Bertie Ahern rejects idea of technological post-Brexit Border
Former taoiseach says any physical Border would be bad for the peace process
Committee chairwoman Kathleen Funchion of Sinn Féin said Leo Varadkar “could have been a little more diplomatic” in his recent pronouncements about Brexit. Photograph: Alan Betson
Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has poured scorn on the proposed British “technological solutions” to the Border in a post-Brexit situation.
In a submission to a new report, Brexit and the Future of Ireland: Uniting Ireland and its People in Peace and Prosperity, the former leader of Fianna Fáil said more than two million vehicles a month crossed the Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
“There are real doubts that current technology could do the job, given the nature of the Irish Border. There are 300 crossing points on the Border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, with 177,000 crossings by lorries a month, 208,000 by vans and 1.85 million by cars.”
The report by the Oireachtas committee on the implementation of the Belfast Agreement recommended a fresh version of the New Ireland Forum, which operated in the 1980s “to set a pathway to achieve the peaceful reunification of Ireland”.
Mr Ahern told the committee the British government appeared to have been “switching their language” on Brexit.
He said the return of a border would take away the calming effects of an open border.
“Undoubtedly, any attempt to reintroduce Border posts, or to man it in a physical sense as used to be the case, would be very hard to maintain, and would create a lot of bad feeling.”
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Mr Ahern said his view was that any kind of physical border, “in any shape”, would be bad for the peace process and would “psychologically feed badly into the nationalist communities”.
Meanwhile, the report rapporteur Senator Mark Daly accused Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of engaging in “megaphone diplomacy”, a phrase employed by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson of the DUP in recent days.
“The idea that asking the Brexiteers to come up with ideas about how the Border should be managed is I think foolhardy,” he said.
Mr Daly said Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, had called for “imaginative” solutions to the problems that would be created by the UK’s departure from the EU.
“If we are waiting for the Brexiteers to come up with imaginative solutions we could be waiting a long time, and then the EU will say that we didn’t ask.
“If we don’t ask for imaginative solutions and put in place imaginative solutions and suggestions then it will only be the Irish Government’s fault if they aren’t put in place.”
Committee chairwoman Kathleen Funchion of Sinn Féin said Mr Varadkar “could have been a little more diplomatic” in his recent pronouncements about Brexit.
Last Friday, Mr Varadkar said Ireland would not design an economic border for Brexiteers.
However, Ms Funchion said Mr Varadkar’s objection to a hard Border was something many unionists could agree with.
The report also states the eligibility of Northern Ireland for receipt of EU structural funds post-Brexit should be clarified as a matter of urgency.
Any passport controls between Ireland and the UK should be along the same lines as for people travelling between the countries from 1939 to 1952, and there should not be a return to passport controls on the Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.