PROPER STEPS Senator Mark Daly says long-term planning and preparation needed for united Ireland

LONG-term planning and preparation is required for a united Ireland, an Irish senator has said.

Mark Daly said the Brexit crisis showed the unforeseen consequences of holding a referendum without proper preliminary steps.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has previously warned that now is not the time to prepare for a referendum on a united Ireland.

Senator Daly said: “The major lesson for Ireland from the Brexit crisis is the unforeseen consequences of holding a referendum without proper planning.

“A united Ireland requires long-term planning and preparation with all sides.”

He analysed court documents from victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord’s recent legal challenge surrounding Brexit.

Mr Daly said: “As it stands, a referendum on a united Ireland could potentially be decided by the Secretary of State before a single vote is cast.

“The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland cannot say the majority are or are not in favour of a united Ireland until it is decided who will be allowed to vote in a referendum.”

He said there was an urgent need for more policy and greater clarity.

A recent poll revealed more than two-thirds of voters in Northern Ireland believe Brexit will make a United Ireland more likely within the next 10 years.

Senator Daly said: “My response to the Taoiseach is that policy neglect seldom goes unpunished and we are well aware that Northern Ireland has a tragic history of denying people the right to vote.

“The future referendum on a united Ireland cannot be another chapter in that story.”

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Senator: Long-term plan needed for united Ireland

https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/senator-long-term-plan-needed-for-united-ireland-960331.html

Senator: Long-term plan needed for united Ireland

Long-term planning and preparation is required for a united Ireland, an Irish senator has said.

Mark Daly said the Brexit crisis showed the unforeseen consequences of holding a referendum without proper preliminary steps.

Policy neglect seldom goes unpunished and we are well aware that Northern Ireland has a tragic history of denying people the right to vote. The future referendum on a united Ireland cannot be another chapter in that story

Mr Daly said: “The major lesson for Ireland from the Brexit crisis is the unforeseen consequences of holding a referendum without proper planning.

“A united Ireland requires long-term planning and preparation with all sides.”

He analysed court documents from victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord’s recent legal challenge surrounding Brexit.

Mr Daly said: “As it stands, a referendum on a united Ireland could potentially be decided by the Secretary of State before a single vote is cast.

“The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland cannot say the majority are or are not in favour of a united Ireland until it is decided who will be allowed to vote in a referendum.”

He said there was an urgent need for more policy and greater clarity.

Mr Varadkar has said the time is not right to begin official planning for a referendum on Irish unity.

A recent poll revealed more than two-thirds of voters in Northern Ireland believe Brexit will make a United Ireland more likely within the next 10 years.

Senator Daly said: “My response to the Taoiseach is that policy neglect seldom goes unpunished and we are well aware that Northern Ireland has a tragic history of denying people the right to vote. The future referendum on a united Ireland cannot be another chapter in that story.”

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Op Ed: A united Ireland will depend on long, careful planning- and on finding out who can actually vote

Referendum Opinion Piece Irish Indepndent

https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/mark-daly-a-united-ireland-will-depend-on-long-careful-planning-and-on-finding-out-who-can-actually-vote-38640471.html

A united Ireland will depend on long, careful planning- and on finding out who can actually vote

As it stands, the referendum on a United Ireland may be decided before a single vote is cast. Under the Good Friday Agreement, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has not only the sole power to call a referendum, but also has the sole power to decide who gets to vote in the referendum.

This little-known fact is central to the future of this island. To date the Secretary of State has declined to make clear who will be allowed to vote in a referendum on a United Ireland and also declined to produce a policy on how it would be determined that a majority are in favour of a United Ireland.

Would it be based on recent election results, opinion polls or a combination of both?

Under the Good Friday Agreement, the Secretary must call a referendum when they believe the majority of people are in favour of a United Ireland.

If the Secretary of State has not decided who is entitled to vote in a referendum how, logically, can he or she say that the majority are, or are not, in favour of a United Ireland?

