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Riot activity in West Belfast on April 7. (Peter Morrison/AP)

Young people in Northern Ireland have been rioting every night for almost two weeks. Violence that started in low-income Protestant areas in Belfast spilled over to other parts of Northern Ireland, bringing in Catholic youths, as well. Protesters set a bus and cars on fire, and hurled petrol bombs, bottles, bricks and roof tiles at each other over some of Belfast’s peace walls, which separate the two communities.

Targeted by both sides, nearly 90 police officers have been injured in the violence. This type of street violence was common during the Troubles, Northern Ireland’s 30-year conflict. But a peace agreement was signed 23 years ago — so why are people rioting again?…  Seguir leyendo »

Police form a line on a road to stop nationalists and loyalists from attacking each other, as a hijacked bus burns in the distance in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on April 7. (Peter Morrison/AP)

I first met Martin McGuinness in late January 2017 while I was working as a research professor at Queen’s University Belfast. Earlier that month, McGuinness, the former Irish Republican Army commander turned peacemaker, had resigned as deputy first minister of Northern Ireland. By doing so, he had collapsed the most recent iteration of the power-sharing government established by the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the culmination of decades of efforts to find peace in Northern Ireland.

Although he came late to the realization that politics, rather than violence, was the way forward, McGuinness’s contributions to the peace process and to the reestablishment of democratization in Northern Ireland were inarguable.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nos acercamos a la fecha ignominiosa, el 31 de diciembre de 2020, sin que haya acuerdo sobre el Brexit, lo que significa una salida a la brava del Reino Unido de la Unión Europea con graves daños para ambas. Conscientes de ello, van a negociar hasta el último minuto para alcanzar, si no un acuerdo, al menos «salvar los muebles», como se conoce en lenguaje diplomático a la teoría de que los daños sean los menos posibles, aunque incluso eso resulta difícil, ya que las diferencias son enormes y las posiciones están enquistadas.

Lo único que hemos alcanzado es a localizar el origen del obstáculo, que no es la pesca en aguas inglesas, sin duda importante para cierto sector de la población, pero no tanto como para bloquear un acuerdo de tal envergadura.…  Seguir leyendo »

British bank notes. (Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg News)

The Financial Times reported Monday morning that the United Kingdom government is planning to break its initial withdrawal agreement with the European Union, by introducing new legislation that would undermine parts of the agreement that affect Northern Ireland.

This has had immediate consequences, leading the British pound to fall sharply, and U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) to warn that there may be no trade deal between the U.K. and the United States if the U.K. goes ahead with its plan. Yet the long-term consequences may be more profound, making it harder for Britain and the European Union to figure out a new relationship.…  Seguir leyendo »

Brexit has revived fears that Northern Ireland will return to violence. After three decades of “The Troubles,” deadly warfare in which almost 3,500 people died, violence mostly ended after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement was signed. That peace deal relied in part on European Union membership, which enabled free trade and free movement between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. That satisfied both British unionists, who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the U.K., and Irish republicans, who wanted to join the Republic of Ireland.

Many feared that Brexit threatened that truce. When the U.K. decided to leave the European Union, observers feared that introducing a “hard” border between Northern Ireland, still part of the U.K.,…  Seguir leyendo »

Thomas Dworzak/Magnum Photos Murals in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 2018

The Irish have long been said to have a way with words—and there has been no shortage of them expended in the argument over the possibility of a Brexit-induced reinstatement of a border partitioning the island of Ireland. Since the 2016 referendum, numerous books have been published on the subject; thousands of newspaper articles have been written; famous Irish actors have taken to reciting poems to plea on the border’s behalf; and the border itself has a popular Twitter account, providing daily commentary—sometimes wry, sometimes raging—on the debate about its future.

More than three years into the Brexit mess, it would seem that our war of words may have finally gotten through to the British prime minister.…  Seguir leyendo »

La controversia a propósito de la frontera irlandesa nos recuerda que la soberanía ha estado en el centro del callejón sin salida del Brexit desde el principio. Una de las tareas fundamentales de un Estado soberano es garantizar la seguridad nacional mediante el control de fronteras. El Acuerdo de Viernes Santo, que acabó con décadas de brutal violencia política en Irlanda del Norte entre católicos republicanos y protestantes unionistas, suprimió la frontera entre el norte y el sur. La decisión fue la expresión de la soberanía de la República de Irlanda y del Reino Unido.

