Friday 18 October 2019

'Destructive and pompous' - Irish union leader criticises Boris Johnson and warns of Brexit disaster

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Bloomberg
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Bloomberg

Anne-Marie Walsh

THE leader of the country’s largest union has strongly criticised Boris Johnson’s “destructive and pompous UK government”.

In a speech to the Siptu biennial conference in Cork, general secretary Joe O’Flynn warned that Ireland was on the brink of a Brexit disaster that will be catastrophic for tens of thousands of workers.

He said he fears a return to unrest and accused the Tories of failing to consider the implication of their actions on people on both sides of the border.

Mr O’Flynn predicted that many employees will “pay a heavy price with the loss of their jobs and livelihoods as rural communities north and south are devastated by the economic fallout".

“Sadly, some have already been affected,” he said.

READ MORE: Simon Coveney says Budget 2020 will be a 'cautious' one designed to protect country from effects of no-deal Brexit

Photo: Stock Image
Photo: Stock Image

He said the union tried to anticipate problems and put in place  measures that help to offset the negative impacts.  But he said there had been a “mind-blowing indifference” to the fragile peace process of the last 21 years.

“It is almost an impossible task when no one knows the direction or, indeed, the ultimate destination of this destructive and pompous UK government,” he said.

He said the economic fallout of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit will be highly negative but the political crisis which may see a return to a hard border and a threat to the Good Friday Agreement will be worse.

READ MORE: Fine Gael accuses opposition parties of ‘reckless’ spending demands

“We fear a return to unrest and all that will entail if the extremists on both sides of the community exploit the situation for their own agenda – and they will,” he said.

“We have seen evidence of it already in recent times and, I believe, all of us on this island of ours will pay a very heavy price for the indulgence of the Tories and their populist politics. It is clear that they have never once stopped to consider the implications of their actions on the lives of our people, north or south.”

Speaking about the housing crisis, he called on the government to introduce emergency legislation to make it illegal for landlords, banks and investment funds to evict tenants and homeowners in mortgage distress.

He said it was an absolute disgrace that in so many cases people were paying more on rent than they would on mortgage payments.

READ MORE: Ireland ‘paying a price’ in bid to tackle housing crisis

“We are in the midst of a housing emergency - and it is a crisis that can only be solved with a major programme of public housing provision,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said there must be a “just transition” for workers who depend on the production of fossil fuels for employment.

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