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Abstract

This article is an extract from Perils and Prospects of a United Ireland, published by Lilliput Press, Dublin, Ireland in March 2023. The book draws on extensive interviews with ninety-seven senior politicians across the ethno-national divide, a range of academics and political commentators, and religious leaders.

The context for the chapter is the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement (B/GFA), which ended thirty years of violent conflict between Irish republicans, mostly Catholic, who wanted Northern Ireland to become reunified with the rest of Ireland, and unionists, mostly Protestants supported by British security forces, who wanted to maintain the union of Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The agreement (April 10, 1998) has three components. Strand I outlines a power sharing arrangement for the internal government of Northern Ireland; Strand II, a North South Ministerial Council to reflect relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (ROI); and Strand III, a British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference to mediate relations between the UK and ROI. The agreement also provides an electoral formula that will be used to determine whether Northern Ireland wishes to stay in the UK or become part of a reunified Ireland, should it appear that that is the wish of majority.

The article concludes that all the metrics that a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland might draw on to gauge support for a united Ireland have several shortcomings. At the present time none indicates a majority voting would choose to leave the UK and become part of an all-Ireland state.

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