The Forgotten Referendum – Ireland 1998 353

The problem with making decisions by the blunt and heavy tool of referenda is now very apparent. One self evident difficulty is how to cope with contradictory results. Scotland had two referenda in two years. In the first the Scottish people voted narrowly to remain part of the United Kingdom, in the second they voted heavily to remain part of the European Union. The two results are now incompatible. So how did the referenda help to set the legitimate course of political action? They did not.

There is another incompatible referendum which has gone virtually unmentioned in the UK. Following the Good Friday agreement, Ireland had a referendum in 1998 to amend its constitution to allow it to subscribe to the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Ireland amended its constitution to remove its unfettered claim to its entire historic territory, in favour of a contingent peaceful process. Mutual EU membership and no border control was absolutely intrinsic to that agreement and to what the Irish voted for in their referendum. The vote, incidentally, was by much the same margin as Scotland’s vote to remain in the EU. So in resiling from its EU accession due to its referendum, the UK is negating referendum votes in Scotland, in Northern Ireland and in the Republic. The UK cannot arrogantly claim its referendum is more important than Ireland’s. The famous “backstop” is to maintain at least the shadow of the arrangements on the basis of which Ireland voted in 1998.

The other reason referenda are not useful is they are insufficiently detailed. The Brexit referendum said nothing whatsoever about the UK’s continued relationship with the EU. It said nothing about the Customs Union, about EEA, or even about freedom of movement. The referendum was called by David Cameron to buy off party splits in the Tory Party, but failed spectacularly even on those sordid terms. as someone who wants the UK to fall apart, personally I am enjoying the chaos, but it was not the planned result by those behind the referendum.

I am probably a horrible elitist. I dislike direct democracy and am quite profoundly Burkean. I believe democracy should work through the people electing representatives they trust, to use their judgement and experience and adaptability to make the decisions of government. This is not a popular position given the appalling calibre of politicians currently. That is partly due to the UK’s antiquated electoral and governance systems; but something else is in play as it appears to be a worldwide phenomenon. It is to do with neoliberalism eating away at societal bonds and institutions, and requires a great deal more thought to delineate. But of one thing I am quite sure: referenda are not the answer to the West’s malaise of government.

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353 thoughts on “The Forgotten Referendum – Ireland 1998

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  • Blissex

    «The famous “backstop” is to maintain at least the shadow of the arrangements on the basis of which Ireland voted in 1998.»

    The DUP and a large minority (and perhaps a majority) of Conservative MPs want to end the Good Friday Agreement, and they hope that by blocking the deal with the backstop and going for hard-exit the GFA will in effect be terminated.

    • Xavi

      Polling suggests Northern Ireland itself would also be terminated in the event of a no deal Brexit.

    • Charles Bostock

      There is no evidence whatsoever for your assertion.

      The motivations for the position of the DUP and the Conservatives to whom you refer are entirely other.

      • giyane

        Yes , they were kicked out of Scotland. Of course if the UK would like to unconditionally surrender all colonised Scottish land for the DUP to reclaim, there would be only one EU border, Hadrian’s Wall.

        • TroutMaskReplica

          Hadrian’s wall does not run along the Scottish Border. There’s at least 70 to Berwick from Newcastle.

        • Muscleguy

          Thank you for extending Scotland’s border so far south, though I would normally expect from Post Vienna Convention times for the population between the wall and the current border to be asked for their opinion first or we should enquire as to the process electing you their spokescreature*.

          The only possible exception is the portion of Northumbria north of the Tweed which is still officially a possession of the Scottish Crown even if it is administered as part of England.

    • ricardo2000

      Northern Ireland will find that the DUP can’t defend the economic interests of Ulster when the Brexiters get their so-called independence. The irony is that Reunion with Ireland will look unstoppable because it is so obviously in the best interests even of religious bigots.

  • giyane

    ” people electing representatives they trust ”
    David Miliband is being suggested for Corbyn’s job by my search engine. Thanks, I prefer my representatives to be brain dead like Blair, not willing shoe-horners of the Zionist cause.

    Thanks for pointing out the chasm of betrayal the Tories have decided to inflict on Ireland. Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary was the most belligerent in brushing aside the concerns of the Irish. Thank you for telling us about that generous sacrifice they made for peace.

    Apart from the Clegg-Dems are there any other parties that could ever be trusted. Greens?

  • Jim Sinclare

    I am not enjoying the chaos, I hope another referendum will undo the damage of the last one.

    • Coldish

      Jim: likewise. I’m not enjoying it either. I run a small business, most of whose product is exported to end customers in other EU countries. Understandably they (the customers) are drifting away, and the drift is accelerating as Brexit approaches. We will only recover if this whole Brexit nonsense is scrapped. I don’t want a new referendum, I want parliament to do what we elected it to do, which is to act in the best interests of all British people and all residents of Britain by calling the whole thing off.

