The kite that couldn’t fly

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By Jude Collins (judecollins.com)

Unionist politicians, I sometimes think, compete with each as to how they can make the rest of us gape, open-mouthed in wonder. You’ll remember Peter Robinson and trusting a Muslim to go to the corner shop for milk. Or the unionist councillor who wanted to burn Catholics and their priests in a furnace. Or Arlene Foster’s refusal to step aside even as her RHI scheme burnt through another hundred million pounds. Gob-smackers all.

And this morning we have Ian Paisley Junior on the Nolan show explaining how it would only make sense to have any border poll set at around 75% of votes to win it. I mean, carry me home and bury me daycent – has this guy been munching magic mushrooms or is he really under the impression that this particular kite is going to fly?

In 1995, Quebec voted on whether it should become independent. The turnout was sky-high – 93.5%. When the results had been counted 50.5% voted against independence and 49.5% voted in favour of independence. Almost literally, Quebec by 50% + 1 decided to stay as part of Canada. There were sore hearts and shattered dreams among many Quebecois who had worked for independence. But none of them that I remember complained that, since the margin was so narrow, the result wasn’t valid.

In fact, I can’t think off-hand of a country where they think that 50% + 1 isn’t enough to decide a political or constitutional question. Hardly surprising. Once you pass the 50% mark, you’re in winner territory. It’s not overly complicated. Some called it winning a majority. Others call it democracy.

None of that’s to say that nationalists and Republicans, when they do vote in a border poll (and yes, Ian, they will, they will) , when they campaign for a border poll and cast their vote, they’ll be looking to get the biggest majority possible. Maybe even 75%. Maybe even 95%. But all of that is peripheral to the central principle: the side that wins most votes emerges as victor.

Perhaps Ian is worried about those shadowy figures who threaten Loyalist violence if a border poll were to be won by nationalism. There may indeed be such people. But if we allow these people to move us into 75% talk, then we might as well pack in the idea of democratic politics.

So a word in your well-formed ear, Ian. Those who like the result of a border poll will rejoice, and those who don’t like the result will lament. That’s how it goes. Sin é. Welcome to democracy, old bean.

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