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La mayoría de los irlandeses tienen en mente la idea de que Irlanda debería estar unida. Hace exactamente un siglo, la isla se dividió en dos entidades políticas. Los condados del noreste formaron Irlanda del Norte y siguieron vinculados al Reino Unido. El sur se convirtió en un Estado irlandés independiente y, finalmente, en una república.

¿Por qué la diferencia? ¿Por qué la partición? El problema era la existencia de dos grupos étnico-religiosos en conflicto en la isla. Los protestantes irlandeses se concentraban en gran medida en el noreste y deseaban permanecer en el Reino Unido. Los católicos irlandeses constituían la gran mayoría en el resto de la isla y estaban a favor de la independencia.…  Seguir leyendo »

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 »

Police attend the scene at Cloughfern roundabout, Newtownabbey, as loyalist protesters hijack and burn vehicles on 4 April 2021. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Before scenes of rioting in Belfast started to hit the national news, messages pinged across social media. On Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter calls went out for people to take to the streets. One message said protesters needed to “shut down Northern Ireland” and to “stand up and be counted”.

While it was mainly teenagers who rioted in Belfast, that doesn’t mean the situation wasn’t serious. Eight police officers were injured in the clashes. Businesses were damaged. On 4 April there was further violence in Newtownabbey. Cars were hijacked and burned on the road. The scenes were repeated on Monday night. Local communities have to pick up the pieces.…  Seguir leyendo »

A 'no hard border' poster is pictured on the Irish border in Newry in Northern Ireland. (Aidan Crawley/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Last Wednesday, an American group that supports Sinn Fein, the Northern Ireland political party associated with the Irish Republican Army, placed half-page ads in The Washington Post, the New York Times, and other newspapers, calling for a referendum on Irish unification.

Such a referendum is not likely very soon. Since the 1920s, the island of Ireland has been divided between what is now the independent Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom or should unify with the Republic was the principal source of violent conflict from the 1960s to the 1990s, generally known as “The Troubles.”…  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 »

A British soldier drags a Catholic protester during the “Bloody Sunday” killings on Jan. 30, 1972, when British paratroopers shot dead 13 Catholic civil rights marchers in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. (Thopson/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. police officers kill a remarkable number of their fellow citizens every year, particularly African Americans and other minorities — many with their hands in the air, their backs turned or their bodies on the ground. Holding those officers accountable has been difficult because of rank-and-file codes of silence, powerful police unions and lax oversight by officials in charge of policing.

These problems are exacerbated by the challenge of instituting reforms across more than 18,000 distinct police forces. Perhaps not surprisingly, many people believe real reform is all but impossible.

In Northern Ireland, 20 years ago, many people said the same thing about their policing system.…  Seguir leyendo »

After more than 1,000 days in abeyance, Northern Ireland’s governing institutions are working again. After talks facilitated by the governments for the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, the two main parties appointed their governing representatives: First Minister Arlene Foster of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin, along with the rest of the government.

The deal that brought Sinn Féin and the DUP back to governing outlines a series of institutional reforms meant to streamline decision-making between the power-sharing partners. One of the most significant reforms is a political process called the Petition of Concern, which was a major difficulty during the talks.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Jan. 10, three years after Northern Ireland’s main political parties suspended its power-sharing assembly and government, the parties agreed to return to governing. What prompted this dramatic shift?

The assembly and government were fundamental elements of the 1998 Good Friday/Belfast Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland. However, they collapsed in 2017 amid arguments between the province’s two largest parties: the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whose members are predominately Protestant and want Northern Ireland to remain part of the U.K.; and Sinn Fein, whose members are predominately Catholic and want Northern Ireland to unite with the Republic of Ireland. What kicked off the dispute was the Democratic Unionist first minister’s involvement in a scandal related to mismanagement of public funds.…  Seguir leyendo »

Britain’s election results seem to point in two very different directions. The headline result is that Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party has won a smashing victory against Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, clearing the way for Britain’s exit from the European Union. This would seem like good news for British nationalists, who have treated the E.U. as an enemy for decades.

Yet this victory may weaken the political fabric of the United Kingdom. Scottish nationalists did extraordinarily well, too, while for the first time, more nationalist members of Parliament (who want a united Ireland) have been elected in Northern Ireland than unionist MPs (who want the union with Great Britain to continue).…  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 »

‘We are on the cusp of a freedom that’s been fought for by groups like Alliance for Choice.’ Pro-choice demonstrators in Belfast on Monday. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

It has been 1,009 days since the Stormont government in Northern Ireland collapsed in January 2017. While the building on the Belfast Hill has gained some mothballs and a politician here and there has been chided for morally and politically dubious holidays, Northern Irish citizens’ human rights have been dug from the bedrock of a patriarchal, religious-gilded state.

In June 2017, Belfast’s court of appeal ruled that it was up to the Northern Irish assembly to decide on the country’s restrictive abortion law. That same day, the British government monumentally announced funding for pregnant Northern Irish women to access abortion in England, pressured by Labour MP and ally Stella Creasy.…  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 »

Police Service of Northern Ireland officers look at a burnt car in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast in 2002, after Catholic and Protestant rioters clashed with police overnight. (Peter Morrison/AP)

Fifty years ago this month, the British government sent troops to Northern Ireland to impose control as relations broke down between Protestants and Catholics. The ensuing violence, known as “the Troubles,” lasted 33 years and led to over 3,000 deaths, including 1,617 in Belfast alone. Why did Northern Ireland — a jurisdiction of an advanced industrial nation — suffer such sustained violence? In new research, we examine one important factor. Catholics and Protestants lived side by side, but they had very few social or economic ties across the communities. This meant geographic proximity bred violence instead of mutual tolerance.

The Troubles were sparked by tit-for-tat violence

To understand the Northern Ireland conflict, you need to know a little history.…  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 »

The coffin of the journalist Lyra McKee, who was killed by a dissident republican paramilitary in Northern Ireland last week. Credit Paul Faith/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Kevin Barry O’Donnell told me that he and his friends wanted the Troubles to come back. “The madness, the riots, the shooting, the bombings, everything,” he said of the 30 years of conflict between mostly Catholic republicans who wanted to reunite Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland and the mostly Protestant unionists who wanted it to remain a part of the United Kingdom.

I was interviewing Mr. O’Donnell in 2017 for a film I was making about life after the Troubles. He was 16 years old and living in Derry, the city in Northern Ireland that was famous as both the site of the conflict’s beginning and one of its worst atrocities, the killing of 14 Catholics by British soldiers in 1972 in an event known as Bloody Sunday.…  Seguir leyendo »

Lecciones del Acuerdo de Viernes Santo

Hace 21 años que firmamos el Acuerdo de Viernes Santo, junto con dirigentes y activistas de los dos países que gobernábamos, que tanto se habían esforzado para alcanzar la paz. Fue un momento trascendental. Pero aquel histórico 10 de abril de 1998 no fue solo el fin de un proceso, sino el comienzo de otro. La gente de Irlanda del Norte y la República de Irlanda han seguido forjando el acuerdo cada día. Una paz duradera no se construye con unas cuantas firmas sobre el papel, sino con las acciones y relaciones diarias de las personas, las empresas, la sociedad, los políticos y los Gobiernos.…  Seguir leyendo »