Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Sinn Fein's call for a Border Poll

In the wake of Nicola Sturgeon's call for a constitutional referendum in Scotland, Sinn Fein have repeated their long-standing demand for a border poll here as well.

Michelle O'Neill and Sinn Fein MLAs but no Gerry Kelly

The call was made by their Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill, who was surrounded in the Great Hall by a number of Sinn Fein MLAs.  However noticeable by his absence from the photograph was veteran republican Gerry Kelly.

Of course there was a previous Border Poll and that was held on 8 March 1973.  It was boycotted by both Sinn Fein and the SDLP, as was their democratic right, and the result was that 98.9% of those who voted were in favour of Northern Ireland remaining within the United Kingdom.

Old Bailey car bomb which injured two hundred people
The republican movement boycotted the 1973 Border Poll but they did mark it in another way.  On the day of the poll in Northern Ireland, a team of IRA terrorists, including Gerry Kelly, placed a car bomb at the Old Bailey in London.

A victim of the Old Bailey bomb
Two hundred people were injured and one man died from a heart attack brought on by the bomb.  This was the start of the Provisional IRA bombing campaign in Great Britain.

I don't know why Sinn Fein omitted Gerry Kelly from their set-piece statement in the Great Hall but in view of his role on the day of that Border Poll they were certainly wise to do so.

A new Border Poll can only be called by the Northern Ireland Secretary of State if he believes that there is likely to be a majority for a United Ireland and there is no evidence for that.  Many nationalists who vote for the SDLP and even some of those who vote for Sinn Fein actually prefer the benefits of the United Kingdom to the prospect of a United Ireland.

Even the Republic's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan TD, has said it would be 'premature' and 'for another day'.  Not much enthusiasm there!

The Sinn Fein demand is simply a repetition of a long-standing demand and one that is designed to be divisive and destabilising.  Remember what the independence referendum campaign did to Scotland.

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