Violence in Northern Ireland is “inevitable” if custom checks or border infrastructure are created at the Irish border with the UK crashing out of the EU with no deal, a new report has claimed.
A Fianna Fáil senator has led research which found that a “rushed” border poll on Irish reunification could lead to a “flare-up in hostilities” in the region.
Mark Daly, a Fianna Fáil senator, conducted the study with three Unesco academics after his report in 2017 suggested a path towards the reunification of Ireland following Brexit.
A “loss of memory of harm” among citizens born shortly before or since the Good Friday agreement means many have scant understanding of the Troubles, the research indicated.
“This generation has no first-hand knowledge of the horrors of conflict and some will have been given a romanticised account of the Troubles,” the report says.
Mr Daly has said that there is a “major challenge” to ensure the peace process is not jeopardised by a return to a hard border or a premature border poll.
“There will be a return to violence in Northern Ireland in the event of the installation of infrastructure, custom checks and security on the Irish border as a result of a no-deal Brexit,” the report says.
“All indications are that without direct efforts to engage youth and citizens of all backgrounds, there will be a return to violence in the event of a rushed border poll on the island of Ireland. The only question in both scenarios will be the scale of the violence.”
Michael R Ortiz, of the Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism at the US Department of State, Professor Pat Dolan, director of the Unesco child and family research centre at NUIG, and Professor Mark Brennan, Unesco chairman for community, leadership, and youth development at the Pennsylvania State University, were involved in the research.
The paper explores the implications of a return to violent extremism among young people. It added, “A very possible referendum on the unification of the island of Ireland has major implications for all young people but notably for the unionist youth community.”
It recommends the establishment of a task force to examine potential threats and evaluate resources to tackle the issue.
Late last year, a poll revealed that a majority of people in Northern Ireland would vote for reunification in the event of Brexit or a hard border.
A majority of voters in the country – 52 per cent – would back a united Ireland if Brexit continues on its trail. Only 39 per cent would vote to remain part of UK.
Those surveyed were even more inclined to support a united Ireland if a hard border were set up, with 56 per cent in favour, the Deltapoll findings showed.
A total of 94 per cent of those surveyed from a “nationalist heritage” said they would vote for unity in the event of Brexit. However, that figure did fall to 73 per cent if the UK did not decide to leave the EU.
Among those who described themselves as neither from a nationalist nor a unionist heritage, support for a united Ireland dropped from 59 per cent to 23 per cent if the UK opted to stay in the bloc.
The survey – commissioned by peoples’ vote chasing campaign Our Future Our Choice – was carried out by Deltapoll, and its drastic findings have also shown that Brexit may boost support for Scottish independence.