When loyalist violence erupted in Northern Ireland in April, the Morning Star responded with an article (15 April) by one Lynda Walker that concluded: “The cause of the problems which the unionist and loyalist communities have cited, the border and policing, must be solved politically. In addition to those orchestrating the violence, the British and Irish governments, the EU and the DUP should be held responsible for this situation.”
The words “statement” and “bleedin’ obvious” spring to mind.
At least Walker’s article includes the British government in its roll-call of those to blame. Back in 2019, when Theresa May’s government was on the rack over the so-called “backstop”, the Morning Star (lining up with Tory hardline Brexiteers in opposing that backstop) was clear that the problem was entirely caused by the EU and the Irish government.
Articles in the paper in the course of 2019 included the following statements:
• “If there are new Irish border problems arising at this time, they do not stem from Britain’s democratic decision to leave the EU, but from the Irish government’s desire to remain in it” (article by Kevin McCorry of the People’s Movement of Ireland).
• “The Irish government [is] siding with the EU against Britain, which also happens to be our largest trading partner, and against the decision made by its citizens to leave the EU” (article by the youth wing of the Communist Party of Ireland, headed “Communists blast Varadkar’s Blueshirt regime in stormy Cork meeting”).
• “We must remember who’s doing the threatening. It is not Britain’s border, or Ireland’s border: it is the EU’s border. It is up to the EU to sort out this problem in the interests of its members, in other words Ireland, the only member affected by it” (editorial).
• “The warnings connecting Brexit with the Irish border, the GFA and a revival of violence have been delivered by US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi in speeches in London and Dublin… Yet the whole ‘Brexit-border-GFA-terrorism’ nightmare scenario is a concoction of cynical and reckless politicians, commentators and top bureaucrats. Its intention is to undermine Brexit in general and justify the Irish backstop in the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement in particular” (editorial headed “The Merry-go-round of Irish border warnings is not what it seems”).
The Morning Star and its political masters in the Communist Party of Britain (and Communist Party of Ireland, too) have changed their tune. Unable to deny that Brexit has inevitably created violence and instability in Northern Ireland, they now claim that this represents a brilliant opportunity for Irish reunification: “The real problem with the Remain tendency’s use of the Irish border question has been its presentation of an unjust status quo as untouchable. In seeing any deviation from present arrangements as catastrophic — even if, in Ireland’s case, it advances the conditions for reunification, which socialists and anti-imperialists support — it shared much with the Remain attitude to the Brexit deal as a whole.”
Communist Party of Ireland general secretary Eugene McCartan (quoted in the Morning Star of 30 April) was upbeat: “The British have courted and secured new forces to advance their imperial interests in Ireland, north and south...it’s not just Brexit... Political unionism has little, if anything to offer its working class base, other than the relentless dog whistle of sectarianism.”
These Stalinist anti-EU fanatics seem to ignore the fact that the sectarian “dog whistle” has grown louder and shriller as a result of Brexit. Slowly but unmistakeably, over the years, British and Irish membership of the EU drew some of the poison out of the old sectarian dispute between nationalists and loyalists, as the UK and the Republic were part of Europe itself, allowing both traditions to co-exist. Brexit reignites old disputes, setting back the cause of Irish reunification — unless you believe that, somehow, reunification can be achieved without working-class unity and loyalist consent.