Letter

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The Independent Online
Sir: Northern Ireland has always been a political anomaly within the Union and, one way or another, this has always been due to the nationalist population. The exceptional autonomy Ulster enjoyed until the fall of Stormont was due in great measure to the reluctance of the Westminster government to take direct responsibility for the problematic province. Since the fall of Stormont the Troubles have ensured that Ulster has become yet more anomalous.

These imperfections in the Union have been consistently remarked upon and yet never resolved. Britain promises more than it can deliver, Ulster fears it will end up with even less. Britain insists the Union is intact, Unionists know it is not. Perhaps it is time for us all to come clean in an attempt to get this relationship on a clear and sustainable basis once and for all.

The ties of culture and kinship between Ulster and the rest of the UK are strong and enduring. The question is only what political form the connection should take. There has never been a perfect Union and there cannot be. Northern Ireland is too complicated for that. It is within the context then of an imperfect Union that Unionists need to realise the twin aims of fostering the link to the UK and living peaceably with their neighbours.

Practical security for Unionists must come before the chimera of a perfect Union - clinging to that in fact only exacerbates its current agonies. It is time to do a deal.

NICK MARTIN-CLARK

London N8

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