Monday 16 September 2019

Claim that British PM toned down Brexit language after bomb is 'reckless'

Micheal Martin. Picture: Frank McGrath
Micheal Martin. Picture: Frank McGrath
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

A claim by a Government official that a dissident republican attack on the Border last week forced UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to "tone down" his language on Brexit has been branded as "dangerous and reckless".

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin demanded that Tánaiste Simon Coveney distance himself from the remarks attributed to an anonymous senior official close to the Foreign Affairs Minister.

A spokesman for Mr Coveney last night insisted there was "absolutely no place" for violence in Irish society, but responded to the criticism, saying it was "foolish of anyone to play politics with that for headlines".

The row comes after the 'Sunday Independent' revealed that a senior official close to Mr Coveney believed the attack in Fermanagh led to Mr Johnson rethinking his strategy towards Ireland. "The Brits got a bit friendlier to us after the attempt to murder PSNI officers," the official said.

Mr Martin last night called on Mr Coveney to disassociate himself from the suggestion that Mr Johnson was influenced by the terror attack in Fermanagh.

"Any suggestion that dissident terrorist activity would influence... British government policy is wholly unhelpful and only serves to give credence to the criminals who carry out such atrocious acts," he said.

Mr Martin said he regarded the remarks from the anonymous senior official as "dangerous and reckless", adding they "serve no purpose other than to heighten tensions".

"I would like to hear the Tánaiste distance himself from this dangerous narrative," he added.

Mr Coveney's spokesman responded to Mr Martin's remarks, saying: "There is absolutely no place for men or women of violence in our societies.

"The Irish and British governments are united to the core on that and it is foolish of anyone to play politics with that for headlines."

Separately, Business Minister Heather Humphreys insisted that Mr Johnson's meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron demonstrated "strong solidarity" on the need for the backstop to avoid a hard Border in Ireland.

Mr Johnson is bidding to scrap the measure and has warned there will be a no-deal Brexit if it is not dropped.

Ms Humphreys told RTÉ Radio it was good to hear Mr Johnson acknowledge that the onus is on the British government to find a viable alternative to the backstop.

Elsewhere, European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee will today outline how Brexit may affect consumers purchasing goods online from the UK in a visit to An Post's mail centre in Portlaoise.

She has said a no-deal Brexit will bring increased VAT and import tariffs.

"It's so important that people are aware that buying online will change when the UK leaves the EU and changes will be immediate if they leave without a deal," said Ms McEntee.

Irish Independent

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