“We might be in Northern Ireland, but I knew the moment you spoke that you were up amid a huddle of spectators at a towering bonfire on the Fountain Estate. ….. James (not his real name) had latched on to us at an illicit 11th-night bonfire …

Is now a good time for Northern Ireland to join the republic?

No.

The unification of Ireland has to be wanted by the people of Northern Ireland and by the people of the Republic.

Plus, it’s not just a matter of saying hey presto! and it’s done.

Give the idea a moment’s thought and you’ll realise the difficulties.

Two different political systems, two different social structures, two different health systems, two different legal systems, two different education systems, etc etc etc.

Then you’ll have the people on both sides who weren’t happy about unification.

While the side that voted against unification in the Republic would probably accept it grumblingly, those who voted against it in Northern Ireland would be horribly outraged, and would need assurances that their way of life and their ideals would be taken into account.

Then you’d also have those in NI who voted for unification being severely disappointed coming face to face with the reality of it, and being very disgruntled and unhappy.

You’d also find some of those who voted for unification being nastily triumphalist about it – we’ve seen some of that already – and further alienating the unhappy ones.

And those in the Republic who voted for unification might also be very unhappy at the amount of assurances, and subsidies, and concessions, that would be made and might regret it.

Any thought of a Border Poll or Referendum on Unification would require several/many years of preparation, so that when people voted, they’d know what they were voting for.

Luckily, the government in the Republic has a fair amount of experience at this. But Northern Ireland doesn’t even HAVE a government at the moment.

The reunification of East and West Germany wasn’t easy, you know.

BONUS STORY: Cycling the Border, 2018: ‘At least yous are Prods, you f**kers’