El de Viernes Santo fue también un acuerdo sobre la identidad nacional, un corolario de la soberanía.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman and child pass a British soldier in the republican New Lodge district of Belfast in 1978. Photograph: Alex Bowie/Getty Images

One of the disconcerting things about Brexit is its capacity constantly to rewrite the script of political dysfunction. The latest government proposals won’t work. They do represent a significant concession, but create an incoherent muddle leading to a bizarre outcome.

Northern Ireland would remain part of Europe’s single market but Britain would leave it. There would be regulatory checks down the Irish Sea but not at the Irish border. There would however be customs checks, so the border would not be open as now. And Northern Ireland’s membership of the single market could be unilaterally revoked by its assembly, which is not presently able to constitute itself, and so the whole plan is subject to the notorious vagaries of Northern Irish politics.…  Seguir leyendo »

Since taking office on July 24, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outlined a significantly harder stance on Brexit than his predecessor, Theresa May. He has made clear that Britain is leaving the European Union on Oct. 31, with or without a deal. He is refusing to negotiate with E.U. leaders unless they reopen the withdrawal agreement and remove the Northern Ireland backstop, which are long-standing E.U. red lines. He also announced more than 2 billion pounds to fund no-deal contingency plans, including stockpiling medicine and hiring more border officers.

As Johnson and his “war cabinet” of hard-line Brexiteers push forward with their demands, the risks to Northern Ireland are increasing.…  Seguir leyendo »

Police And Forensics Attend Scene After Car Bomb At Londonderry Courthouse

On a Saturday night in mid-January, just days after the House of Commons rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal for the first of three times, a car bomb exploded in the center of Northern Ireland’s second-largest city. Footage from a security camera trained on Derry’s Bishop Street courthouse showed a man in a balaclava jogging away from the highjacked van and a group of teenaged revelers strolling past only minutes before the bomb detonated. It was the first such attack in Northern Ireland in three years, and some observers were quick to speculate that it foreshadowed an escalation in violence that a “hard Brexit” could trigger.…  Seguir leyendo »

Street fighting against British soldiers in 1971 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Credit Bruno Barbey/Magnum Photos

Two weeks ago I was on the outskirts of Derry, a town in Northern Ireland, just a few yards away from the border where Britain ends and the Republic of Ireland begins. Behind a garden wall, a wiry, older man was eager to vent.

“This is Ireland! The English have no business here,” he exclaimed. He pointed down the road toward a small stone bridge. The checkpoint there vanished two decades ago, he said. Should the British try to erect a new guard house, he went on, “we will burn it down.”

Come on, I cajoled him, incredulously. What will really happen if, after Britain leaves the European Union, customs officers or the police might be stationed at what will then be a new border?…  Seguir leyendo »

Crosses for Irish republicans who died in the hunger strike at the Maze prison in Belfast in 1981 are part of a memorial in County Armagh. Rob Stothard for The New York Times.

My friend Sean, like a lot of people in Ireland, tells a good story. He used to work for the National Roads Authority; they couldn’t call it the Irish Roads Authority, he liked to joke, because the abbreviation “I.R.A.” was already taken.

In 2010, Sean organized an event to celebrate the completion of a highway linking Dublin to Belfast, in Northern Ireland. You could now commute between the two capital cities, which had once seemed worlds apart, in under two hours. One of the grandees invited to celebrate on a stretch of road outside Newry in the north was Martin McGuinness, the former Irish Republican Army gunman who, like a number of ex-paramilitaries, had reinvented himself as a politician and helped engineer the Good Friday Agreement, which brought an end to the three-decade conflict known as the Troubles in 1998.…  Seguir leyendo »

A pedestrian walked last year past a billboard in west Belfast erected by Sinn Féin, calling for a special status for northern Ireland with respect to Brexit. (Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images)

If anyone needs tidings of comfort and joy this holiday season, it is the long-suffering people of Northern Ireland. The unique challenges posed by the Irish border vexed more than 18 months of Brexit negotiations and could still scupper a deal. As the end game nears, the peace process is not a price worth paying.

When Ireland gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1921, the six northern counties comprising Northern Ireland remained part of the union. Its status has remained contested — with more than 3,600 killed during decades of violence known as the Troubles — between the Protestant and predominantly unionist community, and the Catholic and largely nationalist one.…  Seguir leyendo »

El día del Brexit (29 de marzo de 2019), se hará a la mar el HMS Buccaneer Britannia, para ir en busca de los tesoros de la “anglosfera”. Pero hay un obstáculo: alguien se olvidó de izar el ancla, que sigue clavada en Irlanda.

