Can Ireland Be One?


Malachi O’Doherty

Ireland has changed radically in a generation. Today both parts of the island define themselves by or against the narrative of a freedom struggle. Could they conceivably put that behind them, regard it as closed, and if so, how would they jointly define Ireland’s sovereign national character after that?

August 2022



Can this deeply divided island ever be united?

Malachi O’Doherty’s ground-breaking new book explores this salient question and many more. Considering centuries of history alongside contemporary issues, he looks for answers by talking to those who know the island best: those who live there. O’Doherty speaks to politicians, journalists, writers, lawyers, sportspeople and residents of both the North and the Republic, to produce the most comprehensive picture yet of a divided nation and its uncertain future.

This book asks the big political questions about the prospects of reconciliation between North and South, but it also goes behind the upfront attitudes of parties and factions to ask what really drives people’s sense of who they are, and whether a more inclusive national identity can be reached.

The Irish nation still defines itself by the legacy of a freedom struggle, a legacy cherished and celebrated by major political parties while at the same time aspiring to absorb a people and a region which is determinedly British. Can two parts of a partitioned island put that legacy behind them, and if so, how would they jointly define Ireland’s sovereign national character after that? In Can Ireland Be One?, Malachi O’Doherty confronts the real-world implications of this incendiary debate.


In The Beginning
What Are We Like?
Who Are We, Really?
Paddy Was There Too
The Language
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
Up From The Country
Unionists In A United Ireland
Ireland’s Future
Those To Be Persuaded
Can Ireland Be Two?
Why Bother?
Forward to Confusion

About the Author
Malachi O’Doherty was born in Muff, County Donegal, Ireland, and grew up in Belfast. He was a teacher to Libyan soldiers, a ghostwriter for an Indian guru, a contributor to BBC Northern Ireland and is a regular writer for the Belfast Telegraph. Much of his writing career coincided with the Northern Irish Troubles. He has written numerous books about that period, including Fifty Years On: The Troubles and the Struggle for Change in Northern Ireland (Atlantic Books, 2020) and Gerry Adams: An Unauthorised Life (Faber and Faber, 2018). His first work of fiction, Terry Brankin Has A Gun, was published in 2020 by Merrion Press.


‘This book will quickly become essential reading for anyone who speaks about Ireland, whether in Belfast, Dublin, London, Brussels or Washington DC.  Immensely readable, you will either be constantly nodding in recognition or be drawn into a greater complexity than you imagined.  O’Doherty’s emerging Ireland is a fascinating place.’
John, Lord Alderdice

‘Engaging, illuminating and never afraid to challenge shibboleths on all sides, Can Ireland Be One? unpicks the complexities of the issues set to dominate any border poll in Northern Ireland. Malachi O’Doherty expertly weaves together reportage, political and cultural history and his own family roots in this lucid assessment of what’s at stake for people on both sides of the Irish border.’
Mark Devenport

‘As a border poll on Irish unity has progressed from possible, to likely, to certain, Malachi O’Doherty’s book represents an important and timely contribution to a debate which will probably dominate Irish politics for the next few years. As he notes, the key issues (particularly that of an Irish identity) need addressed and resolved long in advance of any constitutional reboot.’
Alex Kane

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