I have said it all before and I’ll just add this to the renewed nonsense about a hard Irish Border re-igniting the Troubles in the North in the wake of Boris Johnson’s threat to renege on his exit deal with the EU. And I’ll try to keep it short and sweet.
The Troubles in the North were facilitated by the Border but they were really engendered by conditions that were created inside the state enclosed by the Border, and by British security policy when that state of affairs deteriorated into violence.
It would not have mattered nor would it have delayed, softened or worsened what happened at that time if lorry drivers from Blackpool, or traders from Dublin had to stop at a Border checkpoint and show their papers or whether they were waved merrily through unhindered.
The Troubles started when Unionists, in and out of government, resisted with force and, deploying a police force under their control, brought the power of the state against a civil rights movement, and the Nationalist communities which supported it, calling for reform of housing, voting and hiring practices.
The failure of Unionist efforts to put down the civil rights movement led to the deployment of the British Army and when the military tried and failed to do what Unionist Cabinet ministers could not, the Provisional IRA mushroomed and launched its violent campaign.
That was the source of the Troubles. To be sure, had there not been a Border, none or very little of the violence would have happened but it was the political conditions inside the Border that really created and shaped the Troubles.
Had Unionists behaved better, or more sensibly, towards Nationalists and agreed to stop discriminating in the allocation of jobs, housing and political rights, it is perfectly possible that the Troubles would never have happened; in fact if I was a betting man, I’d put money on it.
It is not without significance that all the efforts to resolve the subsequent Troubles concentrated on addressing the grievances, both economic and political, Nationalists had against Unionists in the way they governed Northern Ireland. Fundamentally, the Troubles reflected the reality that the Northern Ireland crisis was an internal problem.
And it is worth remembering that when these matters were addressed in the Sunningdale deal of 1974, the Border was as hard as hard can be.
It did not matter whether there were customs posts or an unencumbered highway at the Border in 1974. What did matter was whether Unionists were ready to give Nationalists their share of the meal on the table and whether what was offered would satisfy them. And that is an equation which still dominates politics in Northern Ireland post the Good Friday Agreement.
The Troubles in Northern Ireland were created by conditions within Northern Ireland and they will finally come to an end when differences over how best to resolve those internal differences fade away. In this regard the Border might as well be on Mars.
To put all this another way. Ballymurphy in west Belfast was one of the toughest IRA districts in the North during the Troubles. Those who flocked to the IRA’s ranks from that area did so, not because of the offence caused by a faraway hard Border, but because they had been whacked over the head by a British Army baton and wanted to hit back.
It was as simple as that.
Those in or near power, whether it be Leo Varadkar or Keir Starmer, who are now gearing up to once again warn of an approaching apocalypse, need to demonstrate that in 2020, the sight of customs post outside Newry, or Derry, or Enniskillen would be as persuasive a recruiting sergeant to today’s residents of Ballymurphy.
I don’t think they can.