Heather du Plessis-Allan: Irish reunification suddenly looks likely

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 12 Feb 2020, 4:09PM

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Irish reunification suddenly looks likely

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 12 Feb 2020, 4:09PM

Wasn’t that a massive upset in the Irish election?

We didn’t get much of a chance to talk about it yesterday, but we really should because the results have the potential to cause all sorts of upset.

Mainly, it looks Irish reunification has the potential to become contentious again.

Largely this is because of the surprising success of Sinn Fein - Yes, the party linked to the IRA.

They have won more votes than any other party in Ireland, and Sinn Fein are, of course, nationalists. They want to see the island of Ireland reunified, and they have promised a referendum on that within five years.

It’s entirely possible, once coalition negotiations are through,. that Sinn Fein might form part of a new government, which means they might want to deliver on that promise and Ireland might want them to.

According to yesterday’s exit polls, 57% of voters want a referendum, but, of course, that could make a lot of people north of the border very angry. It’s not that long ago that the Northern Irish were killing each other.

Now, a few years ago you might’ve written off this election result as nothing to worry about. Just because the Irish republic goes to a referendum, doesn’t mean the Northern Irish have to do it too.

But yet, things have changed.

Somehow, in the wake of Brexit, this is clearly starting to appeal to some as a solution to the ongoing problem of the border. And it probably doesn’t’ help that Scotland’s talking about independence from the UK again.

Fortunately, despite a few radicals promising violence, no one’s predicting that this kind of talk will drive people back to the guns. Things have moved on a lot. Last year, a poll found majority support even in Northern Ireland for reunification.

To be clear, it was a slim majority - just 51 to 49 - but notably, that was the first majority ever recorded.  

Commentators are starting to say a referendum on the reunification of the island is only a matter of time.