Current Affairs Politics

The UK’s New Tactic With The EU: Threats Of Loyalist Violence

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…

31 comments on “The UK’s New Tactic With The EU: Threats Of Loyalist Violence

  1. That’s exactly what is going on. First predict – then incite – and finally crow, “we told you so” – and all in the name of “protecting the peace in Northern Ireland”. The EU really needs to drop its Mister Nice Guy approach, and call this out internationally for what it is.
    What it can’t afford to do is accede to these threats and change the protocol. I read somewhere that a phased implementation might be on the cards, which would be fine inside a very limited overall timeframe (say, six months), as long as the protocol is eventually implemented in full – down to its every last comma and full-stop. The UK bought this, as did the DUP, let them own it.
    As an aside, if the DUP think being seen to direct/support/excuse loyalist violence will somehow endear them to the broader unionist community, then they’re seriously misreading the mood in that community. And if they think they can now trust Johnson and his cabal, then they’ve seriously lost the plot.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. God love them they think they still live in 1912 and threats of violence and a loyalist backlash is going to get them anywhere. Those days are long gone. It’s time for Unionist politicians to own their mistakes over the EU and trusting Tory politicians who are always on the make and on the take.

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  3. Breandán Mac Séarraigh

    It’s called ‘Playing the Orange Card’. Use the fear of pro-British loyalists (Britain’s garrison in Ireland) to threaten violence to serve the interests of the Tory party. Such a shame that von der Leyen played into their hands.

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  4. I read a piece some months ago on this guy Frost. He wasn’t entirely useless as a civil servant, more of a mediocre, ponderous type. A “safe pair for hands” who followed orders to the letter, but hadn’t an imaginative, much less original, thought in his head. He had gone as far as he could go in his civil service career, and was marooned in a backwater pushing in his time. He felt, as most of us are prone to feeling at times, that he had been under-appreciated and not been allowed fulfil his full potential. He was always solidly pro-EU.
    Then Brexit happened and, seeing his chance, Frost morphed almost overnight into a hardline Brexiteer, which is how he eventually came to the attention of Johnson et al. This mediocre opportunist is the guy who negotiated the deal, including the protocol, that the UK is now complaining bitterly about. No wonder he is to the forefront of creating all sorts of smokescreens and blame-shifting diversions.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As opposed to the E.U. and Irish government’s past tactics : threats of Republican violence! And it worked! So, I suppose, Frost has just adopted the same tactics. The only way the N.I. Protocol could be established was by breaking all the guarantees made to Unionists in the G.F.A. and the principle of consent inherent in the agreement. It makes me laugh when people like Ursula Von Der Leyen assert that the Protocol has to stay to protect the G.F.A. when, in fact, it demolishes one of the foundational pillars of the G.F.A..

    Liked by 1 person

    • There has to be a customs border at the borders of EU and non-EU states. To (re-) establish a border between the UK and the EU in solid form along the lines of where a border previously existed between NI and the Republic (at Newry etc) is in total violation of the GFA. So, to avoid violating the GFA, the border was established in the Irish Sea – crucially, as negotiated and agreed by the UK and the EU, and endorsed at Westminster.
      To pretend that the DUP has any interest in protecting the GFA is laughable. The very reason the DUP pursued Brexit with such fervour, against the democratically expressed wishes of a majority of electors in Northern Ireland don’t forget, was precisely because they wanted to destroy the GFA. (Specifically the prospect of a referendum on Irish unity contained within it, because that party has grown ever-fearful of shifting demographics in NI.) In their eagerness, and rank stupidity, the DUP went for the hardest possible Brexit. They rejected Theresa May’s softer Brexit and threw their full support behind Boris Johnson, who no reasonable person would trust to tell them the correct time of day.
      Nor can anyone pretend that Frost didn’t realise the supposed import of what he was negotiating. The “Irish border question” was flagged as a problem to be solved almost from the outset of the UK/EU negotiations. I say “supposed” import where Frost was concerned, because I believe for him and the Johnson administration in general (and for most conservatives, in fact) it wasn’t and isn’t that important. Brexit always was and remains a Little Englander project.
      From a unionist perspective, the DUP messed has it all up royally. Instead of contenting themselves with a relatively peaceful and settled Northern Ireland, they went for broke with Brexit. Now they’re going to collapse the assembly, primarily to avoid facing the electorate but also to try to put pressure on the Irish government and the EU. Another self-inflicted wound is incoming. Without the assembly, the DUP voice will consist of a few MPs among hundreds at Westminster.
      As for this nonsense of unionists being up in arms over the protocol. Where are the mass rallies a la the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and even to an extent after the GFA was agreed? Nowhere, because unionists wouldn’t turn out for them. The DUP’s core support now consists of the loyalist paramilitaries, who most unionists despise. They’re the only people up in arms.

