Ireland's Week of Unrest

Silvanus

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For background, for forumites outside the UK: The Troubles refers to approximately 30 years of conflict in Ireland, between Irish nationalists, Unionists, and British security forces. Approximately 3,500 people were killed, and tens of thousands injured. It came to an end in 1998-1999, upon the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the full text of which can be read here.

It is also worth remembering that Northern Ireland voted to remain in the European Union by 55.8% to 44.2%. The Republic of Ireland is still a member.

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So, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson was campaigning for this Brexit deal, he repeatedly and explicitly stated that there would be no border in the Irish Sea. This would mean no additional goods or customs checks.



Boris Johnson said:
There will be no forms, no checks, no barriers of any kind. You will have unfettered access.
However, we are now at the point at which the UK has left, the deal has been passed by parliament and its provisions are legally in place. And they do include a border for the transportation of goods in the Irish Sea, as well as a customs border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is still in the Single Market with the EU, and it collects customs duties on behalf of the EU. The full text is here.

This doesn't represent a change in the deal. This is the deal for which Johnson was campaigning when he made those statements. Understandably there have been widespread accusations from Irish political figures that the deal represents a betrayal of what was promised, and a betrayal of Unionism, in the principle that Northern Island and Great Britain should constitute one political entity and be subject to the same trading rules. The First Minister for Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, has called it "unworkable"..

So now, we come to the past week: rioting and violence have erupted in Northern Ireland for 7 days, on a scale not seen since before 1999. It appears to have been primarily perpetrated by Unionists, who view the Brexit deal as a betrayal of the promises to keep the UK whole and undivided. They also feel unrepresented by Foster, who is the highest ranking Unionist, and propped up the British Conservatives with a Confidence-and-Supply arrangement while they were negotiating with the EU.

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So. What do people feel the likely outcomes of this situation are? Is the Northern Irish Protocol of the deal truly unworkable? Does the deal represent a wholesale betrayal of Unionism? Is there any other way it could be implemented?

...And why in hell would Johnson refuse to attend crisis talks?
 

Agema

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The DUP are a bunch of fucking idiots. They supported Brexit to the hilt with clearly very little forethought about where it might end, and then belatedly realised just what a crisis it was going to brew for themselves and unionism, and found themselves trapped by the inexorable path of the Tories and their own poor judgement. Their way out of a fix was always likely to be violence or threat of violence, and here we are.

...And why in hell would Johnson refuse to attend crisis talks?
Because he's a shifty, lazy, good-for-nothing.

This is a man who will not take responsibility for himself, who has no grit and gravity to square up to difficult issues. To attend such a meeting would be to accept and face the consequences of his actions, which he will not do. To sort things out requires engagement with difficult matters requiring knowledge, understanding and diplomacy, for which he is unsuited.

Mostly, he is an insecure and psychologically needy people pleaser with an insatiable demand to be liked. He wants everyone to be happy, and to be the person who can tell them how great they all are and how great the situation is. He cannot deal with a situation where people with deep beliefs are genuinely angry, who cannot be pacified with trivial wit and platitudes, and for whom there is not an easy solution. So his only recourse is to pretend it isn't happening, and to sail merrily on in his own happy bubble, leaving the shit for someone else to sort out.
 

Satinavian

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The DUP are a bunch of fucking idiots. They supported Brexit to the hilt with clearly very little forethought about where it might end, and then belatedly realised just what a crisis it was going to brew for themselves and unionism, and found themselves trapped by the inexorable path of the Tories and their own poor judgement. Their way out of a fix was always likely to be violence or threat of violence, and here we are.
I always had the impression that the DUP wanted the hardest Brexit possible and also insisted on "no Irish sea border" to drive a wedge and possibly a border between NI and Ireland without technically demanding to do so.
 

Avnger

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Reason #476385 that Brexit was always going to be a failure. Due to simple geography, there is absolutely no way to preserve both the Union and the Good Friday Agreement with the UK no longer in the EU. No amount of wishful thinking was ever going to remove that obstacle.
 

