A century after Ireland was divided into two self-governing countries, both countries seem to be headed toward reunification.
According to the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the UK is required to hold a referendum in Northern Ireland if a majority of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland support unification.
While only 41% of people in Northern Ireland support unification, a solid 61% of those in the Republic support it and there appears to be a growing backing for unification in both regions. Support for a rejoining of the two countries is up 10 percentage points in Northern Ireland compared to where the same polls were a decade ago.
Meanwhile, in Dublin, 5,000 people attended a symposium called "Preparing for a New and United Ireland" designed to discuss how a unified Ireland could be structured and to nurture a growing unification movement. The event was organized by an advocacy group called Ireland's Future.
The growing unification movement has come in the wake of the UK, and by association, Northern Ireland, exiting the EU along with a myriad of problems facing the six counties that comprise Northern Ireland.
According to a 2016 referendum, 56% of those in Northern Ireland did not support leaving the EU. With the Republic of Ireland still a member of the EU, reunifying the two countries could give Northern Ireland a chance to return.
Economic woes in Northern Ireland are also a driving factor pushing the movement. Historically, Northern Ireland has been more prosperous and had a stronger economy than the Republic of Ireland but in recent years that has been reversed. With Northern Ireland now not only trailing the Republic but also lagging behind the rest of the UK in employment and income, it would be beneficial for the two countries to reunite.
Also, for the first time in Northern Ireland's history, there are more Catholics than Protestants and while there are still physical boundaries separating many neighborhoods in Northern Ireland, a lasting reminder of The Troubles - there is an improving tolerance between the two groups. Tolerance between Catholics and Protestants would be essential for a unification of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to be possible.
Northern Ireland is not the only country looking to potentially remove itself from the United Kingdom. Scotland is facing a possible independence referendum in October 2023 as well.
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