The 100 Percenters

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American, British, Irish, and Northern Irish politicians recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement that ended years of violence in the disputed British territory.

Some Republicans – or Northern Irish residents who want to unify the territory with Ireland – marked the occasion by firebombing a police car, the Associated Press reported. They opposed the April 1998 peace deal because it retained British sovereignty in the region.

The juxtaposition between the two incidents shows that, while the so-called “Troubles” – the fighting between Catholic and Protestant communities – has abated in Northern Ireland, preserving peace and security is still a precarious undertaking.

The most recent wrench in the works is the dispute between Northern Irish leaders over power-sharing in the Northern Irish local government as the United Kingdom negotiates with the European Union over trade rules following Brexit, Reuters explained. The Good Friday Agreement depends on an open border between UK-controlled Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland. But Brexit means that the border must have controls.

In late February, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reached the Windsor Framework to solve the dilemma, Foreign Policy noted. The plan applies British and European rules to Northern Ireland with the goal of smoothing trade and allowing easy movement across the border.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), a pro-union Protestant political party that opposed the 1998 deal, was not pleased. From their perspective, the Windsor Framework makes them second-class British citizens who must jump through European hoops at the behest of Republicans. The DUP has refused to join a government in Stormont, the location of Northern Ireland’s local legislature, that includes Sinn Fein, which advocates for uniting the island under Irish rule, wrote Politico.

The politicians who descended on the region for the anniversary celebrations were therefore exhorting DUP leaders – and Republicans like the ones who firebombed the police car – to reconsider.

“Each of your parties have the ‘100 percenters.’ They want it their way all the time. Compromise is seen as a sign of weakness,” said George Mitchell, a former US senator who helped broker the Good Friday Agreement, during a speech at Queen’s University Belfast, according to the Belfast Telegraph. “Reasoned principled compromise is essential, especially in a divided society. There is great depth in recognizing that the only way to help us emerge from the rubble of conflict is that we must learn to understand one another.”

It might take another generation or two before people in Northern Ireland view their hatred of one another as a quaint anachronism.

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