Vizcards for Northern Ireland Conflict 2021
Why Northern Ireland conflict is in News?
- Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom (UK) saw the worst violence in years.
- Parts of Northern Ireland are split along sectarian lines, 23 years after a peace deal largely ended Northern Ireland’s troubles.
What are the reasons for Violence?
- Brexit and Corona:
- Britain left the EU on 31st December and the new trade arrangements quickly became an irritant to Northern Ireland unionists who want to stay in the UK.
- Early trade glitches, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, led to some empty supermarket shelves, fueling alarm.
- There was anger that the British Prime Minister long insisted there would be no new checks on trade as a result of Brexit, had downplayed the scale of the changes wrought by leaving the EU.
- Identity Crisis:
- Some in Northern Ireland’s British loyalist community feel as if their identity is under threat.
- And many other loyalists believe that, de facto, Northern Ireland has ceased to be as much a part of the UK as it was.
- Geographically, Northern Ireland is part of Ireland.
- Politically, it’s part of the UK.
- Ireland, long dominated by the UK, broke free about 100 years ago after centuries of colonization and an uneasy union.
- 26 of its 32 counties became an independent, Roman Catholic-majority country.
- 6 counties in the north, which have a Protestant majority, stayed British.
- Northern Ireland’s Catholic minority experienced discrimination in the Protestant-run state.
- In the 1960s, a Catholic civil rights movement demanded change but faced a harsh response from the government and police.
- The British Army was deployed in 1969, initially to keep the peace.
- The situation deteriorated into a conflict between Irish republican militants who wanted to unite with the south, loyalist paramilitaries who sought to keep Northern Ireland British, and UK troops.
- During three decades of conflict,
- More than 3,600 people, a majority of them civilians, were killed in bombings and shootings.
- Most were in Northern Ireland, though the Irish Republican Army also set off bombs in London and other British cities.
How did this conflict come to an end?
- By the 1990s, after secret talks and with the help of diplomatic efforts by Ireland, Britain, and the United States, the combatants reached a peace deal.
- The 1998 Good Friday accord saw the paramilitaries lay down their arms and established a Catholic-Protestant power-sharing government for Northern Ireland.
- The question of Northern Ireland’s ultimate status was deferred:
- It would remain British as long as that was the majority’s wish, but a future referendum on reunification was not ruled out.
- While the peace has largely endured, small Irish Republican Army splinter groups have mounted occasional attacks on security forces, and there have been outbreaks of sectarian street violence.
- The power-sharing arrangement has had periods of success and failure and still the government is not trusted by both the sides.
How Brexit has resurfaced the conflict?
- Northern Ireland has been called the “problem child” of Brexit, the UK’s divorce from the European Union (EU).
- As the only part of the UK that has a border with an EU nation, Ireland, it was the trickiest issue to resolve after Britain voted narrowly in 2016 to leave the 27-nation bloc.
- An open Irish border, over which people and goods flow freely, underpins the peace process, allowing people in Northern Ireland to feel at home in both Ireland and the UK.
- The insistence of Britain’s government on a “hard Brexit” that took the country out of the EU’s economic order meant the creation of new barriers and checks on trade.
- Both Britain and the EU agreed that the border could not be in Ireland because of the risk that would pose to the peace process.
- The alternative was to put it, metaphorically, in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
- That arrangement has alarmed British unionists, who say it weakens Northern Ireland’s place in the UK and could bolster calls for Irish reunification.