David Mitchell, a young scholar, recently suggested that history would record the decade 2007-2017 as ‘a golden age’ for ‘Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom’, one that Brexit has ended.
The decade began with the restoration of devolution, following agreement between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein, and ended when Sinn Fein collapsed the Assembly. Brexit was not the stated reason for the end of power-sharing; but it was the undoubted circumstance of its collapse.
Of course, periodization puts words into the mouth of history. It is probably best to resist recalling times with nostalgia. In that same decade, intense disagreement over ethno-symbolic issues such as flags, emblems and parades proved how fragile were democratic politics in ‘Northern Ireland in the UK’.