The Resurgence of the Irish Republican Army
These are strange times to be an Irish citizen. The fate of the country and its sovereignty has been under question since their first engagements with the British Empire centuries ago. Now, after decades of political violence, the plot thickens once more.
After the Easter Rising of 1916 and Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1922, the former British colony of Ireland became a sovereign state. Tensions were already intensifying between the majority Catholic and minority Protestant Ireland, which made up just six of the 30 counties in the dominion.
Following this was a guerilla war of attrition accompanied by outright terrorism along the border among the Irish Republican Army (IRA), British military forces, and the police in Northern Ireland. This conflict formally ended in 1998 with the Good Friday Agreement. This civil strife was collectively known as “The Troubles” and some hardline IRA members still believe that the war isn’t over.
Since 1998, the Irish border has been open to anyone with a European passport. In fact, one could cross at a whim with no real active border control on either side. Recently, Brexit talks have sparked a debate about whether or not the border will close again. Reinstating a strict border between Ireland and Northern Ireland could have dire consequences for the economy and citizenship alike. Border control in Ireland has the potential to reignite The Troubles and undo the 20 years of relative peace and stability Ireland has seen.
Citizenship is a major issue for the people of Northern Ireland, as many of them have a British passport, which serves the same purpose as a generic European passport. After Brexit, the people of Northern Ireland will not experience the same benefits of European citizenship that Irish citizens will.
As it stands, the Irish government is backlogged with requests for Irish (European) passports by Northern Irish citizens. Much has changed since 1998, and the same things that divided the island no longer seem to apply. According to the BBC, the number of Protestants and Catholics living in Northern Ireland are about the same. The people born after the Good Friday agreement have formed a new version of Irish identity for themselves over the last 21 years.
IRA attacks on the border are another major issue the citizens of Northern Ireland are particularly worried about. Civilian casualties of The Troubles number in the thousands, and many believe it will return full force if border control is established.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson does not intend to close the border but is looking to impose tariffs that would disrupt commerce across the Northern Ireland-Ireland border. Some have suggested an increase in border security inside Northern Ireland, while others have argued that this could once again be a cause of violence for the Irish people.
Brexit debates have previewed how the British government might never return the six counties to the Irish people, which would be a much more sensical solution for the current age we live in. The forces of imperialism march on, unconcerned and seemingly unbothered by the unsustainable choices made in its name.
Leo Baumbach is a second year English major always keeping up with the Brexit news. They can reached at [email protected].