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A United Ireland? That should be no problem, sir!


It's marvellous, all the same, the way that our Irish nationalism is much better than all the other nationalisms.

I mean there's no doubt about it. We're an exceptional nation which can look at the barking madness which nationalism is bringing to the affairs of so many countries at present, and can feel that we are free of such foolishness.

Indeed, we are even more exceptional in this regard, when you consider that about two minutes ago, in the broad scheme, there was a movement on this island which was not just carrying the nationalist virus, as such, it actually had its own army - and could probably raise another one if the occasion demanded it.

Nationalism, as I would define it, is eejitry taken to such extremes that it becomes a form of evil. And since a lack of introspection is one of the fundamental characteristics of the eejit, you start to wonder if Erdogan in Turkey also feels that his kind of nationalism is the finest of them all? Do the Ukip lads or Marine Le Pen feel that theirs too is nationalism with all the bad things about nationalism taken out?

Or are we alone in this, as in so many things?

Because not once - not one single time - have I heard the recent successes of Sinn Fein being placed in any kind of a comparative relationship with the successes of every other extreme nationalist movement in Europe and the United States.

Indeed there are few mainstream current affairs commentators who would use the word "extreme" in relation to Sinn Fein, or even the word "nationalist" if it comes to that ­­- they seem to be regarded as "left-wing" these days - even though they were the ones with the army, the army to which they are still cordially disposed.

And so you wake up one day, and you hear people talking about a United Ireland...

It was Enda Kenny who first mentioned it a while ago, as a possible consequence of Brexit, but then Enda mentions a lot of things that have no real meaning, so you pay it no mind.

Still, you start to notice that it's not just Enda, shooting the breeze about a United Ireland. You're reading the paper, and you're starting to see these articles about Brexit making a United Ireland a much more tangible thing, what with the Unionists presumably having the common sense to see the wisdom of being with us in the EU, all of this conveyed in the easy-going manner of someone discussing the co-ordination of the train timetables, north and south.

And then you know that this wave of nationalism which is devouring the best energies of the western world, is not just a point of view like any other, it has the effect of a fever, which attacks the human brain.

Total amnesia is the most obvious effect, but it also has this weird disabling aspect to it, whereby the British, for example, can see everything falling apart yet seem incapable of stopping themselves. So Theresa May finds herself delivering this timeless classic: "We do not seek membership of the Single Market. Instead we seek the greatest possible access to it…"

In other words, there will be Brexit, and there will also be no Brexit, or not much. But like someone whose mind is no longer able to make a distinction between right and wrong, they have to go through with it anyway. And in the meantime, leaving aside this squandering of time and energy and money, the nationalist demon will be working away - in Scotland, in Northern Ireland, in places that are hardly even visible from Westminster any more - so consumed are they by the fever.

At least in this country we have a warning system: anything that is "welcomed by Sinn Fein" is probably not going to end well. Naturally this "United Ireland" crack was "welcomed by Sinn Fein", as indeed was that other not-very-good idea of Enda's, about giving the vote in Presidential elections to the diaspora.

But infallible as that warning system has always been, it seems that no one is paying attention to it. We can see America quite clearly going to hell with the nationalism of Trump; we fear for France; we have no doubt that they are struggling with the virus in places like Hungary and Poland; and yet as our own world-renowned nationalists are busily welcoming all sorts of stuff. There seems to be a feeling that, sure, we'll be grand.

Seldom is heard a discouraging word.

And sure, maybe we will be grand. It's just that for about 30 years within recent memory when people started getting excited about a United Ireland and suchlike, we weren't grand. We were whatever is the opposite of grand.

Back then there was a minor league Labour MP called Jeremy Corbyn who was a great supporter of the Irish Republican movement, who in the fullness of time would become a leader of phenomenal ineptitude and incomparable uselessness, whose failure to offer any meaningful opposition to Brexit would eventually do more damage to the United Kingdom than any amount of Provo "spectaculars".

Meanwhile in New York in 1995, shortly before the bombing of Canary Wharf, a Sinn Fein fundraiser was attended by one Donald Trump.

Yes, what a long, strange trip it's been, and getting stranger all the time.

Sunday Independent