There's a revolution happening in Ireland, one of the last progressive nations left on earth. Ireland is coming together, while the UK is being torn apart.
After a century of relative stability following a Civil War, the Republic of Ireland is asking some big questions and making some big decisions. Same sex marriage is now legal. Divorce has now been legal for 23 years. And the Republic has taken the first step to legalize abortion for any reason a woman chooses.
This is a nation that has been closely aligned with the Vatican for centuries. A nation that served as a Catholic foil to England's Anglican patriarchy. A nation that, if the legend is to be believed, preserved Western European civilization during the Dark Ages.
But a new generation of Irish citizens do not fear the Vatican. They learned from their parents that upholding human rights is a cornerstone of Irish society. This nation of just 6 million people advocates for human rights from Yemen to Gaza to Syria to Burma and even the USA. And a disproportionate number of Irish people are members of Amnesty International. It was celebrity Irish Amnesty International members like Bono and Sinéad O'Connor who got me into human rights advocacy in high school. Watch sessions of the Irish parliament (Oireachtas Éireann) on YouTube or RTÉ and there's a good chance the term "human rights" will be spoken.
A fascinating awakening has occurred. Sometime between the late 1980s and today, the Irish people realized that they don't have to follow the Vatican in order to set a high standard for human rights. They are doing it themselves, in the secular sphere of diplomacy and trade. The latest generation of Irish adults are less religious than their parents. And slightly more of them speak the Irish language than the generation before them. We are witnessing an Irish awakening.
Which brings us to the elephant in the room - reunification. That process began with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. A lot of Irish Republicans feared that it would chill calls for reunification, and for a time it did. But just one generation later, the issue is in the spotlight again. The agreement allows citizens of Northern Ireland to easily apply for Irish dual citizenship. No one thought there would be a wave of Northern Irish applicants. Northern Ireland has better roads and infrastructure, some said, somewhat jokingly. Northern Ireland is just fine and stable, others said. But then in 2016, people began applying for Republic of Ireland passports in record numbers. This year, there have been 100,000 Republic of Ireland passports issued to citizens in the northern six counties. That's higher than the number of people who speak the Irish language daily in the Republic. It's a huge number, and it was set off by the 2016 UK European Union exit referendum ("Brexit").
And so the process to reunify has begun again. We didn't know it in 1998. We didn't know it in 2016. But it is happening now. It seems unavoidable. Even those who were once supporters of partition or the Ulster side.
Meanwhile, a hard UK exit from the EU appears likely. The Tories, in their downright bizarre quest to honor the misguided will of the people, have done nothing but destabilize themselves. Theresa May's government has been on the verge of collapse since June, and a hard Northern Ireland border with checkpoints appears likely, which would violate the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and accelerate the movement to unify Ireland. And on the UK side, an exit from the EU without terms in place would subject the nation to tariffs for just about everything, and would probably put an end to automobile manufacturing in the UK. Nissan, Land Rover, Toyota and others would move their manufacturing to the EU or China. Presumably, only Aston Martin would remain in the UK.
What the hell kept the Tories in power this long, two years after the disastrous EU exit referendum? There's no reason for a Tory government at Whitehall. Meanwhile, the Corbyn-led Labourites are in their predictable disarray. The whole British project, from the 1707 Act of Union, the installation of the House of Hanover in 1715, the creation of the United Kingdom and the mostly mythical Commonwealth, all look increasingly irrelevant, theatrical, even farcical. Let Scotland secede, the northern 6 counties finally reunite, and England and Wales do whatever the hell they think might work.