We publish here an article from the anti-imperialist action ireland

Earlier this year, as part of a British directed effort to put pressure on the European Union, Loyalist paramilitaries began a campaign of rioting, destruction, and intimidation.

From February to April there was constant escalation of violent provocation, only being derailed by the period of mourning following the death of British Royal Consort Philip Mountbatten. The aim of this campaign was to provide the British state with leverage in negotiations with the EU, to undermine the Protocol that has created an economic union across the island of Ireland. Now once again these British-backed death squads are beginning to ramp up their activities, and we appear to finally be on the verge of the Protocol and current Irish Sea Border being scrapped altogether.

In the past 2 weeks armed men forced themselves onto two buses in Occupied Ireland, removed the driver and set the buses on fire. In both cases the men stated that it was a protest against the continuation of the Protocol. The first bus burning in Newtownards Co. Down was timed to coincide with the deadline for Protocol negotiations on November 1st. It was claimed in the name of the Protestant Action Force, the name that the Ulster Volunteer Force used when claiming brutal sectarian murders. Between this and the beginnings of continued protests at the Lanark Way interface in West Belfast, which led to confrontation between Nationalist youths defending their area and the RUC/PSNI, it is clear that the threat of violence directed against innocent Nationalists is very much present. It has been widely reported that the PUP, the political wing of the UVF, is looking to abandon its support for the Good Friday Agreement also.

As it was in February, these escalations have been accompanied by statements from the top of the Unionist and British establishment. Current Democratic Unionist Party leader Jeffrey Donaldson said Monday that Unionist support for the GFA is “falling away”, and that he has been “… warning that this is one of the consequences of the protocol, because the protocol upsets the very delicate constitutional balance that is at the heart of the agreement, it undermines our relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom in a way that is unacceptable to unionists”. While officially condemning recent violent attacks he gives implicit support for them in saying that they are an inevitable consequence of the Protocol. Westminster has declared that they will trigger Article 16 of the Protocol agreement, which would allow them to unilaterally suspend the Protocol and impose their own tariffs in the Occupied 6 counties against EU goods. There has even been talk that this will lead to a trade war with the EU, with the British Telegraph even bizarrely quoting an anonymous EU Diplomat as saying they are “Prepared for Peace but Ready for War”, an infamous UVF slogan. Once again in the inter-imperialist conflict between London and Brussels it is the Irish people who are set to suffer.

Anti Imperialist Action believes that this concerted effort has the ultimate goal of establishing a hard border in Ireland. The Irish Sea Border, negotiated after years of wrangling between British and European imperialists, was celebrated by many as yet another sign that the British occupation in Ireland was on its last legs. Unity is supposedly so close we can taste it. While constitutional nationalists and their cheerleaders crow about an impending Border Poll, the British state and its allies have been working in the shadows to ensure that their grip stays as tight as ever. Sabre rattling by Loyalist gangs has been steadily rising, and Britain descends further and further into repression and jingoism.

The Strategy of Tension is a concept that arose from the Years of Lead in Italy, in which various bombings and gun attacks were carried out by NATO aligned forces such as fascist terror groups. The aim of this Strategy is to deliberately stoke tensions and promote violence towards a political end. It has been used to describe a number of historical situations since, but what characterises it above all is the false flag attack and the direction of proxy forces towards achieving a long-term goal for imperialism. And there is no better example of a proxy force than the death squads of the Ulster Volunteer Force and Ulster Defence Association.

Tensions quickly arose following meetings between the DUP and armed Loyalist groups in February 2021, with border and customs staff coming under threat in Larne. Threatening graffiti and sign postage began sprouting up around the country. Several weeks later, the Loyalist Coordination Council which includes the Ulster Volunteer Force, Ulster Defence Association and Red Hand Commando declared that they were withdrawing support for the GFA. While they claimed to still be following peaceful methods, coupled with the anonymous threats of violence, at the very least this is intended to suggest that the implementation of a border on the Irish Sea will mean a significant Loyalist backlash.
It is our belief that the aim of this conspiracy is to make it appear that the Protocol cannot be implemented without undermining the so-called Peace Process, allowing the British to implement a hard border to solidify their control over the 6 counties. Whether the Loyalist threat of violence is largely bluff or not makes little difference, as the tensions stirred up by this process may well spill over into violence regardless. In a deeply sectarian society, the hateful rhetoric of street signs and grafitti can quickly be amplified, particularly when they are echoed in the chambers of Stormont.

Further evidence of this plot has been provided by an investigation by Phoenix Magazine in March of this year, attributed to anonymous sources, which* claimed that MI5 in Belfast had concocted a scheme to start a feud between Loyalist death squads and Republican organisations. This involved warning a prominent Loyalist of a threat to his life by Republicans, shortly followed by the Loyalist in question being shot by unknown assailants in what has been described as an operation carried out with military efficiency.

Despite the dozens of threats and violent actions by Loyalist paramilitaries, including ethnic cleansing of Catholics in Carrickfergus, the RUC/PSNI has instead stepped up its repression of Republicans, as many disgraceful incidents in Derry and Belfast have indicated. Incidents like the heavy-handed police attack on a peaceful gathering at Sean Grahams bookies commemorating the UDA massacre of innocent Catholics, only served to expose the two-tier policing in the state, as well heightening tensions already being stoked by the Loyalist gangs.

Anti Imperialist Action makes it clear, as we did earlier in this year, that we fully support the right of Nationalists and Republicans to defend themselves from Loyalist attacks. Republicans have always defended their communities from sectarian pogroms in the past and will continue to do so. The EU has shown itself to be weak in the face of British provocation and offers no salvation. Even if it were the case that the EU imperialist bloc had the best interests of the Irish people at heart, it is more clear than ever that they will cave in the face of pressure. It is even likely that in a coming trade war with Britain, it will be the European Union manning custom posts at the British border in Ireland. As it has always been, the Irish people themselves must find the solution.

If the Protocol is removed and a hard border in Ireland is introduced, it will be more important than ever for the Irish working class and progressives to be united in opposition to the British occupation of our country. There is no border poll on the horizon in our current situation, where Britain is colluding with Loyalist proxies to strengthen their hold on the Occupied 6 counties. Only an Anti Imperialist Broad Front, mobilising the broad masses of the people, which rejects the imperialist status quo in Ireland and smashes the British border can bring about the long awaited All Ireland Republic