It’s time to talk about Irish unification as reconciliation
Robin Wilson: North will stagnate unless it remains open to wider Europe
Northern Ireland Troubles: British soldiers on patrol in 1969. Photograph: Peter Kemp/AP Photo
When the vice-president of Sinn Féin, Michelle O’Neill, told her party’s annual Easter commemoration in west Belfast that there should be a referendum on a “united Ireland” within five years, she hardly recognised the full significance of the anniversary she was conjuring up.
Five decades before 2023, on March 8th, 1973, there was just such a Border poll in the north. Indeed, the Conservative government in London intended that it be repeated every 10 years. But the referendum was overwhelmingly boycotted by Catholics, and a meaningless majority of more than 500,000 backed the status quo.