Return to identity checks on Border would be ‘heartbreaking’– McAleese

Former president is worried power sharing will not return to North any time soon

Former president Mary McAleese has said she would be “heartbroken” if there was a return to identity checks on the Northern Ireland Border.

Mrs McAleese, a native of Belfast, also said she could not see any sign of a return to power sharing, a situation she described as “tragic”.

The two term president who served in office from 1997 to 2011, was asked if she felt the recent breakdown of power sharing at Stormont was overshadowed by Brexit. Replying to the question she said, “At the moment I am very worried that we are not going to have power sharing either in the short or medium term and that is tragic for Northern Ireland.”

She was speaking in an interview on RTÉ while at an event in Edinburgh, Scotland.


“Brexit is like pulling a tooth with 10,000 roots. And I don’t think people have got their heads fully around what is lying at the end of the all those roots,” she said.

“And there will be pain. And part of the pain will be possibly the imposition of controls in a place where we have become so delighted no longer to have such controls.”

It is unusual for a former president to air views on contemporary political issues. However, Mrs McAleese also sounded her concerns over the prospect of a return to Border checks in the final outcome of Brexit negotiations.

“I would be heartbroken if that is where we end up from where we are now,” she said. “I would be deeply, deeply unhappy about it.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times