Return of The Hard Border

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From top: Sinn Féin Remain poster in Northern ireland earlier this month; Derek Mooney

We have not spent decades of painstaking negotiation to break down barriers for them to be risen higher by a battle for the leadership of the Tory party.

Derek Mooney writes:

For as long as I can recall it has been a central tenet of Unionism that the status of Northern Ireland should not change without the political consent of the majority of the people living there.

Yet, that it precisely what is set to happen over the coming years, with senior members of the DUP cheering it on

Despite the fact that a clear majority – some 56% – of the people of Northern Ireland who voted, including large numbers from both traditions, stated that they wanted to remain in the EU, their wishes are about to be ignored.

It seems that a majority in the North is only a majority when the DUP is a part of it.

Thursday’s referendum result has changed things dramatically for the North and for the whole island. There will be the immediate implications, including many of the ones for which the Government has prepared, as set out in its contingency plans published last Friday.

But there are others, two of which I would like to set out briefly here.

First, is the integration of the economic interests of communities across this whole island. As the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said:

“…there can be no return to a physical border across this island. There must remain freedom of movement for people, goods and services across Ireland… we must ensure that any border is only operational around the island of Ireland, not across it.”

This last point is vitally important. Though the Brexiteers, including the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Teresa Villiers, dismissed any suggestion of implications for the border during the campaign, it is clear that there will.

If and when the UK eventually leaves the EU that border would potentially become a frontier between an EU State and non-EU State.

This is ominous as the EU is already looking at ways of increasing security at its external boundaries, as evidenced last week by the European Parliament’s LIBE committee vote to “systematically check all EU citizens entering or leaving the EU

There is an overwhelming economic, social and political case against resuscitating the 499km border between the two parts of this island as an international boundary.

We have not spent decades of painstaking negotiation to break down barriers for them to be risen higher by a battle for the leadership of the Tory party.

The EU has been an important, though unheralded, part of the peace building process. Between 1995 and 2013 the EU spent €2 billion on promoting reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the border counties.

But it has done more than that. It has provided a supra-national cross border framework and support that has avoided any major policy cleavages across this island.

Rather than having the EU border across this island, let it run around the island with the customs and border controls sensibly located at ports and airports.

But we need to go further. We need to recognise that despite differences in identity, that Northern Ireland has and will continue to have a great deal of economic and social common interest with the Republic.

To give expression to this common interest the Irish Government to needs to fashion an all-island EU strategy and use its seat at the Council of the European Union to champion the interests of Northern Ireland, particularly the border regions, along with the interests of the 26 counties.

The government should start reaching out now to civic society across the North to become its connection to the EU and should formalise these relationships, perhaps initially through re-establishing the Forum on Europe on an all island basis.

Second, is the loss of the UK as a valuable EU ally. In two or three years’ time we will no longer have the UK to help us act on a brake on EU measures of which we disapprove.

Given our similar structure and similar outlooks, in the area of social dialogue for example, our two governments have – regardless of political hue – worked together. During the recent discussions on the introduction of an EU wide system of Data Protection, Ireland and the UK worked together to make significant and sensible changes.

But the UK has opted to go and so we need to look for new allies. We need to look to the smaller EU states who would share our concern at the excessive influence of the larger states, but also to the other like-minded nations on these islands.

To this end an Taoiseach should be reaching out to Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in the coming weeks to see how Ireland and Scotland could work together in our mutual benefit as the fate of the UK, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the EU unfolds.

Enda may have no choice but to start talking with Nicola Sturgeon, as she seems to be the only leader on the neighbouring island with anything even approaching a plan for the future..

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil led government 2004 – 2010. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

31 thoughts on “Return of The Hard Border

  1. Tish Mahorey

    I don’t think Brexit is actually going to come to pass. They’ll stall on Article 50 and there’ll be mounting pressure to reverse the Leave decision.

    It’s becoming very clear that mindless idiots are the reason Leave won.

    1. CousinJack

      Yeah, well informed commentary like this is not liely to soften the leave vote, the more sh*te about racism and the undemocratic nature of the brexit vote commentators throw around the stronger the leave vote becomes

      1. Nigel

        Is that why they whipped up all the racists? Hah, that’ll mean they’ll have to throw ‘racist’ around and that’ll harden the racists! Admirable strategy. Could never backfire in any way for anyone other than mad-dog demagogues!

        1. Yep

          Are you saying there is well over 10 million confirmed racists in England?

          That’s pretty racist Nidge.

          1. Nigel

            Are you saying there was no racist impetus behind this campaign? Sido doesn’t know what xenophobia OR bigotry mean? The calculated cluelessness of both these replies really does reflect the brexit campaign quite well, I think,

          2. Sido

            Ooooo witty – I see you’ve lost none of your sharp edge Nige
            That you argue enthusiastically for a dictatorship by a self-serving elite, merely shows how brainwashed you are.

    2. DubLoony

      Technically, parliament can override the referendum as its not leally binding.
      Only the leaving country can trigger Articale 50.
      They could stall it for years. But as of the next meeting of EU heads, UK will be booted out of any new decision making.

  2. Tish Mahorey

    A federation of ROI, NI and Scotland could be an interesting option to explore.

    The Celtic League of Nations :0

    1. Harry Molloy

      I heard Mary McAlese said something along those lines, they could remain in the EU and the Commonwealth keeping the queen as the head of state

  3. CousinJack

    EU 2B on reconcillation over 20 years
    England 8B subvention to keep NI running every year
    Which is more important to peace on thsi Iskand?

  4. some old queen

    I agree with what Derek and others are saying but it is diplomatic soft speak. It won’t be like the last time, it will be much worst because it is to prevent immigrants.

    The real problem is that The Good Friday Agreement will become jeopardised so all bets are off as to what happens then. Maybe that is the real agenda of the DUP?

  5. Sido

    It’s a follow the money thing. Same thing with Scotland. If they just had that extra 15Bn per annum the Brits give them they would be home and dry.
    This Mooney guys a clown, I’m quite looking forward to my visit to Eniskillen Asda in a few years time.

      1. Nigel

        Brexit is a result of the new post-plan-for-the-outcome-you’re-campaigning-for post-think-of-the-consequences politics. That’s for pointy-headed elites and faceless bureaucrats.

      2. Sido

        >And your opinion on the hard border is?
        As I said I’m quite looking forward to going to Eniskillen Asda in a few years time.

        1. some old queen

          Tnx. Just throwing this question out into the internet.

          How can it be that Indians and Pakistanis were so accepted into English culture that curry became the national dish yet white eastern Europeans have caused such resentment?

  6. Scundered

    This is a ridiculous move by SF…. unsurprisingly inflammatory. Nobody wants a hard border again, not even the unionists, there simply is no demand.

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