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      • I have read and re-read the G.F.A. many times since 2016 and have yet to discover a clause which demands that there be a particular kind of border on the island of Ireland. The term “border” is mentioned once in passing. What is definitely in the agreement, however, is the opening Constitutional Issues Section, which is very important, as it is the foundation upon which the rest of the G.F.A. is built. It is peppered with terms like “mutual trust,” partnership”, equality” and “mutual respect.” It recognizes the right of Nationalists to be Irish and to aspire to a United Ireland, which can be achieved through a future border poll. It recognizes the right of Unionists to remain part of the U.K. and gives them the guarantee “that it would be wrong to make any change to the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people.”
        Clearly the N.I. Protocol in establishing an Irish Sea border, dramatically changes the status of N.I. and nobody here has consented to it. So, it breaks the terms of the G.F.A. and, by extension international law, the guarantee to Unionists has been removed, along with the principle of consent, the promised equilibrium and equality of the G.F.A. has been shifted firmly in favour of Nationalism. If the erstwhile citers of the G.F.A. are as devoted to it as they say they are, perhaps we should now have a referendum in N.I. to see who consents to the Protocol and who doesn’t. What could be more democratic than that, after all it is the inhabitants of N.I. who are most affected by the Irish Sea border? Recent polling in N.I. would seem to indicate that a majority are against the Protocol, but they may be wrong and, despite being an opponent of the Protocol, I would accept the result if it went against me. But, of course, we know that that isn’t going to happen, fancy letting the people decide their own future, better that we should be told what do do by others, including a far-right, failed presidential candidate from Slovakia, namely Maros Sefkovic.
        Yes, I am furious about this, but no, I am not going to demonstrate and attend rallies, I can’t see the point. As a small u Unionist, who voted for the G.F.A. and was enthusiastic about it, I feel totally betrayed as the guarantees made to me have been removed and the principle of consent inherent in the G.F.A. has been undermined. It’s fantastic for Nationalists, Boris Johnson has delivered at the stroke of a pen what 30 years of violence couldn’t achieve, but comes at the price of effectively demolishing the G.F.A. and the principles enshrined in it. I just hope the instability which inevitably ensues proves worth it.

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        • The cross-border strand of the agreement lays out 12 areas of cooperation (overseen by the North-South Ministerial Council). A hard border would make that strand of the agreement impossible to operate. One example being regional development to tackle “the problems of a divided society and social cohesion in urban, rural and border areas”.
          I note that your ire is directed solely at Boris Johnson. What of the DUP’s part in delivering this Brexit? I find it strange that as a “small u unionist” you have no criticism for the party that played a crucial role in creating the situation that now exists.
          And you continually speak of consent. Do you so easily forget that a majority of the electorate in Northern Ireland voted against ANY kind of Brexit, yet the DUP ploughed on regardless. You raise the idea of the people of Northern Ireland having a vote on the protocol. Would this one count in the DUP’s eyes? Or is it only unionist votes and votes that go their way that they recognise? Since we’re discussing consent and borders, why not go the whole hog and have a border poll?
          You make no mention of whether or not you voted for Brexit. If you did, then there’s no sense in complaining now. A blind person could have seen the economic, travel, import/export and a multitude of other problems inherent in leaving the EU. Equally, a blind person could have realised that it would create all sorts of problems on this island. As a fervent supporter of the GFA, did you not realise that any form of Brexit would directly contradict elements of that agreement? After all, it was for that very reason the DUP were so eager that Brexit happened. And the harder the Brexit, the better for them – or so they foolishly thought.
          If you didn’t vote for Brexit, then direct your anger at the DUP, where it belongs.

