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27 June 2016

The vote to leave Europe does not pave the way for a united Ireland, no matter what Gerry Adams may argue

It is up to responsible politicians to find the way forward for the UK and not be sidetracked, says Ruth Dudley Edwards

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness

This is of course a nervous time for anyone with imagination.

Mind you, that would also have been true had the vote gone the other way.

After agonising for a long time I finally voted Out because I thought staying shackled to an unreformed, arrogant, expansionist, bullying and inept EU would be a worse option for the United Kingdom than relying on the courage and initiative of those who live in it to carve out an unindentured future.

Having bragged about winning money because of my accurate prediction of the 2015 General Election results, I should confess that I had believed that the natural caution of the English would result in a significant majority for In.

I had underestimated the rage so many Labour supporters felt for leaders who had showed no interest in the negative effects on them of economic change and mass immigration.

But, as they say, we are where we are, and we should reflect as we embark on this huge and scary adventure that we have much going for us.

We are fortunate that the English have a distaste for extremism, so at a time of unprecedented mass migration, they showed their pent-up frustration with the establishment by voting to leave a failing institution rather than - like many EU countries - supporting extremist parties of the left and right.

I say the English (who voted Out by 53% to 47%), since they determined the result by force of numbers, but of course the Welsh results were identical and the Northern Irish and Scottish were less dramatically pro In than nationalists would have us believe.

Considering unionism was split, a majority of 56% In to 44% Out in Northern Ireland was much less than had been predicted.

And though Scotland was 62% to 38% for In, considering that all its significant parties were of one mind, voters showed a more rebellious streak than I'd feared.

It's crucial that we approach the future in a spirit of co-operation and try to avoid unnecessary divisiveness, so there has been concern about SNP demands for an independence referendum and Sinn Fein's for a border poll on a United Ireland.

There's no need to worry about either, not least because those shouting about them most loudly - Nicola Sturgeon and Gerry Adams - are merely pretending to want them in order to placate their angry grass roots.

Take Scotland.

Almost two years ago, the Scots voted against independence by a margin of 55% to 45%, largely because the economy was over-dependent on high oil prices and it was impossible to sort out currency issues.

So, what likelihood is there that they would vote for independence at a time of collapsing oil prices, let alone choose to leave sterling for the troubled Euro?

Mrs Sturgeon is a smart and cautious politician who know this perfectly well, but feels it necessary to pretend otherwise and blame the Conservative government.

Then there's the border poll.

Now it's quite understandable that some followers of Sinn Fein should fantasise about Brexit bringing about Irish unification, but there would have to be a revolution in the opinion polls - which for years have shown little enthusiasm either north or south - for Secretary of State Theresa Villiers to give the proposal house room. Martin McGuinness at least raised the issue politely and in a conciliatory tone, but at this time of crisis, when Taoiseach Enda Kenny has made it clear he will be focusing on far more important and urgent priorities, Gerry Adams is using the issue to harass the government aggressively.

Brexit, he says, makes a border poll a "democratic imperative" and Taoiseach Enda Kenny "has a constitutional imperative to promote Irish unity".

That useful political website, thejournal.ie, has thoroughly examined that claim and found it constitutionally utterly false.

So, although there would be a temptation for the two governments to give them what they wish for and let them live with the devastating results, at a time like this responsible politicians on the island of Ireland will prefer to get on calmly with the crucial work of constructively finding joint solutions to the problems thrown up by Brexit.

At all costs, they shouldn't leave it to Brussels.

Ruth Dudley Edwards’ The Seven: The Lives And Legacies Of The Founding Fathers Of The Irish Republic, was published by Oneworld Publications on March 22.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards