Partition Showing Its Age

One hundred years on the line in the green fields is still with us

By Ray O'Hanlon

The Government of Ireland Act came into force a hundred years ago today, May 3, 1921. The subsequent result was a fading empire's line through green fields.

The province of Ulster was partitioned. Ireland in its entirety was partitioned.

The marking of the anniversary is something of a rolling process, rather like the divided land.

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The opening of a separate parliament in Belfast took place some weeks after the act, on June 22, 1921.

What followed was very different from what even some pro-partition unionists wanted or imagined. Suffice it to say, the Troubles within living memory are but the modern ones.

Many are celebrating Northern Ireland's one hundred years. Many are not. Partition is far more than just a line on a map. It is to be found, too, in minds and hearts.

For her part, Queen Elizabeth sought shelter in a place that not a few have also found space in what is fraught time, one that has presented another version of partition in the form of Brexit.

The queen focused on the relative peace in today's Northern Ireland as being a credit to the people of Northern Ireland.

She said in part: “A century ago, the Government of Ireland Act came into effect, and today marks a significant centenary for both the United Kingdom and Ireland. This anniversary reminds us of our complex history, and provides an opportunity to reflect on our togetherness and our diversity.

“In Northern Ireland today, there is, perhaps, more than ever, a rich mix of identities, backgrounds and aspirations, and an outward-looking and optimistic mindset. The political progress in Northern Ireland and the peace process is rightly credited to a generation of leaders who had the vision and courage to put reconciliation before division. But above all, the continued peace is a credit to its people, upon whose shoulders the future rests.

“It is clear that reconciliation, equality and mutual understanding cannot be taken for granted, and will require sustained fortitude and commitment. During my many visits to Northern Ireland, I have seen these qualities in abundance, and look forward to seeing them again on future occasions.

“Across generations, the people of Northern Ireland are choosing to build an inclusive, prosperous, and hopeful society, strengthened by the gains of the peace process. May this be our guiding thread in coming years. I send my warmest good wishes to the people of Northern Ireland."

The queen was accentuating the positive, and while she did not specifically mention the Good Friday Agreement, many prefer to view Northern Ireland today in the context of post GFA, so post 1998, not 1921.

Peace and greater prosperity is indeed worth celebrating. But no less so in a united Ireland than in a partitioned one.