Saturday 25 November 2017

If ever a united Ireland is to come to pass, we must all be utterly fearless

As our politics faces its most febrile year for almost a century, the North's leaders have a duty to act responsibly while Southerners should look to their mindsets

DRAPED IN THE FLAG: The thinking classes of Britain are daring to dream openly of tiptoeing away from the counties across the water in the wake of the Brexit vote. Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images
DRAPED IN THE FLAG: The thinking classes of Britain are daring to dream openly of tiptoeing away from the counties across the water in the wake of the Brexit vote. Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Fergal Keane

It didn't start in 1920. Or with the drawing of lines and the signing of treaties. Partition goes far deeper than that and a long way further back. As far as memory.

To understand it you need to place fear at the heart of your calculations. Begin with the Plantation: the native's fear that his land is lost forever; the settler's fear of overthrow by the native, all framed by the wars of Reformation and Counter Reformation which reshaped the politics of Europe but left Ulster mired in a toxic lake.

Now with Sinn Fein's dramatic gains in the Assembly elections, the looming reality of Brexit and the resurgent claims of Scottish nationalism, the possibility of a united Ireland is being canvassed once more. This time it is not only nationalist true believers.

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