Meet Andrew: He's unpacking the history of a modern political standoff

Andrew does research for his THINK Fellowship project about history's influence on Brexit.

February 5, 2019

“To understand the path to peace, you have to understand the path to violence.”

As the United Kingdom negotiates a way forward after Brexit, just 10 parliamentarians from tiny Northern Ireland are holding up the entire process.  

How the heck did that happen?

Ask Andrew. His THINK Fellowship project digs into the complexities — from the history of violence that informs these loyalists’ rhetoric, to the botched political power play that put them in the driver’s seat, to the unease that makes them distrustful of the very government they’re trying to prove themselves to.

“It's important to understand the context, so you’re not left wondering why this happened. There are answers to questions like that in both the politics and history. They’re not always easy; but if you can understand the past, it's a way to unlock the future.”

Some of the tension stems from the fear of re-igniting once-violent conflicts between Irish Catholics and Protestants.

“The most difficult thing was understanding why someone would become a terrorist,” Andrew said. “It's not an easy thing to think about, but people who were killers have now become peace activists around the globe, because they understand better than anybody why they were pushed to do what they did.”

And the deep wounds they left are still powerful enough to dominate an international issue. It’s a cautionary tale that Andrew thinks we should pay attention to as tensions grow in our own country.

“Americans are growing more distant from one another.”

“People who you disagree with politically, you used to still be a part of the same community — you’d go to the same events, you'd read the same things, you’d go to the same church,” he said. “Now, information is so readily available that’s one-sided that we can form social groups around that.”