Why do brexiters need to study the history of Ireland?
I would like everyone to take an interest in history. At this moment, it is particularly important, especially for the political leaders in the UK and the rest of the EU. One of the thorniest problems for the Government has been the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
How does Brexit affect Northern Ireland, or vice versa?
The UK needs to maintain an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, if it is to comply with the Good Friday Agreement. This came into being, at the end of a long and difficult peace process. It is hard to see how we can maintain that arrangement in the event of a hard Brexit. Similarly, Ulster Unionists will regard any arrangement which treats Ulster as separate from the rest of the UK as a threat to the Union.
Does Northern Ireland matter?
Yes! Anyone who remembers the violence of the 1970’s and 1980’s, or who knows of the centuries of Anglo-Irish conflict, should have no difficulty seeing why we must keep to the Good Friday Agreement. Someone said the attention being paid to this issue was a case of ‘the tail wagging the dog’. Does he think minorities don’t matter? Is antisemitism unimportant, or why care about Scotland or Wales?
Who needs to remember the history of Ireland?
I am pleased that Theresa May has made the question of the Irish border an essential element in the negotiations. However, the hard brexiters don’t think it matters and could accept a Brexit without a deal, which would mean a hard border, whilst he EU negotiators suggest a solution that would treat Ulster differently from the rest of the UK. We must not put at risk peace and reconciliation between Unionists and Nationalists
What’s been the role of the Republic of Ireland?
The Irish Government has not been conspicuously proactive in finding a solution. They should look at their history and learn the lessons.
David Steele, a Scotsman, who was the leader of the then Liberal Party, once said,
The English never remember and the Irish never forget.
Let’s hope we don’t repeat the mistakes of history this time.