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    • And the PSNI, SDLP, Alliance Party, UK Labour front bench, various Tory MPs and Lords, former Tory and Labour UK prime ministers and ministers, a raft of Irish, British and international diplomats, and so on. All warning of the inevitable if a hard border was imposed on the island.

      None were inciting the violence, they were warning of its inevitability. Some unionist and Tory politicians are all but encouraging violence as a way of imposing that hard border on the island. Since that is the only solution if the Irish Sea border is to be removed or moved.

      The DUP gambled on Brexit as a way of bringing back a hard border. The gamble backfired. But they are still gambling with reckless abandon.

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  6. Mystic Meg has nothing compared to Unionist Politicians when it comes to predicting loyalist violence and lawbreaking. Did we ever find out the name of the Unionist politician who advised the Loyalist Terrorists not to call a ceasefire in 1994?

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  7. There is actually a much simpler factor in why violence often features in this: Violence has a history of “working” in British politics, to a degree that while not unique is unusually high for a modern largely a Democratic state. This pattern is not unique to Ireland or The North.

    British Suffragettes are to my knowledge the only women who gained the vote by bombings and breaking windows, without being part of an independence or revolutionary movement that also included their men. Indeed, looking at the hunger strikes of the British Suffragettes the whole scenario looks eerily like Long Kesh. (Many countries force fed hunger striking women’s suffragists, but in the other cases I know about it did not share much more with Long Kesh than the fact of having a prison hunger strike.)

    It short it could well be, that some of this stuff isn’t so much endemic to Irish politics as to British politics. As for the distinction? Well it would be hard to walk away from 800 years of colonization and remain uninfluenced by the colonizer’s political culture (and vice versa).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now that’s an interesting take on it.

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      • Why Thank you!!

        To my outside perspetive, I do see signs of patterns that strike me as unusual but don’t really know what to make of them.

        The Suffragettes are one example. First of all they voluntary called themselves “Suffragettes”. In most countries that or a loosely similar translation was seen as a demeaning label slapped on them by the press.

        As for force feeding women’s Suffragists? Sadly that or some variation happened in just about every country where they didn’t get the vote in the same package with their menfolk. Force feeding hunger strikers, “virginity exams”, threats (or the reality!!) of “political psychiatry” or the Magdalene Laundries (Yep. Those laundries were not solely an Irish phenomena.) happened is so many countries it’s depressing in the extreme. The thing that stood out about the British case to me at least, was how eerily it resembles Long Kesh. For example These Suffragettes would go on Hunger Strike saying they were political prisoners who shouldn’t be treated as common criminals. In the other countries the women were typically imprisoned for non-violent and usually minor offenses. The women went on hunger strike because they said they were innocent, that the law was unjust, that the punishment was beyond normal, and/or they were being denied a fair (or any) trial. Also the British women gave out medal for prisons terms and hungers strikes, their sisters in other countries would have found that offensive…..It wasn’t heroic in their minds, they were simply wronged and horribly.

        This is not to paint Britain as a uniquely evil country. You could just as well question the countries that dished out such punishments to their women’s suffragists for offenses as minor as blocking traffic. It’s more about a very odd relationship to violence…..that I’m not sure how to describe.

        Again this is more an observation than even a hypothesis. There are a lot of things about British society that strike me as possibly related to this strange relationship to political violence.

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        • notimportant

          You do know a lot of the suffragists were complete racists whose position was that they deserved the vote before black men right?