      • Shatnersrug

        Coldish. The damage is done. I wish this whole sorry saga had never have happened, and I’d put everything back if I thought it could be done. But Humpty Dumpty has been smashed. That’s not just the UK in the EU, it’s not a case of all the other states carrying on without us, is it? Macron and Merkel have today announced a combined military agreement. Now that’s not an EU army as they had wished that’s a new super bloc and one that is at odds with the USA, the issue of Russian gas is becoming a big sticking point between German/France and the US.

        The Brexit vote has terrible geopolitical consequence – it pushes the uk towards the USA, the Northern European countries together against them, as I’ve said before, we no longer have leaders committed to peace and trade, we have jingoistic territorial leaders who will act for their bankers not the people.

        • uncle tungsten

          Thank you Shatnersrug, on the bright side there is really only one British embassy needed for the EU and the others in the member states can be closed. That will rid the EU of all those rats in the ranks embassy employees that are the agents of Institute for Statecraft and Integrity Initiative.

          The UK needs a revolution in the light of its current circumstance else it will rapidly resemble a Caribbean banana republic with a pre-existing USA army base.

        • Charles Bostock

          All this stuff about combined military agreements is hogwash. Nothing will come of it in practice; its only purpose is to form part of the silent “power struggle” between the two big founders of the EEC/EC/EU and to act as a distraction from present woes of a different nature.

          • Iain Stewart

            “can someone update me. is Germany allowed to keep troops under arms?”

            Latest news: yes.
            Since 1955.

          • Muscleguy

            Not only that but for some time now German troops have been regularly based in Alsace with barely a murmur of dissent. It’s just a matter of appropriate manpower is how it is being framed.

            BTW it is largely forgotten now but France and Germany had a coal and steel union in the interwar period. I forget the exact dates, I had it from a historian at a party who was full of the story he had uncovered in the archives. They held joint cabinet meetings even.

            It only failed because methods to handle different economic cycles had not been developed yet. But just think, if it had survived the prosperity might have prevented Hitler’s rise and the economic ties would have likely prevented war as the postwar EEC has managed. Which started as a Franco-German coal and steel union and was set up rather quickly. Now we know how.

      • sc

        Isn’t the chaotic uncertainty of the process worse for businesses than leaving itself? It’s been over 2 years of no idea what will actually happen meaning no-one can plan.

  • Xavi

    The problem is the people don’t select their representatives. Most Labour representatives in parliament are neoliberal warmongers handpicked by the likes of Blair and Mandelson.

    • Charles Bostock

      I should have thought that the Blairites would tend to be Remainers and the hard lefties Brexiteers. Which rather knocks a hole in your thesis, surely?

      • giyane


        FFS. The Blairites are only neo-liberals on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays, The rest of the week they can wheel out the full labour thesis by rote. The Corbynites are only hard-lefties on Tuesdays Thursdays and Saturdays. The rest of the time they live in the real world of post-post Thatcherism.
        The Tories only care about finding new things to privatise to fill their pockets from. Mmmm. Why not privatise Parliament? Mmmm. What about expanding lobbying by creating rotten boroughs where MPs are bought by bribery and corruption? You could have the friends of this and the friends of that until the whole lot of them were serving the one central aim. Oh , sorry, already been done.

  • Blissex

    «I am probably a horrible elitist. I dislike direct democracy and am quite profoundly Burkean. I believe democracy should work through the people electing representatives they trust, to use their judgement and experience and adaptability to make the decisions of government.»

    Perhaps I would be burkean too if I reckoned that the “philosopher kings” representatives our blogger imagines were realistic; in practice berkean conservativism is not about “what works”, as implemented by people of judgement, experience and adaptability, but the defence of the privileges of incumbency, of which “experience” and “conservativism” are mere euphemisms. I like more the thinking of NN Taleb, a notable traders and statistician, also likes “what works” over long periods, but has no illusions about certain excuses for the defense of the privileges of incumbency.

  • Humbaba

    Referenda are the preferred means of populists and dictators to pervert representative democracy.

    The problem is that the UK has inherited an antiquated political system from the empire, which tends towards a two-party system that excludes new political movements.

    In a system with proportional representation, new movements can grow gradually in the political system to assume government responsibility when and if they are ready. Neither Trump nor the Brexitters had time to grow into government responsibility. They were catapulted from their unrealistic fantasies and politically motivated lies into government from one day to another.

    That is the price of empire the UK continues to pay even after the empire has gone.

    • Charles Bostock

      “The problem is that the UK has inherited an antiquated political system from the empire, which tends towards a two-party system that excludes new political movements. ”

      Sorry – the two party system was inherited from the British Empire? Are you sure you haven’t got things the wrong way round?

  • Martin Elvemo

    I’ll interpret that as “horrible at being elitist”, and settle for the potentially anarchist part about electing representatives.

