Preview Above: Brexit’s Irish Border Troubles
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As the UK prepares to crash out of the European Union, a new face of Irish nationalism is coming to the fore in Northern Ireland. Saoradh, which translates to ‘liberation’ in Irish, is a youth-focused dissident political party that has seen its prominence rise as talk of Brexit and borders has reignited old divides in the Northern Ireland city of Derry.
“At the moment Ireland is still occupied by Britain,” Saoradh spokesperson Paddy Gallagher tells Dateline.
“Our country is still partitioned. We are still under British law for the most part and we seek an end to that. Through revolutionary means.”
Young, savvy, and ready to use social media to spread their message the left wing political party was established in 2016 and is pushing for the reunification of Ireland.
Saoradh sees Brexit as an opportunity to draw in a new generation of disenfranchised Northern Irish youths.
“Brexit is a difficulty and that has been an opportunity for us,” Gallagher adds.
Fuelled by a lack of government, employment opportunities, and investment in their future, most of those joining this group are too young to remember the decades of conflict in Northern Ireland known as The Troubles.
But for the softly-spoken Gallagher, what fuels his action and anger is watching his community fall to pieces.
“Our city is in the grip of a drugs epidemic, a suicide epidemic. We have wide-scale homelessness,” he adds.
“We have seen huge cuts to education; huge cuts to benefits that lot of people in this town live off. Following harsh winter conditions people are making the choice on whether they can heat their homes or eat. Heat or eat.”
On January 20 2019 at 8:09 PM a car bursts into flames outside Derry Courthouse in Northern Ireland.
Though the explosion happened only months ago, it could be a scene out of any of the three decades of sectarian violence that ripped the city apart.
Days after the bombing, 21-year-old Jude McCrory’s house was surrounded.
“I was in bed sleeping. I heard the front door begin to smash in – a dozen armoured jeeps and crown forces smashed through the door,” he tells Dateline.
“I have been subject to, house raids and arrest before, never once have the produced an ounce of evidence and no justification for my arrest at all.”
He had become prime suspect for the bombing.
Like Gallagher, McCrory is a prominent member of Saoradh.
McCrory believes the divide between Nationalists and police forces – whom they see as enforcers of British Law – is still alive.
“I am a member of Saoradh who will be quite openly opposed to British policing and British presence in Ireland. I think that is why I was rounded up - because I am an Irish republican,” McCrory adds.
The great divide
The 310-mile border that cuts across the island of Ireland has become perhaps the single greatest impediment in the divorce negotiations between Britain and the European Union.
Derry – known as Londonderry to Loyalists and Derry to Nationalists – lies on the west side of border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It has been the frontline for sectarian battles.
In this constituency, 78 per cent of people voted to remain, as did majority of Northern Ireland.
While decades of EU membership helped bridge the divide between Nationalists and those loyal to the UK, Brexit now threatens to throw the relationship back into its troubled past.