There are growing signs that Irish nationalists are mobilizing in the north to meet the challenge from the new Tory administration in London led by Boris Johnson.

The upsurge of nationalist activity has even forced the BBC to take note, as demonstrated in a report by Emma Vardy showcasing the blatantly open takeover of the Creggan estate in Derry by nationalist groups.

The Creggan estate is a large housing quarter in Derry which, since the late 1960s, has been a bastion of opposition to British rule in Northern Ireland. 

Boris Johnson’s ascent to the premiership, coupled with a shift to the hard right by the Tory party, has touched off deep-seated anxiety in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Johnson’s willingness, even determination some would say, to exit the European Union (EU) without a deal, is opposed by all key stakeholders in the island of Ireland, save the Unionist factions.

The danger for Britain is that Irish nationalists gain ground as a result of London’s chaotic approach to Brexit. 

The Financial Times highlighted these dangers in March when it warned that Northern Ireland “dissidents” might be able to “exploit” Brexit. 

What the British press describes as “dissidents” are in fact the new generation of militant Irish nationalists who are opposed to the Good Friday Agreement of April 1998, which brought the armed struggle in Northern Ireland to a close.

The term “dissident” is used to define these groups, notably the New IRA and the Continuity IRA, as marginal to the broader republican movement.

But just how marginal are these groups? In 2019 there has been a marked increase in militant activity. Most recently, on July 27, Irish nationalists attempted to attack police officers in an operation in Craigavon, County Armagh.

Irish nationalist activity has escalated to the point where the so-called dissident groups are now operating in plain sight. This was revealed in the BBC’s hard-hitting report on the Creggan estate.

The estate is dominated by nationalist murals and graffiti which make it clear that symbols of the British state, including the Police Service of Northern Ireland (the successor to the Royal Ulster Constabulary), are not welcome.

Activists from “Saoradh” (Liberation) campaign openly on the streets, even though they refuse to answer questions from the BBC reporter, Vardy.

Saoradh is widely believed to be the political wing of the New IRA.

The open political activity by Saoradh casts doubt on the British media’s attempt to dismiss the new generation of Irish nationalists as mere “dissidents”.  

 

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