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Ireland & Scotland : Compare & Contrast

Written by on 1 July 2021

Sovereignty, sharing it, and the effects of Brexit, from an Irish point of view

Dr Paul Gillespie, University College Dublin

A few months back, Grassroots Oban organised a meeting with Dr Paul Gillespie of University College Dublin. Dr Gillespie is a former foreign affairs editor for the Irish Times. His is an academic and analyst working in the field of Irish, Scottish and UK issues:

  • sovereignty, sharing it, and the effects of Brexit
  • Constitutional Futures after Brexit, joint research by Univ College Dublin, Univ College London, Queens Univ Belfast
  • possible shape of unification referendums on island of Ireland
  • overall with Scottish perspectives, joint research with Centre for Constitional Change at Edinburgh University.

You can listen to Paul here:

And just to give you an idea of what he covered:

Scotland and Ireland Now and the Drivers of Constitutional Change?

  • dual sovereignty crisis external with EU
  • internally by elements of UK
  • now coming to ahead stoked by brexit
  • analysing scenarios in his work
  • the drivers of change in context Brexit
  • possible scenarios for constitutional change in Uk
  • what’s going on in Unionism and Unionists throughout UK but particularly in NI; the need in Ireland to understand this more clearly 
  • asymmetry of power between EU and UK was clear in NI negotiations about the border. UK is now engaging in disruptive activity about that now.

Where UK / Ireland futures intersect

  • bringing NI out of EU opens up debate on unification of ireland
  • if devolution becomes dysfunctional and  also given leaving EU then unification becomes a preferred option over devolved power.
  • small citizens assembly were in in 2015 in NI asking for constitutional views, including alternate shaped for a unified Ireland. That is being replicated in Dublin shortly.
  • Borders politics in Ireland is going to impact hugely on Scotland in any independence negotiations

Potential unification from Eire’s point of view

  • its been rather abstract, tokenism historically
  • now made concrete post Brexit
  • pace of events may be quite rapid now. Sein Fhein drive that agenda in Eire and they want a Unification preparatory approach made for that with citizens assemblies, even a ministry for unification. Other parties have adopted a more gradualist shared Ireland approach, repairing Good Fridat Agreement institutions, prior to any discussion about unity. 
  • there is an awareness in Ireland that the Irish situation may be affected by dynamics and events in Scotland.
  • interim report from UCL available on their website
  • referendums, borders and EU membership are increasingly mutual concerns for Scotland, NI and Eire.