ONE of the hypocritical obsessions of Irish nationalism in recent years has been its insistence that Britain must be a neutral broker over Northern Ireland.
The Republic, on the other hand, is encouraged to be a shamelessly partisan player.
This is what London and Dublin have been: one impartial, the other agitating for every nationalist demand. Recent examples of the Republic’s bias include
Enda Kenny’s demands for an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, one victim out of almost 4,000 deaths, many at the hands of serial killers that the Republic failed to extradite.
And last April, the Irish minister Eamon Gilmore took advantage of an invite to the Alliance Party conference to demand a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights (as wanted by the political descendants of the most vile human rights abusers — the Provisional IRA).
Mr Gilmore is a leader of a largely mono-cultural Republic in which the Catholic church still has a special place, dominating its education.
It is a sign of the United Kingdom’s decency, but also its weakness, that since the 1990s it has largely gone along with this impartiality demand while getting no similar concession from Dublin.
That suddenly came to an end with David Cameron and Owen Paterson, who were at last prepared to stand by Northern Ireland.
Given Britain’s ambivalent history, it is important that Theresa Villiers was yesterday prepared to emphasise that the British Government is not neutral on the Union.
The UK link is what made this part of the British Isles civilised and prosperous. Nationalists will never agree with that, which is fine, but British Governments should.