Brexit, borders and the future of Northern Ireland

A Guardian Live event

Screenshot taken during the event

I saw this Guardian Live event checked my diary and made room for it. The mere mention of Northern Ireland (NI) sets my heart alight almost as if my name is being called. I am particularly attentive to events involving NI here in England albeit that none of us has worked out where we are when we are on Zoom.

It was over a month ago when the troubles in Loyalist communities were attracting media interest. I thought to myself, “ A month on that will be old news.”

Well, it was but with Arlene resigning as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in late April and the results of the leadership election the next day there was still plenty to talk about. Steve Aitken one of the panellists resigned only 5 days before the event as the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). Naomi Long the leader of the Alliance Party was another panellist. There was an absence of Nationalist politicians which left it perhaps to Rory Carroll the chair of the panel and Lisa O’Carroll both Guardian journalists and from the Republic of Ireland to give a Nationalist perspective.

I was pleased to see 274 participants on the event but disappointed that we couldn't see each other faces (it is possible via zoom).

The main topics of the one-hour event were the Ballymurphy Murders and The Northern Irish protocol.

The inquest into the ten people who were killed in Ballymurphy by the British Army declared that they were innocent. All the panellist welcomed the verdict albeit 50 years later.

The Northern Ireland protocol seemed to take up the majority of the remaining time.

Naomi Long gave a counter view to that of Steve Aiken by wondering why more businesses were not relocating to NI as by doing so it gives them ‘unfettered acess’ to the European Union and United Kingdom markets.

Steve Aiken came across as relaxed perhaps the Zoom effect is more humanising than televison.

The questions that kept appearing at the side revolved around a ‘Border poll’ and how long will it be before a ‘United Ireland’. It does seem that Brexit and its fallout along with an evenly split community have brought the timing of a United Ireland closer.

It is my own view that the devolved NI Assembly will need to be retained whether within the United Kingdom or a United Ireland. Not least due to the identity of the place being so radically different to the rest of Ireland.




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Gordie Jackson

Gordie Jackson

Speaks with a Northern Irish accent, lives in Hertfordshire, England.