Sir: Andrew Marr ascribes the conflict in Northern Ireland to "the long decades of Protestant ascendancy, bigotry and discrimination". He does not seem to have noticed that it was only last week that the Irish Republic voted, by the narrowest of margins, to remove its discriminatory ban on divorce.
The underlying cause of the conflict lies in the fact that Irish nationalism does not yet unambiguously accept the right of the Ulster Protestants to remain in the UK state of which they have been a part for nearly 200 years. The dispute at heart is not one between backward bigots, it is a conflict between two supposedly democratic states.
However reluctantly, the British state in 1921 recognised the right of southern Irish Catholics to secede from it. Does the Irish state recognise the right of the Ulster Protestants to remain in the UK? If it does not, the war by proxy between the Irish and the British states played out (mainly) in Northern Ireland will sooner or later continue, as serious Irish republicans seek to give effect to the Irish constitution and the unionists to defend their position in the UK.
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