16:12 GMT +320 November 2018
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    The Irish Flag flys alongside the European Union flag outside the Customs Building, Dublin , Ireland (File)

    Time for a United Ireland

    © AP Photo / Peter Morrison
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    Finian Cunningham
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    It is nearly 100 years since British rulers inflicted a grievous blow to Irish sovereignty, when they forcibly partitioned the neighboring island nation into two separate states.

    Now, with the Brexit debacle intensifying, it is evidently time for Ireland to be reunited as one country, as it had been for millennia before.

    This week, it is apparent again that British Prime Minister Theresa May can't get her fractious London government to agree on terms to leave the European Union.

    Some within her ruling Conservative party want a "hard Brexit" — that is, a clean break from the EU — while others in, and outside, the party want a "soft Brexit". The latter would involve an ongoing trade association with Europe.

    READ MORE: Northern Ireland Could Face Blackouts in Case of No-Deal Brexit — Reports

    However, it is on the island of Ireland that the political squabbling in London is most manifest. A hard Brexit could mean the reimposition of an official border between the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, and Northern Ireland, which is under British rule and is therefore due to leave the European bloc in the coming months.

    The issue of a border in Ireland is an extremely sensitive one. It is only a little over 20 years ago that Northern Ireland was gripped by a three-decade war in which thousands of people died through violence between pro-independence nationalists and pro-British unionists.

    British army and police forces suffered heavy casualties too, while also killing hundreds, many of them innocent civilians. And, of course, British authorities and news media woefully distorted the euphemistically named "Troubles" as being all about containing Irish "terrorists" wreaking havoc and mayhem.

    Since a landmark peace settlement was agreed in 1998, the island of Ireland has witnessed a transformative peace. While Northern Ireland remained part of British jurisdiction, thus placating unionists, it has coexisted with its southern neighboring state without any border controls, thus giving nationalists an important sense of a unified island.

    If the "hard Brexiteers" led by the likes of Boris Johnson prevail, then a hard border separating the North and South of Ireland would likely be reinstated. Such a development will be seen as an overturning of the historic peace settlement and could re-ignite conflict on the island again. It is lamentable that selfish English politicians seem so abjectly and recklessly indifferent to the potential dangers facing Irish people.

    READ MORE: EU Trying to 'Beat Britain Into Submission' — Ireland Leave Supporters

    The European Union's position is that no hard border should be imposed on the island of Ireland.

    For all its flaws, at least the EU is mindful of the need for maintaining peace in Ireland. Also, it recognizes that a border with customs controls would impact badly on the economy of the Republic of Ireland, which is a long-time member of the EU and whose interests therefore Brussels has a duty to defend.

    If British premier May goes for a softer Brexit option that could entail a sort of customs union throughout the island of Ireland, and the setting up of a trade barrier between Ireland and the rest of Britain. Goods exported from both the North and South of Ireland to Britain would be inspected at seaports entering mainland Britain, in the same way goods from France, Holland or Belgium, and so on, would be too.

    That option is unacceptable to the hard Brexiteers and a small unionist party in Northern Ireland whose parliamentary votes support the Conservative government. They view such a soft option as diluting the integrity of the United Kingdom of "Britain and Northern Ireland".

    In other words, for them, it smacks of the whole of Ireland becoming de facto independent from British rule.

    But let's look at a possible solution from an Irish point of view, instead of from the viewpoint of squabbling English politicians. By "an Irish point of view", we mean the wishes expressed democratically by all the people on the island of Ireland, both North and South.

    READ MORE: 'No Grounds for Optimism' on Brexit Ahead of European Council — Tusk

    It is a fair assumption that most people across Ireland would want a borderless island. Nationalist-minded citizens in the South and the North would carry a majority in any all-island referendum on the matter. Even, it can be averred, many traditional unionists in the North would now be open to a united Ireland, owing to their economic self-interests.

    Indeed, in the Brexit referendum in 2016, the majority of Northern Ireland voted to remain within the European Union. The vote to leave the EU was mainly an English movement. Yet Ireland, North and South, is being thrown into turmoil because of English decisions.

    Furthermore, many of the sharp sectarian divisions that so marred Northern Ireland have melted away over the past two decades with the arrival of peace, as well as from a new generation of progressive youth, and the free flow of people between the two jurisdictions.

    Ireland today is much more cosmopolitan and integrated than it was during the bitter sectarian conflicts of the past. In short, a border now seems wholly redundant and anachronistic.

    The London-centric English political establishment have always treated Ireland with a snide disregard, typical of colonial arrogance. They often referred to Ireland as the "Irish problem" — meaning how they would manage to suppress the unruly and rebellious Irish. Maybe if the sniveling British establishment would just respect Irish self-determination for independence then they would not continually create an "Irish problem".

    Almost 330 years ago, when two English rival kings were vying for the throne of England, they fought their bloody civil war on Irish soil.

    The result of the battle between Protestant William of Orange and Catholic James the Second, left Ireland with a legacy of sectarian strife.

    READ MORE: Brexit Could Be Extended by Another Year — EU Negotiator Michel Barnier

    In the last-ever all-Ireland parliamentary elections in 1918 (when the whole island was then under British colonial rule), the Irish electorate voted overwhelming for full independence from Britain. That "Irish problem" was dealt with by the British rulers waging a brutal war in Ireland (1918-1920) which ended up with the partitioning of the island into the Southern and Northern states that we have today.

    The carving-up of Ireland nearly 100 years ago was an unprecedented violation against the Irish nation. It was a violent, perfidious act of gerrymandering by London in which it annexed a northern corner of the island, giving a built-in pro-British unionist majority, which has been cited by London ever since as a "mandate" to rule "Northern Ireland". (And they've the cheek to slap sanctions on Russia for allegedly annexing Crimea!)

    In truth, the so-called Irish problem has always been an English problem. Because English politicians have continually refused to respect Irish self-determination and nationhood.

    We are seeing the same sordid conundrum being played out once again today.

    English politicians are almost in a state of civil war over their differences on Brexit, and they are prepared to, in effect, take their quarrel on to Irish soil to fight it out. But, as before, it may be Irish people who again pay the price with their blood if violent conflict returns to the island.

    So, let's take this English problem by the horns, and give it an Irish solution — once and for all. An all-Ireland referendum on independence from Britain.

    READ MORE: Thousands of Scotland's Independence Supporters March in Edinburgh (VIDEO)

    It is surely time for Ireland to be united, free and independent from London's interminable interference, so that all her people can live in peace and prosperity.

    That would be long-overdue natural justice to artificial political and painful problems foisted on Ireland for centuries by England.

    The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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