Calls for troop deployment along Londonderry border

PACEMAKER BFST 08-04-2000: Armyn checkpoint South Tyrone.
PACEMAKER BFST 08-04-2000: Armyn checkpoint South Tyrone.

A call to deploy soldiers to the open border between Londonderry and Donegal has been criticised as ‘reckless’ by anti-Brexit campaigners.

Chair of the Northern Ireland Stronger in Europe lobby group, Tom Kelly, expressed dismay after Northern Ireland UKIP Chair David McNarry said troops should be put back on the border streets to stop illegal immigrants, traffickers and terrorists, exploiting what will be the only open frontier into the United Kingdom in the event of Brexit.

“Cameron must deploy soldiers to the Irish border to prepare for a Leave victory in the June 23 EU referendum,” said Mr McNarry, a leading voice in the Leave campaign.

“I support patrols, active patrols. We need to have the Army asserting our sovereignty.

“It’s a hell of a job to ask anybody to do but if you leave it then it’s wide open for migration, for the clever traffickers, for the criminals. They need to see that we’re here and we’ll do everything we can to stop people who wish us harm crossing the border.”

But Mr Kelly said: “If there was ever proof that Brexit cheer leaders in chief would play fast and loose with our peace and our good relations with our closest neighbour and major trading partner this has to be it.

“The stark reality of a future outside the EU as envisaged by Mr McNarry and others is one based on fantasy, fanaticism and a reckless disregard for everything Northern Ireland has fought hard to gain.”

Back in July 2007, Operation Banner, under which the Army provided support to the civil authorities in Northern Ireland, ended after 38 years, and a much smaller garrison of no more than 5,000 service personnel remained in Northern Ireland under Operation Helvetic.

Back in December the Sentinel reported how a briefing paper developed in partnership with academic experts from the Queen’s University, Belfast, and University College Cork, warned Northern Ireland could be destabilised and elements of the Belfast Agreement might have to be torn up if Brexit is approved.