Fintan O’Toole: Partition squeezed out pluralism. We have to let it back in

The events of a century ago led to the creation of two sectarian states

 Edward Carson’s statue in the grounds of Stormont in Belfast. Photograph:  Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty

Edward Carson’s statue in the grounds of Stormont in Belfast. Photograph: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty

There are two ways of thinking about the partition of Ireland 100 years ago. One is as a realist drama – the working out of the inevitable consequence of ruptures that were already irreconcilable. The other is to see it as a tragedy – the destruction of all the finest hopes for what Irish independence might have meant. 

The first of these interpretations sits well with Ulster unionism; the second with Irish nationalism. But the choice between them is false. Partition was both an inevitability and a tragedy. We can surely, after a century of living with it, accept that the division of the island was at once unavoidable and calamitous.

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