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SINN FEIN pressed the case for a united Ireland today on the 100th anniversary of the island’s partition, under which the six counties of Ulster remained under British rule.
“One hundred years ago today Ireland was partitioned. A century of partition has cost us dearly,” Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said.
“That past was defined by those who divide. The future is for those of us who unite. The opportunity and rewards of Irish unity belong to all of us who call our beautiful Ireland home,” she said.
The treaty which divided the country was signed after increased pressure for the British occupying forces to leave Ireland.
This intensified after the 1916 Easter Rising, during which revolutionaries led by James Connolly declared independence from British rule.
The revolution was ruthlessly crushed by the British forces and the leaders of the uprising, including Connolly, were executed by firing squad.
But the struggle for a free and independent Ireland continued.
In 1920, Britain, struggling to cope with a guerilla war led by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that was making Ireland increasingly ungovernable, was forced to enter negotiations.
The ruling elite was, however, keen to hold on to the profitable industries in the Protestant-majority north-east.
In 1921 Ireland was formally partitioned, with the six counties of Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone forming Northern Ireland, which remained part of Britain but had its own parliament, Stormont.
Civil war officially ended in 1923, but conflict between unionists and republicans continued and was frequently violent before the historic Good Friday Agreement peace deal in 1998.
A poll on a united Ireland is one of the provisions of the agreement once there is majority support on both sides of the British-imposed border.
Earlier this year a survey suggested that a majority of people in the north favour such a poll in the next five years, with 51 per cent support.
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