The UK Throws Two Decades Of Irish-British Peace To The Brexit Winds

It’s a rare thing indeed for the national press in Ireland to express anger at the political misdeeds of the unionist parties in the north-east of the country. However, the enthusiastic support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) for the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom, followed by the emergence of the RHI cash-for-ash scandal and the collapse of the regional power-sharing executive at Stormont, seems to have muted – at least for now – the usual cabal of pro-British apologists in the Irish media. After years of ignoring the tentative peace process in the Six Counties journalists and commentators are suddenly (re-)discovering the negative impact of the UK’s presence on our island nation. An impact likely to grow from the negative to the disastrous in the coming months as Britain disengages itself from the European Union, so threatening to undo the basis of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and several subsequent peace accords.

As a few are now beginning to realise in the newsrooms of Dublin, it’s all well and good turning a blind eye to the continued foreign occupation of the northern part of your country if that occupation lies invisible and near-quiescent an hour or two up the road in Belfast. But when that century-old historical anomaly is likely to encroach upon your own life, when barriers and checkpoints make the uncomfortable reality of Irish-British relations all too visible again, then attitudes can transform in unpredictable ways. 2017 is not 1977 or ’87 or 1997. There is an entire generation of Irish people in their teens and twenties who have no direct knowledge or experience of the “Troubles”, and who see only the potential of a closed and insular overseas’ nation adversely effecting the well-being of their own. The energising power of the politics of resentment should never be forgotten.

Here is Aidan O’Brien writing in CounterPunch. While one might disagree with some of his points it is hard to disagree with the note of fatalism that permeates them:

Ireland is unfree. The border between the north and the south is the proof of this. And Brexit is bringing the meaning of all this back into the Irish mind. Since the 1990s the border has been buried in the Irish unconscious. Today, however, Brexit is forcing it to the fore once again. And it couldn’t be more unwelcome. Who likes being reminded not only of one’s physical handicap but also of one’s cowardice?

A hard Brexit means the return of a hard Irish border. It means the return of Irish schizophrenia. It means the end of Celtic craftiness. And the return of the Celtic conundrum: British rule in Ireland.

Europe was supposed to be the solution to the Irish problem. By joining Europe: Britain and Ireland were indirectly joining Dublin and Belfast. Europe therefore, for the Irish, was the convenient way out of the British trap. It was the lazy way out. It was the coward’s way out. Without thinking and without fighting, the Irish really believed they could casually walk their way to freedom.

As Europe’s free market unraveled so did Ireland’s fake freedom. Brexit is the final proof of this. By leaving Europe: Britain is again cutting Ireland in two. Once more the Brits are running away with Belfast and Derry.

Peace in Ireland is premised on the pretence that the border doesn’t really exist. It’s based on the belief that the north of Ireland is not really a British colony. Instead it’s supposed to be an area with identity issues. In other words, Ireland – like the European Union – is delusional.

Meanwhile Brian Feeney, a former SDLP councillor and no republican firebrand, is in a similar pessimistic – or realistic – mood in the Irish News:

The British government intends to partition the island of Ireland more thoroughly than ever before. Make no mistake about it, that is the inevitable reckless consequence of the Conservative government’s decision to leave the EU Customs Union.

The current phrase trotted out, including in the Brexit White Paper making the resultant border “as seamless and frictionless as possible” is meaningless and Theresa May and her ministers know that.

The next phrase in the white paper, “so that we can continue to see the trade and everyday movements we have seen up to now” is just nonsense. It can’t happen and that is slowly beginning to dawn on ministers in Dublin after the depressing meeting they had with May fresh from her desperate grovelling to Trump and Erdogan.

In a rare serious response to a question in the Dáil from the Sinn Féin leader about the visit, Enda Kenny admitted, “Deputy Adams asked me about having a situation where there is no land border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. I am not sure that we are going to achieve that”. Former TD for Louth, Dermot Ahern predicted, “there will be checks, particularly on the southern side”, he added, “it will be a disaster for us”.

The Irish blogger FitzJames Horse has written eloquently about the complexities of the conflict in the UK-administered north-east of Ireland, of its inevitable and cyclical nature. Simply put, the British gun in Irish politics will always spark violence and counter-violence. This leads to periods of time marked by warfare and periods of time marked by the absence of warfare (but not the presence of peace). Arguably we are in one of those restless interregnum decades, the lull between successive storm fronts. The Good Friday Agreement in its multiple inter-party and inter-government strands was the mechanism by which we could weather the next storm. It seems that the United Kingdom and its unionist proxies are not only determined to destroy that storm-proof mechanism but are willing to bring on a new hurricane in doing so.

[ASF: Thanks to Jim for the link to the CounterPunch article]

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15 comments

  1. Dissident republicans attacking Irish border guards?

    That would turn Southerners very sour very quickly to the thought of an UI. I hope dissidents aren’t that dumb.

  2. Never would I have imagined that Ireland would be presented an opportunity to be reunited this soon. For this to happen, my instinct tells me that the republicans should/need not do anything at all. Let Westminster do all the heaving lifting. Two possible outcomes resulting from this Brexit shambles: one, UK/England will chuck NI from the union the very first chance it get should its upkeep be proven to be uneconomical to UK/England. Two; UK/England needs to cling to NI via force and this in the long run will be uneconomical, which brings us back to the first outcome.

    If I were a republican, I’d egg the Tories on NI being a money sucking finance blackhole. You’d have the Tories begging the Republic to take back NI in no time.

    My caveat is Scotland. If she becomes independent, all bets are off. There would be no reason for UK/England to keep NI except pride.

    1. Sadly, the upkeep of NI has been wholly uneconomical for the UK for decades already. It is the last vestige of the “Empire,” the last people still truly subjugated to their whims. Provided the EU does not fall victim to a general, radical move to the right, the economic fall-out of the Brexit may force their hand, which I believe will prove you right. We do know, however, they are a stubborn, unrelenting foe, often placing image before practicality, and ready to sacrifice their “lower-born” for the prestige of their upper class. We cannot underestimate their tenacity and their persistent ill-will towards the sovereignty of our nation.

        1. It most certainly has. The UK suffering an economic downturn, in my opinion, will only occur if the EU persists. If the radical right (most conservatives are still in the EU camp) succeeds in dismantling the EU in this years’ election cycle, the UK will not be significantly impacted. Which, in turn, will very likely lead to more troubles in the six counties than we can already expect with just the Brexit.

  3. The further complication with a united Ireland is that the CTA can also be dumped and – given the possible lack of agreement about reciprocal residence rights between the EU and the UK – expulsions of EU citizens and population exchanges could follow.

  4. CTA risks being dumped anyway – it was ok when both UK and Ireland were in or out of the EU. With one being in and the other out I can’t see how it will continue, given that there will be another 27 players involved in deciding – whatever the UK might want in its post Brexit Agreement with the EU

  5. There is a CTA-type Agreement in place in the Nordic region which includes non-EU members such as Norway and Iceland among others so something on those lines is an option.

    We need to work hard with our EU partners to build an understanding as to how fundamental the GFA is for peace and prosperity in Ireland, get them on board and work to ensure that the best possible deal is reached in Ireland’s best interests post-Brexit.

    Furthermore, all our friends in the USA need to be brought on board to support the GFA – after all, our American friends were hugely instrumental in putting the GFA in place.

    1. Norway and Iceland have a kind of semi-detached relationship with the EU, though, and aren’t hostile to it as an institution, whereas many English “leavers” seem to take the view that the less they have to do with the EU, the better. If it weren’t for the term’s associations, you could call it “Ourselves alone”.

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