As I have noted several times before, when it comes to loyalist violence in the north of Ireland, while British and unionist terrorists may pull the triggers it is British and unionist politicians who point the guns. That same dynamic is being played out again with representatives of the Democratic Unionist Party and the Conservative Party government in the United Kingdom making a concerted effort to undermine the so-called Irish protocol by invoking the spectre of loyalist militancy in the contested region.
Both groups are “warning” of civil unrest by the “people of Northern Ireland” – by which they mean the minority of voters who support an uncompromising version of Brexit – in protest at those aspects of the UK trading and customs arrangements with the European Union that protect the Irish-British peace process. And they are issuing these alarms in such a way as to all but incite the very thing they are supposedly warning against. From the Financial Times, a report on the words of David Frost, London’s so-called Chief Negotiator of Task Force Europe:
Northern Ireland could face a fresh period of “turbulence” this July if the EU and UK governments cannot resolve fundamental differences on post-Brexit arrangements for the region, a UK minister warned on Monday.
Alluding to the so-called ‘Marching Season’, where the region’s Protestant Orange Order holds traditional parades which culminate on July 12, Frost said progress needed to be made “sooner rather than later” to avoid the risk of deterioration in the region.
“There is a real-life timetable in Northern Ireland; coronavirus restrictions are coming to an end, we all know the late spring and summer can sometimes be turbulent . . . and we have to take that reality into account,” he said.
Far from forestalling such turbulence this kind of rhetoric all but invites militant loyalists to take to the streets. This is the same dog-whistle rhetoric that DUP MLAs and MPs are now pushing in their media appearances on the BBC and other outlets, pointing to emergency provisions in the EU-UK agreement they believe can be invoked by London to unilaterally suspend or break the protocol if outbreaks of violence or communal tension in the Six Counties can be linked to its functioning.
Which brings us back again to the point about some British and unionist leaders aiming the guns of others…