When the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) asked for support to handle trouble arising “from a hard border”, it added weight to previous warnings.
In September 2018, Chief Constable of the PSNI George Hamilton said British government officials hadn’t prepared for Brexit in terms of peace and security. Hamilton warned of the dangers of a physical border, stating:
any physical infrastructure would become a target for dissident republicans.
The return to conflict in a post-Brexit Ireland is possible. But it will have less to do with a return to infrastructure and more to do with a return to discrimination.
Warning from Irish premier
The PSNI request for support comes almost three months after Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar used the IRA bombing of a customs post in 1972 as a “prop” to:
make sure that there was no sense in the room that in any way anybody in Ireland or in the Irish government was exaggerating the real risk of a return to violence in Ireland.
that is what used to happen when we had customs posts in Ireland.
Misrepresentation of the Irish conflict
But not only is the IRA of 1972 no longer in existence, its campaign wasn’t instigated by the presence of customs posts alone. Former prime minister John Major continued this myth, saying:
Peace is at risk if we erect barriers that remind people of ancient disputes.
Major went on to say that a new border would be:
a focus for the wild men on the fringes to reactivate old disputes and hatreds
the murder of customs officials at the north-south border.
A clear start date is almost impossible to identify.
Discrimination and slaughter lead to conflict
It’s much more likely that discrimination suffered by Catholics, since the foundation of Northern Ireland in 1922, is the starting point. When Catholics finally protested against such discrimination in the late 1960s, loyalists and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) responded with violence.
The conflict that followed, between the IRA and British forces, worsened following the slaughter of 11 innocent Catholics in the Ballymurphy estate in Belfast in August 1971. Bloody Sunday in Derry in January 1972, where the Parachute Regiment executed 14 peaceful protesters, encouraged many to join the IRA. And as the third year into a 30-year conflict, 1972 was its bloodiest.
Dissident Republicans support Brexit
Irish republican parties, both mainstream and those on the fringes, support a united Ireland. But only mainstream parties, like Sinn Féin and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), support remaining in the EU.
Fringe groups like Saoradh oppose a “European capitalist and imperialist super-state”. Campaigning political party Éirígí supports leaving the EU, as it sees it as “part of a capitalist / neoliberal plot”.
Republican Sinn Féin (RSF), which opposes the EU “as a highly centralised political and economic power-bloc”, welcomed the result of the Brexit referendum in 2016. The Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) sees “an independent Ireland within the European Union as a fallacy”.
So with republicans on the fringe supporting Brexit, it’s difficult to see where the mandate for violence would come from.
Threat from loyalist paramilitaries?
It would appear as if there is no threat here either. David Campbell is chair of the Loyalist Communities Council, which opposes Theresa May’s Brexit deal. The council consists of those connected to loyalist paramilitary groups. But Campbell says these organisations “reinforced their commitment to the peace process”.
Also, leaders in the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) say predictions of violence are damaging to “peace and reconciliation”. They claim that Irish government talk of republicans attacking customs posts could be “winding up working-class loyalists”.
Threat of violence appears to be a fallacy
May’s Brexit deal is shambolic and is placing enormous strain on Irish-British relations – the greatest strain in the last three decades. Should her deal result in a return to sectarian discrimination, then that, much more than any customs post, could trigger a return to violence in Ireland.
Featured image via Flickr/Tiocfaidh ár lá 1916
- Demand a People’s Vote
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?