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Why now is the time for a united Ireland

HUGH DOUGHERTY on the need to heal divisions of the past By HUGH DOUGHERTY

If, like me, you think that the whole Brexit process is a fiasco—basically, the playing out of decades­long, Conservative in-fighting—and suspicion of Europe as being rather too Catholic, then you must be horrified by recent events.

But, as a life-long supporter of a united Ireland, the ‘No Surrender’ shouts of the Democratic Unionist Party, against a special arrangement for the six counties of what is erroneously called Northern Ireland, I find even more horrifying.

Once again the ‘Orange Card,’ that century-old obstacle to a united Ireland, is being played, and is holding British and Irish politics to ransom, a ransom which has brought nothing but disadvantage to our fellow Catholics in Northern Ireland.

That’s a basic matter of justice and peace, for, when the Irish Home Rule movement was promised a united Ireland after the First World War, it was the Northern Unionists who threatened mayhem and, when their demands were acceded to with the partition of Ireland in 1922, they established a statelet structure to ensure that Catholics remained as second-class citizens.

The structures of the state ensured that the descendants of the Protestants who ‘planted’ Ulster in the early 17th century at the invitation of the Scottish King James VI, remained in the ascendant.

To them went public sector housing, jobs and the right to vote, with Gerrymandering ensuring that a city such as Derry, despite having a Nationalist majority, returned a unionist council, carefully written into the constitution.

Catholics who had the temerity to challenge the status quo, or profess the legitimate political desire for a united Ireland, were interned throughout the 1920s, 30s, 40s 50s and 60s.

That was long before the British Government imposed internment without trial, and the obscenities of Long Kesh and the subsequent Maze H Blocks, following the riots of 1969, when Catholics finally felt they could take no more.

The North was flawed from the start, but the British Government turned a blind eye to its abuses, including a militarised police force used to grind the Catholic population down, and simply threw money at it, encouraging the Protestant Unionists to carry on.

It was not until the post-1969 Troubles exploded, and Catholics demanded their long-denied civil rights, that the British Government paid any attention to the six counties of the ancient province of Ulster. Even then, there was a reluctance to face down the unionists and their demands of maintaining their special status as cocks of the walk.

In 1974, when Loyalists enforced the so-called Ulster Workers Strike, which employed civil disobedience, violence and intimidation to bring down an attempt at a power-sharing government, the British Government refused to face them down, and they have been treated with kid gloves, time and again, since.

A quick look at the six counties shows that nationalist, predominantly Catholic areas, suffer from higher levels of deprivation and unemployment compared to Protestant areas.

If you live in a Protestant area, as a recent academic study has shown, you are 75 times more likely to have access to a railway station than in a Catholic one, reflecting the Unionist Governments of the 1950s and 60s pursing a policy of closing lines serving Catholic areas, concentrating economic investment east of the Bann.

This has resulted in poorer life chances for Catholics, despite the fact that some have used the education system to move into the professional and middle classes.

But, here we are, again, watching the flawed state that cuts six counties of Ireland off from the other 26, being bolstered up by a grateful British Government, whose continuance depends on the harsh ‘No Surrender’ and essentially anti-Catholic voices of the DUP.

It’s high time that the DUP and its militant, Ulster Unionism of the burning of effigies of the Pope on 11th night bonfires, the trailing of the coat during Orange marches, the aggressive flying of Loyalist flags, and its utter inability to grasp that the only stable, just, and democratic future for all the people of the six counties, is within a united Ireland, had its bluff called.

And that is as part of the European Union, with the days of Britain hanging on to, what my late father referred to as British Occupied Ireland, as a relic of its former empire, buried, once and for all, as part of history.

It’s easy to apply our Christian justice and peace principles to lands far away, but, on our own doorstep, deeply affecting our co-religionists, and, for many years economically damaging the other three

Counties of Ulster, Donegal, my own ancestral homeland, Cavan and Monaghan, there remain glaring, political, religious and social injustices that cry out for resolution

Let’s hope that the collective wills of politicians in Britain, Ireland and Europe, have the courage, that, so far, seems to have failed the London Government for more than 100 years, to face down the DUP party and its once-privileged culture and mentality, and move to solve the recurring ‘problem’ of Northern Ireland.

Only by uniting Ireland once and for all will justice with peace, and peace with justice, heal the divisions created by British imperialist meddling in Ireland, especially in the six counties themselves, a flawed statelet which has had its day.

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