Centuries ago England conquered Ireland and planters were sent to dominate and control the native Catholic Irish. But significantly, throughout this atrocious process, Ireland remained a single entity: Ireland.
Only after the Irish Rebellion of 1916 and a 70 percent-plus vote for freedom and independence in 1918, which Britain refused to honor, followed by a war for independence did Britain reluctantly move in the direction of Irish freedom. Simultaneously, however, they partitioned Ireland so as to separate the largest amount of land on the island in which a loyal Protestant “majority” could be artificially constructed and maintained; six of Ireland's 32 counties.
Thus on May 3, 1921, was created "Northern Ireland,” an entity nonexistent until that time.
The result was a small, institutionalized sectarian statelet with a large and disenfranchised “minority” population. It was forced upon the Irish with the threat of "immediate and terrible war" by British Prime Minister Lloyd George which was reinforced by the “secretary of state for the colonies” Winston Churchill.
Later, Basil Brooke, the longest-serving prime minister of Northern Ireland (20 years), urged people "not to employ Roman Catholics," boasting, "I have not one about the place."
Needless to say, this horrible act of partition was a disaster and produced nothing but discrimination, turmoil, and trouble which the whole world came to witness.
Who in this day and age would say that the impending 100th anniversary of such a creation as the sectarian, bigoted Northern Ireland statelet is something to celebrate? Indeed, the notion is repulsive and pathetic.
In 1998, after more than 75 horrible years, the Good Friday Agreement provided a binding, international compromise arrangement for the future of Northern Ireland which, most significantly, requires a mandatory referendum to reunite Ireland once the evidence shows it is likely to pass.
The past century has withered away from the loyal protestant "majority" the partition border was designed to benefit. Unionists, who are pledged to the U.K., are no longer a majority in the North and neither are Protestants. The census scheduled for 1921 will almost certainly show a further erosion for this community.
Election results continue to show powerful growth for the “minority” pro-united Ireland population. In addition, the British decision to leave the European Union (Brexit) was opposed by a majority of the people in Northern Ireland, all of whom will return to the EU when Ireland is reunited and has created a seismic tension on the island of Ireland.
And not long ago Lord Ashcroft, former deputy chairman of the British Conservative Party, published a poll which found a majority in the North support a united Ireland with only those over 65 years of age favoring continued partition.
The 100th anniversary comes at a moment right for change. It's time to put the awful, sectarian borderline and Northern Ireland statelet in the dustbin.
Clearly, a united Ireland is on the way; there will not be a 200th anniversary of partition! The six counties can then resume their place as part of the historic nine-county province of Ulster and the nation of Ireland from which they were separated.
And all of the people of Ireland can live together as one. This will create a beautiful anniversary that will be cause for celebration -- over and again, in perpetuity.
* Larry Downes is an attorney and former president of Friends of Sinn Fein in the United States.
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