I regularly wonder what “a united ireland” would be. Many people call for it, but would the reality be what they expected? Very few people indeed are alive today that remember a united ireland… and the world of 2014 is far removed from the world of 1916…So what would happen?
The year is 2038 and Northern Ireland, as it was known to you and I, is a very different place indeed. The political campaign on behalf of the nationalist parties at Stormont escalated their reunification rhetoric prior to 2020, with Sinn Fein even taking up its seats at Westminster for 2 years immediately prior to the collapse of the union. Some political commentators saw this as grandstanding in front of their british adversaries, conveying the message “We are here now…and we’re getting what we want.”
The rise to dominance of Sinn Fein was brought about by the Great Unionist Schism of 2016, where constant in-fighting and scandals had ripped apart the old guard of the Democratic Unionist Party, leaving a wake of political devastation in its path. Alternative Unionist parties fought like rabid dogs to poach those left untouched from the self-destruction of the DUP. The TUV and the UUP leaders, Jim Allister & Mike Nesbitt famously coming to blows on the now defunct TV channel “BBC Northern Ireland,” with host Stephen Nolan infamously having his collar bone broken by a chair thrown by Allister. Eventually the dust settled and where half a dozen unionist parties once were, now stood over 30. Every corner of the land had a self appointed “local community leader” forming a political party with the vainglorious boast of being “The Populist Successor to the DUP”. Central parties too began to swell, with NI22 & NI24 coming in late to polls with the aim of sweeping up undecided votes. With the electoral commission faced with the challenge of having an election ballot with over 45 separate parties represented in most areas, the eventually bowed to public pressure (and physical paper-size constraints) by moving to electronic voting. The result was a rampant victory for the nationalist parties of Sinn Fein & SDLP; even in typically staunch unionist areas such as East Belfast, with so many parties standing candidates, the electorate turnout was just under 30,000 but due to the volume of candidates, a return of 819 was enough to elect SF Niall Ó Donnghaile as MLA on the first count.
Post 2019 election, the assembly was made up thusly:
Sinn Fein (57)
Social Democratic & Labour Party-SDLP- (19)
NI Conservative (4)
Progressive Unionist Party –PUP- (2)
Downpatrick Unionist Party-DpUP- (1)
Antrim & Londonderry Unionist Alliance-ALUA-(1)
Political Orange Order Party-POOP-(1)
Orange Order Party of Antrim – OOPA-(1)
NI22 – (1)
Progressive Unionist Voice-PUV– (1)
Fraternal Apprentice Boys Union-FABU– (1)
Independents – (9)
This left the path clear for a swift referendum on the nation status of northern Ireland. After a 6 month clean campaign for SF/SDLP where very little had to be done to persuade the people of Northern Ireland that change was necessary, mostly due to the constant physical attacks amongst political leaders on the unionist side, with NI24 deputy leader Jamie Bryson being charged and sentenced to 7 years for a Tonya Harding style attack on the sole NI23 party member, Dawn Purvis. The unionist electorate was seemingly embarrassed to identify themselves as unionist and so turnout was low amongst traditionally loyalist communities, whereas nationalist areas showed higher than 85% turnout across the province. The die had been cast and the roulette wheel of Northern Ireland had landed on “EIRE,” Ireland was to be whole again.
The process took just over 2 years, as was set out in the Letterkenny accord between PM Johnson of Anglo-Wales & Taoiseach Bruton of Ireland. With Johnson more interested in maintaining the twin-nation-state of England & Wales and seeming like he couldn’t wash his hands of The Northern Ireland Problem quickly enough. On October 18th 2021, the “70mph” signpost just south of Newry on the northbound carriageway fell in a lavish ceremony, with U2 playing a selection of their greatest hits on a stage erected over the central reservation.
Many unionists seemed willing to remain in their part of Ireland for the time being and see what the reality of that would bring. Some however, were not content. The plethora of parties who had stood in the 2019 election had now no representation in the Dail until the next Irish General Election took place 2 years later, and they looked within themselves to find a plan. Ironically, the campaign that was to follow was mostly modelled on the nationalist campaign throughout the troubles across NI & Britain. It began with the “Second Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement” to raise awareness of the issues facing these groups, some of whom had formed ad hoc alliance depending as much on geography and ability as on their political symbiosis. They took their guerrilla campaign to the irish heartland. Motivated by what they saw as “second-class citizen treatement”, the casualties were many in the first number of weeks, with very few perpetrators being apprehended by the Gardai, unlike in the previous irish/british terrorist campaign, the bulk of the activity was not based around border areas, it was in towns like Dunleer, Glenbrook, Kilkenny, Mullingar, Roscrea. With the worst atrocity in the opening stages being The Gaeltacht Massacre in Co. Mayo, members of the Reformed Red Hand Commando approached residents in the street and asked “Cá bhfuil an leithreas?”, or “Where’s the Toilet” in Gaelic, and used as a Shibboleth, all those who answered in Gaelic were shot in cold blood. This was the entire population of the village.
The campaign wore on, Cork & Limerick were regularly attacked, any symbol of the Irish Government was considered an appropriate target by the New UVF and the Real LVF. Sympathisers in Scotland were quick to offer support to their Northern Irish cousins, some believing that Ulsters future lay in an Ulster-Scots alliance rather than depending upon the larger nations to the south, with arms once again flowing across the Irish Sea into the port of Larne. Within 5 years casualties were over 200,000, far outstripping the worst of the NI Troubles #1. Troubles #2 was proving to be a step too far all those concerned. The Irish government had gone through much upheaval of its own, with no-body expecting that this would be the consequence of a united Ireland. Politicians struggled to justify to their constituencies that this was the right path to take, despite decades of rhetoric promoting this as the right future for all.
After a young farmer from Saintfield, Co. Down had stolen a fixed wing plane from Newtownards Airfield and flew it straight into the Dail in a kamikaze attack in protest of farming subsidies being 40% less in Counties Down & Antrim, the United Nations peacekeepers stepped in to help reduce the rising death toll. Even these could not completely stop the violence, eventually when the USA offered attached statehood to the Republic of Ireland on the condition that Northern Ireland secedes and becomes a nation-state on its own, with a wall constructed along the border and a permanently manned military battalion guarding all border crossings. It took the Dail just 1hour and 20minutes to decide to accept, there was no offer of a referendum (something that would later cost 4 members of Fine Gael their jobs) for the general public. In legislation akin to that of a quickie las vegas marriage, by the end of the month, Ireland was the 53rd state and Northern Ireland was reduced to a pseudo-palestine existence, having grown fat on the proceeds of handouts from both of its former state patrons, the economy collapsed and even Scotland refused to intervene for fear of angering the USA as they were viewed to be next in line for attached statehood.
By 2032 Northern Ireland had been co-opted by the European Presidential Committee as the prime candidate for a continental open prison. Those loyalist and nationalists left within the 6 counties had no political say in the matter as they were regarded as a “failed state,” and no world body was willing to intervene and try to separate those who had blood on their hands from the “6 county sovereignty campaign” and those who did not. Northern Ireland, was gone.