Pluralism, Inclusion and Planning for a Border Poll.
Following the Brexit vote in 2016, speculation has increased about a border poll on Irish unification. A possible referendum is part of the Belfast /Good Friday Agreement, and also part of a nuanced package of measures to resolve the protracted conflict in the divided society of Northern Ireland. The Agreement recognises the right of the people of Northern Ireland to be Irish or British or both and recognises their right to decide whether to remain a part of the United Kingdom or to join Ireland. One of the unintended consequences of the UK’s 2016 Brexit referendum has been to increase the likelihood of such a ‘border poll’. The stakes in any such referendum would be high. For the people of Northern Ireland, it would mean re-joining the European Union. For Ireland it would imply constitutional change. And there is the risk of increased tensions among Northern Ireland’s divided and segregated society and possible unrest or violence. These issues have a special historical and political resonance in the context of Northern Ireland, but they are not uniquely Northern Irish.
In February 2020, the Transitional Justice Institute at Ulster University held a workshop to discuss these issues. The workshop participants explored the use of referendums in these islands when deciding constitutional issues such as Welsh devolution, Scottish independence, abortion and equal marriage. The discussions were published in the Deliberating Constitutional Futures Report. This event, supported by the Political Studies Association, discusses key themes identified in the report. The presenters are TJI’s Fidelma Ashe, Eilish Rooney and Rory O’Connell.