British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resigned after months of political scandal. He will remain on the job until the ruling Tories select a new leader. That decision will have enormous impact in Northern Ireland, where the Assembly government remains in limbo two months after elections and Brexit continues to cause friction between pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists. It also will impact relations with Ireland and the European Union. This post will evolve over several days from July 7. Email subscribers should check the website for updates. MH
Johnson’s resignation has left Northern Ireland in a “precarious situation” and could delay the restoration of the Assembly at Stormont, the grand secretary of the Orange Order has warned at July Twelfth commemorations. The Irish Times quotes Rev. Mervyn Gibson as saying that while the Brexit trade protocol remains in place “there’ll be no Northern Ireland Executive and we want to get government back in Northern Ireland as quickly as possible.”
Unionists oppose the protocol, which avoided a hard border on the island of Ireland by placing an economic border in the Irish Sea.
Annual Orange Order parades to celebrate the Battle of the Boyne, this year marking its 332nd anniversary, are returning to normal footing following two years of COVID disruptions. Police estimate that 250 bonfires were lit the night of July 11, with nearly 600 parades to take place on July 12. The BBC NI ditched its live broadcast coverage after two year of pandemic layoff.
Shailesh Vara has replaced Brandon Lewis as Northern Ireland secretary. Lewis was among the once-loyal cabinet members who stepped down to force out Johnson. Vara was a minister in the Northern Ireland Office for five months before quitting in November 2018 to protest former prime minister Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal with the EU.
See Vera’s official statement.
“The downfall of Boris Johnson comes as a huge relief to the government in Dublin, which has been locked in a long running conflict with him over the Northern Ireland Protocol,” Stephen Collins writes in The Irish Times. “However, it would be foolish to assume that things will necessarily improve under his successor as Conservative Party leader, or even under a Labour government … The lesson from the entire Brexit saga is that the two big parties in the UK are so focused on narrow party political advantage that they are prepared to ignore the long term interests of the British people, never mind the consequences of their actions for the island of Ireland.”
Sounds like Republicans and Democrats in the USA.
“It has been an utter absurdity that the people here have been subjected to Boris Johnson for any length of time,” Northern Assembly First Minister (Designate) Michell O’Neill of Sinn Féin tweeted. “He is a figure of absolute disrepute. Anyone who tries to sabotage our peace agreements, a quarter century of progress and our shared future is truly no friend of ours.”
The BBC has more reactions from other Northern Irish and Irish leaders.