Irish deputy PM Simon Coveney warns peace process at risk if hard border returns

Posted On: 
3rd December 2017

Violence could return to Northern Ireland if a hard border returns to the island after Brexit, according to the Republic's deputy prime minister.

Simon Coveney with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
Credit: 
PA Images

Simon Coveney said all political parties must work to "maintain and support peace and harmony" in the country as the UK leaves the European Union.

In a clear swipe at the DUP, he also warned that the row - which threatens to prevent the Brexit negotiations moving on to the next phase - must not become a "green versus orange" debate.

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Dublin has demanded that the UK government provide a written guarantee that the current invisible border between the Republic and Northern Ireland will be maintained after Brexit.

But that has angered Brexiteers, who have claimed that border checks will be unnecessary, and that it will be Ireland and the EU to blame is they are rebuilt.

Appearing on the Andrew Marr Show, Mr Coveney said: "We would like to see a solution that solves the border issues that involves all of the United Kingdom acting as one, but we also have to say that if that is not possible, then of course both governments need to recognise that Northern Ireland has unique challenges and all parties in Northern Ireland need to be listened to - not just one - to ensure that we maintain and support peace and harmony on the island of Ireland, which so many people have worked so hard to create over the last two decades."

Responding to his Tory critics, the Fine Gael politician said the Irish government was simply "sticking to a consistent position that we have had for months".

He said: "Perhaps the only thing that has changed is the understanding that others have that Ireland is very determined to actually hold its position because we feel we have an obligation to ensure that the border issues are a significant factor in terms of the considerations around Brexit.

"We cannot allow some kind of collateral damage or unintended consequence of Brexit to have the recreation of a border on the island of Ireland. I have been careful to avoid a green versus orange debate in the context of Northern Ireland here, and instead we're trying to protect the status quo that keeps people peacefully engaging with each other."

He added: "The Irish government is not being unreasonable here, We're simply asking questions that need more credible answers before we can allow this process to move on to phase two."

Mr Coveney's comments come ahead of a crucial meeting between Theresa May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels tomorrow, where the Government hopes a breakthrough will be made in the stalled Brexit talks.