05 October 2006
It ain’t over

Tony Blair thinks that Northern Ireland’s troubles are over.  He is wrong.

What makes you think that?
Because the core issue at the heart of the conflict has never been resolved.

And that issue is...? 
Not so much where the border between Ireland and the UK should be but how it should be determined.  The Irish nationalist viewpoint is that the island of Ireland should form one political unit.  The unionist viewpoint is that the border should be determined on the basis of self-determination.  Or to put it another way, with the nationalist approach you determine the border and then ask the people what state they want to be part of whereas with the unionist approach you ask the people what state they want to be part of and then determine the border.

But I thought it was all about religion? 
Oh goodness, no (warning: short).

So, if the conflict is still on-going how come the shooting’s stopped?
That is something of a mystery to me.  My guess is that it’s a combination of 9/11, the concessions that the IRA secured from the British government and the belief that an Irish nationalist majority is not far off.

So, everything is fine and dandy then?
Until there’s an Irish majority in Ulster.

And then what happens?
Well, according to the British-Irish treaty Ulster becomes part of the Republic.  The fly in the ointment is that there will still be a sizeable British majority in Eastern Ulster.  They would be quite entitled to demand self-determination.  It could easily start to look like a re-run of the Home Rule Crisis.

If, that is, the Ulster British are prepared to fight.
Which is, of course, the big question.  If demographics are against them, if they get no support from the mainland, if the Republic no longer seems that threatening and if, after defeats like Drumcree, they no longer believe they can hold out then, maybe, they won’t.  And Blair will have been right all along.

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