  • Alex

    England voted to leave. One country cannot refuse to honour a majority vote simply because another voted a different way. If Scotland wants to leave the United Kingdom it can, England would be better off for it. Ireland’s people can remain in the EU or not as best suits them. England has no obligation to remain in a club that has so greatly hurt it’s interests and people. You are an elitist, something common to most government employees even when they fall out with their ex employers. As you say the appalling standard of politicians is something to do with the current situation along with the establishment’s clear intention to subjugate and enslave the ordinary man. This is becoming so obvious even the brainwashed masses are starting to see it and the biggest, most corrupt and elitist gang of the lot live in Brussels. We want rid of them and if Ireland and Scotland and the whole continent will put up with them then so be it. Of course they aren’t. Revolution is in the air in France and Italy and Poland and Hungary. Let’s hope the whole rotten edifice collapses sooner rather than later.

    • Jimmy Hutton

      Alex; you have so little understanding of the economics of the UK that your argument falls at the first hurdle.
      Without Scotland’s resources; England is bust. You have zero to guarantee your debts; and your creditors will all come at once to collect ??
      What is it about England that makes you think you are exemot from the realities of the modern world ?

      • Mr Shigemitsu

        @Jimmy Hutton,

        “You have zero to guarantee your debts; and your creditors will all come at once to collect ??”

        If you are referring to public “debt”, which I assume you are, as the monopoly creator of Sterling, and whose public “debts” are exclusively in that currency, the (r?)UK Government can always pay any “debt” outstanding.

        Of course, the other name for public “debt” is private sector savings (ask yourself who holds Gilts, and why), but it would be rather rash to exchange ultra-safe UK govt bonds at 2.00%+pa for currency at 0.75%pa (with just an £85K guarantee limit).

        But even if Gilt holders exchanged their bond holdings for currency en-masse, it would simply be an asset swap – and still remain as a liability on the govt side; i.e. a liability at the (govt owned) Treasury would simply be swapped for an identical liability (commercial bank reserves) at the (govt owned) BoE.

        *All* money is debt, and since every country in the world uses non-convertible fiat currencies these days, there’s never any”thing” to “guarantee” any of them! No one’s on the Gold Standard any more.

    • Jim Morris

      England and the other parts of the U.K. Of G.B. And Northern Ireland took part in a “consultative” referendum. They expressed their opinion, they did not in any legislative way ‘vote’ for anything. If the result had gone the other way, the Tories and Corbyn Labour would have found a way to ignore the “wishes” of the people. Brexit was and is an executive, secret decision: how much the political class (cabal?) will be rewarded for their compliance remains to be seen.

  • DiggerUK

    “But of one thing I am quite sure: referenda are not the answer to the West’s malaise of government.”……So Indyref 2 is off the agenda now.

    One person takes the high road to Damascus, and another takes the low road…_

  • able

    The problem with people not liking referendums is that it’s usually because the referendums did not go the way they wanted them to. Had these referendums gone your way you would be very pleased they had been held and arguing that the outcomes were final and conclusive.

    You also appear to need reminding that Scotland did not have its own vote in the EU referendum. Scotland voted to remain in the UK and the EU referdum was a UK decision. The vote to remain in the UK was not won “narrowly” at 55.3% – 44.7%, with all but four of the 32 councils voting to remain and a majority of 384,000.

    As for your childish remark about enjoying watching the UK in disarray, it just goes to show how much you are driven by an intense hatred of the country you were once so proud to serve and a desire to exact some sort of petty revenge against it. The SNP has to at least be seen as a serious political party concerned with the future prosperity of Scotland, which is why you aren’t allowed anywhere near it.

    Of course, there is every chance that Brexit will turn out to be a massive boon to the UK in the medium to long term, in which case Scotland will desire to remain a part of the UK rather than risk its chances as a minor and insignificant state within the crumbling EU, where it would have considerably less independence than it enjoys now with a near fully devolved government.

    • Charles Bostock

      The first three paras of the above are excellent and would bear repeating – frequently.

      • able

        Thank you, Charles. I shall endeavour to contribute more often. I must say I thought the fourth para was excellent, too.

        • Iain Stewart

          “I must say I thought the fourth para was excellent, too.”

          Like many other sentient beings, Charles no doubt thought your fourth paragraph was not excellent at all. Your faith in “chance” is a touching example of that English whimsy which the rest of the world finds so endearing. Or exasperating.

    • giyane


      your entire piece appears to be an attempt to conjecture on the motivations of others. The trouble with people who try to conjecture on what makes others tick is that they are normally guilty of trying to force their own square pegs into other people’s round holes. Projection is neither sane, nor sensible, just a way of offloading things you don’t like about yourself.

      since you present yourself as a serious commenter, wouldn’t it be better to leave the off-beam conjecture out of it and concentrate on removing the plank in your own eye-beam?

