Help Us Before It’s Too Late, Ireland

On January 6, 2021, the world watched as the U.S. Capitol was invaded for the first time since the War of 1812 — by American citizens. It is the closest we have come to civil war in nearly as many years — since Lincoln was in office. Our allies overseas, however, cannot say the same.

The island of Ireland was drenched in conflict for nearly a century, from the Easter Rising insurrection in 1916 to a formal ceasefire declaration ninety-one years later. America must only peer into Irish history to see its own future.

The Troubles — a terribly understated name for a civil war — began in Ireland in the 1960s, rooted in socio-religious tensions between Catholics and Protestants after years of military actions by the Irish Republican Army in newly established Northern Ireland. These tensions are not entirely unlike the growing divide between the left and right in America. Though the official end is often noted as the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, The Troubles continued for decades until a ceasefire declaration from Protestant militia forces in 2007.

Approximately 3,600 people were killed and more than 30,000 were injured before this peace was brokered. Is this the future we have been building toward with 20-percent spikes in hate crimes and increasing political polarization?

Legislative session resumed on Wednesday evening and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) noted January 6th as a day that “will live forever in infamy,” but I believe we must approach it as a beginning — if it is one at all. The very same intent was glaringly obvious with the plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer and overthrow the Michigan legislature in October 2020.

The insurrection was an escalation.

As sensible legislators call for the removal of President Trump from office, we can expect the very same extremist groups to perceive this action as a threat to the democracy it is meant to uphold. Not only will it fuel far-right ideologies, leading to greater violence, but it will serve to radicalize those not yet at the fringes. They will regroup with greater fervor.

Jenny Cudd, the former mayoral candidate from Midland, Texas, boasted about her participation in the coup via Facebook Live. “I’m proud of everything I was part of today and I’ll be proud of everything I’m a part of at the next one…and we’ll see what happens at that.” Her ominous appraisal is proof enough, though history is just as clear.

One needn’t stretch their imagination far to see that in the minds of pro-Trump insurrectionists, they lived the Easter Rising — a fight for their rightful independent nation. They are the heroes of their own story. More closely, I’d argue however is the summer of 1966, which bled with vicious religious attacks.

That summer, Protestant-led militia group Ulster Volunteer Force carried out three attacks against Catholics in Belfast, Northern Ireland — marking the beginning of The Troubles. Three people died, including one Protestant. Another two were wounded. Thus, the conflict began. Bombings, shootings, and the constant threat of sectarian violence.

Similarly, during the unprecedented terroristic attack on the U.S. Capitol, five people died. Ashli Babbitt was killed by U.S. Capitol Police while attempting to breach the Speaker’s Lobby, an area in which legislators and press were known to congregate. A 35-year old Air Force veteran and securities expert, it cannot be said Babbitt was unaware. This act has immortalized her as a martyr among her conservative peers. Simply, fuel to the fire.

With this, I say: we must learn from history. Now, when our democracy is at its most fragile…when we are on the verge of civil war; we must call upon our allies in Ireland and Northern Ireland who have the foreknowledge and historical precedent to address this impending violence.

A war on the homefront isn’t impossible anymore and we are in over our heads.

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