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The Invisible Border


Hey I'm random Nevada. I'm running out of Louis and this week on through line. We're bringing you something a little bit different. We really liked the show today. Explained and recently they covered the history of Northern Ireland. Brexit has brought Northern Ireland in. Its troubled past back into the news and we were right in the middle of trying to figure out how to tell that very complicated and contested history when we heard an episode of today explained hosted by Sean Swamp. The did just that so we decided to call up the person who made it. My name is Noam Hassenfeld and I'm a reporter producer at today explained okay so no you decided to tackle the history of the troubles and Ireland more. Generally which as I think most people know it's packed with a lot of competing narratives a lot of emotion. So how did you even begin to approach telling this kind of story that was the biggest hurdle I think just because there are so many different ways to tell this story from so many different perspectives. I think people often look at this story. And they say okay. There's the Catholic perspective and there's the Protestant perspective but there's not even just two perspectives. There is the British government perspective. There's the perspective of the Republic of Ireland. What I decided to do was present the conflict part around Brexit and in dealing with the history. I think what I really tried to do is focus on the effects and the suffering rather than the causes and who to blame. I worked with a reporter. Susan McKay who herself had done a bunch of interviews with both Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland who had been impacted by violence committed by both Protestants and Catholics. And really what I was trying to show is. Just how how terrible. This situation was Through atrocities committed by all all parties. How tenuous the piece that was created out of this was and how much of a tragedy would be if we were to lose something like this over brexit one of the approaches. You took clearly was to emphasize experience. Who lived it? I'm what was the thinking behind that? Approach that really worked in terms of putting us there in the in that history so I just want to know why you thinking. Yeah so I mentioned Susan McKay. I mean she did this. Incredible series called stories from silence where she interviewed partners of family members that have been killed in the troubles children of family members who have been killed in the troubles it was really a very powerful series and she did a lot of reporting through the troubles and then followed up with them after the type of thing. When when I started out this story I reached out to people as like. Hey can do you know anyone who can connect me to to people who have personal stories in the troubles. In everyone is very rightly I think concerned about someone just parachuting in and telling the story incorrectly are insensitively and Susan. Very graciously allowed me to do was she had done this work. She had put in the time and really understood. All of the things that happened she had lived through the troubles. She grew up in Ireland in Derry or Londonderry and what she allowed me to do was basically take examples of people that were killed by both the Republican Army and by loyalists. And just understand that in both situations. Was You know you can argue? Who's to blame? You can argue whether something was a response to a previous action or who started it. It's not clear to me how you can never solve. Who STARTED IT? But I think there's no arguing with suffering. There's no arguing with how much this impacted every type of person in Northern Ireland. So I think focusing on personal stories a good way to get that across. Thank you know him so much for sharing with us. Death thinks guys after the break the invisible border support for this podcast and the following message come from Google from Connecticut to California from Mississippi to Minnesota millions of American businesses are using Google tools to grow online the grow with Google initiative support small businesses by providing free digital skills workshops and one on one coaching in all fifty states helping businesses get online connect with new customers and work more productively learn more at Google dot com slash grow. You Might Know Nick. Kroll from his. Very Raunchy animated show on Netflix big mouth. Are you the Puberty Ferry Hubert? Very Hormone Monster. I'm not a fairy well now. He's starring as a romantic lead in a movie set the Olympics actor and comedian. Nick Kroll next time on. It's been a minute from NPR a warning that today's episode features some graphic descriptions of violence near the top and the bottom of this first half. There's no violence after the break. If you WANNA avoid it altogether let's begin We have covered brexit backwards and forwards. On today explained we've talked about trade and immigration an ideology and it's all been sort of abstract very political but on the show today our reporter. Naughton Hassenfeld is going to take us to a place where you can actually see what brexit might do with your own eyes. Yeah and In the interest of minimizing my carbon footprint. I got someone closer to go for me. My name is Leona and Emma journalist from Northern Ireland Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom but it shares a border with the independent country of Ireland to the south. I am on. The border between Northern Ireland and southern Ireland is just signed dairy. It's a very very very busy ruled of pulled to the side of the road here. There's literally hundreds of cars going up and down. Pass me here right now. Since both the United Kingdom and Ireland are in the European Union. That