Thursday, November 17, 2005


Thursday Thoughts: What kind of Union?

Why do Unionists care so much about the Union between NI and Great Britain? What is the purpose of this Union? Let me quote you a piece from a book called 'Politics in the Republic of Ireland' by John Coakley and Michael Gallagher as it explains why I ask this question:

"Throughout the entire period of the union (1800-1922), the existence of a 'Government of Ireland' was recognised - a critical weakness in the scheme for Irish integration with Britain. The Lord Lieutenant, as representative of the sovereign, was formal head of this government. This post was always filled by a leading nobleman who, in addition to his governmental functions, was 'the embodiment of the "dignified" aspects of the state, the official leader Irish social life'. He left the actual day-to-day running of the process of government, however, to his principal assistant, the Chief Secretary."

It is clear then that the Act of Union did not create as united a state as some would have us believe! Bearing that in mind, I'd like to put the following questions to unionists ...

1. What is the desire for Union with Great Britain based on?

2. Doesn't the fact that the British continued to regard Ireland as a separate unit even when it was part of the Union prove that the British were never as interested in integration as Unionists were?

3. Since the Act of Union allowed for Ireland to be treated as a distinct unit, must there be a technical link between the two islands? Surely a United Ireland that is independent of Britain in a technical sense can still retain an emotive link between the two islands? Would this really be so different from the Act of Union?

The British did not regard Ireland and Britain as one and the same. With that being said, is an independent Ireland really such a radical and terrible thing for unionists? If a United Ireland upholds the civil and religious rights of unionists, and I believe it would, then should we regard the creation of new legal technicalities with hostility?

In my view, no. It is clear that the people of the Irish Republic and Britain have a bond that transcends legal technicalities and things would be no different in a United Ireland.


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