Tuesday, May 11, 2021
May 11, 2021

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Northern Ireland quietly celebrates centenary


LONDON — Northern Ireland marked what is widely considered to be its centenary on Monday, with Queen Elizabeth II stressing the need for “reconciliation, equality and mutual understanding” as she sent her “warmest good wishes” to its people.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on a visit to London, said the U.S. will continue to encourage the U.K. and the European Union “to prioritize political and economic stability in Northern Ireland” as they work through their post-Brexit relationship.

Northern Ireland was created on May 3, 1921, when the Government of Ireland Act came into effect and partitioned the island of Ireland into two separate entities. Northern Ireland became part of the U.K. alongside England, Scotland and Wales, while Ireland would later that year become what was then known as the Irish Free State.

Much like the day that Northern Ireland was founded 100 years ago, there were no huge celebrations or grand ceremonies Monday, given the sharply differing views on its creation and subsequent history. Restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic have also led to all commemorations this year being scaled back.

Since its creation, Northern Ireland society has been split between those who want to remain in the U.K. and those who wish to see Northern Ireland become part of the Republic of Ireland. For decades, that fissure fueled sectarian violence: the so-called Troubles, which resulted in around 3,500 deaths.

The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 formalized power-sharing arrangements between unionists and nationalists. It’s not always been a smooth process politically, with the two sides often unable to reach agreement on how to govern, and there’s been sporadic outbreaks of violence.

“This anniversary reminds us of our complex history, and provides an opportunity to reflect on our togetherness and our diversity,” the queen said. “It is clear that reconciliation, equality and mutual understanding cannot be taken for granted, and will require sustained fortitude and commitment.”