The BBC is reporting that the influential Legatum Institute is proposing the use of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) and airships to perform surveillance tasks post-Brexit to deal with the fact that there will be, once again, a 500km border to police in the case of an end to the Customs Union: a policy currently part of the proposed Brexit deal preferred by Theresa May.
Such a move risks enflaming tensions in the region and completely disregards the last century of Irish-UK history in which over 3600 people were killed and thousands more injured in the late 20th century alone. On top of that, human rights abuses were common place. Dozens of Irish citizens in the UK were wrongly sent to prison for crimes they didn’t commit after the police invented cases against them, and suspected terrorists were regularly detained without trial in internment camps.
All of this took years of negotiation to resolve and culminated in the Good Friday Agreement between the Irish and British governments, together with the nationalist and loyalist parties of Northern Ireland, which even today only barely holds the different factions together and capable of running a devolved government. The peace that has held since that time is largely because economic prosperity could reach all communities of Northern Ireland, very much helped by the fact that both countries are part of the European Union.
Brexit is a disaster for the European Union. As it says in the DiEM manifesto, “The European Union was an exceptional achievement, bringing together in peace European peoples speaking different languages, submersed in different cultures, proving that it was possible to create a shared framework of human rights across a continent that was, not long ago, home to murderous chauvinism, racism and barbarity.”
Surveillance drones and other such science-fiction security measures risk taking Northern Ireland back to the darkest period of its history. No matter what madness is unleashed by Brexit, a return to the Troubles must be avoided at all costs.
Tony Robinson, DSC Budapest 01, and member of the Abolition 2000 Coordination Committee
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