Noel Whelan: New plan for Border poll would see agreement ripped up

Former SDLP leader Seamus Mallon’s latest proposal is provocative but instructive

Seamus Mallon suggests a united Ireland could be achieved on a “parallel consent” principle with consent from parties representing both traditions. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Seamus Mallon suggests a united Ireland could be achieved on a “parallel consent” principle with consent from parties representing both traditions. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Last weekend former deputy SDLP leader Seamus Mallon made an important intervention in the debate about whether and how a united Ireland could be achieved. It met with no response from the DUP and a limited response from the wider unionist gene pool. More interestingly, it received a muted response from most nationalists and nasty responses from some Sinn Féin figures.

Mallon summarises his view as follows: “I make what I hope is a generous new offer to unionism as a former constitutional nationalist leader. I have come increasingly to the view that the Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement measurement of a bare majority (50-per-cent-plus-one) for unity will not give us the kind of agreed and peaceful Ireland we seek.” Instead, Mallon suggests that a united Ireland should be achieved on a “parallel consent” principle, whereby there is consent from parties representing both traditions.

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