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    • That’s way, way too simplistic. An example of starting off with a position/idea then trying to rationalise your way back from it. The suffragettes is the only example of civil violence working INSIDE the island of Britain (as opposed to inside the UK), and that had a lot to do with the social position and familial connections of the leading women involved. That is, if it had been working-class women with no political or social connections throwing themselves under horses etc. universal suffrage would have been a lot longer coming. The hunger strike comparison is just lazy, the only similarity between Long Kesh and the suffragettes was the MEANS as opposed to the RESULT.
      Violence has worked OUTSIDE of Britain, as any number of former British colonies including Ireland will attest. But that’s hardly novel, every other coloniser was eventually driven out by one means or another.
      The real key to this is to be found in the British notion of US and THEM. Ireland in the first instance did, and to a diminishing degree still does, sit in the general British psyche as being not quite US but not quite THEM either. It is viewed as sitting somewhere in the middle, between the two. This is why, in my view, Ireland’s independence was far more hard-fought and reluctantly acceded to than it was for most other colonies, and when it came it was more limited geographically and politically – there is also the issue of Britain being otherwise engaged at the time, in the First World War.
      I would suggest where violence has succeeded in Ireland there has been some degree of residual British sympathy with the cause, if not the means, of the people pursuing it (NOT QUITE US versus DECIDEDLY THEM). As one instance, the mere threat of unionist violence resulted in Ireland being partitioned, whereas the most recent IRA campaign of more than 30 years and thousands of lives lost did not succeed (the NOT QUITE US versus the DECIDEDLY THEM). (The same could be said to be true of the United States, where violence by Whites (ie US) is viewed far more sympathetically and much more likely to produce results than violence by Blacks/Asians/Latinos etc (ie THEM).
      In its RATIONAL thinking, the UK would be only too happy to see Northern Ireland re-united with the rest of Ireland – there is absolutely no upside and lots of downsides to it remaining part of the UK. But at a IRRATIONAL level, the NOT QUITE US versus the DECIDEDLY THEM kicks in as soon as unionism starts to complain and threaten. Britain never had any qualms anywhere else in the world about eventually abandoning “loyal” people’s or communities, whether local or imported, to their fate when it came time to leave a country to its own devices. Only in Ireland has this been the case.

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    • Jams O'Donnell

      The UK Suiffragettes did not gain the vote. The deciding factor was the work of women during the First World War mainly in the munitions factories and farming, on behalf of the war effort. But your point about British addiction to violence is a historical fact. Mainly that’s to do with Empire, and is also seen associated with the present US Empire.

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      • Those are excellent points, Jim.
        On the British Empire, there are many contenders for a prime example, including on this island of course. But if I was forced to chose one, then I would have to point to India, and the Great famine of 1876 – 1878. Through a combination of drought and, most importantly, deliberate neglect by the British authorities, the famine eventually cost between 5.6 million and 8.2 million lives. The neglect by the British was, it is convincingly argued, wholly vengeful – driven by a desire to teach local people a lesson, following numerous uprisings in the most hard-hit regions.
        And what can be said of the US? One doesn’t even need to look beyond the nation for prime examples, Tulsa being the most obvious and heartbreaking.

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      • notimportant

        There is no US empire. The US is a former British colony whose power structure is globalist WASPs and those who get into bed with them for power and money.

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  8. As a matter of interest, does anyone have the faintest idea what the OFFICIAL justification is for the existence, not to mention funding, of the Loyalist Community Council? What are the stated aims of this group? How is progress towards those aims being measured, and by whom?
    Seriously. Think about it. More than quarter of a century after a supposed loyalist ceasefire, and a couple of years short of a quarter of a century since the GFA, not only are these people still around, they’re being feted and pandered to while issuing veiled threats of what will happen if they don’t get their way. Yet no one seems to raise a quizzical eyebrow much less a searching question or two about what on earth justifies the very existence of such a grouping.

