Brexit and Northern Ireland: “There is no way Brexit can happen without breaking the laws of the peace treaty”

With news of Brexit looming over us, there are many things people in the UK are worrying about.

One of which is what will happen with the situation in Northern Ireland and how a hard border would affect that.

I spoke to my friend and Marjon student, Caitlin O’Boyle who was born and bred in Northern Ireland until she moved to Plymouth to study.

The troubles in Northern Ireland took place between 1968-1998 but still affect life there nowadays.

The conflict was almost exclusively between two religions, Protestant and Catholic.

The aim of the unionist and mostly Protestant majority was to remain part of the United Kingdom. The goal of the nationalist and republican, mainly Catholic, minority was to become part of the Republic of Ireland.

The troubles eventually calmed down after politicians signed the Good Friday agreement, which was a peace deal that helped to bring an end to the violence.

To understand just how serious the conflict still is, Caitlin told me what life was like being Catholic in Northern Ireland.

“I lived in a very rural village, until I was about 16, which was heavily Catholic. But, there was one estate you were always told you weren’t allowed in to on your own because it was the Protestant estate. If you were caught in there with a certain top on or maybe a Gaelic ball, you would get jumped. Many of my friends actually ended up getting jumped a couple of times.”

The youth and community work student told me: “I have two older brothers who are both in the British Army. So, they can’t really go in to our home village because its so heavily Catholic and the British Army is Protestant.”

Her brothers are given ‘safe zones’ in Northern Ireland where they can visit, a green zone is very safe, an orange zone less so and a red zone is a danger zone. If members of the British Army were to visit a red zone, they could be targeted.

Even though the situation in Northern Ireland still seems dangerous, life there is so much more peaceful compared to 30 years ago.

“Northern Ireland will slowly fade back into the troubles (after Brexit). There is no way Brexit can happen without breaking the laws of the peace treaty.” O’Boyle said.

A border would have to be put in place between Northern Ireland-which would not be part of the EU and the republic of Ireland- which would be part of the EU.

Although, doing so goes against the Good Friday Agreement. This means that both sides could start fighting again and we could potentially face the same severe tensions witnessed 50 years ago.

All Northern Irish citizens can do now is sit and hope something drastically changes before it is too late and history repeats itself.


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