I know it’s nerdy but I had to retreat to the blog in exhaustion after Ireland’s squeaky triumph.. Not everybody reads the Life and Times survey in quite this way, but this is the clear conclusion of the statesman who developed the notion of southern partitionism in Towards a New Ireland , thanks to the damage done by the long IRA campaign . In the north, the campaign d put off unity indefinitely. He made his case after talking to to contacts “of a Unionist background” after the violent republican murders.
Given Sinn Féins past involvement with the IRAs campaign of violence, I raised with my interlocutors the absence of public questioning of the consistency with that past record of Sinn Féins present stance in support of the Northern Ireland polity. But it rapidly became clear that public criticism of Sinn Féin along these lines was seen as unhelpful because of the danger that it might destabilise the settlement by increasing the vulnerability of Sinn Féin to pressure from dissidents
Of course, if you’re a determinist revolutionary, the results below the fold might make you all the more determined..
Another key aspect of Northern Ireland that is widely ignored most determinedly, of course, by Sinn Féin is the fact that polls there have consistently shown support for Northern Ireland remaining within the United Kingdom, not just by Protestants but also by an important minority of Catholics shown by polls currently to be about 30 per cent. With 44 per cent of the population Catholic, and with virtually no Protestant interest in joining a united Ireland, this suggests that when todays children become voters around the year 2025, support for a united Ireland could still be below one-third and even if a Catholic majority of voters were to emerge in or after 2045, there could still be a large majority preferring to remaining in the UK.
Could the damage done to Northern Ireland by IRA violence ever be retrieved? Perhaps at some time in the future it might be but until now there has been no sign of this happening. Of course, over a period of many decades all this could change. All we can say now is that the IRA campaign has pushed Irish unity much further into the future.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London