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Ireland and its two jurisdictions

In Ireland, partitionism refers to views on Irish politics, culture, geography or history that treat Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as distinct. Partitionists may emphasise the perceived differences between the two jurisdictions and the people who live within them.

It has mostly been used to describe those in the Republic of Ireland who view Northern Ireland and the people who live there as separate and different. It is usually used among Irish nationalists and republicans "as a criticism of those in the south who pay lip-service to the ideal of Irish unity but who are smugly comfortable with a 26 county republic".[1]


Attitudes to partition[edit]

The Derry Journal has described partitionism as "a criticism of those in the south who pay lip-service to the ideal of Irish unity but who are smugly comfortable with the 26 county Republic".[2] Likewise, in his book Luck and the Irish, Roy F Foster used the term "partitionalism" to describe "the tacit acceptance in the South of a border that worked to its economic advantage".[3]

In 2009, Sinn Féin MLA Martin McGuinness used the term in denouncing Lord Mayor of Dublin Eibhlin Byrne who had suggested it was "unpatriotic" for people from the Republic of Ireland to go shopping for cheaper prices in Northern Ireland.[4][5] Commenting on McGuinness's remarks, Peter Robinson said: "For republicans, partitionism, I think, is defined as the practice of advocating the removal of the border but behaving in a manner which reinforces it".[6]

Ireland and Irishness[edit]

When the island was partitioned in 1921, thousands of Irish Catholics and nationalists were left "stranded" in the "Protestant, Pro-British state" of Northern Ireland.[7][8] Some nationalists have described partitionism as the belief that "Ireland" and "Irishness" is confined to the Republic of Ireland. For example, during a debate in the Dáil on 9 March 1999, Austin Currie denounced those in the Republic of Ireland who questioned the Irishness of 'northern' Catholics:[9]

I am sorry to say it was not only in the North that our Irish identity was questioned. Some in this State questioned our Irishness and there are some who still do. Partitionism over the years of separation became a fact of life; sometimes in the most unexpected quarters, as I found through personal experience including an occasion in this House.

Likewise, a columnist for The Irish Times on 25 September 1997 described a "partitionist mentality" in the Republic of Ireland saying that "those elements in this State who query the Irishness of Northern nationalists, who speak of their difference in almost racist terms, should seriously consider counselling".[10]

During the 1997 presidential election campaign, Fine Gael printed and circulated leaflets that stated:[11] "The presidency is about the nation behind the state. About all the individual people who make up Irish society. It is the only public office elected by the direct vote of all the people of Ireland". The 23 October 1997 edition of An Phoblacht (the official newspaper of Sinn Féin) criticised these statements as "a perfect example of partitionist thinking" and argued, "the clear import of this statement is that people in the Six Counties are not Irish, that Ireland stops at the border and that Irish society is confined to the 26 Counties".[11]

Speaking in the Dáil on 13 April 2000, Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:[12]

In the republican political tradition, to which I belong, the State is often referred to as the 26 County State. This is a conscious response to the partitionist view, prevalent for so long and still sadly widespread, that Ireland stops at the Border. The Constitution says that the name of the State is Ireland, and Éire in the Irish language. Quite against the intentions of the framers of the Constitution, this has led to an identification of Ireland with only 26 of our 32 counties in the minds of many people.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Speaking with Dubliners in their own language". Derry Journal. 3 February 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  3. ^ O'Donoghue, Bernard (5 January 2008). "Riding the Celtic Tiger". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  4. ^ "McGuinness defends cross-border shopping". RTÉ News. 23 January 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  5. ^ "Embracing the 'new partitionism'". BBC News. 20 February 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ O'Doherty, Shane (2008). The Volunteer – A Former IRA Man's True Story. AEG Publishing Group. p. 136. 
  8. ^ Cleary, Joe (2002). Literature, partition and the nation-state. Cambridge University Press. p. 22. 
  9. ^ "Parliamentary Debates: Volume 501 – 9 March 1999". Dáil Éireann. 9 March 1999. Archived from the original on 20 September 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  10. ^ "Partitionist mentality denying Northerners right to seek Presidency". The Irish Times. 25 September 1997. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  11. ^ a b "Presidential campaign raises anti-nationalists". An Phoblacht. 23 October 1997. Retrieved 24 August 2010. 
  12. ^ "Parliamentary Debates: Volume 518 – 13 April 2000". Dáil Éireann. 13 April 2000. Archived from the original on 20 September 2012. Retrieved 24 August 2010. 

See also[edit]