Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Many of the tragedies of Irish history have been the result of an English political conflict being fought out in Ireland. Other than the UK, the country most affected by Brexit is the Republic of Ireland. It was hardly mentioned during the referendum campaign. This imperial amnesia covered an inconvenient truth. Thirty years of violence and thousands of deaths later, a classic political compromise was embodied in the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. It has held the peace in Northern Ireland for twenty years, despite the lingering residue of the "Troubles." Maintaining the Agreement makes a hard Brexit impossible.

This week Daniel Hannan, Owen Patterson, and Kate Hoey all used the deadlock in the Stormont power sharing talks to make claims about how the Agreement has failed and needed revisiting. They are all hard Brexit ultras. It's a classic ploy. People will respond by offering justifications and explaining why it isn't true and that the Agreement has been a success. By doing so, they will have validated the idea that there is a debate about its utility and put the possible revision of the Agreement on the agenda. That has to happen if the ultras are to get their hard Brexit.

The conclusion that should be drawn is not about the Agreement. It is that those three ultras are not politicians, but zealots. It appears that there is no price that they are willing to let other people pay to achieve their benighted goal. Theirs is the irresponsibility of the fanatic.

Imposing the baleful consequences of English nationalism on Ireland is something Ireland does not need or deserve. This must be resisted and condemned from all sides.

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