Hard border will feed Derry disaffection: ex-diplomat

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An ex-diplomat who negotiated the Good Friday Agreement has warned a ‘hard Brexit’ will seriously undermine the peace accord and feed political disaffection in Derry.

Dr. Ray Bassett, writing in the Sunday Business Post, warned one of the major attractions of the Good Friday Agreement for nationalists was the dismantlement of the border.

“These physical structures, which dated back to the partition of Ireland, were to be dismantled,” he wrote.

“The ugly forts at places such as Cloghogue, Aughnacloy, Rosslea, the Camel’s Hump in Strabane, and so on, would be removed from the landscape.”

He suggested where was a danger political disaffection could grow post-Brexit.

“There is a lot of disillusionment in nationalist areas in the North at the moment and a high degree of cynicism.

“There is also a fear in places, such as West Belfast and areas of Derry, that there is a growing level of activity by dissidents, including punishment shootings.

“The big drop in political participation by nationalists, including in the Brexit referendum, is a bad omen.”

Dr. Bassett argued that a hard border would be inconsistent with the commitment in the Good Friday Agreement “to strive in every practical way towards reconciliation and rapprochement”.

“The concept of parity of esteem underpins the agreement. The removal of any outward sign of the border meant that people who regarded themselves as Irish in places such as Tyrone, Belfast, Derry and so on could much better exercise that choice.”