Northern Ireland turns 100 today. On 03 May 2021 it legally came into being, ending years of civil war when it separated from the rest of the island of Ireland. The six counties of Fermanagh, Armagh, Tyrone, Londonderry, Antrim and Down broke away from the other twenty-six to become part of a United Kingdom along with the other Home Nations of England, Scotland and Wales.
A lot has changed in those 100 years. There has been further violence, most notably the ‘Troubles’ between 1969-1998 where over 3000 people lost their lives and many others were seriously injured during decades of sectarian strife. The Good Friday Agreement of April 1998 brought peace but it is an uneasy one and it doesn’t take much to resurrect old grievances. Recent rioting has bore testimony to that sad fact.
Brexit and the Irish Sea Border has resulted in the First Minister standing down after a letter of no confidence from her own party. We are governed by a devolved Assembly and a five party power sharing executive that often can’t agree on what day of the week it is, let alone important social and economic matters. They have lurched through the pandemic from one crisis to the next, hardly filling the hearts of their citizens with confidence and hope.
There’s even talk of a poll about a United Ireland within the next few years. I’m not convinced the Republic of Ireland want the extra baggage but they’re on a sticky wicket, given the desire is written into their Constitution. Who knows what the next 100 years will bring but I hope it is a better century for my children and grandchildren than it was for my parents and grandparents.