Friday 9 December 2016

Johnson is trying to drown out Irish voices on Brexit - Mandelson

Published 16/03/2016 | 02:30

Peter Mandelson. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Peter Mandelson. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson has claimed that campaigners in favour of a British exit from the European Union are trying to drown out debate.

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The ex-Labour Party minister has insisted that the Irish Government should be involved in the discussion ahead of the referendum later this year.

Mr Mandelson said it would be "odd" if people like Taoiseach Enda Kenny were not making their view known publicly, and criticised the Mayor of London Boris Johnson for trying to block differing opinions.

"People don't want other points to be heard, whether it's coming from the Taoiseach of Ireland, President Obama or a business person large or small," he said.

At an event organised by the British Irish Chamber of Commerce in London yesterday, Mr Mandelson warned that a Brexit would result in "a hard Irish border between North and south".

He said that could lead to "renewed sectarianism".

Speaking afterwards to the Irish Independent, he said: "Britain and Ireland have a close relationship. We are joint members of the European Union. We share an island of Ireland and we are both guarantors of the Northern Ireland peace process."

He said that was reason enough for Irish voices to be heard over the coming months.

"It would be odd not to hear from the Irish Government on something that affects them."

Mr Mandelson, who was Northern Secretary between 1999 and 2001, said: "Economic opportunities underpin the peaceful relations and good politics in Northern Ireland.

"If we were to throw a spanner in the economic works, it would have a huge impact on trade and that would have a huge impact on Northern Ireland."

He added: "Some argue that separation is a good thing. The more separate identities, and separate lives and the further apart we are, the better. That sort of attitude feeds sectarianism."

He declined to criticise British Prime Minister David Cameron for allowing a referendum, saying: "It doesn't matter how we got here."

However, he added that there is "a right and an obligation" for people in his position to speak out about the risk of leaving the union.

"Boris Johnson and the other Brexiters would dearly love to drown us out," he said.

Asked why Britain has such a dim view of the EU compared with Ireland, he replied: "Because for the last 20 years we've been told by the big circulation newspapers that Europe is bad and it's going to hell in handcart and taking us with it."

Irish Independent

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