Friday 21 July 2017

Bertie Ahern says May is putting Peace Process in jeopardy

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern Picture By David Conachy
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern Picture By David Conachy
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has accused UK leader Theresa May of putting the peace process in jeopardy.

In an interview with the Observer, Ahern said that the British government appeared to have resigned itself to establishing a border between the north and south once the UK leaves the EU - with potentially devastating results.

"May seems to be switching her language," he said. "She's saying not that there'll be no border, but that the border won't be as difficult as to create problems. I worry far more about what's going to happen with that.

"It will take away the calming effects of an open border. Any attempt to try to start putting down border posts, or to man it in a physical sense as used to be the case, would be very hard to maintain,. It would create a lot of bad feeling."

In its Brexit white paper published last month, the UK stated its aim to have "as seamless and frictionless a border as possible between Northern Ireland and Ireland".

The British secretary of state for exiting the EU, David Davis, has suggested that the arrangements between Norway and Sweden could be a model to copy, where CCTV cameras equipped for automatic number-plate recognition are in place. However the European parliament's Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt appears to scorn such a model, given that there would need to be customs checks and restrictions on free movement.

Ahern said he, too, was unconvinced that current technology could do the job. There are hundreds of crossing points on the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, with 177,000 crossings by lorries a month, 208,000 by vans and 1.85m by cars.

"I haven't found anyone who can tell me what technology can manage this," Ahern said. "The only way of doing this will be a hard border. And any kind of physical border, in any shape, is bad for the peace process," he said.

"Psychologically it feeds badly into the nationalist communities. People have said that this could have the same impact on the nationalist community as the seismic shock of the 1985 Anglo-Irish agreement had on unionists - and I agree with that."

Sunday Independent

Promoted articles

Also in this section