Out of Brexit's Ashes, Could a United Ireland Rise?

Northern Ireland voted against leaving the EU, is now thinking 'the unthinkable'
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 3, 2016 8:52 AM CDT

(Newser) – British politics remain mired in Brexit turmoil, but from the ashes of the UK-EU split a most interesting proposition is starting to emerge: That of a united Ireland, reports Reuters. Like Scotland, Northern Ireland voted against leaving the European Union, with 56% in favor of staying. Now, facing the prospect of England going it alone, and Scotland threatening to leave, the United Kingdom isn't looking so united anymore, Reuters notes, and it's got the Irish "(thinking) the unthinkable." "People are saying for the first time in their life they would vote for united Ireland, having never contemplated it before," says the leader of Northern Ireland's Green Party.

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Rather than the religious strife that split the six Protestant-heavy counties off into Northern Ireland, the issue is mainly economic: Northern Ireland depends more heavily on European Union funding than other parts of the UK, as well as the stability provided by both the UK and the EU. "We are in danger of a return to conflict—at a low intensity level — if those funds are taken away," says a former IRA member. Sinn Fein wasted little time, with rallies for a united Ireland as the party chair claimed the Brexit signaled Britain had "forfeited any mandate to represent the interests of the people here." And though all in Northern Ireland are eligible for Irish passports, most unionists had staunchly refused —a stance Reuters observed softening this week in the form of lines to apply for passports. "I am softening to the idea of Irish unity, purely on economic issues," says one 25-year-old from Belfast. "I am a European." (Read more Brexit stories.)

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