All these questions were recently highlighted in a little reported on High Court case in Belfast that I attended and published a research report on working alongside a group of legal experts. Remarkably, the case was taken against the Secretary of State by Raymond McCord, a Unionist and victims’ rights campaigner. His goal in bring the case was to force the Secretary of State to formulate and publish a definitive policy on how it would be determined a majority were in favour of a United Ireland and under what circumstances a referendum would be called.

 

So why did Raymond pursue this case, even though he is not in favour of a United Ireland? Raymond took the case, he said, aiming to “remove the politics of Orange and Green and to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement is respected”.

Currently in a UK referendum, only British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens aged 18 or over on polling day are entitled to vote. However, in the previous Scottish independence referendum, those entitled to vote also included EU citizens and those aged 16 and over.

That referendum was lost 45% to 55%. A YouGov survey found that only 51% of Scottish-born respondents voted ‘No’ whereas a striking 74% of those born elsewhere in the UK voted ‘No’ as did 59% of those born outside the UK. The referendum in Scotland clearly shows the key importance of deciding who is allowed to vote in a referendum in determining its ultimate outcome.

For example, if the Secretary of State decided that only UK citizens of 18 and over should be allowed to vote in Northern Ireland’s referendum, then as we have seen in the Scottish referendum, this could potentially have a significant impact on the result. Northern Ireland has a tragic history of denying people the right to vote, the future referendum on a United Ireland cannot be another chapter in that story.

The Rt. Hon. Sir Paul Girvan stated  in his ruling on the case that while having a policy on how and when to call a referendum “would be sensible and desirable”, under current legislation he cannot compel the Secretary of State to draft such a policy. Justice Girvan goes on to confirm that under the Good Friday Agreement a ‘duty’ is imposed upon the Secretary of State to exercise the power ‘If the evidence leads the Secretary of State to believe that the majority would so vote then she has no choice but to call a border poll’.

He goes on to say, ‘Evidence of election results and opinion polls may form part of the evidential context in which to exercise the judgment’. However, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland’s defence team in the McCord case stated, “She does accept that she does not consider that an election result alone can be a determining indication of political opinion in Northern Ireland in relation to a border poll”.

In this line the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland appears to make the point that even in the event that the political parties in Northern Ireland – whose aim and policy is to achieve a United Ireland – were to win the majority of votes and seats in an election, the Secretary of State may still decide not call a referendum.

The major lesson for Ireland from the Brexit crisis is the unforeseen consequences of holding a referendum without proper planning. A United Ireland requires long term planning and preparation with all sides. The Taoiseach has previously warned that now is not the time to be preparing for a referendum on a United Ireland.

The urgent need for more definitive policy, better preparation and greater clarity on this matter is underlined by the findings of the recent LucidTalk’s Northern-wide poll which were published in the Sunday Times this weekend. The poll revealed that over two thirds of voters in Northern Ireland currently believe Brexit will make a United Ireland more likely within the next ten years.

The clear message to our own Government is that policy neglect seldom goes unpunished.

 

 

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Research Report: The Calling of a Referendum on a United Ireland By The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The research report is available in full at The calling of a referendum on a united ireland by the Secretary of State

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in January 2019 is reported to have said at the British cabinet meeting that a ‘border poll’ on a United Ireland is likely in the event of a hard border and hard Brexit.3 Yet the Secretary of State has refused to produce a policy on how she would call a ‘border poll’. This is despite the fact a court case was taken in Belfast to require the Secretary to publish such a policy. Of course, the clear lesson of Brexit for Ireland is you should not hold a referendum and then try to figure out what the future looks like. A border poll should only be held after long term engagement and planning. That little reported upon high court ruling in which the Secretary of State was the defendant was taken by Raymond McCord, a unionist victims’ rights campaigner. He wanted the Secretary of State to formulate and publish a policy on how they would determine a ‘border poll’ / referendum on a United Ireland as provided for under the Good Friday Agreement would be called. The Secretary of State and their legal team argued they should not be forced by the courts to come up with any policy.

Currently, as provided for under the Good Friday Agreement, a referendum would be called when the Secretary of State believes the majority of people are in favour of a United Ireland. However, there is no clarity in relation to how the Secretary would make that determination. Would it be based on opinion polls, recent election results or a combination of both?