border is barely noticeable. But after tonight while the country of Ireland will still be in the EU things. Start to get complicated at the border brags that has posed particularly difficult and genetic problem for US rex. It could bring checkpoints police the military. But that's nothing new for this border. When you say the border the Northern Irish border people think They Hark back to those days when they're a huge bank military installations where the British army would be there you know their checkpoints and stuff I got. There is nothing like that night at the moment as something. That's kind of forgotten a bite almost as an invisible border when I was growing up Here beside the border you know you. It approaches the border huge military installations corrugated iron walls heavily fortified full of soldiers. Armed soldiers. So sometimes your car will be pulled on. Everybody would be taken out of the car. The car would be searched for guns and ammunition and all that kind of stuff these military installations were shot. They were bombed. You're almost taking your life in your hands stopping them. When you re possums particularly was children on the car it was quite a terrifying experience this peaceful spot where Leona is sitting right now. Thirty years ago it was a living nightmare and nineteen ninety. Potsy Glaspie was a young father the IRA the Irish. Republican Army were targetting particle because he worked in a British army station here and there. They held his wife and his children hostage Told Patsy to get on his van and drive to the British Army station here. The checkpoint on Quinn said. He didn't do that that they should has. Wife and his children this is patsies wife Kathleen. He was chained to the driver seat and the steering wheel of that is loaded with twelve hundred pounds of explosives and he was made to drive the van to the army. Checkpoint Gosh Kwan Tamed. To shut a warning and I was told by one of the soldiers Zhifei that they had run boys. I'm loaded run and Bomb was detonated by remote control and Patsy was blown to pieces. What five soldiers patsy was actually identified by a pace of grace? Zip attached tip piece of the woollen Cardigan under the flesh to this day. Kathleen Remembers Patsy on the border. I'm sitting here actually across the road from the memorial pats. Kathleen leaves floors. I can see them sitting here. She leaves flowers every every week there for her patsy. Brexit isn't just bringing these memories back it actually might disrupt this hard-fought piece. I know from speaking to desert and Republicans in the past that should anti structure go up on the border. Anna can of a sign that says this is the border they will blow it up anyone who puts the life of a customs officer at risk. They will need police protection. The police are then become a target as well as customs officer after our tax on them. The army might be brought back to protect the police. Protect the customs officer and then we're back in the nineteen seventies nineteen eighties Northern Ireland. We have a very delicate peace hero. Northern Ireland anything could just put it over the edge. Peace in Northern Ireland isn't just delicate. It took decades of civilian uprisings military crackdowns and brutal terrorist campaigns to reach this point. Thousands of people died in the process and the peace deal that created. This invisible. Border was an almost impossible. Balancing Act Ireland was part of the British Empire until the beginning of the twentieth century. And this was not a situation which was desired by the majority of people in Ireland. Susan McKay is an author journalist from Londonderry in Northern Ireland. People they're often call it dairy. There was a smaller. Protestant minority concentrated in the northeast of Ireland. Which did not want to be part of a united Ireland so in one thousand nine twenty one. Ireland was partitioned. The South was independent. While the north remained part of the United Kingdom a border was put across the country. And it's an extraordinary border. Zigzag all over the place that cuts off one county donegal practically from the rest of the Republic of Ireland. It divides villages divides hoses. It divides people's farms. This has been denied a small rather old fashioned town and concentrate on one of the six northeastern counties of Ireland which are headed under British rule. The situation the north was that the unionists who were those who were loyal to Britain. Set up the northern station. Such a way that Catholics and nationalists could really have no par. Ku's third of the people of this little town are nationally. That is to say. They are in favor of unity with the rest of Ireland and against being feed as part of one-third unionist which means favouring British rule and the partition of Ireland. But the tone is controlled by the unionist minority and run shortly in there. So the upshot of this gerrymandering is that was called. Was that the. Catholic population lived in extremely disadvantaged circumstances in crowded areas. They didn't of power. Their unemployment was very high and they were extremely unhappy about the state in the nineteen sixties. Things changed with the advent of television and with the advent of second level education for larger numbers of people the Civil Rights Movement Rosa Hosing issues and employment issues and it was met by the northern state with a very violent response civil rights protests against alleged discriminations were dotted at first as no more than a nuisance but as they continued and became more insistent and extreme petrol-bomb ominously replaced stones the main weapons. This was the beginning of what people call the troubles nationalists and Republicans fighting against unionists loyalists or British troops and regular people caught