Because the fighting in Northern Ireland has returned

Because the fighting in Northern Ireland has returned

At least 50 policemen were injured and 10 people arrested in a series of violent confrontations with the police involving the two historic rival factions: the Catholic separatist and the Protestant loyal to the United Kingdom

Belfast, Northern Ireland , young people set fire to a "Peace gate" that separates Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods (Photo: Charles McQuillan / Getty Images) For a week the nights in Northern Ireland have been lit by the fire of clashes between police, groups of young nationalists loyal to the Kingdom United and others of independence opponents, supporters of reunification with Ireland. So far around 50 officers have been injured and at least 10 people have been arrested, including two children aged 13 and 14. Yesterday night the police used water cannons, for the first time in 6 years, and canine units to contain the riots.

The reasons for the clashes are complex and rooted in the political fractures of the past, represented by the division between independentist Catholics and loyalist Protestants, that is, faithful to the English crown. Added to these are the economic and administrative problems generated by Brexit and the tensions between the two main Northern Irish governing parties, which trace the historical divisions. The protests in recent days have broken out due to a combination of these factors, but the casus belli, in this case, was a funeral.

How it all began

Last June, violating the anti Covid-19 restrictions, over 2,000 people attended the funeral of Bobby Storey, a former member of the independence military organization Ira (Irish Republican Army) and a member of Sinn Féin, the ruling party that cohabits with the Democratic Unionist Party (Dup). 24 members of Sinn Féin also attended the funeral, including Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill. Police chief Simon Byrne, however, decided not to prosecute any of those present, sparking the indignation of the members of the DUP and its constituents, who demanded the resignation of Byrne. The controversy over this fact lasted until last week and resulted in the violent reaction of the unionists, the first to start the clashes.

The economic and political reasons

However, according to the media British, the most concrete reasons lie in the effects of Brexit. Strongly supported by the Dup, it actually created a great deal of discontent among the unionists. With the formalization of the procedure for leaving the European Union last January, the link between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom has effectively weakened. To be able to complete the "divorce", Prime Minister Boris Johnson had to accept the adoption of a special protocol that guarantees Northern Ireland's stay in the common market and in the European customs union. If this had not been done, a physical barrier of separation between Ireland and Northern Ireland would have had to be created, a real wall that would have awakened the ancient tensions even more violently. Under this agreement, however, a trade barrier with the United Kingdom would have arisen, according to the unionists. So the exchanges would have become more complex at the bureaucratic level, also causing a shortage of food in supermarkets. Thus, Northern Ireland has found itself more linked to Irish and European companies, a condition that does not appeal to unionists who fear a progressive separation from the United Kingdom and a rapprochement with Ireland.

The clashes, initially only between the police and loyalists, then turned into a confrontation between loyalists and separatists, who began a launch of Molotov cocktails especially in the areas of the capital. In Belfast, in fact, the Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods are divided by metal, concrete and barbed wire barriers called "Pace lines" and groups have begun to throw stones, firecrackers and bottles on fire from one side of these barriers to the other. The violence was condemned by both government parties and the police forces, reports the Guardian, described it as a "retreat of years of our society". Yesterday, April 8, the government leaders of Northern Ireland had an interview with Boris Johnson, issuing a statement calling for calm and stop the violence, which was joined by White House spokesman Jen Psaki.

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