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Erin Go Bragh:

An Argument for a United Ireland

The year is 1166 and King Dermot MacMurrough of Leinster just lost his kingdom and was exiled from Ireland. He allied with the British and won back the kingdom the following year. However, by doing so, he inadvertently opened the door for 850 years of British rule in Ireland that remains today. People outside of Europe may be unaware that there are two countries on the Emerald Isle: The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. While the Republic was granted independence in 1921 by way of the Angelo-Irish War; Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom. Now, after a century of separation, it is finally time for Ireland to unite.

The British have always favored the northeastern corner of Ireland, in what is presently Northern Ireland. It remains part of the United Kingdom and falls under the British Crown and parliamentary law. The polling on Irish unification is close with 51% of voters in Northern Ireland wanting a referendum within the next five years. As such, now is the time for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to call for the vote, as dictated by the Good Friday Agreement. Now is the time for the unification referendum to be held.

The Protestant Unionists in Northern Ireland worry about losing their political power if Ireland unites and cedes political control to Dublin. However, this reason is not enough to keep the two countries apart. The Northern Irish people’s wish to remain in the European Union (EU) failed in the Brexit referendum. The Irish people have not had full, independent control of their island since 1170. The time is now for the British to leave Ireland and for the people to vote on a United Ireland.

There is political support in Ireland for unification. Sinn Fein is one of the Republic’s main three political parties and has been the main driving force behind unification since their establishment. In November 2020, Sinn Fein reported on economic benefits of a United Ireland. There are several economic benefits such as, the ability for comprehensive infrastructure decisions, macroeconomic planning, opening of trade, and the readmission of Northern Ireland into the EU. Right now, Northern Ireland remains in a limbo with the European Union. The 2016 Brexit Referendum vote was close in Northern Ireland, as residents voted 56% – 44% to remain part of the EU. However, the overall vote in the United Kingdom was to leave the EU. While it is no longer a member of the EU, the Northern Ireland Protocol allows for an open land border for trading between the North and the Republic. The easiest path for Northern Ireland to return to the EU and to enjoy the economic benefits, would be to reunite with the Republic of Ireland.

            850 years later, and a spat between ancient kings still defines the Emerald Isle. This dispute between 12th century kings has led to plantation, famine, emigration, conflicts, rebellions, independence, and now a man-made border. The international community played a pivotal role in the peace process that led to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and we may be needed again to resolve the Irish border issue that will arise from Brexit. Once the international community understands this divide, more people can speak out in support of United Ireland. 

            The Irish people have not had full control of their island since the 12th century. The time is long passed for unification and for the removal of British rule in Ireland. The legal processes were already laid out in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. By removing the Irish border, the Irish people can further reduce their divide. A United Ireland would go a long way towards ensuring the violence of the Troubles does not return. The Troubles were a conflict between Nationalists and Unionists in Ireland from 1968 – 1998, which were ended by the Good Friday Agreement. A 2020 poll shows that the younger generation in Northern Ireland appear to be in support of a United Ireland. A United Ireland would also allow for the two countries to live under one flag, with one national anthem, and under one constitution. The laws of the island would be uniform, and the currency would be the Euro. Most importantly, the Irish people would once again have sovereign control of their island.

            British rule in Ireland dates back eight centuries. The Irish border was enacted in 1921 and the world has had two Irelands ever since. Present day leaders, Taoiseach Michael Martin (Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland), U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster are more focused on a “shared island” policy. This is a lazy policy that keeps the status quo. This policy does not allow the Irish people (of the North and of the Republic) to even vote on their own destiny.  The Irish people at the very least deserve a referendum. Now is the time for international community to voice their support for a free and united Ireland.

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Charles Briscoe

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