  • HoBoJo

    A mixed democracy works best, Parties get corrupted by party barons (who chooses the representative?), lobbyists and financial interests becoming detached from voters, or starting to believe they are there to govern, rather than to serve. Direct democracy gives electors a final say and keeps representatives’ feet on the ground. And given the resources available to political parties and governments, if they can’t win a referendum set up on their own terms, then they have seriously misjudged their policies. Something the EU needs to learn.

    • Ken Kenn

      i wouldn’t disagree with much of what you say but that would be a means to an end.

      The political question is: what’s the end to be achieved?

      I watched Dateline London on the BBC News Channel yesterday.

      It is usually comprised of foreign journalists who live in London who comment on the world and its affairs.

      Without doubt it was one of the worst discussions I’ve seen on the matter of the EU and Brexit.

      The problem was they discussed every reason but the one that counts as THE underlying reason for discontent of the peoples of Europe ( and much of the Western World – that is: austerity.

      One commentator mentioned The Marshall Plan (70 years old ) and forgot that the reflating of the European economies only lasted around 30 of these 70 years as the Neo Liberal economists got a grip on various governments of countries and persuaded some of them that
      making products was old hat and that the way to go was to make money from money- financial alchemy.

      2007/8 was when the gigantic folly was discovered as a crock.

      Once it was discovered as a crock the losses were put upon ordinary people’s shoulders and that has led to the point where the EU and the UK is now.

      This is the reason why Trump won in the US ( populism – meaning tell people what they want to hear) and the right elsewhere are doing just that too.

      The PTB have got away with blaming everyone from foreigners to refugees – the Scottish – the Irish any other cast of millions rather than take the rap themselves.

      The Tories ( the worst party ever for passing the buck ) and the MSM are now angling to blame Corbyn if a No Deal Brexit occurs and even within the Labour Party they are making a bit of progress.

      So at the moment I am not in favour of the break up of the UK whilst this lot remain in power but the Labour Party if it succeeds with getting a small majority will need some back up and of course there will be a price to pay if the election result requires a Coalition government to progress on domestic policy and the future shape of EU negotiations. This politics and at the moment for me this is the end as the means to do this is achieved by FPTP.

      Within that new Parliament the SNP Plaid etc could and should negotiate ( if they wish to of course ?) with the Labour Party about some future forms of PR.

      But first in order to get to that means to other ends this government has to go.

      Problem is the forces arrayed against a Corbyn led government have been terrible.

      If the LP ( and the SNP ) get a sniff of power watch out for more smears against Scottish representatives and Labour Party leaders from those with a lot to lose.

      As Old Ronnie used to say: ” You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

      • Charles Bostock

        I can agree with some of that.

        The essential reason for the extent of popular discontent with the EU is not austerity in itself but that the EU has, over the last 20 years, taken its eye off the ball – and just when it could ill afford to do so. With that, I mean that it has failed to create, either directly or through the medium of the Member States, the conditions necessary to promote sound, non-inflationary economic growth and jobs. Where it has attempted to do so, its actions have tended to be ineffective (cf, the 2000 Lisbon Strategy) or not followed through with sufficient vigour. Instead, it has allowed to let itself be distracted by various superficially attractive policies,the best example of which is probably the creation of the “European External Action Service”, an attempt at a European Foreign Office.

        In the same way as most (say) UK citizens do not give a flying f**k about UK policy with respect to Israel…or Irak…, so the citizens of the EU as a whole feel about creation of the European External Action Service. What they are interested in, first and foremost – and only over-radicalised left-wing tossers or professional malcontents could possibly criticise them for this – are the life prospects for themselves and their families.

        • Ken Kenn

          Charles that’s just gobbledygook.

          ” With that, I mean that it has failed to create, either directly or through the medium of the Member States, the conditions necessary to promote sound, non-inflationary economic growth and jobs. ”

          Who wrote that – Andrew Neil?”

          The epitome of the project was the introduction of the Euro.

          A smashing idea as long as all EU nations productivity is the same.

          Here’s the problem ( one of many with that approach )

          A Greek worker will pay three times the price relative to a German buying a German car.

          Why? because Greek investment and productivity is only a third of a German workers productivity.

          This is why the Euro is one size fits all policy. It suits the Germans of course but not all the other nations.

          I do agree that recent politics is full of virtue signallers and they are not all on the left but the EU billing and cooing about
          morals costs them and the Tories in the UK nothing financially. All are non cost aspirations but looks as though they care.

          I don’t know if their are any Modern Monetary theorists on here but printing money (QE) is not cost free either.

          Printing money devalues the value of existing money and lowers that moneys purchasing power over time. Particularly if you trade a lot abroad or buy parts/equipment from abroad.

          The EU avoided doing this after the Crash of 2007/8 but relented when they found out that if it didn’t do some QE the people of the EU would come looking for them. The French have got their binoculars out already and that’s with the EU doing some QE. So what’s going to happen now it’s being scaled down is anyone’s guess.

          So yes politics is the cause but politics is concentrated economics and unfortunately all Western governments bailed out their feckless and wreckless banks and financial institutions with our money and the price for the public was austerity.

