Brexit fanaticism in full effect as the Conservative Party politician Jacob Rees-Mogg, one of the main leaders of the anti-European campaign in the United Kingdom, is caught on camera arguing that the UK can reimpose security checks on the formerly militarised frontier around the British legacy colony on the island of Ireland “just like during the Troubles”.
And for those of you who don’t remember what that fractious border looked like, here is an AP report from 1992:
Hundreds of Roman Catholics who live next to British army installations on Northern Ireland’s border believe they are being used as ”human shields” to deter IRA attacks.
”I have become their front line of defense,” said Kathleen Rutherford, who has watched with trepidation as an army post has grown around her home.
Several of the army’s 17 border checkpoints are near villages, and virtually all are near houses. The posts have come under sporadic attack in the past two years…
The IRA blasted an army post south of Newry in October 1990 and again in May. The second blast killed a soldier. The army’s top brass decided to build a bigger post up the road – coincidentally, they said, nearer the local school.
On the road heading north from Londonderry, Rutherford braces for an IRA attack on the expanding army base next door.
She moved into the house five years ago when the army presence was little more than a tower and gate that monitored passing cars.
”Now look at it. It is a monstrosity on my doorstep,” she said, gesturing out her back window at the anti-bomb trenches, barbed wire, searchlights and watchtowers that have sprouted up in the past few months.
…army engineers and an extra battalion of troops have overhauled the string of checkpoints into full-blown patrol bases, seizing farmland in the process.
The Irish News, Belfast’s main nationalist newspaper, argued in an editorial that nearby residents in effect have been ”deployed in order to defend an army base” as a ”human shield.”
”This is the sort of tactic which was resorted to by Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War,” the newspaper argued.
A senior British official who visited the Rutherford home last month came away apparently unmoved.
While the GFA lasts there would surely be no need for a militarised border, simply a customs border, such as existed all over Europe before the Common Market got going, including in Ireland for at least three decades after the founding of the Irish Free State, up until the late ’60s, a period which included the whole of WWII.
So please explain to us foreigners why this sort of ‘civil border’ would be a problem?
The point is that no visible border means that there is no physical partition of the island, it doesn’t stop the respective jurisdictions existing as they do, but it underscores the commonality of the geographic space and the sense of a shared space both North/South but also within the North. It also makes clear that while they are separate jurisdictions under the GFA there are links to and from a devolved NI that are entirely distinct and different to the relationship between the ROI and the UK as a whole or Scotland, England or Wales.
The border actually existed in visible form until the 1990s, so you’re out by a decade or two there. But the point is that as part of the GFA (and the reality of EU membership by both the UK and ROI) the border as a border became invisible to people moving across it. This is supported by very large majorities on both sides of it and within unionism and nationalism in the North. As a ‘civil border’ – a meaningless term technically, it was the focus of a campaign in the late 1950s and early 1960s by the IRA (and at least briefly Saor Uladh at its outset). So in the very period you implicitly point to as being unproblematic was anything but. You may not believe me, and that’s fine, but no lesser personages than serving and former PSNI officers have pointed to the potential for a visible border however soft to generate tensions up to and including paramilitary attacks. You may not care about that, but then those of us closer in to the situation do. I’d also argue that from the perspective of unionism it is very very counterproductive to add another locking in effect to nationalism/republicanism in the North by supporting anything that builds any form of containment around NI thereby exacerbating alienation from the status quo and pushing it towards who knows where, but most likely unity if (and likely when) demographic change occurs.
But all this is before we get to the practical aspects where in the last three decades cross border and all-island transport, economic and other links have proliferated and how even a soft customs border would impinge on that, etc, etc. In a period of JIT and supply chains even small delays will be extremely troublesome. You may not care about that either but pretty much the entirety of those actually living on the island or political representatives in the North including Alliance and (quietly but clearly given its 2017 manifesto etc) UUP but not notably the DUP care so much about it that they’ve argued long and hard against any reimposition of a border, soft or hard. So you or me as anonymous internet commentators can certainly hold our opinions and views, but others with perhaps a much greater understanding are sufficiently exercised about despite different political views on the Union or the institutions within the North or whatever to see it as a tangible threat.
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Sorry, I don’t want the above to come over as irritated, but asking why things can’t be analogous to other borders (or to a supposed situation between 1920 and 19xx which simply didn’t exist – 1940s anti-partition campaign, etc, etc) is to evade engaging with the reality that the situation was not like other borders, had/has dynamics in play that were/are different, and isn’t still like other borders and that the solutions ultimately used to take heat out of it aren’t similar to other places. It’s not comparing like with like or grappling with the particular aspects of the situation.
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Or what Mcg67 says!
But the ‘solution’ if we dare call it that was never more than a fudge. Sooner or later the other shoe had to fall …
The only way I could see the status quo enduring would be for the Republic to enter a customs union with the UK, but that would partially lock it out of the EU (OMG! OMG! …) But then lots of stuff I imagine comes into Ireland via Great Britain so you’d be cut off from the rest of the EU anyway.
Why is a fudge a problem? It’s a better fudge than the original dispensation. And given the plausible demographic outcomes it bought time for everyone involved to shape something better. Sure, at some point something would change, but it was going to most likely be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, whereas Brexit represents the worst sort of rupture, unplanned, unpredictable and riding roughshod over the votes of people on this island not just in 98 but at the referendum.
Actually the simplest solution that would dovetail with respecting the referendum vote would be for the UK to join EFTA/EEA. That would not be entirely perfect, what is, but it would be significantly better than a hard Brexit.
It really is worth taking a look at the supply chains and so on across the border, from Europe and the UK in order to get a handle on the overall problems.
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Certainly a real dilemma for a Northern Unionist Remainer. Forced now to in effect choose between the UK and the EU/Ireland. Which way will the jump if it comes to such a forced choice?
Is that what is happening though? So far there’s nothing concrete on the table that would necessitate such a jump.
Because this is a contested island. It is not simply a border between 2 different countries. And the “border” actually goes through some peoples houses!!
Genuinely thought the man was taking a hissy fit because he couldn’t get Papal Visit tickets … but instead I think he’s dumb as well as a Moody Miserable Moggy.
The guy is a lunatic, just the right type of lunatic that helps the cause of Irish Nationalism by making English Nationalism look like a bunch of Post-Imperial Crybabies terrified of treating Johnny or Joanna Foreigner as an Equal Human Being.
Sigh. Rees Mogg is the reality of this issue. The example he sets, of total ignorance about Ireland, and the war, and his arrogance, are the real problems. The border itself is resolvable, but it would require a border in the middle of the Irish sea. The Unionists would simply block it, of course. In that case, so be it. We know what comes next, if that happens.
Interesting the Lord Snootie took this line. I’d always assumed that the disaster capitalist hard Brexiteer wing’s game plan was to make the RoI impose the border, and simply do nothing themselves – at least at first – in order to provoke political crisis in North and South Ireland. Some considerable political distraction will be needed from the effects of their Brexit, after all.
But a guess all it takes is one report in the Daily Mail about refugees coming over an open border and that would come to an abrupt end.
Ireland and Britain have a Common Travel Area which is distinct from Schengen. How will that work when people from other Member States are free to travel to the 26 counties but not to the “UK”?
Even looking at that man gives me the shivers,He looks just like a character from Oliver Twist,one of the orphanage governers starving the orphans.Charles Dickens couldnt have dreamnt him up.