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Life after Brexit: Operationalising the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement’s Principle of Consent

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Colin MurrayORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Thomson Round Hall , 2019.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Brexit has energised discussions upon Irish (re)unification, with even Theresa May recognising that the threat of a no-deal Brexit heightens the possibility of the break up of the UK. The increasingly prominent discussion of a so-called “border poll”, however, risks disguising the difficulties inherent in arranging such a vote. If no effort is made, in advance, to explore the processes by which a united Ireland could be brought about, then the peoples of Ireland and Northern Ireland risk being bounced into a choice without a reasonable opportunity to make an informed decision. The Good Friday/Belfast Agreement has been said to provide ‘a clear mechanism through which a united Ireland may be achieved’. Judges, however, have emphasised its ‘intensely political’ nature and the multiple possible readings that its terms support. Deliberations upon (re)unifying Ireland raise questions of domestic law under the two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland, European Union law, the European Convention on Human Rights and aspects of general international law. These legal considerations are but one element of planning for an exercise of consent, taking their place alongside political, social and economic considerations. This paper reflects upon the extent to which the incorporation of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement in the law of Ireland and Northern Ireland enables the functioning of its principle of consent or shrouds it in mystery.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Murray C, O'Donoghue A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Dublin University Law Journal

Year: 2019

Volume: 42

Issue: 1

Pages: 147-190

Print publication date: 01/11/2020

Acceptance date: 25/10/2019

Date deposited: 18/11/2019

ISSN (print): 0332-3250

Publisher: Thomson Round Hall