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Thursday 19 September 2019

Coveney tells Rees Mogg to study Irish history

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg speaks to the media next to Parliament. NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images
Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg speaks to the media next to Parliament. NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

PEOPLE like Brexiteer Jacob Rees Mogg “would do well to focus on Irish history”, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said.

The Foreign Affairs Minister has urged legislators in Westminster who are opposed to the ‘backstop’ to educate themselves on the story of Northern Ireland.

While Mr Coveney is usually very reserved in his comments about UK politics, he told journalists at a pre-Christmas briefing that MPs “need to remind themselves of the violence and tragedy and division linked to the challenges that we've had on the island of Ireland north and south and within Northern Ireland itself”.

He said that is why the Irish and UK governments are “trying to ensure we never go back”.

Mr Rees Mogg, who has been an ardent critic of British Prime Minister Theresa May, has repeatedly insisted the backstop is not necessary.

He is among the MPs in Mrs May’s party who are committed to ensuring that the Withdrawal Agreement does not pass the House of Commons in the New Year.

Today he tweeted: “No deal means no hard border so no need for the backstop.”

Asked to response, Mr Coveney said: “I'm not going to get into commenting on Jacob Rees Mogg or the comments that he makes, other than to say the Irish Government from the very outset saw the dangers and continues to see the dangers of the potential corrosive effect of border infrastructure between the two jurisdictions on this island, upsetting the normality that so many people have worked so hard to create over the last 20 years and before that.

“Many people paid the ultimate price because of the absence of a successful peace process.”

He went on to say: “People like Jacob Rees Mogg in my view would do well to focus on Irish history.”

The Tánaiste said Mrs May understands the sensitivities in Northern Ireland and “to her credit has made a very strong defence of the need for an insurance mechanism and a fallback position which has become known as the backstop”.

Asked by Independent.ie how Ireland plans to avoid a hard border in the event that the UK crashes out without a deal, Mr Coveney said nothing will happen in that area while the Withdrawal Agreement is on the table.

“For us to be exploring or talking about other options that are not easily put together is not wise,” he said.

The Tánaiste argued that the Irish government and EU cannot take sole responsibility for resolving the border question.

“The UK has an obligations under the Good Friday Agreement. They are shared co-guarantors of that agreement. The British Prime Minister has said many times that physical border infrastructure should not and cannot re-emerge on the island of Ireland. Karen Bradley has said ‘deal or no deal we have to ensure there is no border infrastructure on the island of Ireland’,” he said.

“This is all happening because of a decision the United Kingdom has made that Ireland is trying to respond to in a reasonable and respectful way to protect our own interests.

“ Primary responsibility here lies in London, not in Dublin in relation to contingency in the absence of being able to ratify a deal that the British government signed up. I think it’s important that’s where the focus should remain.”

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