Dukes apologises ‘unreservedly’ over comment that Border people have violence ‘in their blood’

Former Fine Gael leader says he had ‘absolutely not’ intended to offend people

Former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes has apologised “unreservedly” for suggesting people from the Border region have violence “in their blood”.

Pressure had been mounting on Mr Dukes throughout Thursday due to the reaction to his comments on the RTÉ documentary series Quinn Country.

During an interview on Today FM’s The Last Word programme, he said: “Those remarks were entirely unjustified; they offended a great many people and I apologise unreservedly.”

There had been severe criticism of that aspect of Mr Dukes’s contribution which sparked a furious reaction from TDs from the area, with the comments branded as “insulting and offensive” and “extraordinarily ignorant and stupid”.

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Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys has said that comments are “wrong” and that Mr Dukes should apologise. “It was the people in the Border area and our communities who suffered most as a result of the violence carried out by criminals and terrorists. Our communities stood against this violence for decades,” the Cavan-Monaghan Fine Gael TD said.

The Quinn Country documentary explored the aftermath of the collapse of Seán Quinn’s business empire. It outlined how Quinn Group premises, property and equipment were subjected to repeated vandalism attacks in the wake of Mr Quinn losing control of the group after receivers were appointed over his debts of almost €3 billion to Anglo and the group’s debts of €1.1 billion to the bondholders. The former billionaire has denied any involvement in the vandalism and has attributed the campaign to the anger felt by some supporters in the local community over his loss of the businesses

The final episode of the three-part documentary detailed the extensive campaign of threats, violence and intimidation against former Quinn Group executives and property over recent years, culminating in the abduction and assault on former Quinn executive Kevin Lunney in 2019.

Mr Dukes played a key role in Mr Quinn’s removal from the group while State-appointed chairman of the nationalised former Anglo Irish Bank in 2011. He told the documentary that people from the Border area have a tendency to turn to violence. “They are living in communities that have a long history of violence of different kinds and they will more easily turn to it than anybody else will,” he said. “And I am not saying they are different animals from the rest of us but whether they have Provo links or B Special links or whatever, it is something that is nearer to the way they think than it would be to somebody in south Tipperary or anywhere like that.”

Cavan-Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Niamh Smyth said she is “disappointed and saddened” by Mr Dukes’s “loose and sweeping statement” which she said was “disrespectful and in very poor taste”.

Sinn Féin Donegal TD Pádraig MacLochlainn said they were “extraordinarily ignorant and stupid” comments. “We are not surprised. Alan Dukes was one of the political leaders that failed the people of the Border counties over the years.”

His party colleague in Louth, Ruairí Ó Murchú said the comments were “nonsense”. He suggested Mr Dukes has “a particular notion” that may relate to his political views but “The fact is Border people are no different to any other people in Ireland.”

Independent Donegal TD Thomas Pringle described Mr Dukes as an “idiot” and said that if his comments were true, “it’s the product of the neglect of the ruling class that Dukes represents that makes people from Border areas that way”.

Cavan-Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith said Mr Dukes’ comments were “outrageous” and “ill-informed” while Labour TD for Louth Ged Nash said it was “an offensive and divisive caricature perpetuated by people who don’t know the Border region at all and who really should know better.”

“It is true to say that the Border region has suffered from more than its fair share of violence over the years, violence that has always been condemned and rejected by the vast, vast majority of people regardless of the ‘cause’.”

Mr Dukes responded to criticism of his remarks saying: “I think there’s a lot of political posturing in the criticism from Sinn Féin TDs and from others.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a media monitor and reporter