25 years since the IRA’s ceasefire and the UK still doesn’t know how to relate to Ireland

Brexit protest and hard border checkpoint
Peadar O'Cearnaigh

On 31 August 1994, the IRA announced the first of two major ceasefires in the 1990s. It ended a 26-year period of war and violence.

Yet despite the hope brought by that ceasefire, it was met with suspicion and mistrust. And through its botched handling of Brexit and its insistence of keeping no-deal Brexit on the table, Boris Johnson’s UK government shows it has learned absolutely nothing about Ireland and that it probably cares little more.

Aftermath of ceasefire

While loyalist paramilitaries responded with their own ceasefire on 13 October 1994, unionist politicians greeted the IRA move with suspicion. James Molyneaux, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, described the IRA’s ceasefire as ‘the most destabilising event since partition’.

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Furthermore, when the IRA announced a “complete cessation of military operations”, unionists demanded a “permanent” ceasefire. A battle of semantics had begun.

And from semantics we soon returned to armed battle. Following disputes over the decommissioning of IRA weapons and the British reluctance to enter into meaningful negotiations, the IRA ceasefire ended on 9 February 1996, with the bombing of the London docklands. It was followed by the bombing of Manchester city centre on 15 June 1996. The conflict, concentrating on English instead of Irish cities,  began again and continued until the IRA announced a second and final ceasefire on 20 July 1997.

An uneasy peace

Following the second ceasefire, republicans and loyalists, along with the Irish and British governments, signed the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) on 10 April 1998. This agreement brought peace to Ireland, and there’s been relative peace there since that time. But that peace has been marred by numerous incidences of violence and British government intransigence.

On 3 September 2001, almost seven years after the first ceasefire, loyalists showed they weren’t ready for real peace. They attacked young catholic school children with a pipe bomb and rocks on their way to school in north Belfast.

Families of those murdered as a result of British state collusion with loyalist terrorists during the conflict are still waiting for justice.

The power sharing government in Stormont collapsed on 9 January 2017. Sinn Féin blames the DUP for Arlene Foster’s participation in the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal.

Since then, the DUP’s opposition to same sex marriage, abortion rights, and an Irish language act have all prevented the establishment of a new government.

DUP confidence and supply

The DUP’s support for the Tories has afforded it direct links to the UK government. Since becoming prime minister, Boris Johnson has had a private dinner meeting with the DUP.  Furthermore, the new secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith, has attended a DUP party conference.

At the very least, these situations demonstrate a lack of impartiality on the UK government’s behalf. But worse still they are a complete insult to Irish republicans and show Westminster cares little for their position.

Brexit hard border

The UK is due to exit the EU on 31 October. And as Johnson is about to suspend parliament, the possibility of avoiding a disastrous no-deal has narrowed. This in turn could lead to a hard border in Ireland again.

And while, as The Canary has reported, a hard border by itself won’t lead to the return of violence, the unwillingness or inability of the UK government to engage on matters important to Irish people living north of that border just might.

Featured image via Flickr – TeaMeister / YouTube – VoxNews

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    1. Sheesh! well I may get it in the neck for this, but I feel something just has to be said, and it is targeted at those who may be feeling like they need to go back to the old days of bombings and murders between Ireland and England.

      If there is a risk that bombing/murder campaigns start again (please try to avoid that scenario as best you can), could those who are making those decisions please leave the public out of it this time?

      If you feel you absolutely have no choice but to go back to darker days, then surely the targets should be those who really deserve it? You may well find that we won’t cry out too much if it is perceived that you are doing your best to avoid targeting the public at home and abroad.

      Basically, it’s them, not us, who are causing the problems, and I don’t see any good reason for the public of any nation to be punished for their corrupt rulers’ decisions and machinations, not in war or in lesser conflicts.

      There really is no such thing as democracy for non-rulers, that is a scam and con perpetrated upon us for the purpose of making us responsible for their heinous actions and crimes, whilst they themselves enjoy unprecedented security and protection from paying for their decisions.

      I mention all of this, because honestly, all those who fight for freedom should never hate the public of any nation, they are after all Mushrooms fed on dung and darkness, mostly unaware of the vile machinations of their respective rulers, not the progenitors of the hatred and violence inflicted by a state against others.

      I am not calling for violence against anyone, but if it should prove to be inevitable, please make sure it is directed away from those that don’t deserve it.

      Many ‘freedom’ campaigns in the past, and now, have myopically targeted the people, and rather than making rulers and despots sit up and consider their actions, it has only ever served to further their ambitions, and not won what was really being fought for in the first place.

      It is damaging to ‘The Cause’ (whatever cause that may be), and just ensures even more enemies will be created, just like a State bombing the hell out of another state will certainly create more hatred and more enemies.

      In a democracy, the leaders are supposed to be accountable to the voters, but that simply is not what happens on Earth. Regardless of the method of rulership, those in power always try to surround themselves with the innocent, caring not a jot for those lives, but only their own cowardly lives, and if some of those innocents die … well that’s just a bonus to them, which they do and continue to use for their own glorification, or for their own agendas.

      For a Nation that created Robin Hood, we sure seem to lack the love of the principles involved.

      Btw, the Irish backstop issue can be resolved by giving northern Ireland back to Ireland so that it may pursue its own destiny and ambitions, hopefully as a formidable ally. Yes I’m sure there are those who think the issue is far more complex than that, but that really is the problem, it has all been made deliberately complex in the attempt to scupper any simple solution, which is of course giving that part of Ireland back to the rest of Ireland.

      No alleged or actual Democracy should be occupying another democracy, it is akin to human cannibalism, and not a fit scenario for a World that needs to move forward together as partners and friends, with fair trade, and fair dealings going all ways.

      This isn’t a Utopian ideal, it is a damned necessity. Divided we fall (the Human race), united we stand (not by force but by empathy).

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