Date needed for a border poll as ‘very little planning would get done if the date was open-ended’ says Derry human rights expert Professor Colin Harvey

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Professor Colin Harvey insisted this week that setting a date for a border poll is necessary to focus minds and ensure proper planning for constitutional change.

Two years ago the Derry human rights lawyer suggested a unity referendum should take place in 2023.

Addressing the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement on Tuesday, Prof. Harvey said he still thinks a concrete timetable is essential otherwise vital preparatory work could be put on the long finger.

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“The suggestion was born out of a sense of frustration, which I suspect many members of the committee share. I had been to one too many meetings where people stood up and said there needed to be planning and preparation but then everybody went home and did nothing.

“My view is that very little planning, project planning or homework would get done on the island of Ireland if the date was completely open-ended. My view, therefore, is that a timeframe is helpful to focus minds to get the work done. Again, I am not sure how much homework would get done on this island if there was no timeframe for the discussion,” he said.

Prof. Harvey said he was not alone in pushing for a date.

“It is notable that Bertie Ahern has followed my lead in suggesting the 30th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. I had suggested the 25th anniversary. We notice there is a convergence in the debate around the next decade. Their seems to be an emerging sense that we are in a crucial decade for the constitutional conversation. As members know, Brexit has dramatically affected that debate.”

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