A billboard along the old Belfast to Dublin road close to the Irish border in Newry, Northern Ireland, in 2019
Tim Shipman is right to say that Sinn Fein becoming the largest party in the Northern Ireland assembly does not make a referendum on a united Ireland imminent (News, last week). The decision to call a “border poll” belongs to the UK government, not the assembly. A vote must be held if a majority for unification looks likely, but we remain a long way from that.
For now the focus should be on getting Northern Ireland’s power-sharing arrangements working again. They are teetering; collapse would be disastrous.
The UK government has a vital role in relieving tensions, but it has recently been more concerned with Brexit manoeuvring. It must step up.
Alan Renwick, professor of democratic politics, University College London constitution unit