‘A united Ireland would be good for everyone’

In favour: Writers, such as Matthew Parris of the Times, are calling for it.

Should Ireland be united? The idea is gathering pace. And polls before tomorrow’s general election show a surge in support for Sinn Féin, a party with its sights set on reunification.

“There needs to be change.”

John Toomey is a factory worker from County Kerry in Ireland’s South West. For the first time in his life, he is voting for Sinn Féin.

John believes Sinn Féin is the only party offering action on key issues: healthcare, housing, climate change, and child poverty.

Polls suggest many agree.

This week, it was in the lead for the first time, ahead of Fine Gael (currently leading Ireland’s government) and Fionna Fáil, the two parties which have dominated Irish politics in the 20th Century.

Even a decade ago, this would have been unimaginable.

In the early 1900s, there was widespread support for Sinn Féin and Irish independence.

However, there was fierce resistance from the Protestant population of Ulster in the North West, that wanted to remain a part of the UK.

Decades of conflict eventually led to the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which created the partition in place today.

During the time of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin was the political voice of the IRA, which carried out numerous terrorist attacks.

For many, particularly older voters, this was enough to disgrace them for ever.

Younger voters, however, are looking ahead – not backwards.

“Everyone has a bad past,” said one young father from Dublin. “I’m looking forward to the future.”

So, almost 100 years after Ireland was split in two, is it time for it to come back together?

Friends reunited?

Many feel it’s time. Support for unification is especially high among the young and not tied solely to Sinn Féin. As journalist Matthew Parris has suggested, “an all-island consciousness is developing”.

Don’t even think about it, warn others. Peace has been achieved after decades of bloody conflict – it is vital not to put that at risk by shaking things up and tapping into old divisions.

You Decide

  1. Would you vote for the unification of Ireland?

Activities

  1. You are based in the Republic of Ireland. Imagine that a referendum on the unification of Ireland has been announced. In groups of four, research reasons why unification would be a good idea. Make a poster to convince people to vote in favour of it, using the five best reasons you can.

Some People Say...

“We were born into an unjust system. We are not prepared to grow old in it.”

Bernadette Devlin, Irish civil rights leader and former politician

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The question of whether or not Ireland should be unified has been a source of conflict for over a hundred years. Both Ireland’s constitution (written in 1937) and the Good Friday Agreement 9signed in 1998) give the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland the right to unification if a majority votes for it. The most recent polls suggest that two-thirds of people in Ireland and 51% of people in Northern Ireland are in favour.
What do we not know?
What the impact would be on old disagreements between Catholics and Protestants, Republicans and Unionists. (Confusingly, Unionists are those who want to be part of the UK, not those who want Ireland to be united.) We don’t know if unification would lead to new violence. It is also difficult to predict the effect of Brexit on Ireland, especially if a border is created in the Irish Sea. Finally, it is hard to know if unification would be positive or negative for the Irish economy.

Word Watch

Ulster
A cluster of nine counties in the North West of Ireland. Six of these counties form Northern Ireland.
Partition
Dividing a country into two parts: in this case, into the Republic of Ireland, an independent nation, and Northern Ireland, part of the UK.
The Troubles
A conflict in Northern Ireland between Protestants, who wanted to remain part of the UK (Unionists), and Catholics, who wanted an independent, united Ireland (Republicans). It lasted from 1968-1998.
Sinn Féin
After the partition, Sinn Féin remained a political party in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

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