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The Union

The toxic politics of Northern Ireland

Peter Morrison/AP Photo

While 12-year-olds pelt police with petrol bombs in Londonderry, the British government still seems much more interested in what’s going on in Scotland, says Sherelle Jacobs in The Daily Telegraph. But No 10 needs to stop kidding itself: the resurrection of “old paranoias and ancient divisions” in Northern Ireland poses a much greater threat to the Union. “EU fundamentalism” is partly to blame. Brussels tried to impose a hard border in Ireland “at the height of the vaccine fiasco” and “stubbornly refuses” to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol (under which Northern Ireland remains part of the EU’s customs union, with checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea).

But much of the recent violence is down to pure emotion. Young loyalist hardline Protestants – born after the Good Friday Agreement – see the protocol “as a historic symbol of English betrayal”. They’re furious that Republicans were allowed to stage huge in-person funerals for IRA men in lockdown, and furious about increased border checks. And demographics may soon “turn an already toxic situation radioactive”: the 2021 census is expected to show a Catholic majority for the first time in the history of Northern Ireland. The government must stop burying its head in the sand. Unless it can work out a settlement, “either the Union becomes the price of Brexit, or Brexit becomes the price of the Union”. 

Read the full article here.

Why it matters

Britain has always been on the wrong side of history in Ireland, says Max Hastings in Bloomberg. It committed a “monstrous injustice” 100 years ago, when it partitioned the country. Until recently Northern Ireland’s Protestant rulers governed their Catholic minority “almost as harshly as US white segregationists in the old South treated African Americans”. If Irish unification takes place within a generation, “a historic injustice will be righted”.