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Could unionists repeat the mistakes of the Treaty?

Yesterday marked the 90th anniversary of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921.

In creating a Free State dominion of the British Empire, the divisions it caused were to have fatal and enduring consequences, involving civil war, the poisoning of the body politic and the premature deaths of talented people such as Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith.

It remained a divisive issue and some on both sides of the Treaty divide maintained a dignified silence for many years.

The negotiation of the treaty was fascinating because of the political strategies employed by both sides, the human dilemmas it created, the split it caused and the subsequent manner in which all these issues were framed. Now on the 90th anniversary, the question might be: what lessons have really been learnt? Is it likely that we might repeat all these divisions once again, this time within northern unionism?

Say a future referendum was to show 51% for the end of the border. Would such a simple majority vote start another civil war in the north?

Or would unionists accept this as the end of the state of Northern Ireland? Has anyone really thought about this? Is there really a need for a weighted majority? How would the process towards unity be implemented?

It would be interesting to hear the views of the current political commentators and the parties in the Northen Ireland Assembly.

GEORGE R BELL

London South Bank University

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