Updated: Oct 15, 2021
John Lloyd the author of this article is a contributing editor to the Financial Times. His latest book, Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot: the Great Mistake of Scottish Independence is published by Polity in April.
The past century, since Northern Ireland was cut out of the whole green cloth of the Irish island, has seen violence flare and subside, and now lies largely dormant. But dormant is not dead: the IRA Army Council still exists, and is believed by police, north and south, to wield some influence on its legal form, Sinn Fein, presently the most popular political party in Ireland.
Yet reconstitution of a fighting force would take some doing, not least because its recruiting ground, northern Catholics, are more prosperous and less easy to mobilise than their parents and grandparents were in the late sixties. And mobilise for what? Polls continually show that a majority do not want, at least not soon, a United Ireland — the IRA and Sinn Fein’s reason for existence.
In any case, Irish nationalists of every stripe now see themselves as in the ascendant, and thus believe that political pressure and elections will bring nationalist majorities in parliaments, both in Ireland and in the North. This is similar to the belief held by Scottish nationalists: both groups have faith that youthful cohorts will support radical change – unity for Ireland, secession for Scotland – and will, when the cagey elders remove themselves, bring victory .
Nationalists believe that Ireland’s geography is destiny, and that unionists should see that the island has room for only one nation state. The view isn’t a Sinn Fein preserve: Simon Coveney the Irish Foreign Minister in the Fianna Fail government described its formation this as a “terrible mistake (which) caused extraordinary division”.
Behind this view, overtly or by implication, stand the Catholic Church, the European Union, all the Irish political parties and — at times the heaviest guns — American politicians with Irish forebears. They, from the Kennedys through Ronald Reagan to Joe Biden, have felt empowered to intervene in the business of the British government to secure a greater all-Irish dimension to Northern Ireland’s politics, a tendency not confined to American leaders of Irish descent, and one always couched in terms of securing better relationships and lasting peace.
For the full article in pdf, please click on this link:
See also this article about Scotland by John Lloyd:
What the SNP really believes - by John Lloyd for Unherd
Northern Ireland - GettyImages