“One day the United Kingdom will make a big mistake that will lead to the reunification of the island,” said Eamon de Valera, considered the father of the Irish homeland, the equivalent of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson in the United States. Could Brexit have been that mistake?
The fear of the unionist and Protestant community that the six northern counties will be integrated into the Republic is the X factor behind the disturbances in the province, which last night were repeated and have been described as “the most serious in more than one decade ”, with fifty wounded police officers, cars and buses burned. After several nights of pitched battles between young loyalists and the forces of order, the inevitable has finally happened and the Nationalists have joined in the rock-throwing and Molotov cocktails.
Loyalist paramilitaries spur their children, grandchildren and nephews to fight to stop reunification
In the Stormont Assembly (Northern Irish Parliament), meeting on an emergency basis, all the parties called for calm, as did the governments of London and Dublin, custodians of peace in Ulster. But hopes that the violence will fade in the short term are slim. The unionists, within a campaign of civil disobedience, have called for the next few months unofficial parades, not regulated by the committee that authorizes them, and which are always a source of tension because they provoke Catholics by passing in front of their houses hooded or dressed in orange (the Protestant color, in homage to King William of Orange), beating their bagpipes and drums.
Early Thursday morning the tone of the riots changed. From both sides of the “wall of peace” on Lanark Way (a massive steel tower that separates the unionist Shankill neighborhood from the Republican neighborhood of Springfield Road), six hundred young people from both sides threw Molotov cocktails and all kinds of explosives, in a tripartite war between them and the police that killed a photographer from the Belfast Telegraph slightly injured and the hijacking of a bus that the vandals set on fire. No one would be surprised if this is the trend for the next few months.
The curse of Ulster has finally reached the new generations of the province, adolescents and young people up to thirty years old who did not live the troubles , a covert civil war that lasted three decades, was born after the Good Friday agreements and now they are being encouraged by their elders (parents, uncles, grandparents …) to join “the fight.” Especially those closest to loyalist paramilitary groups, who accuse London of wanting cancel their British identity and sit idly by as Catholics move toward demographic majority and eventually reunification. They want their descendants to be condemned to the same life of hatred and violence that they had.
Causes of the unrest include Protestants’ dislike of Brexit and the creation of a border in the Irish Sea, and delays in the arrival of packages and goods from the rest of Britain. But the most important thing is the feeling that their dominance and the times when they could quietly discriminate against nationalists have gone down in history. That now the balance is tipped the other way around, a commission tells them when and how they can parade, a Catholic is chief of the police, organizes raids against loyalist paramilitaries involved in drug trafficking and other criminal activities, and in change turns a blind eye when Sinn Féin leaders attend a funeral without keeping social distance. A century after the founding of Northern Ireland, they feel second-class citizens, the rest of the British are indifferent to their fortune and the world they knew is falling apart, like Scarlett O’Hara’s in gone With the Wind .