in the middle into the middle of that scenario the IRA the Irish Republican Army begun to build up forces that was very much accelerated in January nineteen seventy-two and bloody Sunday occurred and that was a notorious massacre of innocent civil rights marchers by a British regiment called the paratroopers. Thirteen people were killed. None of them were armed so a lot of people started to join the IRA at that point. You had appalling incidents including bloody Friday when the IRA planted a lot of bombs in the shopping streets of Belfast and discriminatively killing civilians on that day. Belfast attacked with twenty seven bombs. In one afternoon. Nine died in over one hundred thirty injured and Jihad loyalists going into collusion with renegade members of the British security forces killing Catholics in isolated areas around the country and nine hundred eighty one. The British government tried to remove political stasis from IRA prisoners and as a result the. Ira Prisoners went on hunger. Strike and Margaret Thatcher refused to relent. Crime is crime is crime it is not political. It is crime. No question of political status by the time a negotiation was reached. Ten of them had died and by the years of the nineteen nineties. The people of Northern Orange were just completely approaching despair. Susan you covered the troubles as a reporter. What was that experience like well? Being a reporter during the conflict meant going to a lot of funerals meant attending a lot of scenes were very violent incidents had happened. Meant talking to people who are in a state of shock and grief and many journalists. Like me had to. You know. Go to people's houses the morning after somebody had been cuddled and do interviews with bereaved families. And you've been following up with some of them yeah. I went back to many of the families that I had. I met when they were first bereaved. They're all very powerful and very moving but a few of them did particularly stick in my mind One of them was the story of James. Morgan which was told by his mother. Philomena James was. He was a sixteen year old. He's just like any other normal happy. Go Lucky sixteen year old so we're not day. Gm's went to meet his friend Nielsen but maybe for two to three hundred yards of throat. You never made it. He was picked up on the bottom Ryan. Heads the HAM killed on the diminishment? Pit weeded door. Who was when we looked for than a detective arrived Dallas? So that's where I got. The news from trump's would seem to be far from here but it never even entered her hands to something like this could happen in a small village but it did change things forever. James Morgan was murdered by loyalists and nine hundred ninety seven near his home in the mountains of mourne hundred went to court. The judge said awkwardly. Sectarian he was more diverse religion for a long time after it was very nerve. I because I could sleep the rest of the boys role. Would they picked up the wrong person? Would they go down a road that you didn't want them to contain fodder issues to save? He got a good day. Take on if you can laugh. Laugh announced with took his advice in those people's lives were ruined on people had to come to terms with immense pain on many many people are still struggling without paying somehow after all that pain. Both sides made peace in one thousand nine hundred ninety eight now. Brexit might make it more in a minute on today explained support for this podcast and the following message. Come from squarespace the easy to use website. Builder designed by world-class designers. Squarespace has everything you need to launch a sleek and modern website and with twenty four seven customer support your customers will always have streamlined experience. Visit squarespace dot com slash. Npr for a free fourteen day trial. And when you're ready to launch us the offer code. Npr to save ten percent off your first purchase of a website or domain. Each of us is the star in the movie of our life. But how much of a role do we play in other people's movies at a really sort of palpable fear that they were going to reject me or worse the unseen pressures we place on other people this week on hidden brain from NPR now beneath the pyramid penthouse of Stormont Castle buildings? The final scenes of this extraordinary political drama or about to be acted on April tenth. Nineteen Ninety eight Belfast. Northern Ireland hours past a midnight deadline dawn broken stormed with the deadline for agreement. Well past and the chances of a deal emerging seemingly slim it's Good Friday the most somber day on the calendar for both Catholics and Protestants. It's all about death sacrifice and the anticipation of rebirth. It was a feeling of anticipation as the conviction grew that there were with the same history in the making. All parties have been invited the largely Protestant unionists along with hardline loyalist groups and the largely Catholic nationalists along with hardline Republican groups. The mood here at stolen veered almost by the hour between confidence that a deal was tantalizingly close to fears that these talks even as the finish line loomed into sites could still stumble David Trimble. Head of the Ulster Unionist Party. We see this. As laying the foundations for a healthy vibrant democracy to replace the stagnation frustration and powerlessness of the last three decades. Gerry Adams head of the political wing of the Irish Republican Army. These negotiations which resulted from them are part of our collective journey from the failures of the towards a future together as of day stretches into evening. The mediator former US senator. George Mitchell makes an announcement almost a century in the making. I'm pleased to announce that the two governments and political parties of Northern Ireland