Northern Ireland: forget about the border

Submitted by Matthew on 21 December, 2009 - 6:16 Author: Paddy Devlin

We now have enormous support for the reinstatement of the ceasefire.

Although it is a hard thing for me to say, it is the truth that John Major has worked hard for the ceasefire and to get the IRA to stop their campaign. Major and the southern Taoiseach, John Bruton, have actually done quite well.

Bruton has used the right language and has managed to get a dialogue with the Provos.

The Provos are difficult people to deal with. Although they have only 10% of the votes here they continued their counterproductive military campaign for a long time.

However I firmly believe that politics must not be conducted in this way. People must be persuaded to change their ideas. It is utterly wrong — as well as being impossible and counterproductive — to try to change people’s ideas by threatening them with guns and by planting bombs. We must operate through the parliamentary system.

The Protestant people are beginning to turn towards the working class movement. And some of the Catholic people are becoming a little better off. It is only in the ghettos that the Sinn Feiners have any real support.

The changes that were fought for years ago have gone through and a lot of the anti-British feelings have gone.

The majority of people in both communities want to stay in the North. They are looking for a solution within Northern Ireland, not outside that framework. Of those who vote, 80% vote for an internal solution to our problems.

It is now the case that many Catholics and Nationalists are thinking of voting for Unionists; certainly those on higher incomes are. It is a big change and it has come very quickly.

People can see what economic life is like in the South and they do not like the look of it. There is not the same standard of living in the south and most people in Northern Ireland would not exchange a drop in their quality of life for a united Ireland.

In fact a lot of the barriers to the South have already gone down and we are united through Europe.

We must forget about the question of the border and accept that Northern Ireland is here to stay. We must concentrate on class questions not the border.

Paddy Devlin was a founder of the SDLP and later attempted to set up a new Labour Party in Northern Ireland. He was a Minister in the power-sharing Northern Irish government (January-May 1974)

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