I WAS in Dublin this week, which was a reminder to me that it’s when, not if, there’s going to be a united Ireland. Understandably, attention there at the moment is on Brexit chaos– security threats are as real as technological fixes for the border are illusionary. Preserving both the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement and the economy of the island of Ireland are the current priorities.

It’s ironic, though, that those supposedly seeking to reinvigorate Great Britain and its apparent glory days are casting aside its links with Northern Ireland, whatever the protestations of the DUP. Arrogant denunciations of the Irish Government protecting its interests and being supported by the EU are matched by Cromwellian attitudes from some who seem to consider it a colony, not a nation state.

David Davis before cutting and running from his ministerial office, after being unable to deliver his absurdities, described the Irish border as “internal”, a similar mindset to Boris Johnson, who compared it to crossing London borough boundaries. Jacob Rees-Mogg even stated that the issue of Ireland had “undermined British politics for much more than 100 years” though it didn’t stop him recognising it as a different jurisdiction to relocate his hedge funds. It seems the Irish should simply know their place in the grand scheme of things; Croppies Lie Down once more.

But despite the plantation attitudes of the Brexiters the times they are a changin’ on a united Ireland. A newspaper article there reported Peter Robinson, the former First Minister and prodigy of the late Rev Paisley, saying: “I don’t expect my own house to burn down but I still insure it because it could happen”. This is not support for it but an acknowledgement all the same of the shifting sands, from a man who in 1986 led a loyalist gang into the Republic, declaring his undying opposition to its very concept. His comments were of course denounced by erstwhile colleagues. Sammy Wilson, a DUP MP, said that it wasn’t an insurance policy but “an invitation to republican arsonists to come in and burn our house down” – language of the sort Mr Robinson used all those years ago when he argued likewise.

As time marches on so do the demographics of Northern Ireland change and it’s those that are making Mr Robinson and others consider the unthinkable. The “Protestant ascendancy” may remain but electorally it’s Sinn Fein that’s on the rise. Assembly elections saw it come within one seat and 1,168 votes of the DUP in a country that was deeply polarised.

The percentage Catholic population is increasing as the Protestant one declines and it’s also growing in influence. Former almost exclusively Unionist professions are now dominated by the supposedly minority community and it’s been ongoing for a while. Years ago, I played football with a lad from “Stroke City”, or Derry/Londonderry as it’s better known. He came from the Protestant community. Chatting to him I was told many of his generation were being told by parents to leave as there was no future, and Glasgow or London beckoned. That wasn’t reciprocated by the minority community who still saw opportunities, despite the economic challenges all were facing.

But it’s not just demographics. Not all Catholics want a united Ireland, just as many Protestants now as in the past, from Wolfe Tone down have differed from supposedly defined tribal allegiances. In Ireland both north and south, as everywhere else, it’s the economy, stupid.

Last year I was at a major international law conference and one of the leading lights was a lawyer from that same Stroke City. Discussing Brexit and long before Mr Robinson’s comments at the MacGill Summer School he said a united Ireland was inevitable. More from resignation than desire, he said he was from the “Protestant tribe” but could see no alternative to it. His business had dual-qualified lawyers, staff and most importantly clients from both jurisdictions. Closer integration was only increasing, with Brexit not just a threat but the driver for unification.

At the same meeting an Irish consular official humorously but very effectively detailed the cross-border economic integration through the story of an Irish sausage criss-crossing the border. From farm through abattoir to packaging and then delivery, the humble food stuff made its way, making the proposals of Mr Davis or others for even limited border checks ever more laughable. It was for those reasons, not just agriculture, vital though it is to all Ireland, but general commerce that the unthinkable was not only being thought, but a few like him were beginning to even support it.

Many of the reasons that Unionists had to oppose unification are also changing. As Northern Ireland stagnates at best, the Republic has recovered from the crash and is motoring on. The theocracy that it was rightly or wrongly perceived to be under

de Valera, which frightened many in the north, is long past. Now under an openly gay Taoiseach of mixed race background, a new modern, self-confident and inclusive Ireland is flourishing in its society as in its economy. Meanwhile it’s the north under the DUP where illiberalism and prejudice are not just rampant but enshrined, all with the support of the Tory Government.

But that support won’t last. The Tories did a shady deal with the DUP to stay in power but have neither affinity nor affection for a land they view as alien. If they hadn’t been beholden to the DUP the clamour to remove the Six Counties, whether they wanted to go or not, would have been deafening. A united Ireland offers simple solutions to the border issue for Brexiters and the EU in protecting its member state.

It’s ever been thus. I recall a history of the RUC where the final days of its predecessor the RIC were narrated. As British troops were marched to the Treaty Ports for safety, questions were asked about the plight of police left in republican areas. Winston Churchill did nothing and left them to their fate.

Ireland neither north nor south matters to Brexiters. As integration pulls them together, Britain will simply abandon them.