Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Catholics Look to a Unified Ireland Post-Brexit

While out celebrating the life and work of St. Patrick, I picked up a copy of The Irish Herald published on the West Coast (Volume 57, No. 07). As I sat drinking my Guinness I was rather intrigued by the headline story as Northern Ireland may not be as non-Catholic as Americans may think.  Here were some interesting excerpts from that piece:
Support for uniting Ireland has risen dramatically on both sides on the Irish border in large part because of the calamitous Brexit referendum on June 23, 2016. While jingoistic British politicians were urging their public to leave the European Union and enter the promised land of a 'free and independent' UK, precious little consideration was given to the impact such a move might have on either the south or the north of Ireland. The more things change the more they stay the same... 
Since the partition of Ireland in 1921, Catholics in the north have been subjected to human and civil rights abuses and have been treated as second class citizens. The GFA [Good Friday Agreement] was supposed to end all that but intransigence from the unionist body politic, notably from the Democratic Unionist Party, the largest unionist party, has prevented many important remedies contained in the GFA from becoming reality. 
In 1921 the Catholic population of the six counties that make up 'Northern Ireland' was a mere 35 percent, and it was that way by design. The partition was never supposed to end. The border, which has become the singular focus of the entire Brexit exercise, is proof of that. All 310 miles of it, winding it's way through farms, parishes and townlands, was drawn up in the way which would exclude the most Catholics. The intention was undeniable. Lord Carigavon the North's first Prime Minister proudly declared as his slogan: 'A Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people.' 
But as they say, nothing lasts forever. Shifting demographics have put the unity question at the top of the agenda. In the last census Catholics (who predominantly favor a united Ireland) made up 45 percent of the population while Protestants (who tend to support the union with Britain) made up 48 percent. A deeper look into those statistics reveals that he protestant population will still makes up almost two thirds of those over 65, whereas in the younger age groups Catholics now make up the majority. 
'It's a massive demographic shift. In five to ten years there'll be a Catholic majority in Northern Ireland,' said Peter Shirlow, director of the University of Liverpool's Institute of Irish Studies. It will take a few more years for this overall majority to translate into an electoral majority, 'but a majority for a united Ireland is going to happen, (there is) no doubt about that,' added Shirlow.


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