Northern Ireland

Journalist and historian Max Hastings believes Ireland will be united 'within a generation'

Max Hastings believes the Irish border will disappear 'within a generation'
Max Hastings believes the Irish border will disappear 'within a generation' Max Hastings believes the Irish border will disappear 'within a generation'

ONE of Britain's most distinguished journalists and historians believes Ireland will be united "within a generation".

Max Hastings argues that Brexit has "forged a template for minorities to assert themselves" and that both Northern Ireland and Scotland are destined to leave the union.

With the reunification of Ireland, he adds, a "historic injustice will be righted".

The former Daily Telegraph editor-in-chief, who lived in Kilkenny in the 1970s while reporting on the Troubles, says the English will not be overly concerned by the north's departure, claiming that "most British people care not a fig" for Ireland.

Mr Hastings describes partition a "monstrous injustice committed by the British government" in response to pressure from a "vociferous minority of a million Protestants, most of whose forebears were 'planted' in Ulster by Oliver Cromwell’s followers in the 17th century".

Writing for Bloomberg, he argues that before direct rule was imposed, unionism treated Catholics "almost as harshly as US white segregationists in the old South treated African Americans".

"Lord Brookeborough, a Protestant grandee who served as Ulster prime minister between 1943 and 1963, said without embarrassment that, while he knew fellow landowners who employed Catholics on their estates, he would never do so himself," he writes.

It was in such attitudes, the historian says, that led to the Troubles.

"Most of us English spectators of the Troubles deplored the IRA’s atrocities as much as we recoiled from institutionalised Protestant injustice," his opinion piece says.

"In August 1969, I witnessed Protestant police hosing down a Catholic block of flats in Belfast with a heavy machine-gun, killing a nine year-old boy.

"The next day, I heard unionist ministers justifying police actions by pleading that they faced a Catholic uprising."

Mr Hastings notes how the Republic has become economically prosperous over recent decades compared to the north, which is "kept alive only by massive subsidy from Britain".

He identifies two minorities who "see virtue in keeping Ireland partitioned", namely a "diminishing number of stubborn Protestant Unionists" and southern politicians who are "privately fearful of the perils of absorbing several hundred thousand embittered 'Proddies'".

Pointing to a recent LucidTalk poll showing a slim majority favouring a border poll, he says that if a "majority [in the north] choose to join the south, few English people will care".

"If Irish reunification takes place within a generation, as I believe that it will, a historic injustice will be righted," he writes .

"Such an outcome would serve the best interests of Irish people, save a rump of alienated Protestants, historically out of their time."

Characterising the United Kingdom as a "cluster of nations and bits of nations that have never lived entirely comfortably together", he believes May's Scottish Parliament elections will lead to increased momentum towards a second referendum in Scotland.

"If Scotland breaks away, it will be largely a consequence of English arrogance and folly," he writes.

"But for those of us southerners who love the kilted Celts almost as dearly as we cherish our own people and land, such a parting will be bitterly painful."

However, Mr Hasting argues that Scotland is unlikely to "find independence as rewarding as nationalists hope".

He also believes that a majority in Wales will not support independence because "their land is even more dependent on English largesse than Scotland".