Northern Ireland marked its centenary with a fanfare extinguished as strict restrictions on the coronavirus blockade, post-Brexit unrest and a leadership crisis overshadowed the anniversary in the UK province.
With a population of 1.9 million, Northern Ireland was established on 3 May 1921, when the Government of Ireland Act came into force and divided the island into two entities after the Civil War. ‘Independence of Ireland.
Northern Ireland became part of the United Kingdom along with England, Scotland and Wales.
But Monday’s commemoration events have shrunk this year, with no major celebrations scheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The last few weeks have also witnessed the worst riots in years in the region, where a delicate political balance has been disturbed by the UK’s exit from the European Union.
Adding to a sense of unease, Prime Minister Arlene Foster on Wednesday announced her resignation in the context of an internal revolt within her Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), where resentment is taking place over the aftermath of Brexit.
Andrew Simmons, of Al Jazeera, a reporter for the capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast, said the centenary came amid “great concern” in Northern Ireland over recent events.
“There is a recipe for violence unless there is political stability,” he said.
Since its inception, Northern Ireland has been plagued by a rift between those who want the province to remain part of the United Kingdom and others who want to see the reunification of Ireland, with Northern Ireland being part of the Republic of Ireland. ‘Ireland.
This division fueled decades of sectarian violence between predominantly Catholic nationalists pushing for a united Ireland and pro-UK Protestant, or loyalist, trade unionists before the 1998 Good Friday peace deal ended the fighting.
More than 3,600 people died in the conflict, known as The Troubles, which also involved the UK armed forces.
The 1998 pact stopped the violence and led to the formalization of power-sharing agreements between unionists and nationalists.
But often the two sides disagree on how to govern and there have been sporadic outbreaks of violence.
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom said on Monday that the centenary of Northern Ireland was a reminder of its “complex history” and provided “an opportunity to reflect on our union and our diversity”.
“It is clear that reconciliation, equality and mutual understanding cannot be taken for granted and will require sustained strength and commitment,” it said in a statement.
“Through generations, the people of Northern Ireland have chosen to build an inclusive, prosperous and hopeful society, strengthened by the gains of the peace process. May this be our common thread in the coming years. “
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also marked the date, describing it as a “very significant” anniversary and stressing the importance of reflecting on the “complex history” of the last 100 years.
“People from all parts of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the UK and around the world will approach this anniversary in different ways, with different perspectives,” it said in a statement.
My message about the centenary year of Northern Ireland. pic.twitter.com/x5giX4bMwT
– Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) May 3, 2021
Controversy over the Brexit deal
Recent riots across Northern Ireland occurred when anger boiled over to Unionist communities, where Johnson currently has little regard for a post-Brexit “protocol” for Northern Ireland, which many believe displaces the region of Northern Ireland. its place in the UK.
At least 88 policemen were injured in a week of riots in April that spread to the nationalist community.
In turn, riot police fired water cannons at the youths who threw bricks and petrol bombs.
Unionists fear that the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol to the Brexit agreement between the UK and the EU, which effectively keeps the province in the bloc’s customs union and in parts of the single market, could increase the likelihood of a united Ireland.
Some critics of the protocol say that the new controls implemented in the ports of Northern Ireland to enforce it have essentially created an “Irish maritime border”.
Their inclusion in the Brexit deal also dealt a severe blow to Foster, who had vehemently opposed any post-Brexit special deal for Northern Ireland, but was also powerless to prevent Johnson from agreeing with them. Brussels.
Foster will step down as DUP leader on May 28 and as prime minister “in late June,” he said in his exit statement.
A leadership contest is now underway to replace her.