No surrender?
November 9, 2005 11:21 AM   Subscribe

If Blair called for a referendum in Northern Ireland on joining Eire, which side would win? Has the higher birth-rate of Catholics made a difference? Is the increasing paramilitary disarmament indicative of a political climate in which a democratic handover could take place with an acceptably low level of violence?
posted by Pretty_Generic to Law & Government (18 answers total)
The questions assume Eire would want the North! Seriously, the cost of that would probably break the Republic's budget.

I don't believe the birth rate would be the deciding factor, people on both sides of the divide would have many other practical considerations (Sterling levels of pay, higher benefits system, slightly better medical provision) for maintaining the status quo.

What many people hope for is continued progress to a point where the question is moot.
posted by Wilder at 11:37 AM on November 9, 2005

In order: the Unionists; no; no. The general mood in NI seems to be that the current political stalemate is preferable to the alternatives. And the name of the country south of the border is Ireland.
posted by holgate at 11:40 AM on November 9, 2005

(I live in Northern Ireland, but I'm pretty much an atheist so I don't really have a "side" *. Most of my family are Protestant, but not very religious, except for my Orange Order grandfather.)

I think, right now, unionists would win because it's still too soon to see the effects of IRA disarmament. Of course, there are the die-hard unionists/loyalists who won't ever want to consider joining the Republic, but I think in the future many more middle-of-the-road types will at least be willing to think about it. Of course, a lot depends on what happens politically, but I actually think the decision will be based on other things (more important things, really, because the political situation doesn't concern everyone in Northern Ireland, except for it being a PITA that makes the country look bad and drains resources that could be used elsewhere). What really matters to most people here is the same stuff that matters to everyone everywhere - having a safe place to live, having a good job, good schools, healthcare...if it was decided that there were better opportunities and the potential for a higher standard of living in joining the Republic, then I think it would be a possibility.

But, as with anything in Northern Ireland, these issues will be debated for years, decades (hell, centuries) and it's likely that nothing will change much for a long time. All most people care about is people not killing each other.

(* However, I'll be a bit snarky and say that republicans/nationalists already think that Northern Ireland is part of the Republic, which is why they refer to it as "the North of Ireland" or "the occupied six counties".)
posted by speranza at 12:06 PM on November 9, 2005

Despite all this, I can guarantee that if the rest of the UK were put to referendum over this issue, Northern Ireland would be in Irish hands with at least a 90% majority ;-)
posted by wackybrit at 12:12 PM on November 9, 2005

The Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hEireann) states in Article 4.

"The name of the State is Eire, or in the English language, Ireland"
posted by NinjaPirate at 12:24 PM on November 9, 2005

I can guarantee that if the rest of the UK were put to referendum over this issue, Northern Ireland would be in Irish hands with at least a 90% majority ;-)

I doubt you could guarantee that.
posted by the cuban at 12:36 PM on November 9, 2005

I think the vote would involve a lot of issues that aren't so near or dear to the extremists on either sides. For example, would businesses in Northern Ireland favor sterling or the euro. At any rate, for whatever a survey is worth, the Unionists would win fairly easily. Also based on the proportional representation of the suspended Northern Ireland Assembly, it would seem Unionists still out number Republicans or nationalists by a fair margin.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 1:39 PM on November 9, 2005

I am also living here in Northern Ireland, and like speranza, I have no political or religious bias either way. She summed it up very well and I would agree that in the event of a referendum the country would probably *just* remain part of the United Kingdom.
However, there are attractions to being part of a united Ireland also, the Irish economy is currently one of the best performing in the EU and growing very fast, and as one of the other posters implied (albeit with the right level of sarcasm), the rest of the UK does tend to see Northern Ireland as the 'poor relation', it never ceases to amaze me how many people (in England especially) seem surprised that NI is part of the UK when it comes to shipping, deliveries etc.
I seriously doubt that Tony Blair, Bertie Aherne or any other political leader would call for a referendum on this issue, realising the bloodshed that it would undoubtedly lead to from the 'loyallist' paramilitaries
posted by mr_benn at 1:48 PM on November 9, 2005

To the second question, could a hand-over take place with an acceptably low level of violence, I think the answer is probably yes depending on how much violence you are willing to accept. Reconfiguring nations is difficult and there would be violence, but if done in a democratic manner it would be unlikely to experience something like the Balkan wars. Instead of IRA violence making news, we'd likely have the Ulster Freedom Fighters making news.

