Hard border in Ireland would trigger return to violence, says report

Research by Unesco chiefs highlights risk to peace in event of rushed border poll


<!– [if IE 9]><![endif]–> A young protester writes slogans on a mock border wall and customs checkpoint in Louth, Ireland, in January
A young protester writes slogans on a mock border wall in Louth, Ireland, in January. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

There will be a return to violence in Northern Ireland if there is any infrastructure installed on the border, an in-depth report on youth and peace in the region has concluded.

“The only issue is the scale of the violence,” says the research conducted by two Unesco chairmen.

The 377-page report notes that youth in Northern Ireland have not had to endure the violence of previous generations but they still live in a “post-conflict environment with residual issues such as levels of deprivation, covert ongoing paramilitary activity, and sporadic violence”.

“In as little as six weeks it is possible that a hard border could materialise due to a no-deal Brexit, triggering a return to violence in Northern Ireland.

“All indications are that without direct efforts to engage youth and citizens of all backgrounds, there will also be a return to violence in the event of rushed border poll on the island of Ireland,” says the report.

Its publication comes hours after a pipe bomb exploded and homes evacuated in south Armagh and weeks after a car bomb went off in Derry.

The report was compiled by Mark Daly, a senator with Ireland’s main opposition party, Fianna Fáil, with research conducted conducted by Pat Dolan, the professor of leadership and community development at the Pennsylvania Stat University, and Mark Brennan, the director of the Unesco child and family research centre of the National University of Ireland.

They are co-founders of the global network of Unesco chairs on children, youth and community.

The report was commissioned amid fears that the conditions would be quickly set for a referendum on a united Ireland if any infrastructure was installed around the border regions.

Daly said while there was no issue of a border poll being imminent it was important to know what was at stake in the event there was one. “You have to be prepared. Brexit is the perfect example of what happens when you are not prepared,” he said.

The report says the consequences of Brexit will be universally felt. “The challenge for us all is to make sure the peace process is not jeopardised by a return to a hard border due to Brexit or a premature border poll,” said Daly.

“The peace won by previous generations must not be jeopardised by the current generations and that peace must be passed on intact for generations to come.”

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