In Northern Ireland, the new border protocol still divides

If British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has devoted so much time and energy to improving the terms of the Northern Irish protocol, it is primarily to try to restore some political normality in Northern Ireland. Because twenty-five years after the signing of the peace treaty on Good Friday, April 10, 1998, which put an end to the civil war between unionists (mainly Protestants, faithful to the British crown) and nationalists (Catholics, in favor of the unification of Ireland), inter-community tensions persist in the province.

For a year, the DUP, the main unionist party, has refused to sit in Stormont, the Northern Irish assembly, and to participate in the regional government, as long as the protocol negotiated by Boris Johnson in 2019 remained in place. The DUP considers that by establishing a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, this “first version” protocol threatens their British identity.

On Monday February 27, after Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, announced the “Windsor framework”, the agreement of the revised protocol, Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the DUP, cautiously judged that “significant progress” have been made but “on certain sectors of our economy, European laws remain applicable in Northern Ireland” – which remains a problem for the most intransigent Unionists. The DUP will have the legal text of the new agreement examined by its lawyers and reserves for the moment its final reaction, approval or rejection.

The Treaty of Good Friday having instituted the principle of an executive shared with perfect parity between Unionists and Nationalists, if one of the two communities refuses to take part in it, the government cannot take decisions nor the Northern Irish deputies sit. A very problematic power vacuum: the regional budget and many investment decisions are on hold, while the cost of living crisis is acute and the public hospital is displaying dizzying waiting lists, worse than in the rest of the UK.

Terrorism risk

This political void is considered toxic: it risks encouraging terrorist cells that have not been completely neutralized and are still refusing the 1998 peace treaty. in the south of the province. This 48-year-old police officer, well known and respected in Northern Ireland, was seriously injured by shots fired by two men, when he was off duty and had just participated with his son in soccer practice.

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