionism, Alex Kane repeats a now common response to calls for concurrent referendums on this island on Irish unity ("Unionists need to focus on their own backyard in 2019", Opinion & Analysis, December 27th).

He is far from alone, but the terms he uses, such as “toxic”, “divisive” and “potentially dangerous”, must be questioned. If the constitutional status of this region genuinely rests on “the principle of consent” then testing it (by asking people) should not be an outrageous proposition. That is the precise and agreed compromise at the heart of the Belfast Agreement; the formula was worked out over decades.

In the specific context of a possible no-deal Brexit, it is fair and reasonable to raise one obvious and already anticipated solution. If it is “dangerous”, then constitutionalism never prevailed in this region, and people were misled in 1998. It is that simple and that worrying. – Yours, etc,