Foreign Policy Digital

Paramilitaries Are Surging Again in Northern Ireland

And it’s not because of Brexit.

When the journalist Lyra McKee was shot and killed last month in Northern Ireland’s Derry city, it seemed to confirm everyone’s worst fears. The Brexit deadline was fast approaching, and a group calling itself the New IRA (Irish Republican Army) claimed responsibility for McKee’s murder. It was widely interpreted as proof that the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union will spur dormant republican paramilitaries into reigniting campaigns of terror that were supposed to have ended years ago.

But while the international media has brimmed with dire warnings of the consequences of Brexit, in Northern Ireland talk of the supposed return of the paramilitaries sounds disconnected. That’s because they never really went away. Official police records suggest their presence has been on the rise since 2007—years before any talk of hard borders, backstops, or customs posts. The cause of the problem is far more closely linked to deteriorating conditions in Northern Ireland itself rather than the United Kingdom’s impending exit from the European Union.

Pro-IRA graffiti daubs the terraced

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