Perils & Prospects of a United Ireland

By: Padraig O’Malley

Publication Date: March 2023


Perils and Prospects of a United Ireland by Padraig O’Malley

Padraig O’Malley’s Perils and Prospects of a United Ireland presents a wide-ranging and unique study of the questions around the future of Northern Irish politics, including the idea of reunification.

O’Malley has forged relationships across the political divide for over half a century and here he attemps to ascertain whether, after decades of interaction – but especially since the B/GFA – the protagonists are any closer to working co-operatively.

In this book, O’Malley explores the factors that might lead to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State calling a border referendum and the challenges both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would face. How might that majority for unity, a simple 50 per cent + 1, emerge? What criteria might a Secretary of State draw on to make their judgment call?

Including interviews from ninety-seven political players, academics, political influencers, a cross-section of the political grandees who negotiated the B/GFA and faith leaders between February 2020 and June 2021, O’Malley takes a temperature check of opinions from Northern Ireland with a sampling of opinion in the South.

Interviewees included party leaders Jeffrey Donaldson (Democratic Unionist Party, DUP), Doug Beattie (Ulster Unionist Party, UUP), Naomi Long (Alliance), Colum Eastwood (Social Democratic and Labour Party, SDLP) and Billy Hutchinson (Progressive Unionist Party, PUP), and members of the Ard Comhairle, Matt Carty TD and Chris Hazzard MP.

Focusing on the topics of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Good Friday Agreement, Brexit, Unionism, Nationalism, the economics of potential reunification or continued partition, and the broad range of Northern Irish identities, this work encompasses the most up-to-date and considered review of political actions so far. A must-read for those interested in the future of Northern Ireland.

Perils and Prospects of a United Ireland will be published ahead of a major international conference to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement being hosted by Queen’s University Belfast on April 17th and 18th 2023.


‘In a nuanced, even-handed and rather brilliant way, Padraig O’Malley has devoted his world-class intellect to analysing that Northern, divided province of ours. This is a remarkable book … a superb book. It’s a triumph of insightful analysis and even-handedness. He has insights into a Northern Unionist and Loyalist psyche, which is very rare in this country … An excellent and important read.’ Andy Pollak

‘It’s incredibly hard to write about Northern Ireland fairly. It’s even harder to write about something like Irish unity fairly and accurately, and still be interesting and still ask the questions that are significant — and questions that I hadn’t thought about — and questions that are new and fresh and look at that critically, skeptically, but not cynically, and take it seriously in a way that sometimes both the proponents of Irish unity don’t do and the opponents of Irish unity don’t do. This book treats its subject with the seriousness that it requires.’ Sam McBride, Northern Ireland Editor of the Belfast Telegraph and Sunday Independent

‘Few subjects are as vexing and uncertain as the long-term consequences of Brexit and the possibility of a united Ireland, yet Padraig O’Malley has drawn on his decades studying divided societies to produce a clear-eyed, wide-ranging, nonpartisan, elegantly written, up-to-the-minute analysis. Perils and Prospects is an important book – and an urgent one.’ Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Say Nothing

‘Padraig O’Malley’s new book is a profoundly important exploration of the complexities and conundrums of untying the Gordian knot of Irish partition. I have not seen this depth of non-partisan understanding and explanation from any other analyst or advocate. That is why anyone who wants – or needs – to understand the possible endgame of Irish partition has to get this well-written book and read it carefully.’ Professor, the Lord Alderdice: First Speaker, Northern Ireland Assembly (1998-2004); Executive Chairman, The Changing Character of War Centre, Pembroke College; Senior Research Fellow, Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford

‘A substantial and comprehensive analysis of the progress and potential of the Northern Ireland peace process.’ Ray Burke, Irish Times

‘Couldn’t be more urgent or more significant … O’Malley’s beautifully written and accessible book will certainly be thought provoking for anyone interested in what a united Ireland means to us today on the island of Ireland, and in how it might come about and what shape it might take.’ The Mayo News

‘As a major voice on the topic of divided societies, from Northern Ireland to South Africa and the Middle East over the past half century, Padraig O’Malley’s latest book is a welcome addition to the literature, especially now, when the prospect of a united Ireland seems closer than it has been in the last century … [he is] a foremost authority on Northern Ireland, while also playing an important role as a convenor of opposing parties to work out their differences.’ Boston Irish Tourism Association

‘A serious book from a serious and eminent scholar and peacemaker and so represents a high profile and important intervention on possible political futures for the whole island. … The book is not just about the architecture of political change, but also about the engineering works that would have to accompany constitutional reform. … The prose has panache and the wide range of primary sources add colour and texture to his own analysis.’ Feargal Cochrane, Fortnight

‘What I love about this book is that it treats Irish unity with the seriousness it deserves … This book brings together eclectic interviews with everyone from Peter Robinson to Colin Harvey, Mervyn Gibson, and Séanna Walsh, but analyses and contextualises their words rather than simply taking them at face value. It ultimately shows that Irish unity could work – and O’Malley believes it will happen – but it will only be successful if accompanied by enormous care, planning, and painful compromise.’ Belfast Telegraph

Padraig O’Malley is an Irish international peacemaker, author, and professor. O’Malley specializes in the problems of divided societies, such as South Africa, Northern Ireland and the Middle East. He has written extensively on these subjects and has been actively involved in promoting dialogue among representatives of differing factions. In 1997 he arranged for the Good Friday negotiators to meet with President Nelson Mandela and the team that negotiated the end of apartheid in South Africa. He’s currently the John Joseph Moakley Distinguished Professor of Peace and Reconciliation at the University of Massachusetts Boston. O’Malley is the author of The Uncivil Wars: Ireland Today (Beacon Press, 1983, 1990, 1997), which won the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize and Biting at the Grave: The Irish Hunger Strikes and the Politics of Despair (Beacon Press, 1990), among other publications.

Weight 0.7 kg
Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Publication Date

March 2023