Civic nationalist group seeking united Ireland says Border poll ‘could and should be held in 2030′

Ireland’s Future outlines in a discussion paper proposals to ‘prepare the ground’ for the next six years

A civic nationalist group seeking a united Ireland has set out a timeline for a Border poll which it argues “could and should be held in 2030″. It is the first time that Ireland’s Future has given a definitive date for a referendum, and is contained in a detailed discussion paper outlining proposals to “prepare the ground” for the next six years.

Ireland 2030 will be launched next week, and places an onus on the next Irish government to give a “clear commitment” to undertake preparatory work, including the “commencement of necessary conversations” with the British government.

Post-election it recommends the creation of a dedicated government department on the issue. “A starting point is that the work must be a prominent feature of the plans of the next Irish government,” according to Ireland’s Future. “The strongest possible governmental signal must be sent that this is now a central pillar of public policy for Ireland.”

A photograph of the actor James Nesbitt delivering the keynote address at an Ireland’s Future event in Dublin two years ago features prominently in the document, along with Rev Karen Sethuraman, the first female Baptist minister in Ireland, who also took part.


Nesbitt, who grew up in the predominantly unionist village of Broughshane, Co Antrim, received a standing ovation after a speech in which he referenced how Northern Protestants were considering what “a new union of Ireland might look’s exciting”. Within a month sectarian graffiti threatening him appeared on a wall in the seaside town of Portrush in what was treated as a hate crime by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

The paper acknowledges the “significant opposition” within some communities to a referendum, and “obstacles that will be placed in the way”.

“In our view the British government is unlikely to enable a Border poll without a formal request from the Irish government, reinforced by widespread international support,” it adds. “The Irish government must, therefore, mobilise its international partnerships and networks to secure co-operation and support for its desired outcome. The strength and effectiveness of these diplomatic efforts were evident during the Brexit negotiations, and this must once again be operationalised to ensure people are given a choice about their own future.”

The group insists that its goal of a “new and united Ireland” resonates “not only with those who share our constitutional vision but with all those who are open to exploring how we can build a better future for everyone”.

“Electoral evidence, demographic change, and the damaged, unequal, and dysfunctional nature of Northern society lead us to a stark conclusion: there is no credible alternative to urgent preparations for referendums, North and South, on Irish unity,” it states.

It repeats a call for the establishment of an all-Island civic forum or assembly to promote inclusive discussion “before, during and after” a poll. “Our strong view is that the focus should now be on preparing the ground for referendums that we anticipate being held this decade. In the year 2030 the people of Ireland, North and South, should be given a choice in concurrent referendums”.

It adds: “This discussion paper is a significant and important contribution to building sufficient consensus around that overarching goal. The aim is to map out our view of the next stage in the process from now until the year when we believe a referendum could and should be held in 2030.”

Ireland’s Future CEO Gerry Carlisle said the paper builds on a series of previous publications and public events. “In particular, the intention is to encourage practical planning for the serious preparatory work that is required, and that is why there are recommendations addressed to the governments, political parties, public bodies and civil society.”

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Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham is Northern Correspondent of The Irish Times