The other day a significant thing happened, the Queen of England shook hands with Northern Ireland's ex-IRA chief, during one of the Queen's gratuitous diamond jubilee events. It provided me a moment to reflect on just how little I understand about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Despite a fair bit of reading and an ability to regurgitate the basic positions and facts of both sides, what lingers in me is confusion over just what the fighting really accomplished, from inception to resolution. It feels to this ignorant and uninvolved soul like the end to hostility was more a product of collective ennui than radically reformed positions. Northern Ireland got some new autonomy, clarifications, and assurances, but the fundamental and critical question of whether or not Northern Ireland was to break off from the UK and become part of Ireland remained wholly unsettled; this issue was left for future generations to sort out. That the people of Northern Ireland should decide their fate seems inescapably logical and would have seemed inevitable, whether by this bombing-forced peace settlement or some less passionate changes in the political landscape decades from now. And if the fate of Norther Ireland is unresolved in the present in both scenarios, then was this recent conflict and its recent resolution necessary? What really was profoundly new or novel in this achieved peace?
Either way I am happy of the outcome, that normal life has returned to Northern Ireland, and that its people feel better about their lot.