Citizen Media Watch

december 9th, 2020

Good Friday Agreement Reunification Referendum

Posted by lotta

Since the end of Ireland`s war of independence against Great Britain in 1921, the Island of Ireland has been divided between North and South. But reunification has always remained a wish for Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland and the political parties of the Republic – without a clear path to realisation. Today, almost a century after the partition of the island, reunification is once again on the agenda as a realistic possibility and not just as a long-term goal. It is one of the main points of the electoral programme of Sinn Féin, the political party that is leading the polls ahead of Saturday`s parliamentary elections in the Republic of Ireland. The party is calling for a vote on Irish unity by 2025 and has said it is a prerequisite for cooperating with any other political party. As part of the agreement, the British Parliament repealed the Government of Ireland Act 1920 (which had founded Northern Ireland, divided Ireland and asserted territorial right to the whole of Ireland) and the people of the Republic of Ireland amended Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution, which asserted a territorial right to Northern Ireland. When Boris Johnson refused to sanction a second Scottish referendum in January, the Scottish nationalists raised the prospect of a trial. The working group also warned that the rules governing referendums and election campaigns in the UK and Ireland are not well outdated and that there is an urgent need to strengthen them. A constitutional referendum must be held on any amendment to the Constitution, which must first be adopted by both chambers of the oireachtas – Irish parliament. Irish reunification is not the main reason Sinn Féin is doing so well in the polls. The two major political parties seem to have lost the confidence of the Irish electorate. While the popularity of Fianna Féil collapsed during the post-2008 economic downturn, Fine Gael is generally seen as insufficient, as it has not made sufficient progress on bread and butter issues, such as health care and housing, despite its success in the Brexit negotiations, which put Ireland`s interests first.

While legitimising the mechanism of a border poll, the Good Friday Agreement provides little clarity on how the Foreign Minister should assess public opinion, how a referendum in the Republic of Ireland works and how a unified Ireland would be negotiated. These issues – which are currently being debated by academics and universities – are not legally resolved.

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december 2020
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