Agema

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I always had the impression that the DUP wanted the hardest Brexit possible and also insisted on "no Irish sea border" to drive a wedge and possibly a border between NI and Ireland without technically demanding to do so.
Yep. Like the extreme ultra-jingoists they are, they thought they and NI would be even more British if only they could cut the whole of the UK off and insulate themselves from these bloody foreigners, especially those Catholic ones in the rest of Ireland the UK was getting too chummy with.

I think they literally did not consider that the peace process would depend so much on the links with Ireland. And then they must have looked at the polls with horror seeing that a hard border was so unpopular, it would do more for nationalism than the IRA and Sinn Fein ever had, and they'd gifted it. Then they are left with the disaster that the UK decides the only way out is to put the border between Great Britain and Ireland, effectively excluding them from Great Britain, not them from Ireland.

I think they always reasoned that if the worst came to the worst, they could simply repress the nationalists into submission as they had done for so many decades up to the 90s, and they could force Westminster to tend to their wants by rioting themselves. Like I said, violence was always on the table as their way out of a fix.
 

Silvanus

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The DUP are a bunch of fucking idiots. They supported Brexit to the hilt with clearly very little forethought about where it might end, and then belatedly realised just what a crisis it was going to brew for themselves and unionism, and found themselves trapped by the inexorable path of the Tories and their own poor judgement. Their way out of a fix was always likely to be violence or threat of violence, and here we are.
I always had the impression that the DUP wanted the hardest Brexit possible and also insisted on "no Irish sea border" to drive a wedge and possibly a border between NI and Ireland without technically demanding to do so.
If this is the case (and it seems very plausible), then they dramatically overestimated their own political clout when they went into the arrangement with Theresa May, and even more dramatically overestimated how much Westminster (and by extension, England) cares about the other constituent countries.

Reason #476385 that Brexit was always going to be a failure. Due to simple geography, there is absolutely no way to preserve both the Union and the Good Friday Agreement with the UK no longer in the EU. No amount of wishful thinking was ever going to remove that obstacle.
Yep. Since the very beginning, no realistic solution has been offered for this question by the Brexiteers, despite it constantly being brought up as an obvious stumbling block. An utter dereliction of duty, and I can't help but look back to the 2015 Election, when the Conservatives hammered the line that Ed Miliband was a threat to the future of the Union because he might ally with the SNP. How short a memory does one need to support the Tories at this point?
 

warmachine

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The good news is the republicans will likely regard Irish reunification as inevitable, play the self defence card and not attack the police or the British mainland. They'll just shoot proddies in retaliation. For some value of The Troubles: The Next Generation being good news.
 

Agema

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If this is the case (and it seems very plausible), then they dramatically overestimated their own political clout when they went into the arrangement with Theresa May, and even more dramatically overestimated how much Westminster (and by extension, England) cares about the other constituent countries.
Westminster lets the unionists down a great deal, it's amazing they haven't learnt by now. I suppose the thing is they don't have much choice because they're sure as hell not going to accept re-unification with Ireland, so it's not like they've got anywhere else to go.

The good news is the republicans will likely regard Irish reunification as inevitable, play the self defence card and not attack the police or the British mainland. They'll just shoot proddies in retaliation. For some value of The Troubles: The Next Generation being good news.
I think the British government also has, for a long century and still going now, regarded Irish reunification as inevitable. I think there's perhaps a perception amongst more Anglophobic quarters that the UK kept NI when the rest of Ireland got independence out of selfishness. I think it was really just that NI was so utterly opposed to independence that it could not in good conscience be done; and probably for the best for the new Republic, given that it would have condemned the nascent Irish state to deal with that internal schism and sectarian hostility.

This then is how British rule in NI should be viewed: essentially waiting for it to go. NI was granted autonomy in the expectation it would eventually get over its angst and decide for itself to leave the UK - except unionism turned out to be unexpectedly determined. But even then, eventually high Catholic birth rates would do their business, Protestant unionists would drop to a minority, and NI would go. Although the irony is perhaps that after the Troubles ended and the settlement resulted in much less overt discrimination against Catholics, so did support for reunification with Ireland decrease. Funny old world.
 

