Blog: It’s a Fraught Moment—Well, Especially Fraught—in Northern Ireland – Esquire.com

A point of personal privilege. From the Independent:

At 12 noon on Sunday, exactly 100 years to the day of the Truce between Crown Forces and the Irish Volunteers, the village of Lixnaw paid homage to the men and women from the locality who contributed to the fight for Irish Independence. The sizeable crowd was not put off by the inclement conditions as they listened to various keynote speakers, many of them relatives of the Lixnaw Company IRA and the Irrebeg Cumann na mBan. Lixnaw suffered at the hands of the Black and Tans, especially through the burning of the local creamery in 1920 and the brutal death of volunteer and Lixnaw resident Liam ‘Sonny’ McCarthy in March 1921.

Ireland is in the middle of a fraught half-decade of centenaries. First, there was the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016. Now, they are through the various centenaries of the actions within the War of Independence, a guerrilla campaign of ambushes, assassinations, and gory reprisals. (There is a robust debate on whether all the bloodletting was really worth it.) Last Sunday, as the story above says, was the 100th anniversary of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which divided the country and established the Irish Free State in the 26 counties south of Ulster. The signing of that treaty touched off a vicious—and toweringly unnecessary—civil war that, among other things, cost the eventual Republic of Ireland many members of a generation of leaders that it could’ve used in the decades afterwards. For example, August 22, 2022 will be the 100th Anniversary of the killing of Michael Collins at Beal na Blath in Cork. To say that there will be ambivalence around that event is to understate things greatly.

In addition, Brexit and the damned foolish British government have combined to put Northern Ireland on edge again. From the New York Times:

Across the region last weekend, bonfires blazed ahead of the parades, as towers of teetering pallets were set alight, casting a flickering orange glow on the faces of onlookers who gathered for street parties. This year, there are two additional dynamics at play — the centenary of the partition of Ireland that established Northern Ireland, and ongoing discontent with the post-Brexit trade arrangements for the region, known as the Northern Ireland protocol, that have heightened long-dormant tensions.

I don’t know when the NYT thinks marching season in the North wasn’t fraught, but never mind.

The protocol, a deal reached between the British government and Europe to avoid resurrecting a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, has come to embody broader discontent from unionists over neglect of the region by Westminster.

Many unionists feel alarmed or are resentful about the British government’s agreement with Europe, said Katy Hayward, professor of political sociology at Queen’s College in Belfast. And Irish nationalists are upset that Northern Ireland is being removed from the European Union against the wishes of the majority who voted to remain in the bloc, she said.

When the Unionists feel that Great Britain is neglecting them, that’s when trouble starts as they attempt to demonstrate that they are more British than the British are. Anyway, I’ve been following this fairly closely, which is how I came upon the story about the Lixnaw memorial to the local fighters during the war of independence.

You see, Lixnaw is where my grandmother was born. The seven Lynch sisters lived on a sheep farm up in the hills. My grandmother left in 1912, so she missed everything, but my great aunt Joanna, who I never met, was the only sister who stayed on the farm and did not emigrate to America. The first time I went to Lixnaw, I went into the Railway Bar for a pint and I met a man named Jack McCarthy, kin somehow to Liam McCarthy, who was tortured and murdered by British forces in 1920. Jack went behind the bar and pulled out a splintered doorframe. It was one of the doors that the Black and Tans had kicked in at the McCarthy house. Jack stood me to another pint and I was glad he did. I am happy that there is a new memorial in Lixnaw, a monument to patriots and to freedom fighters. It beats all hell out of a statue to Robert E. Lee.

Charles P Pierce is the author of four books, most recently Idiot America, and has been a working journalist since 1976.

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