Under an inky night in Derry and the cover of choking smoke from burning tyres, a coward from a group calling itself the New Irish Republican Army took aim at a police Land Rover and fired off a volley of shots. Journalist Lyra McKee was fatally injured, her life’s blood spilling from her as she died in the back of a Land Rover as she was being rushed to hospital.
By way of apology, the New IRA said that the 29-year-old wasn’t the target, that the police were, that they were sorry, and likely sorry too that the brainwashed murderer who pulled that trigger missed his intended target.
If there’s a positive from McKee’s death, it’s that Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist party have been shamed into restarting talks on the power-sharing government for Northern Ireland — an administration that’s been in political limbo for more than two years.
Trust me, having seen enough of the ugly side of inky Northern Ireland skies, burning tyres and police Land Rovers, for me and every person who witnessed the tragic violence unfold there over three decades, and stood as its fragile peace took root, the very thought of a coward with a gun is thoroughly revulsive.
And for months, people have warned that if the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland ever returned in any manner that would interfere with the peace process, there was every likelihood of a return to violence. Maybe now those warnings will be taken seriously. Deadly seriously, as the grieving family and friends of McKee know now.
The people of Northern Ireland voted in droves against Brexit, and the very divisive nature of that ill-advised referendum called by the former Conservative leader and Prime Minister David Cameron is patently clear now, almost three years after Britons cast their votes on their future in Europe.
It was reckless. And since that vote, Cameron has scuttled off and hides away, likely only coming out under the cover of an inky night sky.
But it was not the only act of recklessness by Cameron — he came close to losing the United Kingdom itself in another act of political vacillation during Scotland’s referendum on independence in September 2014.
Having covered that campaign too on the ground there, trust me when I tell you that in the weeks leading up to that particular poll, Cameron, Liberal-Democratic leader Nick Clegg, the deputy PM in that coalition government, along with Labour leader Ed Miliband, all sleepwalked towards an abyss that would have seen Scotland separate and become a free and independent nation for the first time since 1701. And when opinion polls started to show the Yes side winning that referendum, all three hightailed to Scotland to promise the Sun, Moon and stars to Scots to get them to stay.
The No side prevailed, but the reality is that the dream of Scottish independence didn’t end, but was simply put on hold, with the Scottish Nationalist Party and its leadership waiting for the right conditions before pressing their case again.
And Cameron’s Brexit referendum and the chaos it has sown is creating the right conditions for that to happen. Like in Northern Ireland, Scotland voted in droves too to remain in the EU. And over the past three years, in the wake of that plebiscite and the paralysis of politics that has prevailed since then, Scots are coming to the conclusion in even greater numbers that the parliament in Westminster does not represent them.
Just as the propensity for a return to violence in Northern Ireland was foretold as a consequence of Brexit, McKee’s death has shown that to be true. And it was also foretold that Scotland would again push for independence, the SNP have once more said that it is proposing a second referendum, and they want it before 2021.
Opinion polls now are evenly divided on the question. But Brexit has yet to happen and the reality of that reckless decision has yet to take hold. Yes, there will be a hit to jobs, a hit to prices, a hit to house values, a hit to the freedoms of movement, a hit to the pound in their pocket.
One of the deciding factors in swaying a majority of Scots to reject independence was wondering what would happen to their pound. Maybe the euro might not be so bad after all in a post-Brexit and independent Scotland. The SNP is now even suggesting a new currency altogether — and could that be worse than a Brexit-battered pound?
Yes, the soothsayers were indeed right. Chaos has been unleashed by the Brexit referendum. And Cameron is to blame.