Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland: Belfast Consultation Event, this Thursday 10 December 2020…

The recent post by Dr Alan Renwick on how the mechanics of a unification referendum need attention highlighted that the Interim Report of the Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland was published on 26 November.

Following the launch of this report, a number of online consultation events are being held which will provide an opportunity for public discussion of the report’s purposes, analysis, and conclusions. Once such webinar is being co-hosted by The Democracy Unit at Queen’s University Belfast, the Transitional Justice Institute at Ulster University, and the Constitution Unit at University College London.

Similar events were held in Dublin and London, designed for audiences in Ireland and Great Britain.

The substantial and detailed report explores how any potential future referendum or referendums on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland would best be designed and conducted.

The Group is independent of all political parties and governments and is funded by the British Academy and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. The Group takes no view on whether such referendums should take place, or what the outcome should be if there are any referendums.

The report concludes that if a referendum were called, it would be crucial to have a clear plan for the referendum processes that would follow. The report addresses a range of difficult questions that need discussion and analysis. What evidence would inform the decision to call a referendum on Northern Ireland’s constitutional status? Would referendums take place before or after proposals for the shape of a united Ireland had been developed? How would the referendum campaigns be regulated? These and many other related questions are explored in detail by the Group.

The event will be chaired by Cathy Gormley-Heenan, Professor of Politics and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and External Affairs) at Ulster University, with assistance from Dr James Pow of the QUB Democracy Unit during the Q&A session.

The following speakers will examine the possible answers to these questions in the political and legal context of Northern Ireland:

  • Dr Alan Renwick, coordinator of the project and Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit, University College London
  • Prof Katy Hayward, Working Group member and Professor in Political Sociology, Queen’s University Belfast
  • Prof Brendan O’Leary, Working Group member, Visiting Professor of Political Science at Queen’s University and member of the QUB Democracy Unit, and Lauder Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
  • Sam McBride, Political Editor of the Belfast News Letter

The event kicks off a consultation period in which the Group welcomes feedback and views on the content of the interim report, which will then inform the Group’s final report in spring 2021.

You can sign up for the event by clicking here.

VOTE” by Theresa Thompson is licensed under CC BY

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