A United Ireland is the idea of a sovereign state covering all of the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland. The island of Ireland includes the territory of two independent sovereign states: the Republic of Ireland, which covers 26 counties of the island, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which covers 6 counties. The phrase "26+6=1" often refers to the desire to unify the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland with the 6 counties of Northern Ireland into a single state.
A united Ireland, fully independent of the United Kingdom, is supported by Irish republicans and Irish nationalists. Conversely, unionists and loyalists oppose this and support Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom. In the 2009 Northern Ireland Life and Times survey, 21% of those asked supported a united Ireland. In the Republic of Ireland, a united Ireland was favoured by around 80% of people in 2006. In Great Britain surveys show about 40% support a united Ireland.
Several different models for reunification have been suggested including federalism and confederalism, as well as a unitary state. Article 15.2 of the Constitution of Ireland (enacted in 1937) provides for the possibility of devolution within the Irish state, originally intended to absorb the old Stormont institutions of Northern Ireland. In 1999 Articles 2 and 3 of the constitution were amended to abandon the territorial claim on the North.
The partition of Ireland in 1921 stemmed from demographic, economic, religious and political factors. In demographic terms, the six counties of Northern Ireland contain a unionist and mostly Protestant majority that favours continued union with Britain. The twenty-six counties of the Republic contain a very large Roman Catholic majority that rejected British rule and became independent in 1922. In political terms, the British government was reluctant in the 1920s to withdraw its jurisdiction from the whole of the island for strategic reasons; its policy since 1921 has been to agree to Irish unity by voluntary consent.
While Irish governments, particularly under Éamon de Valera, pursued the goal of a united Ireland throughout the 20th century, the prospect of a united Ireland assumed particular importance following the outbreak of the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s. All major political parties in Britain and in both parts of Ireland now accept the principle that a united Ireland can be achieved only with the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. All major political parties in the south favour a united Ireland, as do the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland.
A united Ireland is opposed by the unionist parties and loyalist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. The UK Government is committed under the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to following the wishes of the majority of the Northern Ireland population.
Famous quotes containing the words united and/or ireland:
“The professional celebrity, male and female, is the crowning result of the star system of a society that makes a fetish of competition. In America, this system is carried to the point where a man who can knock a small white ball into a series of holes in the ground with more efficiency than anyone else thereby gains social access to the President of the United States.”
—C. Wright Mills (19161962)
“No people can more exactly interpret the inmost meaning of the present situation in Ireland than the American Negro. The scheme is simple. You knock a man down and then have him arrested for assault. You kill a man and then hang the corpse.”
—W.E.B. (William Edward Burghardt)