Letter: The conflict in Northern Ireland: origins and solutions

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The Independent Online
From Mr Stephen Plowden

Sir: Andrew Marr's article "In Ireland, no war is still good news" (28 November), pointing out the benefits that peace has brought to Northern Ireland, is very welcome. But even Mr Marr slips into unnecessary pessimism by accepting the argument that the province's constitutional problems are ultimately insoluble because the two communities there want mutually exclusive things.

Some people in Northern Ireland think of themselves as British and reject an Irish identity: some feel themselves to be exclusively Irish; some feel both Irish and British; others find it most natural to describe themselves as belonging to Ulster or to Northern Ireland. It may be difficult to devise a constitution that will take account of all these different identities, but it is not logically impossible.

I have previously suggested one possible solution which is that Northern Ireland should become a largely self-governing province both of the UK and of the Republic of Ireland; there may be better ones.

The problem only becomes insoluble if people say, "I want to be British (Irish) and therefore you, my neighbour, have to be so as well." But how many people in Northern Ireland are still saying that?

Yours faithfully,

Stephen Plowden

London, NW1

28 November