Northern Ireland people must acknowledge a shared history
EVEN hardened republicans and loyalists today can't have failed to notice that the world around them is changing.
It must surely be dawning on them that England, Scotland, Wales and both northern and southern Ireland are inextricably intertwined. I would even hazard a guess that their own extended families are decidedly mixed-up.
There are, no doubt, staunch republicans with lots of English grandchildren, or hardened loyalists with all sorts of Catholic connections. Whether they like it or not, both Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland and also in the Republic are a hybrid of British and Irish characteristics and identity.
We have a long, albeit bumpy, shared history on these two islands and there are possibly larger numbers living in Britain of Irish descent than the current population of Ireland.
Significantly, we are the only peoples for 3,000 miles for whom English is the main first language.
This has a huge effect and means we are connected in ways we will never be, for example, with France or Germany.
Just look at how our modern-day culture and celebrities on both islands are so utterly shared. Indeed, Ireland's input seems disproportionate to its size.
The late Terry Wogan, Bob Geldof, Gloria Hunniford, Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan, Graham Norton, James Galway, Dara O'Briain, AP McCoy, Rory McIlroy, Seamus Heaney, U2, Westlife and Boyzone are just some.
From X Factor to Strictly, with all the poets, writers, actors, rock bands, celebrities and football teams in between, the contribution from Britain is enormous, too.
Yes, there are differences and the variations between us can be enriching. However, it seems to me that we share much of our mental space. A person from Cork could easily be as fascinated with the doings of the royal family, Manchester United or The Rolling Stones as someone in England might be with Seamus Heaney, Mrs Brown's Boys or Rory McIlroy.
The question here in Northern Ireland is: when we are going to acknowledge this?