DOWN­ING

ON POL­I­TICS

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS -

WE rarely get good news about Brexit. It’s not a happy theme — but it’s one we have to con­tin­u­ally face be­cause of its huge ram­i­fi­ca­tions for Ir­ish farm­ing, agribusi­ness and the econ­omy gen­er­ally.

Every other day we learn of a new com­pli­ca­tion — one that was not pre­vi­ously fore­seen, but once cited, its im­pli­ca­tions be­come in­stantly clear. In a sense the fo­cus on the eco­nomic fall­out is en­tirely un­der­stand­able — but it is also vi­tal that other as­pects are not ne­glected.

Every EU mem­ber state has its eco­nomic woes and there is only so much sym­pa­thy avail­able in a busy, com­pet­i­tive world. How­ever, peace and se­cu­rity are more el­e­men­tal and can com­mand more EU at­ten­tion.

The Ir­ish Govern­ment has led on the is­sue of the 1998 Good Fri­day Agree­ment and the need to keep un­der­pin­ning a frag­ile peace in North­ern Ire­land with pros­per­ity and trade. But the spec­tre of a “hard Brexit,” with the UK leav­ing both the sin­gle mar­ket and cus­toms union, inevitably risks cre­at­ing a “hard Bor­der”.

We have had warn­ings from the North­ern side that this risks en­cour­ag­ing so-called “dis­si­dent repub­li­cans” (an ap­palling mis­nomer in it­self ) to re­turn to vi­o­lence with at­tacks on cus­toms in­stal­la­tions. Lead­ing fig­ures in the PSNI have raised the is­sue.

There is am­ple his­tor­i­cal prece­dent. The IRA bor­der cam­paign of the 1950s ma­jored in cus­toms and po­lice sta­tion at­tacks. Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter, Theresa May, last Fri­day re­it­er­ated her de­ter­mi­na­tion that there would be “no phys­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture on the Ir­ish bor­der”.

That as­ser­tion im­plies there will be an elec­tronic bor­der, with the prospect of cus­toms dec­la­ra­tions, caus­ing ex­pense and need­less work. Se­condly, there will have to be cus­toms in­stal­la­tions of some kind, and they will need to be de­fended from resid­ual self-styled pa­tri­ots.

Two gar­daí have raised the is­sue as viewed from An Garda Síochána’s stand­point.

James Mor­ris­roe of Ca­van/Mon­aghan and Bren­dan O’Connor of Done­gal, wrote frankly in yes­ter­day’s Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent about the chal­lenges of try­ing to po­lice the Bor­der from Dun­dalk to Derry. They harked back to the foot and mouth out­break in March 2001 which brought the coun­try to a near stand­still for three months. It meant the Bor­der had to be pa­trolled to pre­vent il­le­gal an­i­mal move­ments which could spread the dis­ease.

This in­volved the trans­fer of hun­dreds of gar­daí to bor­der sta­tions — a tem­po­rary so­lu­tion to what hap­pily turned out to be a tem­po­rary prob­lem. Peo­ple fa­mil­iar with Bor­der coun­try will be aware of the prob­lems which al­ready ex­ist as many paramil­i­taries slipped seam­lessly into rack­ets.

Crim­i­nals avail of the two ju­ris­dic­tions to evade ar­rest. A more for­malised Bor­der would fur­ther aid this ne­far­i­ous en­deav­our. But polic­ing a hard Bor­der would also re­quire the ded­i­cated work of many hun­dreds of ex­tra gar­daí.

What a fur­ther waste of time, money and hu­man en­deav­our. The tax­payer would be hit with fur­ther bills for ex­tra gar­daí and their train­ing for new roles.

The al­ter­na­tive would be to stretch ex­ist­ing polic­ing al­ready un­der enough pres­sure. This dispir­it­ing prospect must be a mes­sage to Govern­ment to re-dou­ble ef­forts to en­sure a hard Brexit just does not hap­pen.

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