opinion piece | 

QUB professor suggests Britain could invade Ireland should Sinn Fein sweep to power

'No Provos roaming around the drumlins of South Armagh and Louth or lying in wait in the bogs of Tyrone and Monaghan to worry about'

Cathal McCall

Allison Morris

A Queen’s University professor has suggested that Britain may try to claim back the entire island of Ireland in the event of Sinn Féin leading government in both Belfast and Dublin.

In an opinion piece published by  RTE, Prof Cathal McCall, who teaches European politics and borders at Queen’s, said some Tories still believe Ireland “belongs to Britain”.

“After all, it was Britain’s 100 [years] ago and it still holds a part of it, so why not all of it?”, he added.

The author of the book Border Ireland: From Partition To Brexit, Prof McCall said opinion polls suggest “Sinn Féin will also be the unassailable victor in the next Irish general election”, due to take place in 2025.

“A Sinn Féin taoiseach is in the offing for the first time in the history of the state,” he said.

“What would be the British government’s attitude to Sinn Féin's electoral dominance on the island of Ireland should it materialise?”

Prof McCall said that Britain could “respect the democratic decisions taken, north and south, and pledge to advance British-Irish intergovernmental cooperation with the Irish republican interlopers”.

But he added that a second potential response to Sinn Féin’s electoral dominance could be to “claim that these democratic decisions are suspect and proceed to deride the republican victors as terrorists and bandits who are not fit for government”.

Prof McCall points to Boris Johnson’s political hero Winston Churchill, who, at the end of the Second World War, “exonerated Taoiseach Éamon de Valera for maintaining Ireland’s wartime neutrality”.

“Churchill is Boris Johnson's lodestar,” he said. “Should Johnson cling on as British prime minister, would he follow Churchill’s example to the perceived provocation of an all-Ireland victorious Sinn Féin?

“Would he grumble and gripe but ultimately want to leave the Irish to their own devices? The answer is probably yes.”

While accepting it is unlikely Mr Johnson will still be in Number Ten by 2025, Prof McCall said the PM’s replacement, naming Michael Gove, Liz Truss, Dominic Raab, Jacob Rees-Mogg or Priti Patel as possible successors, “may have other ideas that do not necessarily take Irish history into account”.

“Should a Tory with British imperial delusions take charge, the odds shorten on a British reclamation of Ireland in response to Sinn Féin sweeping the electoral boards.

“Such a Tory prime minister, less than wedded to democratic principles, may well eye the size and purpose of the Irish Defence Forces and conclude that reclamation would be a doddle.

“No Provos roaming around the drumlins of South Armagh and Louth or lying in wait in the bogs of Tyrone and Monaghan to worry about either.

“No heroic Ukrainian-style resistance likely. And all done in the name of ‘peace and security’.

“There may be pause for thought at an adverse US reaction, but Donald Trump may well be back in the White House by then, so no heat from there.

“An Irish Government-in-exile, holed up in New York, may be permitted to take its case to the United Nations.

“Would Nato care about the fate of non-member, neutral Ireland? Nato tends not to care about non-members and neutrals, especially when the neutral in question has just been subsumed within the organisation’s key member, the United Kingdom.

“The European Union would certainly care about one of its small member states being snaffled up by the Big Leaver. The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement of 2021 would be dust, but that would only be grist to the mill of Tory Europhobes in Westminster.”

Prof McCall said we were living in tumultuous political times.

He added: “A large member state saw fit to leave the European Union in the face of the best advice from experts galore.

“Far-right parties are knocking on the doors of governments across Europe. Trump threatens a resurrection. And Vladimir Putin is orchestrating a vicious war on Ukraine to reclaim what he believes rightfully belongs to Mother Russia.

“A British reclamation of Ireland down the line? Unthinkable? But stranger things have happened.”

The state broadcaster published the piece with the caveat that the views expressed were that of the author and do not “represent or reflect RTE”.

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