Northern Ireland’s Thursday election of Sinn Féin — a political party representing the unity and independence of Ireland — now means that one political party will prevail on both sides of the Irish border. After nearly a century of strife and derision, Thursday’s landslide election suggests the two nations — Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland — may reemerge as a United Ireland.
Ireland is making sense of nearly a century of invasion, occupation, and irregular wars. Conquered by the Catholic Church in 1171 > King Henry VIII in 1542 > divvied up into north and south in 1921 > and at odds with one another until 1998, Ireland effectively inherited their internal conflicts from their occupiers. Why that matters is this.
As Russia, China and the United States dicker with defectors like Ukraine, the ethnic cleansing of Uyghurs and systemic racism, Northern Ireland’s Thursday election confirms the Irish prefer one party to mediate their conflicts, opinions and concerns. It’s the newest and perhaps most progressive experiment in modern politics.
United Ireland > United Nations
On Thursday, Sinn Féin — a political party inexorably linked to the IRA— became the largest group in the 90-seat Northern Ireland Assembly, and summarily assumes the post of First Minister in the Belfast government for the first time. For this island continent, maligned by centuries of contention and conflict, one cohesive political party and narrative now prevails on both sides of the Irish border.
“United Ireland” is the irredentist proposition — where citizens claim and seek to occupy territory they consider "lost" to their nation — and Putin has invoked precisely this argument in the Ukraine. But what, precisely, is the U.S. interest in that invasion and why has U.S. President Joe Biden ponied up $2 billion in U.S. security assistance to the Ukraine since he took office? Clues to that particular riddle are mapped in Ireland’s complex, sordid history with its occupiers.
“The exclusion of the Irish Kingdom from free participation in imperial and European trade,” writes James Stafford, an assistant professor at Columbia University “was due to the exclusion of its Catholic subjects from the benefits of property and political representation." This critique and argument was invoked to justify Britain’s parliamentary takeover of Ireland, yet reflects everyday discussions within the United Nations where a consortium of foreign actors actively seek to penalize self-governing states.
The Price of Ideology
When the history of the Russo-Ukrainian War is written, 25 April 2022 will certainly go down as a significant date. When US defense secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a press conference in Poland, following a visit to Kyiv, they were asked whether US goals in the conflict had changed? “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” Austin said, and a scant two days later Joe Biden asked Congress for another staggering $33 billion more to support Ukraine.
According to the Cold War Studies at Harvard University, "These conflicts are existential for the West. They’re an attempt to hold on to the levers of global trade and commerce every bit as much as to advance their own ideological narratives."
A Final Note
In his farewell address, George Washington urged Americans to always place the interests of the nation over their political and regional affiliations. In the 7,641-word document, the nation’s first president called upon the American people to remain unified, resist the rise of political factions, and avoid the influence of foreign powers.
According to Washington, one of the chief dangers of letting regional loyalties dominate loyalty to the nation as a whole was that it would lead to factionalism, or the development of competing political parties. When Americans vote according to party loyalty, rather than the common interest of the nation, Washington feared it would foster a “spirit of revenge; enabling the rise of cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men to usurp for themselves the reins of government.”
It’s worth a mention that when the Catholic Church commissioned the occupation of Ireland in 1155, the pope himself was English. That’s right. Pope Adrian IV issued a papal bull called “Laudabiliter” financing King Henry II’s invasion of Gaelic Ireland with this caveat. Henry was required to remit a penny per hearth of the tax roll to the Pope’s private coffers. The rest, of course, is history.