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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
On August 31, 2018, I was in the Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, waiting for my flight to New York, when I received this text on WhatsApp: “Trevor and Barry had their doors kicked in this morning in dawn raids and are presently in police custody for breach of s5 of Official Secrets Act.”
With a few clicks and a hasty review of a police press release from Belfast, Northern Ireland, I was able to grasp the basics. Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey, two producers on a documentary film I had directed, No Stone Unturned, had been arrested and held for questioning for the “theft” of classified documents relating to the Loughinisland Massacre, the subject of the film.… Seguir leyendo »
There are times when working as a journalist provides a front-row seat to some of the most important events taking place on Earth. On the downhill slope to Brexit, Derry — also known as Londonderry — certainly fits the bill.
Since the end of The Troubles, Derry has become a vibrant cultural hub. It hosts Europe’s largest and most vibrant Halloween celebration each year, attracting thousands of tourists.
It was designated the UK’s City of Culture in 2013.
But a car bomb last weekend that blasted granite chunks off the street and through windows lifted the curtain on something darker going on in this city on the border with the Republic of Ireland.… Seguir leyendo »
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 »
The Democratic Unionist Party, the hard-line Northern Irish Protestant party that essentially has both Prime Minister Theresa May and the Brexit process in a death grip, is not merely stupid or fanatical. The party understands that its fortunes depend on an increasingly threatened British nationalism.
Unionism is dying in Northern Ireland. During the 30-year war, the Protestant majority was mostly loyal, even though Northern Ireland was one of the the poorest parts of the United Kingdom. With a dwindling industrial base, it was subsidized by war, infused with money for an occupying army and giant, garrisoned stations full of police officers.… Seguir leyendo »