          It was bad before that Crash happened but for the one percenters it wasn’t and isn’t.

          All the people are trying to do is rebalance the outcome of that imbalance.

          Roosevelt was wise enough to know that it is better to be a poor capitalist for a period – rather than be no capitalist at all.

          He won three elections on an anti -austerity State ( yes State) programme.

          Tell Andrew Neil that.

    • giyane


      Exactly. But the EU already know a referendum is a waste of time, which is why they have played around with us for 2 years and finally scored through our open legs to win.

  • Charles Bostock

    ” Scotland had two referenda in two years. ”


    Scotland had one referendum – on independence.

    The UK as a whole had one referendum – on EU membership. (Logical because it is the UK which is a member of the EU).

  • Goose

    On a political level, yes a certain amount of chaos can be purifying if it leads to change, but if it hurts ordinary people – as it already has and is, then it’s difficult to take any pleasure from it. I just hope there’s a way out of this in which the Conservative party ends up truly humbled and out of power. Not overly confident in the PLP though, and Corbyn is fairly isolated, for all the membership support he has.

  • Charles Bostock

    I am inclined to share the view that the current mess has, at its origin, the ineptitude if politicians and, in particular, of David Cameron and his cabinet.

    Only a fool or a knave (it is true that both are numerous) would oppose the notion that any referendum on a matter of such constitutional and practical importance as EU membership should not be held without the twin conditions of a minimum threshold for overall turnout and a minimum percentage of those that voted voting for leaving the EU.

    And the question should of course have been a simple “should the UK leave”, on the basis that ot os axiomatic that one votes to change the status quo and not to maintain it.

    So let’s have less nonsense written on the last referendum.

    • Charles Bostock

      Apologies for the too numerous typos.

      The two percentages that might have been applied could, for example, have been 65%.

      Failure to meet either would mean that the proposal (to leave) is rejected.

      65% would also provide a pleasing parallelism with the 1975 referendum and its outcome, in which the vote to remain was two thirds and the vote to leave one thirds and turnout was, I believe, around 70%

      • giyane

        Huh, statistics.

        In words of one syll.. Boz Joz told us the wogs would give us a trade deal, but he lied, as he does, as the wogs had told us NO, not until you sign the deal. Two years pass. No trade deal. We still think that as Fox, Boz and Daz all told us the E.U. would give is a trade deal, they would. But now we find out they all lied, and do you know, we don’t like it. Our next move is to kick them out this week.
        Bye, bye, Fox, Boz and Daz. We don’t like lies.

    • certa certi

      The 1969 Pepera referendum implemented by UNTEA in West Papua was conducted with a form of indirect representation by political elites, rather than one man one vote direct democracy. The result is that there has been a war ever since. People should always be given further chances to reassess potentially mistaken choices, because we make them. But a single, simple one man one vote referendum is not always going to be the best way to proceed, unless all parties agree that it should be.

      The referendum recently concluded in New Caledonia is the best yet. Direct democracy with two further referenda in the future to allow voters to change their minds and a new generation to express itself. Prior to the first referendum, a long cooling down period of a generation to allow all parties to the conflict to work through their differences peacefully, to compromise and to learn to accept eachother. There should always be a chance, or two, for people to reverse their first vote. Minimum percentages like the 65% Mr Bostock has suggested would ensure that only situations in which the status quo genuinely isn’t working for a large majority of the population would be subject to change. A permanent change of sovereignty with potentially just 50.1% support is a revolution, with victims, and bodes ill for the stability both pro and contra parties need for the future benefit of all.

  • Harry Law

    The Republic of Ireland claimed sovereignty over the whole Island of Ireland and its territorial waters in their 1937 constitution [articles 2 and 3] The Good Friday Agreement [GFA] between the UK and Irish government [including Sinn Fein] recognised that the people of Northern Ireland have the right to self determination when the Republic changed its constitution from a ‘claim’ to an ‘aspiration’ and confirmed that there can be no constitutional change in NI without the majority agreeing to it.
    The result of the Irish Republics referendum in 1999 was 94.39% for constitutional change to 5.6% no change. This complemented the 1973 border poll in Northern Ireland which was 98.8% to remain part of the UK to 1.2% for a united Ireland. on a 58% turnout [Sinn Fein told their supporters to boycott the poll]. The GFA could not have happened without the Irish Republic and Sinn Fein recognising that the people of Northern Ireland have the right to self determination. When a majority in NI vote for a United Ireland, just as when a majority of Scots vote for an independent Scotland, negotiations between all parties concerned can take place in order to bring it [Irish unity and/or Scottish independence] about in an amicable way. All perfectly democratic, with no need for violence.
    One of the largest democratic deficits in Northern Ireland is the fact that the political parties that govern the Province Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem will not challenge the local sectarian parties, all 18 seats are up for grabs, if Corbyn’s Labour Party contested those 18 seats Prime Minister T May might not have needed the help of the sectarian DUP to prop up her minority government. On another note, Opinion polls over the years have indicated that at least half the Catholic population do not want a united Ireland.
    A 2011 survey by ‘Northern Ireland Life and Times’ found that 52% of Northern Irish Catholic respondents favoured union with Great Britain over a united Ireland. This is despite the fact that most Catholics who vote do so for political parties that are Nationalist.
    According to another 2015 opinion poll taken in NI, 70% expressed a long-term preference of the maintenance of Northern Ireland’s membership of the United Kingdom (either directly ruled or with devolved government), while 14% express a preference for membership of a united Ireland. This discrepancy can be explained by the overwhelming preference among Protestants to remain a part of the UK (93%), while Catholic preferences are spread across a number of solutions to the constitutional question including remaining a part of the UK (47%), a united Ireland (32%), Northern Ireland becoming an independent state (4%), and those who “don’t know” (16%).
    All that is now required is for Jeremy Corbyn to give all the people of Northern Ireland Catholic and Protestant alike the elementary right to vote for the party that governs or aspires to govern them, otherwise 1.8 million people in NI effectively have no vote.

