With negotiations souring an already uneasy relationship to England, the Irish novelist surveys the mood of his nation, and considers the prospect of unification

In late 2010, I sat in a discreet space in the lounge of a Dublin hotel with two British diplomats who were planning the first state visit of Queen Elizabeth to Ireland the following May and were consulting widely. The questions were the basic ones: What should she say? What should she not say? Where should she go? Where should she not go?

When I said she should visit a stud farm and get to see some horses, the diplomats were uneasy. Would that not seem too posh? I explained that following horses in Ireland was part of ordinary life. And also, if she didn’t see some horses, people would think that she was not enjoying herself, and, oddly enough, despite 700 years of strife, most people in Ireland would want the Queen to enjoy her visit.

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