They don’t realise it, but the southern Irish like their protestant fellow Irishmen and want them on board. The English merely tolerate them. The alternative to reunification is to keep nearly 60 per cent of the North’s population who regard themselves as Irish or Northern Irish in a British statelet that was designed along sectarian lines, ie to lock in a protestant majority.
A statelet that moreover belongs to an entity that treats catholics as second class citizens. And here is another reason for unification: In the south we have had two protestant Heads of State. In Britain, the Head of state must be Protestant. This is offensive and grotesquely out of date. Despite accusations of being “priest-ridden” the south is far more progressive and pluralist than the north.
As recent census data shows, the British constitution – based on Protestant supremacy – will soon be out of kilter with a Northern Ireland in which Catholics will soon be equal in number to Protestants and a decade or so after that become a majority. A majority of under 30 year old are already catholic. And here is the danger:
The danger that in the absence of a positive vision for reunification, and given the legacy of violence and sectarianism, reunification may be seen as a “victory” for one side over the other in a sectarian head count. If anything, victory must be a victory of Protestants: Their emergence from a neglected dysfunctional statelet that is merely an afterthought for Westminster politicians into a united vibrant new Ireland which they will shape as they have before.
Irish nationalism and culture is unthinkable without the great contribution of Irish Protestants. From Grattan to Wolfe Tone to Parnell, protestants created our national drive for independents. Douglas Hyde revived the Irish language. From Swift to Yeats to Beckett, Irish protestants have spread our culture around the world.
It is now time for them to complete their mission and re-unify Ireland. Not using the dead language of sectarian conflict. But a new vibrant and pluralist one built on a growing population, economies of scale, the advantage of links with Britain and the Euro zone and a reformed mindset political institutions.
In 1904 when contemplating the state of Israel Zionist leader Theodor Herzl said “If you will it, it is no dream”. If the dream of Irish unity is cleansed on sectarianism and head count logic – and willed forward by the huge realisable economic gains – it will be no dream, but a reality by the middle of this century.
*Marc Coleman is a broadcaster, journalist and author and these are his personal views www.marccoleman.ie