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Such a constitutional referendum can only be called after the north has voted for unification, and its precise form will be determined by the debate that has taken place in Northern Ireland prior to their vote.
"Determined" suggests this will be the only thing to determine it, but that would mean the Southern polity would be putting it's own constitutional order at the mercy of a plurality of Northern voters. Southern citizens should have the right and would have the opportunity to debate the terms of the constitutional amendment to be put to a vote. I don't think it's sensible to expect that it wouldn't happen.

What you are trying to avoid is a Brexit-like outcome but that is exactly what I would expect to happen: a border poll in the North on the broad principle of reunification, much like the Brexit vote, followed by tripartite negotiations involving vigorous public debate of the terms on both the North and the South, with no small amount of interference from the UK.

I don't know what the constitutional process would be in the Norrh, but I would expect the final agreement would need to be ratified by a vote of the Stormont assembly. The final agreement cannot be the subject of the original border poll.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 28th, 2021 at 04:46:25 AM EST
The Constitution Unit in the Department of Political Science the UCL School of Public Policy have done a lot of work on what needs to happen before any referenda are held. Their Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland" have produced an impressive report which discusses many of the options and complications which are likely to arise.

My submission to the working group was published on ET here. In it I argue that a binary vote between a known status quo and a largely unknown future "united Ireland" will always favour the former because of a natural tendency of most voters to prefer "the devil they know" to some unknown future which will be presented by nationalists as a Nirvana and by unionists as the road to hell. I thus argue that any referendum should be preceded by detailed negotiations on how sovereignty would be transferred, what governance arrangements would apply in the current N. Ireland, and what would be the practical outcomes for citizens in terms of their jobs, pensions, health and social welfare entitlements, taxation, and civil liberties and human rights.

The referendum in N. Ireland would therefore be between two clearly articulated propositions - a continuance of the union with Britain - possibly including reference to the how the Barnett formula allocating central resources to N. Ireland might be tweaked - and a clearly articulated constitutional structure for a united Ireland.

Only the Government of Ireland can call a referendum in Ireland and does so on the basis of a clearly explained proposal often accompanied by drafts of the legislation required to enact the details contained therein. You are correct that the shape of any proposal put to the Irish people in a referendum vote will not be entirely determined by the debate in N. Ireland, unless that debate has concluded in a formal agreement between interested parties - chiefly the N. Ireland parties and the British and Irish governments - on what a united Ireland would look like.

That would, however, require the formal engagement of unionist parties in that process which is unlikely to happen, as they might view it as increasing the likelihood of a referendum being passed in the North.   However I could see the Alliance party engaging in that process and coming to an agreement which protects the internal political structures of Northern Ireland, at least for a lengthy transition period as part of an overall Federal Structure. The Alliance Party is a non-sectarian moderate unionist party, and probably represents the swing vote in any referendum campaign.

Voters, both north and south, would therefore end up voting on precisely the same proposals with the Irish government having represented the "southern interest" in any preceding talks. Unlike the Brexit referendum, there would be no prior vote on the principle of a united Ireland with the details to be worked out later. That didn't work out to well for the UK, and we won't want to go down that road.

The Good Friday Agreement is silent on all of this. In theory the Secretary of state for N. Ireland could wake up one day and decide to call a poll in the north without any prior work articulating what either option would mean in practice. But there is no obligation on the Irish Government - much less the Irish people - to go along with this. Everyone will want to know what they are buying into, and that can only be sorted out by negotiations between all the interested parties.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Dec 28th, 2021 at 12:44:03 PM EST
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