From top: DUP Leader Arlene Foster in Dublin last Summer following a meeting with the Fianna Fáil Leadership on Brexit; Bryan Wall
Brexit was always going to be a disaster, both for Britain in general and British politics. Led by a group of people who think the days of the Empire were in fact glorious and not laden with misery and death, it’s not likely things could turn out any other way.
Boris Johnson represents nobody but his own ego. He understands world politics through the lens of privilege and historical revisionism. Jacob Rees-Mogg is no better. Privately educated, and intent on reliving the days of British prestige, he could be torn out of the pages of a Dickens novel.
Both played the part of propagandists and historical revisionists. The EU stands in the way of British democracy and freedom. Therefore, the solution is simple: Brexit.
But the solution was not simple and it was never going to be.
Cast everything else aside and focus on the issue of Northern Ireland alone. No due consideration was ever given to Ireland, let alone the north of Ireland. The latter has always been seen as a burden and the former an obstreperous former colony which should really know its place.
Ireland should either rejoin the UK, or remember its “place” and get out of the way of larger more important plans. What if there’s a hard border and a return to violence?
British interests, which are always more important and more rational given the natural intellectual superiority of the Eton-educated, must be given the appropriate leeway.
Violence was always an Irish issue and nothing to do with British occupation, obviously. Johnson and friends want a return to a world where Britain can stride the world and the lessers will bow.
It is easy to laugh and mock. But these are dangerous men with even more dangerous interpretations of history. And what’s worse, they want to return to what they believe was the height of civilisation: A Britain “free” of the EU and trivial things like the Good Friday Agreement.
Brexit is their reenactment of a delusion. In their fantasies, both men sees themselves as bastions of British enlightenment. Reality beckons, but no matter. If they remain firm in their convictions the world will surely twist and bend to meet their expectations and wants.
Meanwhile, the potential consequences for the rest of us have been clear from the start.
This is vivid in a recent interview with a volunteer in Arlene Foster’s constituency office. The woman, a former member of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), said she voted for Brexit for the simple reason that she wants the north to return to the way it was “40 years ago”.
It is the media that is making things worse, according to her; not the likes of Johnson and Rees-Mogg. She also says “I don’t even agree with the Good Friday Agreement” because the “protestant sector were done hard by”.
There will never be a united Ireland according to her. It is an independent country and she proudly tells us her grandfather “fought for this country”. Consequently, if there was any united Ireland she says she would “get my uniform back on and I would stand firmly British”.
Thus we have the threat of a return to violence alongside British calls for us to “know our place”. And that is part of the fear of the extremist unionists: That the people they gladly trampled under foot actually have some rights and a legitimate claim to call and campaign for a border poll.
Tensions, at the very least, are inevitable in such a scenario.
Did this even cross the minds of the Brexiteers? Not likely. For them Northern Ireland is a dead weight that should have been cast aside decades ago. Brexit must happen regardless of what Arlene Foster and her supporters think.
The only reason that Foster’s party has been able to dictate to Theresa May’s government is the latter’s vampire-like need for power. Foster and her party are a means to an end for May.
But the question still remains: What exactly is going to happen?
The only certainty is that a border poll is inevitable. In a wonderfully historic irony Brexiteers, in their desire to return to the halcyon days of the British Empire, have only hastened the collapse of the United Kingdom. Within our lifetimes Irish unity is almost guaranteed.
Perhaps, then, we should be thankful to Messrs Johnson and Rees-Mogg. But in the short-term the damage they are already causing is not to be downplayed. The British economy is suffering, people are uncertain about their future, and hate crimes have risen. Only Eton could provide such wonderful statesmen.
For us, Brexit is just a look behind the curtain. We gaze and wonder at how such intentional ignorance could have gifted the world the terror that was the British Empire. Brexit also exemplifies the feeling we’ve had most of our lives.
British elites and their supporters look down on Ireland and the Irish. We’re an inconvenience off their west coast. Johnson and Rees-Mogg can pontificate all they like. Ireland isn’t going away. And neither is Irish unity.