Era de prever. De todos los políticos conservadores euroescépticos que conozco, ninguno mencionó jamás a Irlanda del Norte, mucho menos al país soberano más al sur. Lo único que tienen los brexiteros en la cabeza es la búsqueda de soberanía parlamentaria y liberación respecto del “superestado” supranacional de Bruselas.

Esta visión miope puede ser simple reflejo de ignorancia.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Friday, British Prime Minister Theresa May will deliver a speech at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall. Its contents have been widely leaked. May is set to denounce the “backstop” her government negotiated with the European Union as part of the Brexit agreement. She will say that the proposal would breach the Belfast Agreement that secured peace in Northern Ireland and leave the people of Northern Ireland without any representation in trade negotiations. She will say that “the economic and constitutional dislocation of a formal ‘third country’ customs border within our own country is something I will never accept and I believe no British prime minister could ever accept.…  Seguir leyendo »

Just before lunchtime on Monday, European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted: “Tell me why I like Mondays!” He had just gotten off the phone with the Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar. Varadkar told Tusk that Ireland was happy with a formula of words the British government had already agreed to: that, after Brexit, there will be “continued regulatory alignment” between both parts of Ireland. Behind this technocratic phrase, there was a great retreat by the British.

They had previously insisted that Northern Ireland is as British as Yorkshire and thus could have no special status after Brexit. The Irish government, with the full support of the European Union, had argued that this would mean the reimposition of a hard border on the island of Ireland and a real danger of undermining the Belfast Agreement of 1998 that ended the Troubles.…  Seguir leyendo »

Simon Coveney. Photo: Chatham House.

Simon Coveney, Republic of Ireland minister for foreign affairs and trade, speaks with Jason Naselli about his government's approach to the border, the Conservative/DUP deal and the 'Brexit bill'.

What is the Irish government’s preferred solution with regards to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic if the UK leaves the EU customs union?

Our preferred solution is that we find a way of maintaining as close to the status quo as possible. We don’t believe we can do that by simply using technology on the border. There needs to be quite a unique political solution agreed between Ireland, the UK and the EU that can allow the free movement of goods and services and people, and the normal environment that has been created in the border area on the island of Ireland, to continue.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘Our frontline in the Brexit battle’: Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire after the breakdown of power-sharing talks on 27 March.

While much of Britain’s attention has been on the latest twists, turns and turmoil over Brexit, Northern Ireland has been quietly self-immolating in the corner. The country’s power-sharing parliament collapsed in January after Sinn Féin refused to partner the Democratic Unionists any longer. The deadline for the parties to reach a resolution and save Stormont was Monday – but it came and went without a deal being reached.

Just 48 hours before Theresa May was due to trigger article 50, her Northern Ireland secretary, James Brokenshire, took to the steps at Stormont House to announce that Northern Ireland no longer had a government.…  Seguir leyendo »

Brexit and Irish Unity

In 1998, for the first time since partition in 1921, the people of Ireland, North and South, joined in voting for change when they took part in referendums on the Good Friday Agreement. That agreement was founded on the democratic principle that the people of Ireland, North and South, should determine their own future.

The Good Friday Agreement replaced decades of conflict and injustice with a deal that put power-sharing and equality at the heart of government. The agreement was endorsed by a resounding 71 percent of voters in the North and a remarkable 94 percent in the South of Ireland.…  Seguir leyendo »

Malgré l’aplomb des sondages et des militants, les électeurs britanniques ont choisi de sortir de l’Union européenne (UE). Les élites ne sont pas seulement surprises – elles sont interloquées, quasi offensées.

L’Ecosse, qui a voté massivement « Remain », se trouve dans une situation constitutionnelle épineuse, après avoir décidé, de justesse, de rester rattachée au Royaume-Uni en 2015. Le Scottish National Party (SNP), force confiante et dynamique, va être tenté d’organiser un nouveau référendum sur l’indépendance. Parce qu’un Royaume-Uni qui ne fait plus partie de l’UE, ça change complètement la donne. Ça change les lois de la gravité politique. Définitivement.

A tel point que pour la première fois de ma vie de Nord-Irlandais, me voilà d’accord avec l’étroit et nationaliste Sinn Fein (« Nous-Mêmes », branche politique de l’IRA) qui a aussitôt déclaré : « Le gouvernement britannique a perdu toute légitimité de représentation des intérêts politiques et économiques du peuple d’Irlande du Nord. …  Seguir leyendo »