Since its inception in 1920 the population of Northern Ireland (an area the size of Yorkshire) has hovered between 1.25 and 1.5 million and the majority and minority communities' ratio has moved from 66/33 to 60/40 and is now approaching 50/50 and, if the trend continues, is expected to reverse the original ratio.
To many people it is (quite justifiably) astonishing that such a geographically small area has had so much attention, so many billions of words (including mine) written and spoken about its difficulties, especially during the last 30 years, and with such a high cost financially, emotionally disturbing and disproportionately high in deaths and injuries - three and a half thousand plus. Despite intense sustained efforts by international, national and local politicians it remains a running sore in the body politic.
The latest outbreak of sectarian violence has erupted around access to a Catholic primary school by children through a 'Loyalist' road in the Ardoyne district in North Belfast 20/21st June. Mainly, but not exclusively, Loyalist mobs have attacked the police who intervened between protestors, bringing the Chief Constable, Ronnie Flanagan, to publicly call them scum. This sort of sectarian riot is indicative of ingrained, unchanged, unresolved community antagonisms, despite the efforts of many people committed to their resolution prior to and subsequent to the Good Friday Accord.
At eighty two years of age my span of life slightly spans Northern Ireland's years as a unit within the UK. Although I have escaped the mental prison in which many of my compatriots in the Six Counties still languish, I am still concerned about how they might be helped to extricate themselves from their centuries-old historical entrapment.
My escape, I feel, is largely due to having discarded religion as a determining framework with which to view problems so that I can try rationally and objectively to convince my fellow countrymen and women to bury their differences rather than continue to bury the victims of their enmities.
The imminent collapse of the Belfast (1998) Agreement, trembling or Trimble-ing on a knife edge, arises from a stubborn failure to accept that this Accord, achieved through blood, tears, sweat and anguished heartsearching, was and is, in word and in fact, a win-win situation for both communities.
The opposition to it is lead by the same intransigent fundamentalist demagogue, wearing a back to front collar, sporting a DD honorary degree from a dubious so-called 'university' in the US Bible Belt, who was the mentor who sparked off community conflict in the mid and late 1960s.
His followers, seemingly psychologically conditioned like Pavlovian dogs, rant and rave and rampage against the compromise while so-called 'moderate' Unionists seem to freeze into inaction, as fundamentalists in Paisley's camp fulminate against the rationality of the Agreement.
And some of those opponents of it on the Nationalist side cannot be allowed to walk away from its terms, failing to recognise the lessons of history and the sense and opportunities contained in it. They in their determination to accept nothing less than capitulation from the Unionist community mistakenly cling to the idea that if they remain obdurate events might arise in which military action would have a greater hope of success.
This is a dangerous illusion. It must be recognised that, as Professor J.J. Lee (UC Cork) said in his book, 'Ireland 1912 - 1985, Politics and Society', whom I quoted in 'The Green Dragon No 6, Spring 1998, "There can be no permanent civilised solution to the Ulster Question within the terms of reference of either triumphalist Unionism or triumphalist Nationalism". The Belfast Agreement in April 1998 essentially met that criterion.
Now that the British Government which sponsored and ratified that Agreement was returned on June 7th with another huge parliamentary majority they are in a strong position to make clear to the dissident groups in both Northern Ireland communities that the Agreement is the only course open and available. This needs to be emphasised particularly to those sections claiming vociferously that they are British, who must accept that the Good Friday (1998) Agreement, ratified at Westminster, endorsed in referendums in Northern Ireland and the Republic, is here to stay.
Nationalists and Republicans have to reflect on how the real purpose of politics and revolutionary actions down the years was to remove the indignities, inequalities and discrimination embodied in the previous structures of government, whether directly from London or locally within the Six Counties , which has been achieved in the new structures encapsulated in the Agreement.
Unionists need to reject the bigoted rantings of the Ballymena Bully Boy and leave him in his seventeenth century Bog Hole, to be unearthed and displayed by some 24th century Political Anthropologist as the equivalent of Neanderthal Man.
Nationalists and Republicans must accept that if their expressed determination to remove the gun from Irish (Northern Ireland) politics is to be believed that these weapons must at some early stage (the sooner the better) be seen to have been irretrievably removed.
This does not mean they should be seen as giving way to Trimble's ultimatum but to display their understanding of what history is telling them and to act upon its imperatives.
Unionists, Nationalists, Republicans, all must recognise that hiding or
sheltering behind military back up is no longer an option for any of them.