After Brexit: hotspot Northern Ireland?

For the fourth night in a row, Northern Ireland has been rocked by rioting. Over a hundred young people in west Belfast threw Molotov cocktails and stones at each other and the police, who responded by using water cannons. Heightened tensions between pro-British and pro-Irish forces since Brexit are not the only factor behind the clashes, commentators say.

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The Spectator (GB) /

Poverty is a recipe for chaos

Social grievances are the main factor behind the riots, The Spectator puts in, explaining what needs to be done:

“Unionist politicians must find a way to reconnect with their restive base and curtail this ruinously counter-productive violence. The Irish Taoiseach must continue his principled refusal to join with (mostly Northern) Irish unity fundamentalists who recklessly push for a divisive border poll ... The UK Government must look with urgency at targeting economic recovery and stimulation at deprived neighbourhoods in Northern Ireland ... The Northern Ireland Executive must focus unashamedly on bringing working-class Protestant boys at the bottom of the attainment charts in from the cold, taking their potential off the street corner and into prosperity.”

The Irish Independent (IE) /

Youths just want to play war games

The riots are also fuelled by boredom, The Irish Independent believes, pointing to the youth who threw the first Molotov cocktail on Monday evening:

“Many of the rioters themselves are just bored kids, looking for excitement in areas where they complain of having nothing else to do. Ask that skinny boy and his mates about the ins and outs of the Northern Ireland Protocol, and they wouldn't have a clue. Our current trading arrangements aren't part of their everyday conversation. ... Staying out late, playing with the 'big boys' will have been the highlight of a dreary lockdown year. ... It follows in a long tradition of inflicting misery on many, and harming the life chances of the youngsters taking part.”

Il Manifesto (IT) /

Reacting to a bogus threat

Il Manifesto sees these youths as

“victims of a seditious and paranoid rhetoric fuelled by fears that cast an ominous shadow over the future of a community that feels increasingly threatened. These fears seem to have their origins in two events: In the Brexit protocol, which, in order to avoid a hard border between the two Irelands effectively relocates the customs border to the sea. And in the decision of the Northern Ireland police not to prosecute the supposed breach of anti-Covid rules by Sinn Féin members at the funeral of historic republican leader Bobby Storey last summer. This decision was instrumentalised as an act of favouritism towards the republicans.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Downing Street's dangerous inaction

Boris Johnson is responsible for the violence, The Guardian argues:

“Johnson conceded the principle of border checks between Britain and Northern Ireland to bundle his Brexit agreement with the European Union over the line. Selling that concession to the unionists was always going to be a formidable challenge, to put it mildly. But rather than confront it, his government has largely kicked the can down the road. Last month, Britain unilaterally extended the grace period before the full implementation of checks on goods going into Northern Ireland. In London, there appears to be a pusillanimous refusal to properly engage, perhaps in the hope that inertia will make the problem go away.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Little England instead of Global Britain

According to Deutschlandfunk's UK and Ireland correspondent Christine Heuer, Northern Ireland is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problems that Brexit is causing for Britain:

“Particularly visible, because the split between unionists and nationalists is long established. Because Brexit is most clearly manifest there. And because nerves are particularly frayed there. But tensions have long been simmering in other parts of the country, too. The Scots will elect a new parliament next month. If they re-elect the nationalist government, it will be a preliminary decision in favour of a second independence referendum. Even in Brexit-friendly Wales, more and more citizens are flirting with the idea of breaking with London. In the end, England could find itself all on its own with its Brexit: Little England instead of Global Britain.”