If Scotland Votes "Yes," Is Northern Ireland Next?

The polls are open in Scotland, where voters have a very simple
“Yes” or “No” choice on the very complicated question of whether or
not they want to leave the United Kingdom, of which they have been
a part of for more than 300 years, and become an independent

With current polling showing a razor-thin margin in favor the
“No” vote, there is speculation on what the referendum will mean
for Northern Ireland, comprised of the six northern-most counties
of Ireland, which are also part of the United Kingdom. The three
decades of constant violence between Catholics and Protestants (and
the British Protestant-dominated government) known as “The
Troubles” ended in 1998 with the
Good Friday Agreement
, but it has always been a fragile and
shaky peace, one which has shown recent signs of fraying. Union Half-Jack

Unlike in Scotland, where the independence movement is
alternatively driven by
opposition to the U.K.’s nuclear weapons,
support for an

increased socialist welfare state
, as well as
nationalist pride
, Northern Ireland’s divisions are so deeply
ingrained that the upheaval caused by Scottish independence could
fast track a
similar referendum

Recent polls have shown that the ever-increasing Catholic
population of Northern Ireland would rather remain part of the U.K.
than join the other 26 counties in the Republic of Ireland. To
Michael Brendan Dougherty of TheWeek.com

But would they remain committed if Ireland’s economy rebounds
and the U.K.’s deteriorates? What if the broader project of the
United Kingdom decomposes in the face of Scottish nationalism? And
why would pro-union Catholics vote to stay in the union, when
unionism will be championed by parties that attract zero Catholic

Another question may be more disquieting to loyalists: Does
England even want Belfast? The same polls showed that a smaller
percentage of English people are committed to keeping
Northern Ireland. For many years, it has received the most
public money per capita in the union, while generating the
least. And many English find Northern Irish politics exasperating,
its style of unionism oafish.

Even Thatcher seems to have contemplated cutting
Northern Ireland off during the Hunger Strikes. Similar threats
were made by Westminster in order to broker the 1998 Good Friday
agreement. It’s hard to imagine David Cameron or his successor
giving emotional speeches about the role of Northern Ireland in the
United Kingdom, as Cameron and his associates have done for

Northern Ireland’s status in the union has been
scrambled for some time. At the 2012 Olympic Games, Northern
Irish athletes were not automatically made part of team “Great
Britain,” since Northern Ireland is not part of Great Britain, only
the United Kingdom. Seven of its athletes competed for Great
Britain, while 13 represented the Republic of Ireland.

A major element of the Good Friday Agreement was the required
disarmament of paramilitary groups like the Catholic Irish
Republican Army (IRA) and the Protestant Ulster Volunteer Force
(UVF), but this has never been fully implemented.

In November 2013, following the shooting of a teenager, the

Police Federation of Northern Ireland warned
that the UVF
were “engaged in murder, attempted murder of civilians,
attempted murder of police officers. They have been engaged in
orchestrating violence on our streets, and it’s very clear to me
that they are engaged in an array of mafia-style activities.” The
UVF has also been accused of
racist mob attacks
on non-Irish ethnic minorites in

On the other side, fringe elements of the IRA
have sent letter bombs
to government buildings, and Sinn
Fein leader Gerry Adams has warned that the
peace agreement is in danger
of collapse over disagreements
pertaining to welfare reform (which could be seen as a sign of how
far we’ve come since The Troubles).

Adams himself was recently forced to revisit one of the darkest
periods of The Troubles, when he was
arrested in May
and held for questioning for four days over new
evidence tying him to the murder of Jean McConville, a mother of 10
accused by the IRA of collaborating with the British army. Though
Adams was released without being charged, and vigorously denies any
involvement with the murder, his arrest demonstrated how old wounds
are never too far from the surface in Northern Ireland.

None of this means that widespread sectarian violence will
return to Northern Ireland, nor does it mean that a referendum is
inevitable. But if the choice to leave the U.K. does present
itself, it has the potential to be far more divisive and painful
than Scotland’s.

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/1qNYd0w

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