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Leah Farrell
Border Dispute

Fianna Fáil European election rivals Blaney and Cowen in spat over border checks

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen said yesterday that he was in favour of random spot checks on the Border.

THERE IS A rift among Fianna Fáil’s candidates in the upcoming European elections over the party’s position on the border with Northern Ireland.

Donegal-based candidate for Midlands North-West Niall Blaney has described as “ill-judged” his Offaly counterpart Barry Cowen’s suggestion that r a “hardened” border was needed to handle the migration crisis.

Both men are running for Fianna Fail in the sprawling Midlands North-West constituency, with Mayo-based Lisa Chambers also running for the party. 

Cowen yesterday told the Irish Times yesterday that he was in favour of random spot checks on the border, along with increasing deportations of people seeking asylum here.

He told the paper that “if there is a fear of being caught, the numbers will decrease” coming to Ireland.

Cowen added that his own party was “on the wrong side of the discussion” around immigration at present.

Outlining his strong disagreement with Cowen’s position, Blaney, a Senator, said in a statement today: 

“We have fought long and hard to get rid of border controls on this island. I am angered that anyone in the Dáil would suggest that after the Good Friday Agreement that this is only a problem on one side of the border,” he said. 

Blaney added that the migration crisis is a “European problem” and should be handled in that wider context.

“The call by my colleague Barry Cowen for the border to be hardened to handle a serious escalation of the ongoing migration crisis is ill judged,” Blaney said.

“Whilst Barry’s comments do express the genuine alarm and frustration experienced by people everywhere it is a frustration felt not just in the south but across the entire island. This is not the way to go.”

He added that he had the opportunity to be a “border voice in the European Parliament” and vowed not to “abandon” communities in the region.

Laois-Offaly TD Cowen won his party’s selection race to stand as a candidate in the Midlands-North West constituency in next month’s election.

But Blaney was the surprise addition to the Fianna Fáil ticket for Midlands North-West, along with Mayo-based Lisa Chambers.

Fianna Fáil haven’t won a seat in this constituency since Pat Gallagher lost his seat a decade ago.

Speaking today, Blaney further called on Taoiseach Simon Harris to call an emergency meeting of the Cabinet to ensure that immediate action takes place.

“The Taoiseach needs to realise the extent of the crisis. If we want to understand what’s driving the anti-immigration sentiment, it’s the inability of the Department for Integration and the Department of Justice to deal with this crisis over the past two years,” he said.

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