The Troubles were a period of sectorial strife in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The predominately Catholic and nationalist Irish Republican Army (IRA) caused terror in the Protestant communities throughout Northern Ireland. At the same time, the predominantly Protestant and unionist Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) caused terror in the Catholic communities of Northern Ireland while they hunted for known IRA members. The Troubles were ended in 1998 by the Good Friday agreement. However, this agreement is currently under attack.
The Good Friday Agreement
The main effect of the Good Friday agreement is power sharing in Northern Ireland. Every government must be made up of one nationalist party and one unionist party. It was designed this way so that neither side can say that they are being ignored by the other side. The other goal was to finally settle the issue of a divided Ireland.
Both sides agreed that both wanting a united Ireland and having the island partitioned were valid positions to have due to the history of the island. They also agreed that sometime in the future that the island could be united. This satisfied the nationalists. At the same time, they promised that the reunification would not happen soon. That satisfied the unionists.
Following the Good Friday Agreement, both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland made efforts to make the future transition seamless. Examples of this include free trade between each other and no passport checks at the border. All of this was helped by the UK and Ireland’s position within the European Union.
With Brexit, all of this is crumbling down. One of the big sticking points in the negotiations was what to do with northern Ireland. There was a movement to prevent a border on the island as that would violate the Good Friday agreement and could possibly restart the troubles. There was a second push to put the border between the EU in the Irish Sea, but that did not go far because it lost unionist support.
Boris Johnson decided to do the political thing and create a compromise that satisfies nobody. Under the current Brexit protocol there is a border on both the island of Ireland and in the Irish Sea. The border on Ireland is the official border. That border will ultimately not be enforced. The border in the Irish Sea is the unofficial border and will be enforced.
Even though Brexit is finally coming to completion, this still remains one of the biggest sticking points and there still seems to be no satisfactory answer to the Irish question. Everyone in Britain and Ireland hopes that Brexit does not lead to renewed hostilities.