reached agreement after a generation of struggle. I think many in the Republican Movement said look. It's time to cash. In our chips Donohoe Bachailian International Relations Dublin City University. They had entered a situation of what you might call a mutually hurting stalemate where you know. They weren't going to achieve their objectives through force. But neither could the British government impose its authority by force either so they came up with a compromise with two parts was the relationships within Northern Ireland. The power relationships. The deal promised that nationalists and unionists would always be represented in Northern Ireland's government. Both sides compromised got something what they got was to share power within Northern Ireland based on power-sharing part to the bigger picture on the one hand it promised that Northern Ireland would stay part of the United Kingdom but on the other hand there was a provision for what's called a border poll. Meaning that at any point in the future there could be a referendum where the people of Northern Ireland would vote on whether to join a united Ireland or as British Prime Minister. Tony Blair put those who believe in a united island can make that case now by persuasion not violence or threats and if they voted in favor of united are the British government was duty bound to legislate for. It was almost as if the deal was saying something. Different to each side for unionists. This deal was ideally the end but for nationalists they would never have agreed to it if they had been sold it as an end in itself so certainly was presented as a stepping stone for one side. The deal affirmed that Northern Ireland was a permanent part of the United Kingdom for the other side. The door was open for Northern Ireland to join the rest of Ireland. Everybody gets a little bit of what they want. Nobody gets everything but everybody gets enough to sell it to their supporters. It was kind of confusing but that was by design. The term they use was constructive. Ambiguity you try and massage the unpalatable details to a certain degree when people are signing up to something but ultimately then you need to inject the money that changed institutions very quickly afterwards so that people don't have time to go back and have this so-called buyer's remorse. There was no perfect solution to the issue of the border. So the plan sidestepped. It hoping the problem might improve with time. The miracle of the Good Friday Agreement is that it's not as is often touted a conflict resolution situation. This is conflict management. We haven't in a sense dismantle the sectarian mindset that exist in Northern Ireland. Only the guns have been put aside but not the divisive mentalities and that's of course evident to anybody who visits Northern Ireland. And the all these different things institutional change constitutional. Ge You still have a problem of attitudes. Not Having changed even in Belfast. For example the city there are kilometers upon kilometers of walls which divide both communities most were built during the troubles but some have gone up even since the peace agreement. If you are from one community you can spend your entire life growing up without meeting or having a serious conversation with somebody. From the other community. Ninety percent of Northern Ireland students study exclusively with members of their own community. You get employed into different area re different newspapers. You play different. Sports northern remains very divided. What the Good Friday Agreement did is that. It regulated the conflict in such a way that people didn't feel it was worthwhile killing each other to resolve it all the while the Northern Irish border has remained almost invisible. It's want that to fights farms. It divides families. It's an unnatural border. And what the Good Friday Agreement managed to do was to make that border invisible. And what Brexit has done is it has reintroduced the thrash of visible border back on the island of Ireland one. That would be what they call a hard border customs posts security and that's something that of course everybody who was involved in the. Good Friday Agreement is trying to prevent when we come back how brexit might play out in Ireland support for. Npr comes from Newman's own foundation working to nourish the common good by donating all profits from Newman's own food products to charitable organizations that seek to make the world a better place. More information is available at Newman's own foundation dot org tonight's brexit deadline doesn't say much about what the deal will look like in practice. It's symbolism the real negotiations are still yet to take place and when the trade agreement is negotiated the United Kingdom. We'll have to make a choice. The UK is going to have to figure out its trade borders all over again and it's talking about drawing one in the Irish sea which more or less allows for continuing free trade within the island of Ireland but a defacto border between Northern Ireland. And the rest of the United Kingdom. This trade border would split a country Northern Ireland on one side and the rest of the UK on the other but the other option could be even riskier option to would risk undoing the Good Friday agreement by rebuilding the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland that border between North and south would become the international border between the European Union and the United Kingdom. And it will have to be policed. It would be visible and the history of art and suggests that once you have a visible border it becomes a target. Then you'll have to have reinforcements to defend it from attack and you end in an escalating situation which leads to widespread conflict. The history of the troubles makes the risk of a rebuilt