    • Herbie

      Don’t matter what you vote for.

      You get what you’re given.

      The Globalists want UI.

      That’s what you’ll get.

      Don’t worry though. It’ll be a Rainbow kinda thing. All cuddly and loverly.

      The ousting of Kenny for Varadkar was a significant moment in Irish history.

      Top down.

      Or bottom up.

      You decide!

  • Niall

    I see your point. On the other hand, the French disagree with you (they’re currently clamoring for the power to initiate binding referenda). Also the Swiss have had this system of direct democracy – successfully – since 1848. Maybe it’s time the others ‘catch the wave’ this time around?…

  • Andy

    Have you thought about writing down your preferred method of selecting a candidate since the current crop of unionists are about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

    If we move to being independent there might be some useful observations for a constitution

  • Mist001

    I remember just after the Brexit result, the point that the losing side were insisting on was that everyone knew that the referendum was only advisory. I’m not sure if that’s the case with all referenda or not. Westminster may even have used that reason itself should Yes have won the referendum in 2014, in order to deny Scotland its independence. They may even use it in the case of a Yes victory in a second referendum!

    My view was and still is, that if everybody knew that the Brexit referendum was only advisory, then why on Earth did people bother going out to cast their votes when they knew it would be completely meaningless and ineffectual and wouldn’t effect any real change in circumstances? It turns out that very few people knew it was only *advisory*, apparently not even the government itself knew that!

    So if referendums are going to be used, then the possible outcomes should be made crystal clear to everyone beforehand, so they know what they’re getting into and what the result will be, win or lose. Saying that they’re advisory is simply using weasel words to make people feel safe and secure. It’s basically hoodwinking people.

    • big issues

      mist001 i understand there’s a provision for citizens via petition to force a referendum on anything, & this referendum will be only advisory. on the other hand the brexit referendum was initiated by the government, & the promise was always there that it would be binding.

  • Alf Baird

    The problem with any Scottish referendum on the self-determination of the Scots is that around half the ‘resident’ voters who oppose independence are not Scottish and given they are blocking the existence of Scottish citizenship and Scottish nationality they clearly have no wish to be Scottish in any meaningful sense. As for the Northern Ireland ‘backstop’ that represents a clear breach of Article VI of the treaty of union, not that the majority of Scotland’s ‘sovereign’ MP’s allegedly supporting independence appear to have noticed.

  • Clark

    Craig: – “I am probably a horrible elitist. I dislike direct democracy and am quite profoundly Burkean. I believe democracy should work through the people electing representatives they trust, to use their judgement and experience and adaptability to make the decisions of government. This is not a popular position given the appalling calibre of politicians currently. That is partly due to the UK’s antiquated electoral and governance systems; but something else is in play as it appears to be a worldwide phenomenon. It is to do with neoliberalism eating away at societal bonds and institutions, and requires a great deal more thought to delineate. But of one thing I am quite sure: referenda are not the answer to the West’s malaise of government.”

    You may be an elitist but not a horrible one. What’s happening is that you’re turning into an anarchist because the Festival has got to you. The very thought of holding referenda on the festival site would be absurd.

    • Clark

      We don’t need referenda or democracy because everyone is spontaneously committed to the objective – to make everyone’s stay as nice as possible. People might disagree about how to do that, but they can just say so at the point of disagreement instead of having to follow some arbitrary policy. And it’s worked pretty damn well every time but once.

  • JMF

    The EU is a CIA project. This is why it is such a shambles. Because of their hidden agenda, everything they touch turns toxic.

    • Herbie

      It’s a Globalist project and therefore the CIA, amongst many others, pursued it.

      But, Globalism is under pressure from Nationalism and Mutipolarity, so Globalist projects like the EU are under pressure as well.

