Crossing the Line travels the region to see first-hand the changes Brexit could bring.

  • As Brexit lays bare old animosities in Northern Ireland, Imran Garda investigates people’s changing attitudes to the peace and divisions between communities.
  • What impact will Brexit have on the Northern Irish peace process? Crossing the Line travels the region to see first-hand the changes Brexit could bring.

A 30-year conflict known as “the Troubles” claimed nearly 4,000 lives and left many hundreds more in Northern Ireland with serious injuries. The 1998 Good Friday agreement brought peace and the promise of a brighter future to two warring communities: Republicans – mostly Catholics – who fought for a united Ireland, and Loyalists – mainly Protestants – who fought to stay in the UK.

Today the historic peace may be facing its greatest challenge with Brexit as it threatens to undermine a status quo of frictionless borders and free trade that’s kept both Loyalist and Republican forces quiet for 20 years.

The border, for years a sticking point between Republicans and Loyalists, is an issue once again. A majority of Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, and for many of them the Brexit debate is leading to only one reasonable solution an Irish unity referendum:

"The only Brexit we want to see is British withdrawal from Ireland. Our ultimate political goal is reunification of our country. We’re constantly being told, it’s not the right time. It’s 102 years since 1916, when will the time be right," says Micky Brady, UK Member of Parliament for the Northern Irish republican party, Sinn Féin.

In Imran’s meetings with people across Northern Ireland, he quickly discovers that old animosities swirl close to the surface: many communities remain segregated along ethnic lines, and paramilitaries claiming to fight for their respective communities continue to exist in the shadows. On a tour of Belfast’s “peace walls” which separate the city’s Protestant and Catholic communities, Imran learns the extent of the region’s divisions:

"This is only one of our around 45 peace walls in Belfast. This is the largest, the oldest and the longest, but there are other walls… And there’s actually a wall that’s in Belfast which you can’t see with your naked eye. It’s in a cemetery, separating Catholics and Protestants, even in death," Charlie McLarnon, a Belfast Black Cab driver.

“There might have been twenty years of peace in Northern Ireland, but in Belfast and Derry, amid the walls, contesting murals and mutual suspicion, there were days when I felt like a ceasefire was just struck a few hours ago.” – Imran Garda

Whatever happens with Brexit, Northern Ireland seems to be heading down a path it can’t turn back from. The question is where the path will lead it. Crossing the Line’s Ireland’s Brexit Troubles premiers on TRT World this Saturday, December 15th at 19:30 GMT/ 22:30 IST/14:30 WASHINGTON DC/03:30 SING.

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