Northern Ireland news

Lee Child says united Ireland 'hundreds of years overdue'

Author Lee Child, real name James Grant, who wrote the Jack Reacher novels, with his CBE for services to literature following an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London. Picture by Victoria Jones/PA Wire 
Aine Fox, PA

One of Britain's most famous authors has told of his hopes for a united Ireland, saying the move is hundreds of years overdue.

Jack Reacher author Lee Child, whose crime books have been made into films starring Tom Cruise, said the reunification of the island could be a positive outcome of Brexit.

Child, who was born in Coventry but whose father was from Belfast, is in the process of applying for an Irish passport and said he would vote in any upcoming referendum if he could.

Speaking as he picked up a gong at Buckingham Palace on Friday, he told the PA news agency: "I make no distinction between north and south and I really hope the island is unified soon.

"I hope that's going to be the positive outcome of Brexit. It's hundreds of years overdue."

He added: "I think Brexit is going to make people think about it as a viable option and maybe a necessary option, and it would be a positive move in my opinion."

Child, who collected a CBE for services to literature, said the atmosphere is now right for people to have their say on the question of unity.

He said: "When I was a little kid the hostility was tremendous, but now I think everybody's feeling a lot better about each other."

Asked how he viewed the rise of Sinn Féin in the Republic, he said he believes it is a different party now to the one which has caused controversy through the years for its historic links with the Provisional IRA.

He said: "Sinn Féin has got a terrible reputation from 40 and 50 years ago, but I think we need to say 'that's the past, let's look at the future'."

Elvis Costello, real name Declan McManus, with his OBE for services to music following an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London. Picture by Victoria Jones/PA Wire 

Elvis Costello, who also picked up an honour at today's ceremony, described a united Ireland as "an inevitability".

"A united Ireland, I think, is an inevitability. Maybe in my lifetime, in the lifetime of my children," he said, after being made an OBE for services to music.

"The most important thing is that there'll be peace, that there would be no recourse to violent means to sort it out because that clearly didn't get us anywhere."

Costello, who described his late father as a non-violent Irish republican, suggested the current political climate could see other countries break away from the UK and form a "Celtic union".

"Everybody seems to want to belong to something else than they used to belong (to)," said the singer, who was born Declan MacManus and whose family hail from Co Tyrone.

Smiling, he added: "Maybe there'll be a Celtic union, maybe Scotland will leave the union and unite with Ireland. Why not? There's a good idea."

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