There are people who think that partition hasn’t worked. They’re right, in that partition has damaged both the south and the north of Ireland, giving us two damaged states in Ireland, conservative and corrupt in many areas. In one respect, though, it has succeeded: it has produced a group of people in the south who can be depended on to produce the case for northern unionism and against northern nationalism. For months now, Arlene Foster has been arguing that a border in Ireland doesn’t have to be a militarised border, that talk of violence was Project Fear. A few days ago, Stephen Collins (I repeat, Virginia, no relation) of the Irish Times occupied considerable space to argue the same thing. In response I wrote the letter below. It wasn’t printed. Quelle surprise.
Your columnist Stephen Collins (no relation) is wide of the mark in stating “A number of leading Irish politicians, and some British and European ones too, have fallen into the trap of suggesting that renewed violence in the North will be one of the inevitable consequences of Brexit. This is a dangerous and insidious claim which will be used as cover by those who have long pursued their objectives through violence and intimidation” (‘Political violence has returned and we can’t blame it on Brexit’ 20 September).
I have recently concluded a wide range of interviews for a book on Brexit and the border. Ninety-five per cent of those interviewed were clear that a hard border would provide an easy target for dissident republicans, and the harder the border the more intense the violence. These are not gullible fools: they are people who know that dissident republicans feel no need of ‘cover’ for their actions.
I would also suggest Stephen Collins visit ordinary people living along the border, on both sides, whose livelihood depends on the border remaining seamless. They too are clear: any new border will be met by widespread civic disobedience. It will be local people who will help remove any new barriers, even as they helped fill cratered roads during the Troubles.
Drive up and talk to the border people, Stephen. You’ll find their views anything but insidious.
Here’s the link to my non-relative’s article:https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/political-violence-has-returned-and-we-can-t-blame-it-on-brexit-1.4023978