Partition was inevitable — nationalists have never come up with a prospectus that was remotely attractive to unionists
A letter from Gordon Lucy:
According to Simon Coveney, partition was a “terrible mistake” and has caused “extraordinary division”.
The truth is otherwise. Partition was not the cause of division, but the symptom.
Elections between 1885 and 1918 demonstrated the existence of two Irelands with distinct territorial bases: Nationalist Ireland in the south and west and Unionist Ireland firmly located in Ulster and more specifically in north-east Ulster.
While nationalists may deplore the ‘two nations’ theory as an abomination, it was clearly grounded in reality and provided the basis for partition.
Partition was the inevitable outcome of the irreconcilable aspirations of the two major groups on the island – the more than three million who saw themselves as Irish, not British, and who demanded independence, and the almost one million unionists concentrated in the north east who saw themselves as British and resolutely refused either to leave the United Kingdom or become part of an independent Irish state.
In other words, Ireland was partitioned in 1921 for the same reasons Yugoslavia was partitioned in 1990 – that is there was no basis for unity.
In Belfast in May 1891, Parnell delivered a speech in which he declared: “It is undoubtedly true … that until the prejudices of the minority, whether reasonable or unreasonable, are conciliated … Ireland can never enjoy perfect freedom, Ireland can never be united.”
One may baulk at the word “prejudices” but the important point is that nationalists have never sought to put forward a prospectus that was remotely attractive to unionists.
Gordon Lucy, Belfast BT12
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