At least from the outside, in a world where Liberia and East Timor are seen as border-line cases of acceptable levels of violence for political change, I'd be suprised to see the world take notice of reunification of Ireland. Of course, it would be white folks dying so maybe I'm way off.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 1:49 PM on November 9, 2005

Don't forget that we (the Republic) changed our constitution for the GFA so we'd have to have a referendum too . . . .

And yeah, it's "Ireland" not "Eire".
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:19 PM on November 9, 2005

I imagine is this happened a) Ireland would say "no thanks" and it would become some kind of quasi-independant state and b) there would be some kind of plan that paid for a lot of unionist families to move back to Scotland a la the removal of Jewish settlers from the West Bank, except they'd volunteer to leave because they'd refuse to live inder Irish rule.
posted by fshgrl at 8:41 PM on November 9, 2005

I'm pretty sure there's a faction in Ireland that would like to see Ulster reincorporated, but I suspect the majority of the country doesn't really want it, if it comes replete with armed-to-the-teeth Unionists. That's like buying a civil war.

Similarly, the UK-less-NI may well vote 90% to give away NI, but that's no guarantee that Ireland would accept it -- see above.

But really -- I agree with Wilder that the question is poorly framed. It assumes that what certain people want is, somehow, realistic. At this point a major change in status for NI is probably impossible. The future probably holds slightly more autonomy, but critically, not enough such that the NI government will go off the rails and become an ethnic Unionist state. There will be enough freedom of movement and trade between Ireland and NI, particularly in an EU framework, that the practical reasons for reunification will be largely moot.

Unfortunately, Britain is holding a hand grenade with the pin half-pulled, and it can't let go.
posted by dhartung at 10:17 PM on November 9, 2005

Does this not happen every time there's a general election in the UK? i.e. Northern Ireland doesn't send many Republican MPs to Westminster, so doesn't that answer the question? How am I being naïve here?
posted by nowonmai at 10:33 PM on November 9, 2005

MetaFilter: Is holding a hand grenade with the pin half-pulled, and it can't let go.
posted by alexst at 2:58 AM on November 10, 2005

Response by poster: If the country's Ireland, what is the island?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 8:16 AM on November 10, 2005

Best answer: I agree with speranza and mr_benn. Living in Belfast with no family history here, and never having taken sides, it's clear that nobody in the Republic wants Northern Ireland anyway.

If there were a referendum (which will never happen) I and a hell of a lot of other young people would abstain or vote 'no'. Voting 'no' would be a recognition of the massive difficulties to follow, not siding with unionism.

BUT let's say a handover did take place. Just to be clear, this IS fairytale land.

Acceptably low level of violence? Forget it. Even some non-militant unionists would turn militant to the extent they'd arm themselves. And that's a big deal here because we're not allowed guns. (*wry grin*) The IRA would voluntarily come out of retirement to defend catholic communities against the violence which followed.


- Change of laws (traffic, building codes, insurance, banking) could not be imposed; laws would have to be re-negotiated for the entire island. In detail.

- Tax, pay, working conditions would have to be changed so that nobody was disadvantaged in any way. It couldn't happen.

- Northern Ireland police becoming Gardai or losing their jobs? Heh. Heh heh heh. Yeah, right.

- Etc.

Of course, in an *ideal* world where Ireland wasn't a catholic state (I'm gay, go figure), I wouldn't care less if my currency and passport changed and nothing else did. I really wouldn't give a damn. Travelling peaceful streets, getting the same old bus down the same old street to the same old workplace on the same old salary with the same old proportion of tax... it'd be no biggie for me or thousands of other young people in an *ideal* world. But it just won't happen. It's a fairytale.
posted by paperpete at 8:37 AM on November 10, 2005

If the country's Ireland, what is the island?

AFAIK, Ireland the country has a small minority of people for whom Gaelic is their first language. English is the official language in practice if not name.

The island is called Ireland. The country has been called Eire, but today it's only called that in an official-bilingual-documentish kind of way. Just like everyone calls Germany Germany but to people who are first-language German it's Deutschland.

If you're French, even London has a French name for it. ;o)
posted by paperpete at 8:45 AM on November 10, 2005

Wow. I'm such an ignorant American. I had no idea any of this was going on.

Not everyone calls Germany Germany, by the way. Just English speakers, as far as I know. What language do people in Ireland speak?
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:27 PM on June 21, 2006

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