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Any poll must remember the Northern Irish

Alex Kane (DebateNI, September 23) says that calling a border poll is down to the Secretary of State and makes a reference to an independent NI. Firstly, a referendum on independence for NI requires only the same mechanism used by the Scottish parliament, since it is not a "border poll" as described in the Belfast Agreement. The DUP and Sinn Fein can forge ahead with an independence referendum if they want to.

What we now need is a referendum with a two-part question: 1. 'Should NI be an independent country?' Those that vote 'no' should then be given the opportunity to select either 'the Union' option or a 'united Ireland'. The chosen outcome would be whichever of the three options secured the largest vote.

Secondly, in the 2014 elections designated 'unionist' parties secured only 295,429 local council votes and 329,688 European Parliament first preferences, i.e. barely 300,000 voted in support of 'the Union'. Designated 'nationalists', i.e. those that support a 'united Ireland' did little better.

To put those results in context, during the 2011 census 21% declared themselves Northern Irish and a further 8% declared themselves Northern Irish as well as British and/or Irish, i.e. 29% see themselves as wholly or partially Northern Irish – a large bloc which needs to be represented in any constitutional convention.

So, the 'Northern Irish' exist but our political system excludes any alternative to 'the Union'/'united Ireland' dichotomy. Just because the 'Northern Irish' aren't represented at Stormont doesn't mean they can be ignored. The NI Civil Service must ensure their views are fairly represented.

BERNARD J MULHOLLAND

Belfast

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