Saturday 17 August 2019

Loss of identity among unionist fears over united Ireland, report suggests

The report was compiled from contributions and focus groups with unionist politicians, loyalists, community activists, former soldiers and clergy.

By Rebecca Black, PA

Unionists fear losing identity, land, facing nationalist triumphalism and potential retribution in the event of a united Ireland, research suggests.

A new report based on contributions from unionist politicians, loyalists, community leaders, former soldiers and clergy has identified seven key areas of concern.

These include a loss of identity, triumphalism by nationalists, retribution on ex-security forces, land being taken from unionist farmers and a return to violence.

You do not hold a referendum until every probable outcome has been examined and prepared for, where possible Senator Mark Daly

The remaining concerns identified were around rejoining the European Union as well as the implications for healthcare, welfare and the economy.

Fianna Fail Senator Mark Daly is behind the report, which is titled Unionist Concerns and Fears of a United Ireland.

Contributors include the Rev Kyle Paisley, son of the late DUP leader Lord Bannside, former Irish rugby international Trevor Ringland, ex-UUP leader Mike Nesbitt and the former Presbyterian moderator Norman Hamilton.

Meanwhile James Wilson, a former soldier who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, conducted focus groups with the independent Orange Order, a loyalist flute band and Army veterans.

Senator Daly has described his report as the first of its kind by a Dail or Senate committee.

He said the “mother of all fears” that he heard in the 18 months spent compiling the report was that unionists fear their home would effectively become a foreign state.

Senator Daly urged the heeding of the advice of former SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon that “nationalists need to show generosity if they’re ever going to persuade unionists of the benefits of a united Ireland”.

He has also urged the Irish government to address these concerns by establishing a New Ireland Forum 2 to look at all the issues in relation to a united Ireland.

Under the 1998 Belfast Agreement, a referendum on Irish unity can only be called by the Northern Ireland Secretary if there is evidence that a majority in the province would support a united Ireland.

The Brexit referendum has taught us an important lesson Senator Mark Daly

Senator Daly said the implications of unification should be examined and known before a border poll is called.

“The Brexit referendum has taught us an important lesson,” he said.

“You do not hold a referendum until every probable outcome has been examined and prepared for, where possible.

“The hard-won peace we all enjoy on this island is at stake.

“The holding of a referendum without proper preparation and engagement, particularly with the unionist community, would lead to the fulfilment of the warning ‘policy neglect seldom goes unpunished’.”

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