Northern Ireland deputy leader says post-Brexit border could lead to violence

 18 Nov 2016 - 20:53

Northern Ireland deputy leader says post-Brexit border could lead to violence
Northern Irish deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Northern Irish First Minister Arlene Foster and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny take part in a joint press conference after a North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) meeting in Armagh on November 18, 2016. (AFP / Paul FAITH)


ARMAGH, Northern Ireland: The erection of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland after Brexit could lead to an upsurge in violence by dissident Irish nationalists, the province’s deputy leader said on Friday.

Talk of a more physical border between Ireland, which remains an EU member, and Northern Ireland, which will leave the bloc with the rest of the UK, has angered some nationalists who want eventual Irish unification.

“We still have people who are committed to violence and who would wish to push us back to the past and who would seek - if there was any effort made to install a hard border between North and South - to use that against the peace process,” said Martin McGuinness.

“The threat to the peace process should not be in any way underplayed,” added the former Irish Republican Army commander who is now part of a power-sharing coalition with pro-British unionists.

Military checkpoints were dismantled when the 1998 peace deal ended three decades of violence between Catholic nationalists seeking a united Ireland and Protestant unionists who wanted to keep Northern Ireland British.

While both British and Irish leaders have said they want to avoid a return of border checkpoints, they cannot be completely ruled out until Britain and the European Union conclude an agreement on their future trade relations.

Britain in May raised the threat level from dissident Northern Ireland militants to “substantial”, but Prime Minister Theresa May said last month that there was no reason to think Brexit would undermine Northern Ireland’s peace deal.

In March, a group known as new IRA carried out an attack in Belfast which seriously injured a prison officer when a bomb exploded under his van. He later died from his injuries.

Overall, 52 percent of the United Kingdom voted in favour of leaving the EU in June’s referendum, but 56 percent of those voting in Northern Ireland backed remaining in the bloc.

McGuinness’ Sinn Fein party campaigned against Brexit while his coalition partners in the Democratic Unionist Party supported it.

DUP member of parliament Nigel Dodds earlier this month described it as “highly irresponsible” for people to talk up the prospect of increased violence as a result of Brexit.

(Reporting by Ian Graham; Editing by Conor Humphries and Andrew Heavens)

BRITAIN-EU/NIRELAND-VIOLENCE:N.Ireland deputy leader says post-Brexit border could lead to violence