I was a student during the troubles, and I came across a lot of people from Ireland. It always became clear after just a little bit of conversation where someone was from. Both communities from Northern Ireland frequently wanted to escape to Britain and this was often the case with those from the Republic too. There was difference, however and not merely with an accent. If you scratched the surface, if you dug a bit deeper in conversation a chasm emerged. Those who considered themselves to be British were universally opposed to Sinn Féin and the IRA. They condemned terrorism and what it had done to their lives. Those who considered themselves to be Irish might also condemn terrorism, but they universally sympathised with Sinn Féin’s aims and found reasons to justify the IRA campaign.
It’s rather like the response to the attacks on the Twin Towers. There were those of us who condemned and found no excuses and those of us who thought America deserved it. If America hadn’t fought this war or that war, if it hadn’t supported Israel, then these things wouldn’t have happened.
I had so many conversations where Irish terrorism was condemned on the surface, but there was always a “but”. This but might go back to Oliver Cromwell or it might be more recent. It became clear to me that Irish victims of the British Army were always more important than British victims of the Irish Army. Most of those who died in the troubles have been forgotten, except where the British did something awful. Somehow the death of one Irish person killed by the Brits is worth ten Brits killed by the Irish. We remember and investigate one day in Londonderry while ignoring all the rest. Just as we remember one famine in Ireland while ignoring that in the same years there was famine in the Highlands of Scotland. There is only Irish grievance.
Ireland has a reputation as a place where lots of fun can be had. There are great pubs with music and the people are friendly. But the craic has a mask that sometimes slips. If you look carefully through the cracks you don’t always see the friendly face.
Ireland and the Britain are independent nation states. It was Britain’s right to leave the EU just as it was both of our right to choose to join at the same time. Brexit has never been any of Ireland’s business.
There is an international border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. But Ireland chose to treat it as an internal border with the hope of preventing Britain from leaving the EU at all. In the process we have had more Brit bashing than usual in the past few years.
The result is that once more the supposed friendliness turns out to be just on the surface. The mask slips and the most popular party in Ireland is Sinn Féin.
We used to think that Northern Ireland was different. The nationalist community hated Britain while taking British money, British benefits and British jobs and voted for a party whose spokesmen used to be voiced by actors. We accepted this as a specifically Northern Irish phenomenon. Nearly half the population supported terrorism. But the Republic was meant to be different. This was a place where you went on Hen nights. This was a place where all was joy and laughter. And now one in four turns out to be just the same as the nationalists in Northern Ireland.
There was tacit support for the bombers in the Republic and certainly Ireland was willing to benefit from thirty years of bombing. Britain signed the Belfast Agreement because we wanted peace. We hoped that we were making peace with an Ireland that was not dominated by terrorism, but it looks now as if we were mistaken.
Peace in Europe since World War II has depended on everyone accepting the unchangeability of international borders. This is true everywhere except in Ireland. What has just happened in Ireland is the equivalent of a quarter of the electorate of Germany voting for a party that wants parts of Poland back. Under those circumstances how could Poland be expected to carry out normal international relations with Germany?
British citizens in Northern Ireland must be protected from a neighbouring state that has gone rogue. The leaders of Sinn Féin may be softly spoken, but it is a careful mask that covers a multitude of sinns. The IRA still pull the strings and if the ballot box doesn’t succeed there is still the old threat. The Irish electorate has just voted for criminals who run cross border rackets, people smuggling, extortion and worse. Was this why they were so concerned that there wouldn’t be any border checks? It might damage the profits.
The British Government cannot allow an Irish veto on trade talks to do any more damage to our national interest. Better by far to plan now to leave with a minimal deal. We cannot allow Northern Ireland to be held within the sphere of influence of a state where support for terrorism reaches the level of Gaza and the West Bank.
If any other European state reached Irish levels of support for terrorism it would be considered a pariah. But somehow Ireland gets away with claiming the territory of its neighbour in a way that would be considered disgraceful anywhere else. Britain cannot allow this continued threat to our citizens to continue. We must reassert British sovereignty in Northern Ireland without condition and forever. If the Irish don’t like it, let them resort once more to what they do best: hatred and bombing. But this time let them be more honest about who is fighting for them and that they share the same cause and the same goal.
There can be no Belfast Agreement with a country that hates us and supports terrorism. We have a long history of defeating nationalists and socialists, here and elsewhere.
This post was originally published by the author on her personal blog: https://www.effiedeans.com/2020/02/hate-covers-multitude-of-sinns.html