A dangerous lack of understanding about the nature of the threat that Brexit poses to peace in Northern Ireland is based on a misconception about the causes of the 30-year-long Troubles that ended with the Good Friday Agreement.
The conflict was never primarily about the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, but about the civil and economic rights of the Roman Catholic minority in the north in relation to the Protestant majority. It was the civil rights march in Derry on 5 October 1968, a protest which was brutally attacked by the police in front of the television cameras, which was the crucial moment in the rise of peaceful opposition to a one-party unionist state. When this failed to achieve its ends, the door was opened to violence and the rise of the Provisional IRA.
At the heart of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which finally ended the most ferocious guerrilla war seen in western Europe since the Second World War, were equal political, social and economic rights. The outcome was potentially a stable balance of power between the two communities underpinned by a legal system, and a means to enforce it, that created a legal non-violent means to redress grievances, prevent discrimination and provide equal justice for all.
The role of European courts as the ultimate decision makers in equality and human rights legislation may feel like an undemocratic intrusion to many in the UK. Why should we obey the European…