Monday 1 February 2021

Does Ireland want to partition Britain?


There is a strain in Irish thinking that is immutably hostile to Britain. This is well illustrated by a recent Irish Times editorial.

It begins by suggesting that as the Belfast Agreement obliges a Secretary of State to offer a referendum in Northern Ireland on Irish unity if it appears likely there is a majority for this goal, the same principle should apply to Scotland. It then takes the Scottish nationalist line that circumstances have changed since the 2014 referendum because the UK left the EU against the wishes of Scottish voters. The Irish Times clearly thinks that Scotland should get another referendum merely because there are polls favouring independence and the SNP.

But there is no equivalent of the Belfast Agreement between Scotland and the other parts of the UK, nor indeed is there such an agreement between anywhere else in Europe. No part of France, Spain or Germany can claim a referendum to join or secede merely by expressing a majority to do so in an opinion poll. Parts of European countries such as Alsace Lorraine, South Tyrol or Southern Schleswig cannot demand a poll to rejoin Germany, Austria and Denmark. Nor can anywhere else. Nor for that matter does Ireland or Irish people encourage secession in other EU member states, only in Britain. Odd that.

The reason we have a Belfast Agreement is because there was thirty years of terrorism by the IRA and because Ireland claimed a part of British territory and wanted to annex it. Without that claim and that desire, the IRA would have had no campaign to fight. If Ireland had accepted that Northern Ireland was permanently part of the UK and had said that we don’t want it, then the IRA would have always known that its bombs would not achieve its goal. It was only because Ireland had the same aim as the IRA that there was an IRA war in the first place and only for that reason also was Ireland part of the peace process at the end of it.

To use the Belfast Agreement to achieve a United Ireland is to use bombs to achieve a diplomatic goal, because it was only those bombs that made a sovereign nation state (the UK) sign away its inherent and permanent right to its territorial integrity. Without the IRA Ireland would have had no Belfast Agreement with which to leverage its aim.

To use the Belfast Agreement to annex British territory is itself a hostile and dishonourable act because it is to profit from the acts of criminals, but to use it to attempt to destroy the United Kingdom shows fully the extent of Irish hostility and perfidy. Why should we trust these people about anything?

What has Scottish independence to do with the Irish Times? It is an internal matter for the United Kingdom. Do Irish people campaign for independence for the Basques or the Catalans or the Corsicans. There are any number of territorial disputes in the EU. Borders are frequently arbitrary and the result of war. Would the Irish Times demand that parts of Poland be returned to Germany or that Poland regained the land it lost to the Soviet Union?

There is morally and legally no difference between Northern Ireland’s being a part of the UK and Silesia being a part of Poland. But no one demands German reunification with Silesia not least because the Germans who used to live in Silesia were driven out at the point of a bayonet. This was treating a minority far worse than any Irish person was ever treated in Northern Ireland. It also meant that Poland did not have to deal with the German Republican Army bombing Wrocław, no one complained about the use of Polish place names nor did anyone demand the right to speak German.

Irish people demanding referendums in Scotland and Northern Ireland forget that there has already been a border poll in Northern Ireland. In 1973 98.9% of voters in a legal poll said they wished to remain a part of the UK. But both the IRA and Ireland ignored the result and maintained their claim that Northern Ireland should join with Ireland. Perhaps they did so because Irish nationalists boycotted the poll. But that should hardly have mattered because 58.66% of the electorate voted so it is obvious that a majority of the people in Northern Ireland wished at that point to stay in the UK.

After the First World War plebiscites were held in Schleswig in 1920. This determined that North Schleswig would go back to Denmark, while South Schleswig would stay with Germany. No one has agitated for a rerun of these votes, because the issue has been decided. Why should one poll, the one in 1973 be treated as irrelevant and impermanent, while another future border poll be accepted? Would Ireland allow a part of Ireland to vote to secede? But the very reason we have had conflict in Ireland is because of the refusal of the Irish Government to accept the legitimacy of Northern Ireland deciding not to join it in the first place nor recognising that this is what the majority wanted in 1973. But how can you refuse secession in your own country while demanding it in someone else's? Ireland's hostility is grounded in hypocrisy. 

Northern Ireland’s status was decided in 1973, Scotland’s in 2014. Only Irish bombs kept the issue alive by making Irish and British people dead.

If the poll in 1973 was illegitimate because Irish nationalists boycotted it knowing that they were going to lose, what would stop British people in Northern Ireland using exactly the same tactic if they thought that they would ever lose?

A nation state has the right to defend its territorial integrity against foes whether they are foreign or domestic. The list of treaties that are no longer in force is large. They can be amended, or they can be broken. The Treaty of Sèvres (1920), for example, which partitioned Turkey and gave Smyrna to the Greeks, was annulled by the Turkish War of independence, that kicked the Greeks out of Smyrna and turned it into Izmir.

It would be well if Ireland tempered its historical hostility. Britain’s response to Ireland’s independence was not to treat it as an enemy, but rather to allow Irish people to move freely within Britain and live and work where they pleased. Some of the descendants of these people have responded with a hostility to Britain including trying to destroy the UK by voting for Scottish independence that is not found in their cousins in USA, Australia or Canada. I have yet to come across an Irish American who wants the USA to break up.

Even after one hundred years Irish opinion delights in anything that would damage Britain and expresses mere enmity cloaked with craic. What after all do you call people who not only wish to annex British territory, but also want to partition Britain?

It is grossly hypocritical to complain about the partition of Ireland while striving to partition Britain.