Saturday 18 November 2017

Hard border could trigger armed conflict, warns Kenny

Varadkar criticises British PM's soundbites as Taoiseach seeks political solution to the threat

Enda Kenny: 'I don’t want to be alarmist about it but this is a political challenge here.' Photo: Damien Eagers
Enda Kenny: 'I don’t want to be alarmist about it but this is a political challenge here.' Photo: Damien Eagers
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The re-establishment of a hard border in the wake of Brexit could lead to an upsurge in criminality and even armed conflict, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has warned.

While saying he did not want to be "alarmist", Mr Kenny said the threat to the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic needed a political solution.

"The Irish people didn't cause this problem; the challenge is not just psychological - it's also political," he said.

"I have made this point very clearly in that any semblance of a return of what they deem a hard border or borders of the past brings serious issues for this country and I don't mean just in terms of trade or the economy, but going back to before, criminality and even armed conflict.

"I don't want to be alarmist about it but this is a political challenge here."

The statement is the starkest warning yet from the Taoiseach about the implications of the Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU.

It came after Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar appeared to stray from the Government line to criticise British Prime Minister Theresa May for what he believes is her overuse of "soundbites".

Mr Varadkar said he got annoyed when he heard Mrs May say there would be "no return to borders of the past".

Read more: 'Hard Brexit' border controls 'will wreck' the North's fragile peace - Dáil hears

"It annoys me when I hear that soundbite, since she loves talking in slogans and soundbites, that you know she always has this line, that 'we're not going back to the borders of the past', that implies, that we're going to have some sort of borders for the future and you know I don't want to have any borders on our island," he said.

"We got rid of them and the peace process has been a success in part because there is no physical border of any sort."

Mr Varadkar made no mention of the fact the Taoiseach has repeatedly used the same phrase, even as recently as in the Dáil last week.

Speaking to RTÉ's Sean O'Rourke, the minister also asked if Northern Ireland could be allowed to continue taking part in some aspects of the EU.

"Could Northern Ireland not opt into certain programmes, like the CAP which would be of huge benefit to their farmers and ours, and like [EU fund] Interreg so we keep that European money and also the single market?" Mr Varadkar said.

Asked about this approach, Mr Kenny said everything had to be negotiated.

"We have got to have new outcomes because it doesn't just affect the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland but it has global implications. But also the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union is one that is going to be discussed," Mr Kenny said.

The Taoiseach, who travels to Poland on Thursday to discuss Brexit with the Polish prime minister, said it was "difficult to know" when Mrs May would move Article 50.

"We have got to think of new ways of having a relationship between the Republic and Northern Ireland and between the Republic and Great Britain.

"We agreed to retain the Common Travel Area, but this is a new position and it is one that requires a political answer and that's one that we have to be very clear about when Article 50 is pushed," he said.

Irish Independent

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