Volume 52, No. 4 | Brexit and the internal Irish border

Cathal McCall | Borders as peace project

Peacebuilding in European borderscapes stresses contact, communication and cooperation across borders and across ethnic and national boundaries. Respect for cultural difference is the guiding principle of this enterprise with the aim of tackling fear and mistrust, addressing grievances, and challenging stereotypes. Nevertheless, it is not multicultural respect but economic cooperation that has been the main priority of European Union cross-border cooperation initiatives. Addressing the legacy of border conflict and the residual emotions of suspicion, fear, resentment, grievance and hatred has been, at best, a secondary concern. This is complicated further by the twenty-first century fixation on the securitisation of borders, with cross-border cooperation aimed at securing the European Union’s external frontier. In this twenty-first century context of rebordering, the path of European integration could well shift from one of intergovernmental and cross-border peacebuilding to one that appeals to Europe’s legacy of border conflict and coercion.

Keywords: cross-border cooperation; peace building; European integration; Northern Ireland; Brexit   

Christilla Roederer-Rynning, Anna Vlasiuk Nibe and Steen Bo Frandsen | Brexit, business interests, and the politics of the Irish border

Why did the longstanding relationship between businesses and politicians in the UK break down in the midst of arguably one of the most critical and business-sensitive sets of decisions ever in contemporary UK? This paper explores this puzzle in light of the politics of the Irish border. The case of the Irish border is particularly interesting to study because it illustrates how a variety of actors, governmental as well as business actors, apparently shunned “rational” courses to pursue strategies that did not appear to serve their economic or political interest. We argue that this puzzle can only be solved by placing political contestation to the center of analysis, and examining its implication for the way businesses understood and pursued their interests. Based on primary data drawn from a range of Irish business organizations, we explore the crystallization of regional business interests in a context of high contestation and contrasted access to political actors across the border, North and South of the border. Our analysis contributes to the emerging literature on the social construction of business interests.

Keywords: Brexit; business interests; political contestation; social construction; Ireland; Northern Ireland  

Jaume Castan Pinos | The conflict over Irish partition: From south to north to Brexit

This article analyses the opposition to Irish partition from its very inception to the contemporary context, dominated by Brexit-fuelled uncertainty. The article claims that while hostility to partition has experienced different methods –namely constitutional as well as violent means– and diverse degrees of intensity, there is a historical continuum of struggle against partition in Ireland. The division of Ireland into two separate polities has not just brought thousands of men and women to take up arms over the past century, it has also been the glue that has arguably fuelled the most important ideology in Ireland (both north and south); Irish republicanism. While the sovereignty debate was decisively eroded by the Good Friday Agreement, Brexit has unearthed such debate thus giving political momentum to those who decry partition. Irish Republicans, the article concludes, have gained ground to instrumentalise the political crisis generated by Brexit in order to push for their “united Ireland” aspirations.

Keywords: partition; republicanism; sovereignty; Brexit; Northern Ireland; ethnic conflict 

Katarzyna Stokłosa | Belfast, a city caught between sectarianism and cosmopolitanism

Divided cities are not that usual in Europe anymore. Moreover, mostly being a result of war and conflict, as well as geopolitical change influencing Europe and the world over the last 200 years, it is not many of them that have their roots in an imperial past and the kind of economic and social distinctions between groups as the one present in Belfast. This article investigates the social boundaries and distinctions. They increased massively in 1969 – together with physical barricades and partitions – as a direct consequence of violence. In addition, this article will investigate whether inhabitants of Belfast are ready to develop a common discourse about the divisions and separations they have experienced in the past. The most dramatic impacts of partition in every divided city include loss of life and physical injury. Conditions for a common perception of the past are extremely difficult in divided towns where violence has occurred. Overcoming the psychologically negative impact of the towns’ division is usually far more time-consuming than overcoming physical barriers. In Belfast, grassroots initiatives and the voluntary sector are particularly significant in this process.

Keywords: Belfast; divided cities; sectarianism; physical division; social segregation; overcoming barriers  

Dorte Jagetic Andersen | Revisiting Ballybogoin: Lines, traces and tidemarks in the Northern Irish borderlands

The article departs from William F. Kelleher book (2003), The Troubles in Ballybogoin, investigating how everyday practice in the Northern Irish borderland – ranging from whom people interact with to where they move – is influenced by the social memory of division and political identity, with origins in the Troubles and the British imperial legacy. In dialogue with Sarah Green’s concepts of lines as traces and tidemarks (2018) and by way of field studies in the borderlands, particularly the border town (London)Derry, the author revisits the everyday practices to illustrate how the borderland is infested with lines parting ”the two sides of the house.” Michel de Certeau’s concept of spatial practice, also applied by Kelleher, makes the divisions physically present in the town scape – as the case is in Belfast – and the local tradition of “telling” keeps the divisions alive in stories and other mental images. The borderlandscapes are thus haunted by the ever-present mapping of the populations in us/them, either/or, here/not there, a mapping of people, which is also constantly brought into being by local talk.

Keywords: (London)Derry; lines; traces, tidemarks; storytelling; Northern Irish Borderlands 

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