UK election exposes Northern Ireland’s deep divisions

Source: Reuters

By Conor Humphries and Amanda Ferguson | BELFAST

Political leaders in Northern Ireland are casting next week’s British election as a referendum on whether voters want to be part of the United Kingdom or neighboring Ireland.

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has raised the stakes in the long and divisive dispute over Northern Ireland’s status. Concerns that Brexit will lead to a hard border with EU member Ireland have reinvigorated Irish nationalism and its dream of a united Ireland free of British influence.

That in turn has unsettled unionists, who back British rule and fear their majority is slipping away in the region of 1.8 million people.

For some people in both communities, the idea of a new, rigid frontier with Ireland stirs painful memories of the British Army watchtowers and checkpoints that peppered the border during decades of sectarian violence that killed thousands.

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