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Letter of the day: Looming centenary of partition poses interesting questions for both the nationalists and unionists

Irish Question

FORMER Fianna Fail adviser Martin Mansergh is lecturing Irish nationalists on the allegedly positive aspects of Northern Ireland.

The northern territory began, as it meant to continue, by violently expelling over 10,000 Catholic workers from their jobs in 1920. Cast out, also, were "rotten Prods" (Protestants who opposed this measure and the attempted pogrom that accompanied it).

A split and violent disagreement over the terms of a treaty dictated by the British Government prevented Irish republicans from effectively opposing the creation of the sectarian territory.

The post-civil war southern state was also reactionary, as Mary Lou McDonald observed recently, but not in the same way. While its social control, mainly through the Catholic Church, preserved an unequal status quo, attitudes were not locked in, creating space for tolerance.

It is one of the ironies of partition that, whereas unionism opposed Home Rule as "Rome Rule", today unionists want the Catholic Church to help preserve an abortion-free Six Counties.

Unionists are oblivious of a need to confront unsavoury elements of their past, or to reach out to identities that are not male, pale, politically Protestant and resolutely heterosexual.

Unionism never fully bought into the 1998 peace agreement, as the conduct and collapse of the northern Executive demonstrates. If Brexit could roll back the years, unionists might, they hope, return to pre-1972 days.

The centenary of the formation of the Northern Ireland territory poses interesting questions for both nationalists and unionists. I have faith in the "rotten Prods", whose time will come again.

It may not bring about a united Ireland, but straight talking is preferable to sweeping unrelenting discrimination under the carpet.

TOM COOPER

Irish National Congress, Dublin

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