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Times writer says Northern Ireland unionists not British - and Ireland has 'tenuous claim to nationhood'

A columnist for the Times of London has come under fire after suggesting that Ireland is not a real country.

In her comment piece for Tuesday's edition Melanie Philips talks about moves by republicans in Northern Ireland and nationalists in Scotland to seek independence from the UK.

Under the headline 'Britain is the authentic nation in this battle' she describes Scotland and Northern Ireland as "the most troublesome bits of the United Kingdom".

However, it is her comments about the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland that have sparked the biggest reaction online.

Ms Philips writes that unionists in Northern Ireland are "not British".

She continues: "They're the bit that got tacked on to Great Britain to make the UK.

"Does that mean Westminster should tear up the Good Friday agreement and bid farewell to Northern Ireland. No, because it has an obligation to the unionists; and because the claim to unite Ireland is tenuous since Ireland itself has a tenuous claim to nationhood, having seceded from Britain as the Irish Free State in 1922."

The column has caused a big reaction online with many taking to Twitter to lambaste the writer.

Irish ambassador to the UK Daniel Mulhall wrote: "As Ambassador I cannot ignore @MelanieLatest's outlandish claim @thetimes that Irish nationhood is 'tenuous'. 100 years of independence.

"Irish nationhood based on strong sense of identity, distinctive culture & shared values and interests. Nothing 'tenuous'."

Another tweeter wrote: "That awkward moment when other countries find out about Melanie Philips."

Independent.ie has attempted to contact Ms Philips for a comment

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