Thaluikhain

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Brexit meant a border had to go up somewhere, and there's no good place to put one. Total disaster, and this was obvious well in advance to anyone paying even the remotest amount of attention to Brexit.
 

Gergar12

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That was fast. I expected something to occur later on, not now during a global pandemic.
 

Gethsemani

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That was fast. I expected something to occur later on, not now during a global pandemic.
If there's one thing 2020 in the USA can teach us it is that social issues do not go away just because a pandemic comes along. When people get sufficiently outraged the concern for physical health is nowhere near as important as trying to influence the social issue at hand. Doesn't matter if that's racism, a presidential election or a long unresolved territorial dispute.
 

warmachine

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Brexit meant a border had to go up somewhere, and there's no good place to put one. Total disaster, and this was obvious well in advance to anyone paying even the remotest amount of attention to Brexit.
May's withdrawal agreement created a de facto customs union, eliminating customs borders. Unless you're discounting that because the ERG faction and their newspaper allies would never allow it.
 

Silvanus

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May's withdrawal agreement created a de facto customs union, eliminating customs borders. Unless you're discounting that because the ERG faction and their newspaper allies would never allow it.
Sure, but May's agreement still involved the UK outside of the single market for goods, with R.O.I. still in.
 

Agema

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That was fast. I expected something to occur later on, not now during a global pandemic.
The trigger was the end of the transition in January. The unionists had been suspicious but mollified by Johnson's claims it would be seamless. It since became evident Johnson lied and it was anything but seamless when NI stores started to run short of things produced in Great Britain, which are now trapped in bureacratic hell for export to the rest of Europe (export volumes from the UK to EU have collapsed, independently of Covid-19, since Jan).
 

Satinavian

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Sure, but May's agreement still involved the UK outside of the single market for goods, with R.O.I. still in.
Only because of the ERG and DUP. If May had been allowed to do as she wanted, you would have gotten full single market access. But she was sabotaged along the way all the time and then lacked the majority to push through a derided "brexit in name only". Her final deal was thus quite similar to Johnsons.
 

Silvanus

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Only because of the ERG and DUP. If May had been allowed to do as she wanted, you would have gotten full single market access. But she was sabotaged along the way all the time and then lacked the majority to push through a derided "brexit in name only". Her final deal was thus quite similar to Johnsons.
A Brexit deal that involved keeping the UK in the Customs Union and the Single Market was never going to fly. And not just because of the Brexiteers; remaining in the Single Market while not allowing freedom of movement of labour is against the Treaty of Rome. It would've been roundly rejected by the EU, as well.
 

Satinavian

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Sure, of course that would have been a Brexit with freedom of movement of labor. But yes, i know it was never really possible.
 

Agema

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A Brexit deal that involved keeping the UK in the Customs Union and the Single Market was never going to fly. And not just because of the Brexiteers; remaining in the Single Market while not allowing freedom of movement of labour is against the Treaty of Rome. It would've been roundly rejected by the EU, as well.
He's right though, in the sense that the overriding motivation for the May administration was a Brexit that would suit the Tory party, which meant catering to a bunch of euroskeptic ultras that represented a small proportion of the country. Essentially, if you image three wings of British politics where half of Britons are remainers, a quarter soft Brexiters and a quarter hard Brexiters, we got a compromise vision between the soft and hard Brexiters where a more nationally representative plan would have gone for a very soft Brexit.

Johnson's sabotaging of May had very little to do with Brexit, as we can see from his Brexit plan being so similar. That was just a powerplay to take the leadership from her. He backed Brexit out of personal ambition, seeking to curry favour with the Tory faithful to replace Osborne as Cameron's likely successor. When he flubbed that leadership grab and May won, he promptly set about taking her down as well. The Tory MPs know Johnson is incompetent. But as long as they perceive he keeps them in power, they'll stick with him.