Raymond McCord believes the uncertainty regarding how a referendum would be called can be used by paramilitary extremists on both sides to exploit and radicalise young people for their own ends in the run up to such a referendum. The judgment by Rt. Hon. Sir Paul Girvan, which as it currently stands in essence will establish the parameters for the calling of a referendum, makes it clear there is a serious lack of clarity in this high court judgement as regards to defining exactly the criteria that would trigger a referendum.

Rt. Hon. Sir Paul Girvan explained in his judgement that while such a policy outlining how a border poll would be called would be desirable, currently under the legislation he cannot compel the Secretary of State to draft such a policy. In the next part of the ruling, Justice Girvan appears to contradict the Good Friday Agreement itself when he says that such a decision on holding a referendum “required a political assessment on the part of the Secretary of State and in this context flexibility and judgement are called for”. However, nowhere in the Good Friday Agreement does it state that political consideration should be a reason for holding or not holding a border poll.

The confusion is then exacerbated because Justice Girvan does go on to confirm that under the Good Friday Agreement a ‘duty’ is imposed on the Secretary of State to exercise the power to call a border poll if it appears likely that a majority would be in favour of a United Ireland. ‘If the evidence leads the Secretary of State to believe that the majority would so vote then she has no choice but to call a border poll’. However, the crux of the issue is on what basis and on what evidence the Secretary should base this determination. Sir Girvan goes on to say ‘Evidence of election results and opinion polls may form part of the evidential context in which to exercise the judgment’.

The potential scenario is that the Secretary of State’s determination could be based on combination of political considerations, opinion polls and election results. How could this process work in what is likely to be a highly charged political environment? There are of course potential issues with each of these criteria. As regards to the election results criteria, Alex Kane, political journalist and former communications director to the UUP, has observed that pro-Union candidates received fewer votes than other candidates in the 2017 Northern Assembly and Westminster elections.

Opinion polls, for the first time ever, now reveal that a majority of people in Northern Ireland would vote for a United Ireland in the event of a hard Brexit and the possibility of the return of a hard border.4 However, based on recent elections and the Brexit referendum, opinion polls can be notoriously unreliable. Given Justice Girvan’s judgement that opinion polls should be taken into account, serious thought should be given as to exactly how opinion polls should be incorporated into the process.

Obviously, significantly increased clarity and transparency, and most of all, a policy is required from both governments. This is vital to avoid political instability and potential court challenges surrounding any referendum. One can easily visualise the potential chaos that could ensue if a border poll is initiated as a result of a court challenge or ruling due to the lack of policy preparation and all-party engagement.

Along with the lesson for Ireland from Brexit on the consequences of holding a referendum without proper planning, historians would agree with the advice of John Bradley, an economist speaking at Queens University, Belfast in 2014 – ‘policy neglect seldom goes unpunished’.

4 https://lordashcroftpolls.com/2019/09/my-northern-ireland-survey-finds-the-union-on-a-knife-edge/

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Govt must implement all sections of the Irish Sign Language Bill – Daly

recog of isl bill seanad debate

– Senator issues warning as part of Irish Sign Language Awareness Week –

Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly has called on the government to ensure that it is fully prepared to enact all elements of the Irish Sign Language Bill 2016.

The Bill, gives legal recognition to Irish Sign Language and places a requirement on State agencies to devise and implement an action plan to promote the use of sign language within the organisation.  It also requires TV broadcasters to provide a subtitling service, and interpreting services for students must also be provided by the State.

Senator Daly said, “It is appropriate that as part of Irish Sign Language Awareness Week, the government and all Departments ensure that they fully understand and commit to the provisions within the Bill.

“This legislation was deaf led and was passed thanks to the hard work, dedication and determination of members of the Deaf community and the Irish Deaf Society.  We cannot allow this to become a merely symbolic Bill; the provisions contained in it give members of the Deaf community a real opportunity to play a full part in Irish Society through their first language”.

The Irish Sign Language Bill was passed in December 2017 and signed into Law by President Higgins on Christmas Eve.

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