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Politics in Northern Ireland has produced strange alliances and unexpected consensus. Republicans, for example, believe that the British government has no position or interest in governing the place – something that many British ministers have seemed to agree with over the years.
In 1970, Reginald Maudling boarded a plane home after his first trip abroad as Home Secretary and sighed: “For God’s sake, bring me a tall scotch What a bloody horrible country it is!” One of his predecessors, William Joensen-Hicks, assured the Stormont prime minister that “I know my place” and “do not intend to interfere”. Both were Conservatives and nominally unionist politicians.
This indifference is not confined to the past or to Conservative ministers. In 2018, then-Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley admitted that she hadn’t realized when she took office that she “didn’t understand what was going on at elections, for example in Northern Ireland where nationalists wouldn’t vote. “For Fine Gael, it’s the other way around”. That amounts to Defense Secretary Ben Wallace gleefully admitting that when he took the job, he didn’t realize the Army and Navy were not the same thing.
On the Labor side, due to the electoral and institutional importance of the Irish diaspora within the party, and because it is personally important to Keir Starmer (his former political career took him to Northern Ireland), Politicians usually have to feign a level of public interest. . But privately, most of them are no more interested than their Conservative counterparts.
The true extent of Westminster’s involvement can be seen in the response to the Northern Ireland Police data breach. The personal details of 10,000 serving military officers and staff were accidentally leaked online. These include officials working with security services. While it is widely believed that dissident groups were nowhere near as effective or a significant threat as the Provisional IRA was during the unrest, the data breach did pose a serious risk to PSNI officers and the Police in Northern Ireland. The UK still regards the terror threat as “serious”.
Among the police forces in the British Isles, the PSNI is not alone in facing serious challenges. No one can claim that scandal-plagued London’s Metropolitan Police did a good job in its response to the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer, or in its series of high-profile mistakes.
New Metropolitan Commissioner Mark Rowley drew jeers recently for calling on mobile phone companies to do more to help tackle smartphone theft. Given that the companies have developed facilities that can pinpoint the location of stolen devices with incredible precision, it’s unclear what else Raleigh wants Apple and Samsung to do, other than hire their own armed forces.
No one would argue that Greater Manchester Police’s conduct in the wrongful conviction of Andrew Malkinson revealed a force that has mastered the art of repentance or accountability.
But the problems with the Met or GMP are secondary to the costs and risks posed by the PSNI data breach. While the Met sometimes appears to lack the will to perform essential functions of the police force, the PSNI data breach likely compromised PSNI’s ability to do so. The financial cost alone is more than a devolved council can afford, as its ability to raise revenue or borrow money is severely limited. DUP politician Ian Paisley Jr, who sits in the House of Commons, said it was absolutely right that Parliament should be called back to discuss the crisis, which has long been the case elsewhere in the UK. happened.
Westminster’s lack of interest in Northern Ireland mirrors voters across the continent, but the problem goes far beyond that. Just as Northern Ireland affairs tend to have little sway over British voters, effective foreign affairs rarely win votes. Nevertheless, Foreign Secretary James Cleverley strengthened his position at Westminster. Chris Heaton-Harris owes his status in Whitehall more to the respect he enjoys among his colleagues as a whip, and because in the early days of Twitter, he often told cheesy jokes than For his role as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
To many, Westminster’s apparent indifference suggests that unionism is an unrequited love affair: British politicians neither notice nor care that Northern Ireland is entering a time of crisis, nor do they show much to help or desire to participate. The disregard for the discrimination and disenfranchisement suffered by the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland by British politicians in the Jonson-Hicks era has landed the province in trouble. This was exacerbated by the apathy of the Magdalen era.
The indifference of the Bradley era is why Brexiteers are pursuing some form of Brexit and making promises that can only lead to the weakening of Northern Ireland’s place in the UK. It is the indifference, which remains a consistent part of Britain’s relationship with Northern Ireland, that has deepened the policing crisis in Northern Ireland again.