Tory Brexit and bigotry are making for a potentially dangerous situation in Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Protocol was a last minute compromise to get Brexit through. It effectively creates a trade border down the Irish Sea—which Boris Johnson said would never happen.
But it allows free trade between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
One consequence was that British companies had no idea how to export to Northern Ireland at the beginning of the year.
The bigots of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and their first minister have vowed to scrap the protocol. They are demanding the bringing in of Article 16 to move this customs border onto the island of Ireland.
The DUP is losing support in the polls so has moved to raise the border in an attempt to rally unionist backing.
The sectarianism that runs through Northern Irish politics is being stoked up—and that is dangerous.
The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson took to the airwaves for a particularly bizarre contribution, He said, “I wish someone could show me any other example in the world where you have this kind of border right down the middle of a country, an internal border within a country that separates one part of the country from the other.”
He’d clearly missed the example of Ireland.
Then there was the incident of workers being threatened for implementing border checks.
Mid and East Antrim council withdrew environmental health workers from facilities at Larne Port last week. The move came after threatening graffiti directed at those carrying out new checks on goods arriving from Britain.
DUP mayor Peter Johnson cited “serious concerns” raised by trade unions over “increasing suspicious activity” including the recording of number-plate details of staff members.
But the three unions representing the council workers—Nipsa, GMB and Unite—denied making the claims.
The graffiti did exist—the rest perhaps was some people trying to create a fact.
When the sectarian card is played there are consequences. The need to have large drug imports not checked by customs may strengthen Loyalist paramilitaries’ resolve against a border in the Irish Sea.
And there is something of a turf war going on among the Loyalists in Belfast.
A fair number went on a march around the Pitt Park area of Belfast last week to show they were in control of the streets. The gentle response of their police escort suggests they had a point.
They also made a point of closing a community centre they didn’t like. Inside people were busy preparing food parcels for the very people the marchers claim to speak for.
The unions might not have raised the alarm last week, but it may take united action from workers to stop the drive to sectarianism.
Victim of loyalist atrocity arrested
In contrast to the policing of the Loyalists last week, a victim of the 1992 Sean Graham bookmakers atrocity was arrested.
Mark Sykes was detained after he and a small number of relatives gathered on Ormeau Road in Belfast for a private commemoration of the 29th anniversary.
His brother-in-law Peter Magee was one of five people killed when a Loyalist murder squad burst into the bookmakers and opened fire on 5 February 1992. The dead also included James Kennedy, Christy Doherty, William McManus and Jack Duffin.
Seven people were also injured in the attack, including Mark Sykes, who was shot seven times.
Mark said, “When I asked police what they were doing I was told that if I swore again I would be arrested.
“I said this was a fucking disgrace as I walked away. The police then grabbed me and handcuffed me.
“The handcuffs were dug in tightly to the bullet wounds I suffered 29 years ago to the day.”
The assault rifle that was used in the attack was “lost” by the police.
But it turned up years later—in the Imperial War Museum.
Mark said, “On top of the insult of donating the weapon to shoot me to a museum, they have today literally rubbed the steel of their handcuffs as salt in my physical wounds.”