Monday, March 9, 2009

Irish Peace is Easy

The despicable murder of two British soldiers and wounding of two others and of two pizza deliverymen, for God's sake, at a British base in Antrim outside Belfast is a bizarre recidivist act almost certainly carried out by the so-called "Real IRA," a benighted group of social misfits who cannot summon up the strength of character to give up hating. Hating is like a drug, in the sense that getting intoxicated on the hatred constitutes an escape from unpleasant reality.

There also continue to be belligerent and bigoted Orangemen; Ian Paisley only managed to back into civilization within the past few years. But the real story of Northern Ireland today is the total marginalization of both groups from the vast majority of people living in the province. Belfast and Derry today are prosperous middle-class communities where most people have only a vague idea of whether their neighbors are Catholic or Protestant, and couldn't care less. The violence is carried out by poor, ignorant slum-dwellers on both sides who have been left behind by recent Irish history.

As to that: Irish peace is easy. There is absolutely no danger to the economic or political interests, let alone the physical safety, of the Protestant majority in Northern Ireland posed by unification under the Republican government in Dublin. None whatsoever. And this is a fact that will be readily admitted by the great majority of Protestant northerners on the street. Reunification would be best done by a majority vote in a plebiscite that demonstrated that a majority of Protestants as well as Catholics favored it, and this could be organized over the heads of the reactionary Orangemen leaders, so far as I can see, today. But there is also nothing stopping the British from withdrawing unilaterally: as I said, the possibility of some sort of bloodbath in that event is long, long gone. The British government should stop posing as the virtuous guardians of public safety in Ireland (have they ever been that since the 17th century?), and start making concrete steps towards full withdrawal and the reunification of Ireland. And that would be that.

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