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  9. An interesting little poll from the Belfast Telegraph:
    “May 22 2021
    A new poll has seen support for the DUP slump to just 16%, posing a major challenge for incoming leader Edwin Poots.
    Sinn Fein is by far the largest party on 25%, giving it a 9% lead on its nearest challengers and putting Michelle O’Neill on course to take the role of First Minister at the next election in May 2022.
    The DUP and the Alliance party are now level on 16%, while the Ulster Unionist Party has risen to 14%, overtaking the SDLP, down one point to 11%, according to the LucidTalk poll for the Belfast Telegraph.”

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  10. The DUP is a party of protest and street theatre I don’t thing they have all got used to being in power. For being in power means compromise and that’s one thing fundamentalists don’t do. The grassroots have now seized the leadership and no doubt will want political purity imposed on everyone. The pure will not be found wanting as they say.

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    • Very well put. And it hardly needs said that fundamentalists such as the DUP also have a very strong tendency towards dictatorialism.
      What I find very strange in the latest polling figures is that the DUP appears to be losing support to the Alliance Party. The Alliance Party? What on earth is someone with the slightest hint of an Alliance-type bone in their body ever doing voting DUP in the first place? And conversely, if you’re a disgruntled DUP-type Alliance hardly seems like the sort of party you would take flight to.

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  11. have to say, the Dominic Cummings Show (or, for the Tories, The Shitshow) is highly entertaining.

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  12. notimportant

    It’s not just the DUP and the British far right types.

    There is a HUGE tide of anti-Irish sentiment and an accompanying smear campaign being done internationally right now by the left.

    George Soros and his associated NGOs/paid propaganda pushers have done everything they can for a few years now to equate Irish nationalism with the far right and all of that, to make the Irish out to be as racist as possible and as complicit as the British when it comes to the slave trade and to be backwards and violent and standing in the way of a diverse, “progressive” Ireland. The same people moralizing about police brutality and the “alt right” etc are only covering the entirely loyalist violence as a “both sides” thing. This is all very deliberate.

    Soros even claimed the Russians might be trying to hack into the vote on abortion a few years back in Ireland. I kid you not. And “journalists” in the US and elsewhere went right along with that deliberate propaganda like he knew they would.

    It’s the exact same thing the left in the US and elsewhere has done towards eastern Europe/the former Iron Curtain and former Yugoslavia for years now.

    There is this myth among these people of the British being multicultural and progressive and enlightened and the Irish being racist and backward and angry, violent drunks.

    If we didn’t have a president in the US who has Irish ancestry, the US would never mention the Good Friday Agreement. Guaranteed. That’s how bad it’s gotten, and it’s worldwide. Not just among white people but also among black nationalist types in the US and elsewhere and deliberately directed towards every other non-white group internationally.

    You’re on an island, and the only people standing for the Irish against terrorism or discrimination from any group are informed independents of all races and backgrounds. Just know we’ll never look away or stop calling out the wrong we see happening no matter where it comes from. Stay informed on the people trying to influence things from the outside, and don’t fall for wolves in sheep’s clothing.

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  13. Very much strikes me that the UK would more than happily unleash violence again in the north of Ireland.

    They have scores to settle and republican types to kick to show who is top dog.

    The IRA demobilized their weaponry. They stood down. The British did not and they could be back on tap as soon as. Moreover, the British states power of surveillance is now orders of magnitude greater than it was even ten years ago.

    Kicking a few bells out of troublesome Micks would therefore play well to the resurgent belligerent British nationalism now so extant post Brexit. Gun boats to French fishermen, the Micks in NI are, at least to the British, a much easier patsy to kick.

    Additionally, in Scotland with the police and the prosecution singling out nationalist politicians and independence supporters being singled out for intimidation, arrest, prosecution and jailing now well under way in Scotland Kitsonesque techniques are now the order of the day – and there is absolutely no doubt that the establishment would incite loyalist sentiment to create difficulty were it needed.

    Treaties with the British count for nothing. Fascism is real. And quite frankly the loyalists will be used if they need to be.

