Brexit border attacks: Varadkar silent on challenge by ex-IRA men

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has failed to respond after ex-IRA men challenged his comments that a hard Brexit could lead to dissidents attacking border checkpoints.

Saturday, 14th September 2019, 7:42 am
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar failed to respond to repeated requests for comment. (Photo: Pacemaker)

In October last year Mr Varadkar held up a copy of the Irish Times to EU leaders, showing a report warning about the return of border checkpoint attacks in the wake of a hard Brexit.

However the attack featured had been on a British checkpoint - not an Irish one - and in recent days Prime Minister Boris Johnson reiterated the UK position that he would not be erecting any checkpoints on infrastructure on the border.

Last week Mr Varadkar conceded that it would be the Irish government that would have to erect some border checkpoints to protect the integrity of the EU frontier.

Two former IRA men, Shane Paul O’Doherty and Anthony McIntyre, then responded that it would be unlikely that dissidents would attack such checkpoints, as they traditionally target British and not Irish authorities.

The News Letter contacted the Irish government at least nine times for a response from Mr Varadkar since Monday evening for a response. However at the time of going to press on Friday afternoon he had still given no response to Mr O’Doherty’s and Mr McIntyre’s comments.

However, speaking in some detail yesterday, he attempted to play down his concessions the previous week, reframing the issue as “hypothetical”.

The Taoiseach stressed that it is “not to be assumed” there will be border checks, but he was answering the question “on a hypothetical level”.

He said: “Our intention in the event of no-deal - and this is a hypothetical answer to a hypothetical question - is that checks will take place at ports and airports and at business level.

“Some checks may need to be placed on the border but we do not have any locations identified.

“We will do everything we can do to avoid checks on or near the border but the position we face is a decision by the UK to leave the EU potentially without a deal, and in that scenario we have a twin objective.

“The first is to uphold the Good Friday Agreement and the second is to protect our position in the European single market so that is going to be very difficult,” he said.