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Northern Ireland independence revisited

Nations and Nationalism

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["Nations and Nationalism, Volume 28, Issue 2, Page 557-573, April 2022. ", "\nAbstract\nThis article examines the idea of Northern Ireland independence in Unionist political thought. It focuses on three moments which compelled Ulster Unionists to re‐evaluate Northern Ireland's constitutional status as part of the United Kingdom—the Stormont parliament's cohabitation with the post‐war Labour government, Stormont's collapse in 1972, and the Anglo‐Irish Agreement of 1985. It argues that rather than being the expression of Ulster nationalism or a contractarian understanding of political obligation, Unionist arguments for independence were motivated by a classical republican concern: the arbitrary power Northern Ireland is subject to as part of the United Kingdom. This locates Unionist thought on independence within a problem of democratic self‐determination: the relationship between majority rule and the bounds of the political community. The article finds that each moment compelled particular Unionist thinkers to reconceive of Ulster Unionists as a political minority subject to arbitrary power in the UK constitution and to choose between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom as the sovereign political community. The article is unique as there exists little scholarship on the idea of Northern Ireland independence and instructive in providing a challenging case study to assess the attraction and determinacy of classical republicanism as a theory of self‐determination.\n"]