      All of this is immensely problematic for the UK in particular.

      UK hasn’t fully resolved whether it’s an Atlantic or a European power.

      It has considered itself an Atlantic power, but Atlanticism itself is breaking down.

      So, where to go?

      Go it alone, is what the Brexit theorists were arguing. The world is there for the taking just like in the old days.

      But, new regional powers were emerging who made that dream impossible.

      So, there’s an effort to resurrect Atlanticism, which is what II etc was about. Scuppered, quite effectively.

      If you look at the new Dems who are being promoted in the US, you’ll see that they’re tending towards the Corbyn style. That suggests to me that even US Dems are moving away from Atlanticism.

      The UK will just have to accept that it’s a European power and get on with the other European powers, on an equal basis, and forget about its world-dominating Atlanticist dreams.

      • Paul Barbara

        @ Herbie January 14, 2019 at 01:00
        ‘…If you look at the new Dems who are being promoted in the US, you’ll see that they’re tending towards the Corbyn style. That suggests to me that even US Dems are moving away from Atlanticism…’
        I believe you are wrong there – it’s just lies, smoke and mirrors, Punch and Judy, Repugnants and Demoprats.
        The NWO/One World Gulag Banksters, Corporations and their sidekicks, the CIA, pull the strings no matter who seems to ‘run’ the Administration.
        As for the individual Congressmen and Senators, the vast majority dance to the tune of the lobbyists and paymasters, domestic or foreign, rather than give a monkey’s for what their constituents want or need (like no wars, safe food and drink, no Frankenfood of cancer-causing pesticides and herbicides etc.).
        Sanders is no ‘Knight in Shining Armour’, though he does put Trump and Clinton to shame.

    • Laguerre

      “The EU is a CIA project.”

      If the EU were that, then the Tories would be massively for Remaining.

      • Charles Bostock

        For once I’m on Laguerre’s side.

        It is certainly true that the US supported the EEC project (in the same way as it supported the abortive European Defence Community project). It did so not because of some Satanist conspiracy, not because of a Catholic conspiracy headed by Old Red Socks, not because it supported the” NWO/One World Gulag Banksters, Corporations and their sidekicks” (that’s from Paul Barbara, of course) ,nor because it supported a “Globalist Project” (that’s ‘Erbie) but because it saw a more united and economically stronger Europe as in America’s security and economic interest. And what was wrong with that?

        • JMF

          Is it so hard to see national sovereignty in Europe being trampled?
          1) The US threatens German companies with possible sanctions over Nord Stream II.
          2) The EU effectively gives the green light to the installation of new US missiles in Europe.
          Join the EU if you don’t mind being led by the nose…….

          • bj

            The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
            And this one has taste only for banks or corporations, and for the apparatus that supports them and lives off them.

    • Johny Conspiranoid

      Maybe the US policy on EU has changed to trying to break up the EU so as to deny it as a ubified market to Russia.

  • Michael Droy

    It doesn’t require a lot of thought.
    The road to Somewhere, David Goodhart, explains it all, and applies as much to US or Europe as it does to UK.
    Somewheres and Anywheres. (You only have to listen to a politician for 5 mins to confirm he has read the book, even if he adjusts his language to pretend he hasn’t. “The People spoke and we have listened……. but/and”. Or any of the subtle references that say not everyone has has won large in the last 30 years of growth (but never the real point – 35 years and 100% real growth in GDP, many have earnings at +100%. Median earnings up just 10%, houses can’t be bought by most).

  • Baron

    Even though the Swiss, governing themselves extensively by referenda, seem to have done, still are doing fine, you may have a point, Mr. Murray, in the constitutional history of Britain the referendum is a rare occurrence, and very recent one, too.

    One would not wish to rely on such form of governance for Britain except that on some unique occasions when the issue transcends politics, as is the case of Britain and the EU, to ask the people directly must be the best way if only because of the big number of the participants. Most of those taking part may have been badly informed, but that matters not. The result for the country of the massive vote cannot but be better than that of the few representatives.

    The stock market is a case in point, whilst those trained to make a judgment i.e. the analysts, may forecast the market to move one way, the actual participants, the by far bigger population of buyers and sellers, push it in another way, and more often than not get it right.

    If the MPs were to vote whether to stay or leave, it’s very likely they would have chosen the former. That decision would have been the opposite of the wish of the people. Well over one million was the difference between those who voted to leave rather than remain after almost fifty years of unceasing persuasion by the establishment of the benefits of our EU membership. And yet the people either didn’t feel the benefits, or were not persuaded by the arguments that the benefits of our EU membership will arrive in the future.

    The result of the referendum (and the resurgence of the populist movements in other EU countries) should be a strong hint to the EU leadership. The time of their dream like idea of a federal Europe is being rejected by the European unwashed. If the leaders were smart, they would pause, think again, come up with a new plan. Failing that the Old Continent may convulse, their dream end up in a dustbin of history.