landlord or clear but for unionists in Northern Ireland. A border in the Irish Sea could be dangerous to the problem for people from that perspective. Who by far the majority of the people who did vote for Brexit here is that throws up the possibility that the United Kingdom itself will not hold together? Ben Lowry edit the unionist leaning Belfast newsletter. This is a massive change. The impact of being edged out of the economic territory of your own nation is a very serious one but for Ben. It's not a shocking result. Very many people in England when put to the test are not bothered in the least at the prospect of Northern Ireland. Leaving and that is something that must concentrate the minds of those of us unionists to think carefully about what the future means. A twenty nine hundred poll found that among pro. Brexit English. Voters almost three-quarters said they didn't care if brexit led to the break-up of the UK and eighty percent said that brexit is worth it even if it unravels the peace process in Northern Ireland as those in Northern Ireland the arguments in favor of Brexit from a Northern Ireland perspective are the European Union is a fundamentally incoherent system that it tries to many things that are the preserve of the nation state. Essentially the same argument made by the rest of Britain that a nation should make choices for itself think of the person in Northern Ireland who thinks of themselves as part of the United Kingdom who doesn't think about it very much but then accepts that when the nation has decided to move on a major constitutional matter then we as an integral part of that nation should move with it. I think the simple truth is that because it all happened relatively quickly. I don't think a lot of thought was given to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland so brexit's left unionists with a lot of questions. What do we do if England and the rest of the UK don't want Northern Ireland? What do we do if independence is not feasible? And what do we do with people in the Republic of Ireland don't want Northern Ireland? You know we could just be this unwanted place. That's in limbo forever. Those are genuine concerns coming from a guy who was once bullish on Brexit. If you'd asked me ten years ago I was a big supporter of Brexit. Because I thought that the cultural gulf between the United Kingdom and the mainland Europe was too great Unin theory. It's still seems to have a lot of sense to it. But in practice it would be problematic on potentially disastrous brexit. Just doesn't have a good solution that satisfies everyone for most people. The best solution was exactly the way things were attentive. Fragile status quo and Danika says that was the miracle of the Good Friday Agreement. The whole idea of the Good Friday agreement was to postpone the constitutional issue for at least a generation. Let's get people of different political aspirations working together for a generation or two and then when they're used to working together within Northern Ireland then we can delicately put the question if a majority suggests that will happen thus we would maybe have a united Ireland and what Brexit did is that it. It refocused attention on the constitutional issue and all that work that had been put into de emphasizing the border de emphasizing sovereignty de emphasizing constitutional questions dot was now back fronton center of practical politics that de-emphasis seemed to be working in a recent survey half of the people in Northern Ireland considered themselves to be neither unionist nor nationalist and the younger they were the more neutral. They got the younger generation. Don't remember what the conflict was like. I mean I'm a professor as I said in the university I have twenty-something students in front of me it's just remarkable it makes me feel of course incredibly old that they don't remember a conflict in Northern Ireland. I guess the fear is as you have generation who don't know the price of peace who haven't felt the heart on the devastation. That conflict can cause that this could be thrown away so certainly piece is not take for granted. The Good Friday Agreement as in many respects a miraculous achievement I think what so miraculous here is. How rare it is that. Conflicts like this get resolved. Diplomatically without one side just surrendering. Think about what something like. This would mean for Israel Palestine India Pakistan or even Ukraine and Russia. I know none of these conflict is exactly like the other. And even Northern Ireland's case the peace plan didn't solve everything but the miracle here is that two sides that were at each other's throats for almost a century actually came together. They talked they decided on a fragile peace. And it actually worked and then people forgot Explained reporter No. I'm hasn't felt thanks to Susan McKay. Who allowed us to use the audio she recorded of Kathleen? Gillespie and PHILOMENA Morgan. Those interviews are part of the series stories from silence which you can find it. Stories from silence Dot Com Susan's also working on a book about Protestants in Northern Ireland. And another one all about borders. I'm Sean Rama's firm. The rest of our team. Here today explained his bridge McCarthy. How Much Ana Assadi Jillian Weinberger and FEM- Shapiro? The mysterious brake master cylinder provides music. We had a mash up from. Jeff Geld this week an extra hands on deck belonging to Rosia Karma and Bird Pinkerton fact checker. Olivia extra is moving on from facts. We wish her all the best and thank her for Oliver Checks. Our new fact Checker is CECELIA lay. Welcome Cecilia unexplained is part of the box media. Podcast network get in touch. Our email addresses today explained at Vox Dot Com

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