A United Ireland: Why Reunification is Inevitable and How it Will Come About by Kevin Meagher
Published on 10/10/17 by Biteback Publishing
In A United Ireland: Why Reunification is Inevitable and How it Will Come About, Kevin Meagher addresses, above all, the body politic on the British mainland. He accuses them of taking too little interest in the Ulster Unionist community that they “string along” with Northern Ireland in an “antechamber” that seals the province and its nearly 2 million people off from any real dialogue about its future. Due to differing birth rates between Catholics and Protestants, a province-wide vote on its status would be far closer to parity than when the British government, in one of history’s greatest “gerrymanders,” partitioned off, instead of the entire historical province of Ulster, only 6 of its 9 counties, each of which held Protestant majorities lopsided enough to ensure the new entity’s support for loyalty to the UK.
Meanwhile, he posits that the logic of economics as well as the momentum towards Scottish Independence pull the 6 counties irresistibly towards the South and unity. Perhaps most interestingly, this book was originally published in the UK before the Brexit vote, and a last chapter was added after the fact to the edition I read that explains how the vote to leave added to the centrifugal force tearing the UK apart by making it attractive for Scotland and Northern Ireland — long more pro-Europe than England, to declare independence and re-join the EU as separate member states. He makes a relentless case arguing that these forces are pushing the province towards the “magnetism” of the State that he throughout terms the “Irish Republic” (which I always thought was a coded term of derision by Unionists, as opposed to being called the “Republic of Ireland”).
When I studied Irish history at Trinity College Dublin in 1993 and 1994, we used two thick books, one that covered 1600-1972 and another called “Ireland Since the Famine”. Meagher covers what both of these books do in 40 pages, and one of the major strengths of the book is how Meagher succinctly summarizes hundreds of years of events in such a relatively slim volume.
In another 40 pages, he explains why, in terms of GDP and relative percentages of output, Irish Unity makes much more sense than keeping Northern Ireland in union with Britain. Relatively few people would enjoy reading this section, but as I went through it during my second run through the chapter, I couldn’t find any holes in the logic.
The book builds its case with sections that deal with various level of analysis: politics, then economics; and geography: Northern Ireland and the South/Republic of Ireland. Meagher’s extensive analysis covers how the Republic’s two main political parties — organized as they are on the bases of being For or Against a treaty to end the early-1920s Anglo-Irish War, rather than the More Taxes vs. Less Taxes dichotomy common to almost all Left/Right party systems — have essentially gone through the motions of calling for a United Ireland without really putting much skin in the game. But as with almost all other parts of his argument, Meagher is optimistic that the voters of the South will awaken to real enthusiasm for Unification that is based as much on economic self-interest as historical romanticism or pan-Celtic pride.
Right after making the economic argument, Meagher cements the book’s thesis shut with an analysis of how Ulster Unionists have boxed their identity into a “more-British-than-the-British” definition of their culture that applies nowhere on the planet other than the six counties just as Irish-ness has become a kind of “brand” — whether your preferred point of access is U2, St. Patrick’s Day, or Guinnesss — that is “downloadable” all over the world.
This book took me back to my Trinity days. The evenings were often the highlights of that year, but my ability to follow Meagher’s arguments made me appreciate what I achieved by spending my daytime hours that year reading politics while so many other US study-abroaders had more fun with Yeats and Joyce. I finished the book with a clear conviction that the people of that island will face the challenges of future decades with the full strength of an historical nation undivided by arbitrary borders.
1. Image of book taken from its Amazon page.
2. Image of TCD taken from it’s business school’s page.
Mike McGraw is a native of Toledo, Ohio who has lived in the Coventry neighborhood of Cleveland Heights for two decades. His writing about homelessness and community issues has appeared in the Cleveland Street Chronicle and the Heights Observer.