  • Willie

    No democrat was Mrs Thatcher some may say

    But she did say that all Scotland had to do to gain independence was to elect a majority of MPs.

  • big issues

    the example you cite is not a good nor typical example of a problem with referendums. it’s due to the extraordinary situation of scotland being a separate country, or not, according to its own preference. had there been a single referendum giving the options: 1. remain part of the uk if it is in the eu; 2. remain part of the uk if it is out of the eu; 3. split from the uk & be in the eu; 4. split from the uk & the eu & operated according to preferential voting, that would have dealt with all your objections. as for the quality of politicians, that’s not a new problem & even if it was, you can’t just point to its recentness as an excuse for handing over all power to them. first solve the problem of making all leaders honest & talented & caring & then we’ll talk about giving up all claim to ultimate legislative power residing in the people

  • big issues

    whereas ireland’s problem (entering an agreement the other side can no longer honour) is regardless of whether their decision had been by referendum or by act of parliament or any other mechanism. so that’s not a good argument against people power either

  • Hieroglyph

    Yeah, I used to be a wide-eyed supporter of referendums. Sadly, no longer, because people are routinely misinformed about … pretty much everything under the sun. I should note that this does not mean I consider everybody to be stupid, not at any rate especially more or less stupid than I am. No, it’s much worse than that. Us poor citizens are lied to every day, to an extent that would probably shock even the most cynical, and, if brought to light, bring about some fairly unpleasant consequences, involving guillotines and pitch-forks.

    Anyhow, the malaise is explained in ‘Political Ponerology’ which I urge Craig and everybody else to read (though I’m sure many have already done so). It’s all about mental health really, and the propensity for mental deviants to reach the highest levels of power. And, no, I don’t mean Trump, though others may tell me this is my blind spot.

    • big issues

      hieroglyph since the people can’t vote properly in referendums because they are misinformed by lies, we should leave the decision making up to the people who tell them those lies in the first place, is that it?

      • Hieroglyph

        It’s a good question. Sadly, I don’t have a good answer. On balance, probably yes, because that’s the expected consequence of our democratic system: some people get to make decisions, at the end. How to structure matters to keep out those who tell the lies in the first place, well that’s a question that has long exercised finer minds than mine. Not sure universal suffrage is the answer either, which may be an extreme position to take.

        • big issues

          hieroglyph thanks for the honest & thoughtful answer. yes in reality the people at the top make the decisions & pull the wool over our eyes, but the people are still legitimately a reservoir of admittedly erratic but ultimate power that must be maintained as at least an emergency control.
          as to how to structure matters to ensure (good government), that’s not possible, there’s no such thing as an infallible or incorruptible structure. we can tinker & improve structure, but eternal vigilance is the only way we can either maintain a level of our preferred attributes of government, or at least restore them from time to time when they’ve diverged too far from acceptable.

    • Julian

      Interesting you should mention that. I have read it, as part of my exploration of what I call: “Pathocracy” – rule by psychopaths. I suspect that a far higher percentage than the 1-4% of normal society compose members of the House of Commons. Although I cannot prove it, I am convinced that the Dark Triad of psychopathy, machiavellianism and narcissism are prime characteristics of many people who would want to be politicians. None of this “public service” malarky. Incidentally, if you take Lobaczewski’s contention that psychopaths can be made as well as born, public schools are a particularly likely source.

      • Hieroglyph

        Couldn’t agree more. Prior to investigating Pathocracy, I presumed that dark triad traits were unusual in politicians. I don’t have a clue why I’d think that, or why anyone else would think that – indoctrination, perhaps. The hard truth is, I suspect, that most politicians have these traits, and the normies are the exception. Can’t prove it, but the observable behavior of politicians is certainly suggestive.

        And Blair is a psychopath, I’ve basically no doubt at all.

  • kashmiri

    “Referenda are not the answer to the West’s malaise of government”. Craig, please don’t equate “the West” with the UK. Even as direct democracy doesn’t work well here, it works fairly well in Switzerland, which is hardly not “West”.

  • Sharp Ears

    Avoid ITV and Piers Morgan this morning. Clicking through the channels, I noticed that they are having Mandelslime on to push his Remain agenda.

    Peter Mandelson Calls for a ‘People’s Vote’ While Telling Potential Clients Brexit Can’t Be Stopped
    A conflict of interest?
    ‘Peter Mandelson, one of the founder-directors of the main campaigns to stop Brexit, also runs a company offering international corporations advice about how to deal with the approaching inevitability of Brexit.

    Lord Mandelson – nicknamed the Prince of Darkness during the Blair years for his ability to spin media coverage – is a director of the anti-Brexit “Open Britain”, one of the organisations behind the “People’s Vote” campaign.’

    Typically he sees a profit.

    The others. Straw the Younger. Sarpong. Danny Alexander. Amber Rudd’s brother. etc

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