Robert Peston says he never meant to suggest that Ireland ‘undermined’ Britain

TV presenter moves to clarify controversial remarks made on his Sunday programme

TV presenter Robert Peston made the claim that Ireland has ‘undermined Britain for over 100 years’ during interview with Jacob Rees-Mogg yesterday. Video: ITV

 

Television presenter Robert Peston has moved to clarify remarks he made on his ITV show on Sunday about Ireland “undermining” Britain.

Mr Peston said he never intended to suggest that Ireland has undermined Britain.

On Wednesday he tweeted: “ I did not say that. I would never say that. What I said was there is a history of British governments being torn apart by policy towards Ireland - & Brexit may do that again.”

He then issued a transcript of his interview with prominent Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg.

On his Peston on Sunday programme morning, Mr Peston said to Mr Rees-Mogg: “I mean you are a student of British history. Ireland has undermined, the issue of Ireland in so many ways, (has) undermined British governments you know going back well over 100 years now. I think we’re ...”

He was then interrupted by Mr Rees-Mogg who responded: “Much longer than that, much more than 100 years. It’s a very long and complex history, that’s absolutely true and that’s why there’s such a determination not to have a hard border, not to have a physical infrastructure.”

Mr Peston’s clarification did not satisfy many on social media with Professor Brigid Laffan, who is director of the Robert Schuman Institute in Florence, tweeting that the way the question was framed was designed to deflect responsibility for the Border issue away from Britain and towards Ireland and the EU.

She tweeted: “The problem with the exchange between @Peston & @Jacob_Rees_Mogg was the manner in which ‘Ireland’ was identified as the problem. In fact #Brexit & #UK are the cause of real problems on the island of Ireland.”

Mr Peston’s original comments provoked a lot of commentary online. The Guardian columnist Dawn Foster tweeted: “Sat next to Arlene Foster at breakfast then emerged to hear Robert Peston telling Jacob Rees-Mogg “Ireland have undermined the British government for over 100 years”, in case you wondered if I’m in hell.”

DUP MP Ian Paisley tweeted a link to The Irish Times story and added: “Britain has underwritten Ireland for 1000 years !”

Mr Peston suggested to Mr Rees-Mogg that in the absence of a post-Brexit customs arrangement, any Border checks could “undermine the peace that . . . has been so beneficial over the past few years”.

Mr Rees-Mogg responded by stating that it was “deeply disgraceful that people who wish to keep us in the European Union are threatening the spectre of a return to terror to try and make people accept their views”.

He said that those who raised the prospect of a return to violence “are all committed Europeans, some of them in receipt of pensions from the EU.

“I think it’s deeply disgraceful to raise the spectre of lawlessness and of murder in pursuit of a political objective.”