THIS week my homeland turned 100. It has to be said it was a difficult birth.

From the outset a large proportion of Northern Ireland’s population resented its very existence, and felt that the whole of Ireland should have been granted independence from England.

The majority wanted to remain in the UK but feared that they would eventually be outbred – and out-voted – by Catholic nationalists. That’s beginning to happen.

The union with the rest of Britain has always been a loveless one. John Major admitted it in the Joint Declaration of 1993 when he promised Northern Ireland would remain British as long as the majority wanted to, but also stated that Britain had “no selfish economic or strategic interest” in the province. In other words it would ditch it if it could.

It was a miserable marriage in which one partner wanted a divorce but the other wouldn’t grant it. Partition was a compromise, and like most compromises it was an unhappy one.

This isn’t an argument for a United Ireland. That would be another unhappy union. But it does mean the centenary isn’t something to celebrate without question.

It was born in violence and violence would flare up every few years. But it never flared up so intensely and for so long as from the late 1960s.

Those of us who were born in the 1970s were essentially growing up in a war zone. Even when I was little I knew it wasn’t “normal”. And if you were never a victim you knew of those who could be, from the prison officer who drove a different route home each day to the school friend whose police officer dad checked under his car every morning for bombs.

Anxiety and tension were everywhere. Post-traumatic stress disorder was an epidemic. Despite this the people had a reputation for being friendly and good humoured. But some of the humour was very black.

Nobody at first knew what to make of the IRA ceasefire of August 1994, but it was swiftly followed by ceasefires by the other paramilitaries on both sides. That in turn was followed by many of the UK chain stores that had always steered clear of the province before. The new jobs and money were known as “the peace dividend “. And then came the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. It’s one reason I’ll always retain some admiration for Tony Blair.

At mention of the power-sharing “legislative assembly” most people in Northern Ireland roll their eyes. But it includes all main parties, as any workable deal was going to have to.

The news became the bitter arguments over the Irish language, legalising abortion and gay marriage and so on. But it was better than bombings and shootings making the headlines. My contemporaries and I notice the difference. I’m immensely glad that my niece and nephew won’t because they were born and are growing in more peaceful times.

Or so it has seemed, most of the time. The riots in Belfast, Londonderry Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus are a disquieting reminder of the past. Police have used water cannon for the first time in six years. Some 88 of them have been injured.

And it’s all Boris Johnson’s fault. Loyalists are angry that the economic border in the Irish Sea - the so-called Northern Ireland protocol - is pushing them further from Britain an into an economic United Ireland. Johnson had vowed to Arlene Foster that an Irish Sea border would happen “over my dead body” and as soon as he didn’t need her MPs, on board he dropped this.

Mrs Foster isn’t of course the only woman Johnson has deceived. But the situation he has allowed is jeopardising the fragile peace in Northern Ireland. It was always going to be fragile. You don’t tamper with it.

Britain used this have more Japanese companies investing in it than any other Country in Europe. Since Brexit it has had the least. Last week a motor parts firm announced it was closing its operations in Rotherham and Swansea, with the loss of 450 jobs, and relocating to the Czech Republic.

I never argued that everything about the European Union was perfect. I just feared that there would be far more imperfections in leaving.

So far Brexit has meant rioting, disinvestment and job losses - and no noticeable taking back of control. It seems to me every day that a remainer is a well-informed Brexiter.

The last time I was in Northern Ireland was at Christmas 2019 and I don’t expect to be back there before Christmas of this year. When flights from Carlisle to Belfast began I thought I’d be home more often than ever. But that was before I or the airport operators heard ever heard of coronavirus.

I’ve never been away for as long as this and I’m looking forward to getting back. But I worry whether it will be all too familiar.