Brexit: Adams says Foster ‘disrespecting’ will of Northern Ireland

SDLP leader accuses DUP of ‘feigned outrage’ over Taoiseach’s Brexiteers remarks

Gerry Adams: “The Irish Government has a responsibility to defend the Remain vote.”  Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty

Gerry Adams: “The Irish Government has a responsibility to defend the Remain vote.” Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty


The leaders of Sinn Féin and the SDLP have supported Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s recent remarks that the Government is not going to “design a border for the Brexiteers”.

Gerry Adams and his SDLP counterpart, Colum Eastwood, are among the politicians who will meet Mr Varadkar on Friday during his first visit to Northern Ireland as Taoiseach. The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, who criticised Mr Varadkar’s remarks, and the Alliance leader, Naomi Long, will also meet him.

The Ulster Unionist Party leader, Robin Swann, is unable to attend because of diary commitments, but he will meet Mr Varadkar at a later stage.

On Wednesday Ms Foster said that Mr Varadkar, in hoping Brexit would not happen, was “disrespecting the will of the British people”. On Thursday Mr Adams responded by accusing the DUP leader of “disrespecting the will of the people in the North, who voted to remain within the EU in last year’s referendum”.

“Hard economic border”

He added: “The Irish Government has a responsibility to defend the Remain vote and to challenge any proposals that threaten a hard economic border on the island of Ireland.

“Sinn Féin believes that the best way to defend the Good Friday Agreement, and to ensure that our economies are protected during Brexit, is for the North to be designated a special status within the EU.

“External international EU land borders and border controls within the island by land, air or sea must be strongly opposed. This is a particular challenge for the Irish Government, which has a place in the Brexit negotiations, and which must win the support of the other EU member states to supporting special status for the North.”

Mr Eastwood said he would “encourage the Taoiseach to stick rigidly by his position that there can be no new economic or physical border imposed on the island of Ireland . . . The Irish Government should not and cannot move from this position. We are equal members of the EU 27, but Ireland is more equal than the others on the issue of Brexit: we stand to lose most.

“An Taoiseach should not be put off by the DUP’s feigned outrage over his recent comments. People should not confuse statements of diplomatic reality with statements of extremity. The Irish Government’s position is rooted in reality. The DUP’s position is rudderless.”

“Damage to North’s economy”

The SDLP leader said Brexit was an “issue so much bigger than the DUP, yet in their arrogance they continue to believe that they can enforce a border on this island which would deeply damage the North’s economy.

“Even if there existed a misguided political will to impose a hardening of the land border here, the DUP and their friends in a divided British government need to wake up to the reality that an economic border is unenforceable.”

The former UUP leader Tom Elliott meanwhile called on the Taoiseach to release files relating to the Troubles, including those about the Kingsmill massacre of 1976, when the IRA shot dead 10 Protestant workmen in south Armagh.

“Given the amount of IRA attacks launched from the Republic, the arms dumps located there and the successful way the Republic was used by terrorist fugitives fleeing justice in Northern Ireland, we are in no doubt that files held in the Republic could shed light on many of the murders and incidents which took place in Northern Ireland during the Troubles,” he said.

“For some time now we have been seeking a response to our request for information held by the Irish Directorate of Military Intelligence on terrorist atrocities such as Kingsmill to be made available to the appropriate authorities here.”