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Alan Dukes apologises 'unreservedly' over comments about 'border people' and violence

Dukes said border people were “more easily turned” to violence.

FORMER FINE GAEL leader Alan Dukes has apologised “unreservedly” for comments he made on RTÉ’s documentary on Sean Quinn about people living in the border area and violence.

Dukes, who held various ministerial portfolios and was leader of the opposition, was criticised by three Cavan-Monaghan TDs for remarks he made on last night’s episode of Quinn Country, saying:

“Border people have it in their blood. They are living in communities that have a long history of violence of different kinds. They are more easily turned to it than anybody else to it.”

“And I’m not saying they’re different animals to the rest of us, but whether they have Provo links or B Special links or whatever, it’s something that is nearer to the way they think than it would be to somebody in south Tipperary or something like that.”

Dukes made the remarks in the context of violence and intimidation following the takeover of the Quinn companies.

Speaking this evening on Today FM’s The Last Word with Matt Cooper, Dukes apologised for his comments. 

“Those remarks were entirely unjustified. They offended a great many people and I apologise unreservedly,” Dukes said. 

He said that he was thinking about the “wave of violence and intimidation that followed the action that we took to rescue what we could from the Quinn Group”.

“There was, as you know, very strong, personal violence,” he said.

“There was sabotage of material and equipment, and intimidation – all of that was dreadful.

“It didn’t in any sense justify for the remarks I made, which as I say, I apologise for without any qualification.”

It comes after Cavan-Monaghan TD for Fine Gael, Heather Humphreys called for Dukes to issue an apology over the remarks earlier today.

“Alan Dukes’ comments were wrong and he should apologise. It was the people in the border area and our communities who suffered most as a result of the violence carried out by criminals and terrorists. Our communities stood against this violence for decades,” she said.

Speaking this morning on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, Dukes acknowledged that his comments were not well phrased.

He said: “I shouldn’t have said it in the way that I said.”

“What I meant to convey was that the protests that were there and the emotion that was there, were seized upon by people who are violent and who carried out acts of sabotage and despicable personal violence against people. And I deplore that.”

Dukes said that people in border counties were not violent people, but that they have suffered more from violence than people who live in other parts of the country.

“I’m not saying everybody does that [engages in violence], I’m saying it happens more quickly in border areas.”

“It’s part of the history of that whole area of the country,” he told the radio show.

Sinn Féin TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Matt Carthy, said that Dukes had effectively “doubled down” with his comments this morning and that what he had said was indicative of prevalent attitudes within some sections of Fine Gael.

“Alan Dukes’ comments about our community were completely unacceptable and he should withdraw and apologise for them immediately,” Carthy stated.

“He has caused a great deal of hurt and offence and anger.

“It goes some way towards explaining the fact that our communities have been abandoned by successive Fine Gael governments.”

The Monaghan native added that his community will not accept being looked down on by Dukes “or anyone else”.

Fianna Fáil TD for the same constituency, Brendan Smith, said the comments were “outrageous and completely dismissive of the overwhelming majority of decent people in the wider border region who abhor violence of any kind and stood against it over decades”.  

Deputy Smith added: “I am outraged by the ill-informed comments made by Dukes. What he said last night is the very definition of tarring everyone with the same brush. To say that border people turn to violence more easily than anyone else is an atrocious comment to make.

“Those of us living in border communities were also victims of violence throughout the Troubles. Our communities have been victims of intimidation and threatening behaviour from a small minority of criminals.

Deputy Smith also said “the fact that Dukes was a longstanding TD, former Minister, a former Leader of the Opposition, as well as a well-respected man throughout this country, meant that his comments were all the more incendiary”

With reporting from Jamie McCarron

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