The will of the people?


A chara, – The older I get, the greater the difficulty I am having understanding what I had hitherto thought were simple and clearly understood ideas. The whole concept of democracy is a particularly good example. Simon Carswell’s excellent interviews in The Irish Times (“Loyalists on Brexit: ‘There will never be a united Ireland’”, News, July 11th) has compounded my confusion.

The persons interviewed by Simon Carswell, some of whom admittedly voted to remain in the EU in the now not-so-recent Brexit referendum, all professed to see no difficulty whatsoever with the UK leaving the EU consequent on a very small margin voting to leave, while seeing huge and insurmountable difficulties with a very small margin of people in the Northern Ireland voting for a united Ireland. The DUP has also been banging this particular drum for over two years now.

I am not at all sure why a vote one way by a small margin must be respected while a vote by an equally small margin the other way simply cannot be countenanced. In the United Kingdom, we also have a very small number of people who happen to be registered members of the Conservative Party (circa 160,000 out of a population of circa 66 million) happily insisting that it is perfectly right, correct and proper that they, and they alone, would select the next British prime minister. At the same time, however, the very same cohort is vehemently insisting that there simply cannot be another EU referendum as, God forbid, a different result in a future poll would be an affront to democracy and the expressed will of the people.

Similarly we have a leading candidate for UK prime minister in the character of Boris Johnson (and I use that description advisedly) who claims that the democratic will of the slim majority of the people who voted to leave the EU must be adhered to, while proposing that the UK parliament be prorogued and prevented from even voting in a parliamentary vote if a majority there are likely to vote to prevent a “hard Brexit”. I do wish someone could please explain democracy to me. It may be, however, that the observation of the King in chapter 12 of Alice in Wonderland was correct, when he said: “If there’s no meaning in it ... that saves a world of trouble, you know, as we needn’t try to find any.” – Is mise,