Column: Yesterday’s News Today – The Troubles Part 2

Andrew Gilkey, World News Editor

The border between the Republic of Ireland and North Ireland is hard to pinpoint. Unlike in the ‘States, there are no logo-riddled signs spewing state slogans over an interstate highway. If you have a keen enough eye, though, you can identify the moment you pass into the United Kingdom. The small, white road signs pointing your rented car towards North Ireland or Londonderry have been scrawled over to read “Ireland”, “Derry” or the simple warning “IRA.”

After plans to establish “customs clearance zones” across the Ireland/North Ireland were published by RTE, an Irish news source, fears that a new border could renew old hostilities and doom the fragile peace in U.K.-Ireland relations have spiked. Though the U.K. parliament continues to say that it will not break the Good Friday Agreement, it has become increasingly apparent that is not a probable outcome. Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans on removing the backstop that would maintain economic relations between  Ireland and U.K. and a seamless border between the two nations, in order to force the U.K. out of the European Union by any means.

Economically, both Ireland and North Ireland would suffer greatly from a “hard Brexit” that disavows the Good Friday Agreement. The Northern Ireland Department for the Economy released a report in August that stated 40,000 jobs will be lost if the hard Brexit is completed. The high rates of youth unemployment and low wages reported by The Northern Ireland Department of Economy will only deepen if Brexit goes through as Johnson wants it. For the Republic, all trade with their greatest economic partner would be subject to taxes and tariffs that would increase prices across the nation, as reported by the World Trade Organization. Such a situation would not only be a massive detriment to a burgeoning tourism industry in North Ireland, but would also injure an Irish economy that has seen increases in foreign investment. Oh, and not to mention food shortages, as reported by the Journal. We all know how that went last time.

However, the economy of these two nations might seem to be of little concern in the face of a new wave of political violence. Chief Constable George Hamilton warned that the proposed ‘customs clearance zones” would be seen as “fair game” by Republican dissidents, per Business Insider.  “Anything that makes the police presence predictable in places where terrorists are active, of course, raises the threat and increases the harm to my officers,” Hamilton told The Guardian.

The economic situation birthed by a no-deal Brexit would only fuel the potential for further terrorist actions from both Republican dissidents and Unionist cells. A study published in the European Journal of Political Economy presents a correlation between economic troubles and the strengthening of terrorist activities. As stated previously, North Ireland is primed for such economic stagnation if no deal is brokered between the U.K. and Ireland. And the Unionist dissidents would have a perfect excuse to act with potential border violence.

It seems that Boris Johnson has forgotten the bloody history of Ireland. It seems he does not care that in Ireland and the U.K., relations have begun to heal after centuries of genocidal policy, civil war and terrorism. Perhaps he is ignorant of it. However, I doubt that a man who worships Margret Thatcher, perhaps the worst thing to happen to Ireland since the Famine, would be ignorant of the situation.

As someone who has seen the pyres of Marching Season in Belfast, it feels like a twisted nightmare that a person would be willing to reignite such a bloody conflict. Political gain or economic policy should not be the primary concern in North Ireland. The continuation of peace should be the primary goal of both the U.K. and Ireland. However, as former U.K. Attorney General Dominic Grieve told Business Insider, “Instead he [Johnson] seems to want someone else to blame for No Deal, and if that is the Irish government or the EU Commission, so much the better.”