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Brexit, Funeral and Corona: Peace in Northern Ireland is in grave danger

Brexit, Funeral and Corona
Peace in Northern Ireland is in great danger

Written by Pauline Stall, Dublin

The Northern Ireland Protocol should not only restrict transport and trade between Great Britain and Ireland after Brexit. Old conflicts must be prevented from erupting again on the island. No wonder it didn’t work.

Terrible familiar scenes have surfaced in Belfast and Terry over the past few nights. Petrol attacks, roadblocks, attacks on police officers – these are all reminiscent of the conflicts of the last forty years. Uncertainties from both Brexit and Corona policy are fueling a resurgence of violence in the north of the island.

Throughout the past week, nationalist and loyal youth have clashed in West Belfast. There were multiple attacks on police and rioting.

A bus was hijacked and set on fire on Wednesday evening. A newspaper photographer was attacked. Some of the perpetrators of violence are not over the age of twelve. “The use of children to plan this violence is particularly worrying,” said Irish European Affairs Minister Thomas Byrne.

“It is the responsibility of all political and social decision-makers to calm the situation before anyone is seriously injured or killed,” Byrne said. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Gowney also condemned the violence. He told the RTE that he thought the images of street violence were “shocking” and would go down in history.

The attacks are also aimed at so-called peace lines separating Protestant and Catholic areas in Belfast.

(Photo: Abby)

This is because photos currently appearing in Irish and British newspapers can be traced back to 1968 to 1998 in Northern Ireland. For thirty years there was a civil war-like identity and power struggle on the island between Protestants who wanted to be part of the United Kingdom as unionists or believers, and Catholics campaigning for a united Ireland as Republicans or nationalists.

Trigger is a funeral procession

The conflict claimed the lives of about 3,000 people and did not end with the Good Friday Pact until the late 1990s. But it is now clear how weak this deal really is.

Over the past few weeks and months there have been repeated reports from Northern Ireland of paramilitary threats against politicians and journalists. The provocation for the violent outburst, on the one hand, and the manner in which the Northern Irish police handled the violation of the Corinthian activities of the Sin Fine Party, which during the peace process acted as the political arm of the terrorist organization IRA and is now part of the all-party government of Northern Irish. At the funeral of former IRA member Bobby Story in June 2020, 24 members of the party, including Sinn Fin Deputy Prime Minister Michael O’Neill, violated the then-applicable Govt-19 rules. However, the government recently decided not to prosecute the politicians.

Stephen Heron, the head of the trial, justified this by saying that there is no reasonable expectation for an accusation because everyone present can point to ambiguity that is inconsistent with and consistent with existing Covid rules. Funeral rites were in practice. Also, there was an agreement with the police prior to the event.

Protestants, at least in the population, are ridiculed for these attitudes and statements and are not taken seriously. More serious destabilization of peace in Northern Ireland: Brexit. The UK-Ireland relationship is one of the key issues to be resolved before the UK leaves the EU.

Brexit disturbs peace in the north

For a long time it seemed that Brexit would lead to a “hard limit”. A nearly 500-kilometer outer EU border will be created between EU member Ireland and British Northern Ireland. This would have greatly increased not only the complex trade and transport, but above all the risk of recurrence of tensions and unrest on the Irish island. Because since Good Friday, the once-protected border on the Irish island was seldom realized in the lives of the people.

To keep the potential for conflict as small as possible, a compromise was finally found. The Northern Ireland Protocol, now in force, aims to regulate the smooth exchange of goods between countries and to enforce an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

But it did not go as smoothly as planned. After Brexit in early January, there were reports of empty supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland. A few weeks later, at the end of January, the EU Commission threatened to restrict the export of vaccines across the EU border.

Shortly afterwards came the first threats against Irish politicians and journalists – painted by graffiti on the walls in Belfast. Now the situation is getting worse and more and more reminiscent of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Although Brexit supporters such as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have always denied this danger, it was feared before Brexit that it should in fact be avoided by Northern Ireland ethics.

Unstable silence

With a strong police presence, water cannons and police dogs, efforts are now being made to quell the night-time unrest. On Thursday evening, Johnson and Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin discussed “worrying developments.”

Following that, a statement from the Irish government stressed that both politicians should be “quiet” and that violence was unacceptable. “Good Friday paves the way forward through dialogue and work in the companies,” the joint statement said.

However, the agreement did not resolve the Northern Ireland conflict, but helped to find a solution that would allow both sides to live in a just manner. Current developments show how unstable peace is. The Northern Irish Regional Parliament was called at the beginning of the Easter break to discuss how to deal with street wars.

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