    But hey, that’s an observation from across the water. Maybe there is a plan to resist such hostile action. I hope so.

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    • Good to see you back, Willie.
      On a general point – which plays at least a little bit into your specifics, I think: We tend to imagine that working-class people are in the main instinctively left-leaning, non-racist, human-rights and equality supporting. To put it kindly, I think the situation is far more complex than that.

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    • notimportant

      It’s not just fascists.

      Biden will pretend to support the Irish but he has to my knowledge not said one single word about the loyalist violence that’s been occuring. All of what the Catholic community in NI has been through over the past decade has never been talked about in the US except as a “both sides” thing. Not during the riots started by “marching season” nor the recent uptick. They don’t even mention the terrorists pulling out of the GFA!

      It’s just like the attitude towards/coverage of Eastern Europe and countries that were formerly the Iron Curtain.

      I’m telling you, you all are on an island. Any “support” you get from the left or right of other countries is political/due to ulterior motives. The international left want to turn the Republic of Ireland into the UK rather than caring about what’s best for any of you and will do everything they can to demonize the Irish to do it. They can’t ever respect that there is any country that they don’t get to influence and take over. It’s colonialism by another name.

      Don’t believe me? Look at what they’re doing to Latin America. They come in via NGOs and pretend they’re all about humanitarian work but then rather than actually help people, they join organizations that are completely political and “teach the backward savages our enlightened ways”. Going to places where the most important issue is indigenous rights and unbelievable poverty and pushing LGBT/abortion rights, etc. People from the US and others of privileged backgrounds who will then demonize the actual indigenous people of the land they’re invading in order to get their way.

      Or look at Mauritania. A country that doesn’t welcome entitled tourists. Now all of the sudden, there’s a humanitarian crisis there and NGOs lining up to “help”.

      It’s the exact same thing gentrifiers do in cities they take over, and Ireland is the place they have their eye on most. It’s the ideal target for them.

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  14. From the Times and Sunday Times: “President Biden will warn Boris Johnson not to renege on the Northern Ireland Brexit deal when they meet for the first time at the G7 summit this week.
    He will use a bilateral meeting with the prime minister before the gathering of world leaders in Cornwall to explicitly express America’s support for the Northern Ireland protocol.
    “Biden is expected to tell Johnson that the United States sees the deal, agreed by the prime minister in 2019, as an integral part of maintaining long-term peace in Northern Ireland and in particular the Good Friday agreement of which America is a guarantor. He will also warn that the prospects of the US trade deal with the UK will be damaged if the situation remains unresolved.”

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  15. Yes, there is a tendency to think that working class are left leaning and non racist.

    But then you look at so much of the working class in England and reality sets on.

    And of course governments like Johnson’s play cynically to the base sentiments – as Brexit and the scapegoating of Dirty Johny Foreigner had shown all too clearly.

    But not all societies have the same level of base sentiment. Why that is, how a less belligerent resentful, more sharing culture can be encouraged across the community is the big question.

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    • notimportant

      It’s divide and conquer.

      The right turns the working class (especially white people) against foreigners and refugees while secretly employing the refugees and foreigners for cheaper wages. The left turns the refugees, foreigners, and POC against the white people and demonizes “whiteness” the same way they demonized religion and straightness and the nuclear family. Both sides make it so any given county is as divided as possible and fund what are known as AstroTurf groups (meaning top down groups pretending to be grassroots) to sow as much division as possible and even engage in violence and intimidation to keep everybody fighting below the elite. All to distract us from the unbelievable transfer of wealth from regular people to the richest increasingly going on right now.

      And people eat it up because so many are so ignorant. Doesn’t even matter which country we’re talking about. It happens all over. And every time a person comes to power or gains influence who isn’t in their pockets in any part of the world or a country or city or state or province or community says no and takes back independence, they scheme to bring that person down or that group or to take over the power in that place with puppets.

      Until people see through this, this inclusive working class you imagine will never exist. It’s intentional.

      Like

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