Lyra McKee’s murder was, as a journalist, as President Higgins said, “an attack on truth itself.” It is also very much an attack on Ireland’s truth. For as long as Derry, Down, Tyrone, Armagh, Antrim, and Fermanagh remain under the control of the British state, separated from the rest of Ireland, so long as Britain keeps part of Ireland subject to the priorities of England in Westminster, and ignored, dominated, and neglected, there will always be the potential for a return to violent conflict. People’s lives will always remain under the shadow of violence and the horrors of war.
Special status for Northern Ireland, which rejected Brexit, will be a slap in the face for Scotland – which also rejected Brexit. As the six counties do not have significant oil and gas resources and Scotland does, no such arrangement will be considered for the Scots. This cannot play out well for British unity. The majority of Scotland – including its unionist base – rejected Brexit, Holyrood has refused legislative consent to any deal that does not consider the interests of the Scottish voters, and those voters themselves know what’s best for them.
London has every reason to deny it is currently considering the idea. May’s government depends on the support of the DUP, the political representatives of Ulster Loyalists – a community in the province that wants to see no difference between its “country” and the rest of the UK. But the British government has a nasty habit of denying its plans around Brexit. It denied a power grab in Scotland, and we all know what happened then. Denial is a British tactic designed to limit resistance to its plans until they are ready to be rolled out.
Tiocfaidh ár lá may well have been the “battle cry of the blanketmen,” but it is also a proclamation of continuity. McDonald’s Sinn Féin is not a new Sinn Féin. It is the same party with the same vision and, while it continues to attract new members, it is largely supported by the same people who supported the party right through the Troubles to the present day. If Mary Lou McDonald wants to be accepted as the new face of Sinn Féin then she has to carry this old guard along with her, and that means reminding them too of the fights of the past.
States simply do not survive this level of internal division, and – as we can see from the headlines on every newspaper – Britain is no exception. The very forces that held the United Kingdom together in the past; a strong English state, a sense of shared hostility towards everything on the other side of the English Channel, and England’s willingness to exert brute force on its possessions, are now wholly evaporated. The dominant opinion both here and around the world is that England is in a tailspin, the centrifugal force of which is pushing Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales out.
What is most apparent from this willingness on the part of London to create an Irish exception by adjusting the border [back to where it should be], is that the UK has now begun the process of physical deterioration. Regulatory divergence between the north of Ireland and the rest of the UK is and can only be the thin end of the wedge that will see Northern Ireland leave the UK and join a united Ireland. Regulatory cohesion and economic unity have always had political ramifications, and as the EU continues towards political unity both parts of Ireland will be pulled closet together.
Portadown’s Orangemen now no longer march from the Drumcree church and so the insistence on parading down the nationalist Garvaghy Road has ended. This parade made its way down “Protestant streets” – a reminder of the social segregation of Northern Ireland today – where union and loyalist flags were waving in the breeze.
England and the entire British political establishment are in for a hell of a shock when they realise just who these “nutters on the backbenches” are. The DUP is the often hilarious hard core of political loyalist, sectarian Ulster unionism in the conflict zone that is Northern Ireland – bearing in mind that the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, now in tatters, is only a ceasefire.