Will Northern Ireland remain a part of the UK or will it in the near future join a united Ireland. As with everything else I have a Pro UK perspective. I want Northern Ireland to stay a part of the UK for the same reason that I want Scotland to stay a part or for Cornwall to stay a part. I believe in maintaining the territorial integrity of the UK just as people in the United States believe in maintaining the territorial integrity of the United States.
It doesn’t matter that New Mexico, California, Texas etc used to belong to Mexico. Nor does it matter that the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) would be condemned today as unjust, amounting as it did to a United States landgrab. The result of this war which was the partition of Mexico, the northern half going to the United States is still legal. If Mexico attempted to reunite by means of terrorism or war, the United States would be justified in opposing them.
The fact that the partition of Mexico does not justify the unification of Mexico applies also to islands. Hispaniola was partitioned into Haiti and the Dominican Republic. So too Borneo was partitioned into Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. The very large island or continent of Eurasia has been partitioned into numerous countries. Partition whether just or unjust does not in itself justify unification.
Likewise, the fact that one country lost part of its territory to another country sometime in the past does not justify claiming it back. Much of Poland used to belong to Germany. Much of Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania used to belong to Poland. Some of these territorial changes occurred because the Soviet Union made a pact with Germany in 1939 and invaded Poland. No one seriously thinks that Poland has a legitimate claim to the territory it lost so unjustly because of Soviet collaboration with Nazis.
The fact that a population who identify with one country live in another does not justify any territorial changes. Russia has no legitimate claim on Latvia, because there are large numbers of Russian speakers living there. Hungary cannot annex Transylvania because it used to be part of Hungary and Hungarians still live there. Austria cannot reunite South Tyrol with North Tyrol even though more than 60% of the population speak German rather than Italian. It doesn’t matter that South Tyrol was annexed by Italy against its will in 1919. No one seriously thinks that Austria has the right to reunify its previous territory nor that German speakers have the right to leave Italy because they don’t feel Italian.
There is only one place in Europe where these rules don’t apply. There is only one international border in Europe that is questioned. Only one European country is allowed to long for Großirland rather than remain Kleinirland. Normal rules don’t apply in Ireland and most especially not in Northern Ireland.
But there is one thing and one thing only that makes Northern Ireland different from other places. Britain.
There is something very strange about Britain. Whereas every other nation state fights to maintain its territorial integrity we are largely indifferent. The British Army could have maintained control in Ireland with ease both during and after the First World War. Compare and contrast the various wars that occurred after 1918 with how Britain responded to rebellion in Ireland. Turkey resisted the Treaty of Sèvres (1920) and fought against Greek incursions into Anatolia and Eastern Thrace. The result still stands. Poles resurrected their state and defended it fiercely. But Britain was too tired.
We were willing to lose more than one and half million men to defend Belgium neutrality and a few hundred yards of French mud, but we were unwilling even to properly deploy the British Army to defend British territory in Ireland and we were defeated by a raggle taggle band of proto terrorists numbering a few thousand with home made weapons or those they could smuggle from abroad.
An experienced British Army Corps of Somme veterans, perhaps even a division could have defeated the IRA in 1919. Instead we chose to wait forty years to fight the battle by which time the enemy was stronger and more costly to defeat. The loss of the Irish Treaty Ports in 1938 alone would have been reason enough to commit that Corps in 1919. More British sailors were lost between 1939 and 1945 because our Atlantic patrol aircraft could not take off or land in the Irish Republic, than would have been needed to defeat Irish rebellion in the first place. If you think that would have been unjust you must apply that logic to every other historical rebellion that was defeated, e.g., the American Civil War or the Paris Commune.
The most peculiar thing about the Troubles is that Britain chose to fight at all. Why deploy the British Army for more than thirty years. Why go through decades of bombing and murder of our citizens in Northern Ireland if we choose in the end to essentially accept long term defeat. The IRA may not have succeeded militarily but their thirty-year war was a long-term strategic defeat for the UK. We promised not to give in to terrorism, but in the end we did. Terrorism won.
The Belfast Agreement (1998) is just another example of the damage Tony Blair’s Labour Government did to the UK. Not merely did he fuel nationalism in Scotland and Wales by means of an uneven devolution settlement, he did the same in Northern Ireland by means of a devolved power sharing arrangement that entrenched sectarianism in Northern Ireland, rewarded the more extreme voices of both communities and gave the IRA the means to achieve their aims by simply waiting. It would have been better and less costly in terms of lives and money if the UK had simply granted the IRA its wishes way back in 1968. Why fight for thirty years if you are going to give up in the end anyway?
We have seen the consequences that followed from the Belfast Agreement in the past three years. Ireland with help from the EU has leveraged the agreement so as to work towards its long-term goal of a united Ireland. The UK has no more obligation to keep open the international border between Ireland and Northern Ireland than does any other state. But the Belfast Agreement (which says nothing about borders) plus EU hostility to the UK, plus Theresa May’s foolish acceptance of the Irish backstop meant that the UK could only leave the EU by allowing Northern Ireland to be treated differently to the other parts of the UK. We could have given up on Brexit but would that really have helped Northern Ireland in the long run? We could have gone for “No Deal” but we didn’t have the numbers in a Parliament and anyway that might have given rise to a Border Poll in Northern Ireland. But no matter what we did there might at some point in the years ahead be a Border Poll.
Ireland had no more legitimate claim to UK territory than any other country in the world until we gave them it. The Belfast Agreement may have brought a sort of peace to Northern Ireland, but at the cost of treating Northern Ireland differently from the other parts of the UK. We would resist any other foreign power’s claim to British territory, but we gave Ireland the means of annexing our territory simply by winning two referendums. This is the equivalent of the United States giving Mexico the right to gain back what it lost by winning a referendum in Mexico and New Mexico. The problem is that while most Americans would care about the loss of former Mexican territories, not least because they live there, most Brits and most British politicians don’t care about Northern Ireland. It is so to speak a near away place of which we know nothing.
What if anything can be done? Pro UK politicians in Northern Ireland must appeal to both communities and make their parties non-sectarian. Being British has absolutely nothing to do with being Protestant or Catholic. It would help Northern Ireland enormously if it voted for Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems. If you want to be British, vote for British parties.
We should build the Boris bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland on condition that the money expended would be paid back if the constitutional status of either Scotland or Northern Ireland was changed. There is no point paying to unify what might be divided.
The British Government, having seen how Ireland is using the Belfast Agreement should seek to amend or repudiate it. Lots of treaties have been signed in history only to be revoked. If that proves to be impossible, we should make clear to Ireland that we would treat the loss of Northern Ireland as an essentially hostile act on their part. They could have it, but in that case they would have to immediately pay the £10.8 Billion per year that the UK presently provides Northern Ireland. They would also have to deal with any troubles by themselves. British citizens would have the right to move to the UK and we would help them do so by providing them with housing and jobs. But under those circumstances it might be better if the UK decided to revoke whatever rights Irish citizens have at present in the UK and to decide that the Common Travel Area is no longer necessary given that the sea would be the border between Ireland and Britain. We could then develop relations with Ireland along similar lines to those we have with Japan, Vanuatu or Chad.
None of these things will happen of course. The UK will meekly assist and even defend those who hate us and want only our destruction. While we have been willing to fight for Belgium, France and Poland we are unwilling to fight for ourselves.
This post was originally published by the author on her personal blog: https://www.effiedeans.com/2019/12/in-defence-of-uk-unity.html