NI border after Brexit would be ‘reversal of Peace Process’ - Tánaiste

Ongoing stalemate over the Stormont Assembly shows politics in region “far from stable”

The Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has said the reintroduction of a border in Ireland would be a “setback”. Photograph:  Eric Luke / The Irish Times

The Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has said the reintroduction of a border in Ireland would be a “setback”. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

The Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has said the reintroduction of a border in Ireland would be a “setback” which would represent “a reversal of the direction of the Peace Process”.

Speaking to a gathering of British and Irish business leaders in Dublin last night, the Minister for Enterprise and Innovation urged the UK to “think again” on issues such as the single market and customs union.

Ms Fitzgerald said “time is running out” and “anxieties are rising” in relation to Brexit across business communities as well as across the wider population of Ireland.

On the specific issue of Northern Ireland and the Peace Process, the Tánaiste remarked on how the ongoing stalemate over the Stormont Assembly is illustrative of how politics in the region is still “far from stable”.

She described considerations around the impact of a physical border as having psychological as well as emotional ramifications for citizens in both jurisdictions.

“Any reintroduction of the border, however much people think it can be managed or mitigated, will represent a reversal of the direction of travel of the Peace Process of the last 20 years.

“I would say to you tonight that anything that represents division or that brings back features of darker days can only be seen as a setback,” she said.

Ms Fitzgerald voiced her hope that the UK will introduce a realistic blueprint for an “orderly withdrawal” from the EU which does not produce a border on the Island of Ireland or “set the Peace Process backwards”.

While her speech dealt with the “new and disruptive challenges” that Brexit poses, it was also tinged with optimism about exploiting business opportunities that may arise from the new arrangement.

“Everything should be and is on the table,” she said.

Ms Fitzgerald also reaffirmed the State’s commitment to the EU project going forward.

“Ireland has been a proud, and committed, and I would say very constructive member of the EU since we joined in 1973, and we will continue that of course into the future. That is unquestionably in Ireland’s interest, and is supported consistently by a vast majority of people here.

“Brexit or no Brexit, Ireland’s future is at the heart of Europe, and firmly at the EU table,” she said.