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Overturning the dispensation… August 8, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Richard English made a very thought-provoking point in the IT recently. Writing about dissident republicanism he notes:

…the reality is that their violence represents a more consistently high level of actual threat in the UK than does jihadist terrorism.
Most people in Britain pay more attention to Isis-related dangers and, in the wake of the Manchester and London attacks, it is understandable that people have a somewhat exaggerated understanding of the risk of jihadist violence.
But the Irish dissident republican threat has, for years, been a more severe one in terms of the violence consistently intended and threatened. And the largely unnoticed actions of the PSNI are a major reason for such threats not making their way, bloodily, into the headlines.

I’ve’ seen comments on the IT and elsewhere that have lambasted the Irish and British governments for not addressing the ‘real’ threat. Comments emanating, not unsurprisingly from hugely reactionary anti-Islamic sources. And I’ve always thought them overblown. But the way I thought of it was always how pervasive the conflict was in the 1970 to 1990s period – where for example attacks on London were if not a constant then very regular. So regular indeed that the focus on Islamist violence – while understandable – seems to be too great given the infrequency of those events and their relatively low level, though of course appalling nature.

I lived and worked in London in the early 1990s. In 1991 and 1992 alone there were dozens of IRA attacks there. Just there, and of course many more elsewhere in Britain. This wasn’t a media cycle dominated world, or not quite in the same way. I remember the day of the mortar bombing of Downing Street and being away from my main place of work at a subsidiary company in Islington. To say life went on would be… well… fairly accurate. And it was happening somewhere else in the city relatively far away.

In a way that’s a tangent though on the main point. That is that dissident violence persists albeit at radically lower levels than that prosecuted by the IRA. English argues this has a small but persistent political effect, one part of which is to provide a sort of rival ‘in the republican space’ to SF. And he points to the likelihood of it persisting well into the future.

I’ve spent most of my life studying Irish nationalism and its complex, fluid relationship with the British state. That long history offers no basis for predicting that there will emerge a fully harmonious relationship between Irish nationalism and a United Kingdom which holds sovereignty over part of Ireland.
This is not to suggest that that sovereignty should end. As things stand, there is not the economic nor the popular basis for such a move.
Nor is it to suggest that dissident republican violence will compel a British disengagement. If the more sustained strength of the Provisional IRA could not violently force the British state to leave Ireland, then there seems no reason at all for thinking that the much punier arsenal of violent dissidents will ever have that effect.

Very true. But that’s not going to see such violence end.

And English points to Brexit…

Will Brexit make much of a difference? There are so many ironies in the Brexit story that at times it seems to have been scripted by a satirist.
One is that the DUP’s parliamentary leverage over Theresa May depended on the Scottish Conservative success of the openly gay Ruth Davidson. (Without the Scottish Tories’ 13 seats, the DUP’s 10 would not have been decisive.)
But another Brexit irony is surely this. The post-Good Friday Agreement era had seen Irish nationalists become increasingly comfortable with a new era of Irish politics, one in which the porous and flexible Border between North and South had rendered partition less offensive.
But now there is at least the possibility of a more rigid and conspicuous Border after Brexit, and also the prospect that English opinion will pull pro-European Irish nationalists in the North out of the EU.
Neither will cause the Northern Ireland Troubles to reignite. But both will produce some erosion of that nationalist sympathy which existed towards the reformed partition that had been created by the long Northern Ireland peace process.

That last is crucial. The ‘agreed dispensation’ on the way to a future ‘agreed Ireland’ has been shaken by Brexit. There’s no way around that simple fact. And part of that agreement was that nationalism agreed to the fact of the Union, albeit did not agree to not work towards a UI – and that absolute right of theirs is written into the GFA/BA. As English says:

The DUP is a party primarily committed to maintaining the Union. One crucial foundation stone for the continued Union is its acceptance by Irish nationalists. And, put bluntly, those DUP politicians and voters who have supported Brexit have contributed to the partial erosion of that acceptance.

This site has long argued that. It was an absolutely inevitable and predictable outcome of Brexit. Anything that predicated against the current dispensation was going to destabilise that dispensation. And so it has come to pass. And a situation where five, ten even twenty years in the future looked relatively predictable and settled now seems anything but.


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