Today, Emily Thornberry, standing in for Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs, made a link between the risk to an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic following Brexit and the recent shooting of a journalist in Derry by the New IRA. Replying for the PM, David Lidington denied such a link. He was right but not perhaps for the reason he had in mind.
There is no link between hard and soft borders and the IRA execution of the young journalist. Why? Because the Nationalist cause, which the IRA, Official, Provisional and now New espouse, is political union of the whole of the island of Ireland. And, as its tradition, the IRA will continue to murder people in that cause, hard border or no border. However, that does not mean there is no link at all between the shooting and Brexit.
The insitutional arrangements under the Belfast Agreement aimed to assuage Nationalist aspirations for a united Ireland by bringing the Republic and the Province into a closer political relationship. However, Brexit, by destroying their common membership of the EU, would be a jolting step away from the ‘political union’ dreamed of by the Nationalists. Thus, it could be expected to garner support for the IRA from within that community which would rightly see the British and Brexit as reneging on their promise to promote peace across the island by bringing the two communities into a closer political association.
All the arguments about hard and soft borders, technolgical solutions, customs unions, EFTA, Common Market 2.0, The Malthouse Compromise and Canada Plus Plus Plus miss the point. The new threat to peace in Ireland is not about borders and trade but, as the Ragin’ Cajun might have said, “It’s political union, stupid” and the only means of removing that threat is for the British to keep their promise to the people of Ireland and abandon Brexit.