THE editorial (Letters, January 23) highlights one reason why there needs to be a border poll.
Whereas the editorial speculates as to various possible outcomes, the reality is that no one actually knows what the outcome might be until one is held.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is wrong to say that she knows the voting intentions of the electorate.
Elections are not border referenda, and neither are opinion polls.
There is also the clear emergence of a distinct ‘Northern Irish’ identity in the 2011 Census in which 21 per cent of the respondents declared themselves exclusively Northern Irish, and a further eight per cent to be Northern Irish as well as British and/or Irish.
This means that some 29 per cent of the population of Northern Ireland do not fit neatly into either the ‘British’ or ‘Irish’ narrative.
Neither the Secretary of State nor anyone else can foretell which way this segment of the electorate will vote in a border poll.
Indeed it looks like Alex Kane’s mythical ‘garden centre unionists’ used to explain missing ‘protestant’ votes is just that, a myth.
Instead it appears that this missing portion of the electorate may not consider themselves to be either British or Irish, or to be unionist or nationalist either, and so there is a strong case to be made that any border poll needs to include a ‘devo max’ choice as a prelude to gauging whether an ‘independent Northern Ireland’ option might need to be added to future polls.
In fact the emergence of the ‘Northern Irish’ means that the Belfast Agreement and Stormont’s ‘two designations’ model needs to be reviewed in light of this new evidence.
Having said that, it is likely that the DUP and Sinn Fein both have ulterior motives for considering a border poll.
Firstly, after a brief hiatus there are elections looming in a couple of years to the European Parliament, Westminster, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the new local councils as well.
The DUP has won many recent elections through making the case that for unionists to protect ‘the Union’ the DUP needs to be the largest unionist party to compete with Sinn Fein.
If a border poll is called then they have the opportunity to run the self-same election strategy again, and for them to win forthcoming elections they need only dust-off Peter’s campaign notes and update his winning strategy.
This also explains why a weakened UUP are against it – they expect to get the stuffing knocked out of them again.
Likewise, the Alliance Party would no longer be able to sit on the border fence – and as both the DUP and Sinn Fein turn their spotlights on them, any underlying fractures and schism will be laid bare.
Secondly, this same electoral strategy allowed the DUP to successfully hoover up any unionist flotsam and jetsam in the shape of minor political parties and protest groups.
How many of the emerging political stars and their parties that were obliterated by the DUP can you remember from the previous decade?
It is unlikely that the TUV will relish facing a resurgent DUP.
Moreover, the DUP have been unable to get any real traction over the ongoing flag protests and it only takes a small incident to spark off a conflagration in Northern Ireland that would see the upcoming police games and G8 summit cancelled.
And yet if a border poll is called this would allow the DUP to once again ‘rattle the drums’ to firm up the unionist vote again and rally the electorate to their own banner.
There is much to discuss over a border poll.
Bernard J Mulholland