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Discontent: a bus set alight during riots in Belfast this April. Image: REUTERS / Jason Cairnduff

Unionism, nationalism and Northern Ireland’s unrequited love

Rival communities in the North identify intensely with Britain and Ireland respectively. But Britain doesn’t especially want the province—and nor does the Republic

Margaret Thatcher once said that people in Northern Ireland were “part of the United Kingdom—as much as my constituency is,” a line often misremembered as her saying the region was as British as Finchley. Either way, it’s not teenagers in Finchley who have been throwing petrol bombs at the police and complaining about a border separating it from other parts of the country, as they have been in Belfast in recent weeks.

The new flare up has been, in part, the product of unionist unhappiness over the Northern Ireland protocol that defined the future relationship with the EU that came into operation in January. It is also the result of a fatalistic malaise among unionists who think that they are treated as second-class citizens within the Union, in comparison to those living in Finchley—or anywhere in Great Britain.

What those young loyalists are finding out is that…

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