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'We never want to see a border': Protesters warn against a hard border Brexit with mock checkpoint

The Taoiseach said yesterday that if Brexit goes wrong soldiers may return to the border.

Updated Jan 26th 2019, 6:35 PM

Britain Ireland Brexit Demonstrators hold banners on the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland border. Source: AP/PA Images

HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE gathered this afternoon at the Dundalk-Newry border to protest against the prospect of any type of border in the outcome of a hard Brexit.

Border Communities Against Brexit (BCAB) had encouraged people from cross-border populations to come and express their “fears and concerns” about the potential for a hard border in Ireland.

The group estimated that around 1,500 people were in attendance. 

A mock eight-foot wall and army watchtower were built to make “a stand against Brexit, against borders, against division”.

“We never want to see a border on this island again,” BCAB spokesperson Declan Fearon told TheJournal.ie. 

Demonstration organisers went as far as putting ‘troops’ at the mock border wall to illustrate their concern that Ireland could be heading back to the days when there were border checkpoints.  

“It was a manifestation of what it used to look like and we don’t want to go back to that time,” Fearon said. 

He explained that it was important to show the reenactment of a border checkpoint because there are so many people who do not remember how it was when checkpoints were in place and that “we could be heading back in that direction”. 

Brexit Actors in military fatigues take part in an anti-Brexit rally at the border. Source: Brian Lawless via PA images

Brexit Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Brexit Source: PA Wire/PA Images

As a newly formed group, Fearon said the BCAB was really pleased with how well the demonstration was received. 

Crowds of people were coming up to us afterwards saying that we [the BCAB] were saying things they are all thinking.

“Leo’s comments yesterday were stark to listen to but it’s what we have been saying. Everything we’ve read points to a hard border,” Fearon said. 

During an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was asked what the border is going to look like “if they screw this up”

Varadkar said it would “involve people in uniform and it may involve the need, for example, for cameras, physical infrastructure, possibly a police presence, or an army presence to back it up”.

Brexit Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Brexit Source: PA Wire/PA Images

‘There will be no troops’

Speaking to Sky News at the border protest, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald was critical of Varadkar for “summoning up” the imagery of troops back at checkpoints.

He needs to be absolutely solidly clear to the British government and to everybody else that there will be no hard border, there will be no troops at checkpoints and that we will not tolerate the disruption that the Breixteers intend on bringing to our land. 

McDonald went on to echo her speech from the ‘Beyond Brexit’ conference earlier today, in which she called for the government to convene a forum to begin planning for Irish unity.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will put her Withdrawal Agreement back before the House of Commons this Tuesday, but the strictest opposition from the House of Commons seems to be due to the backstop.

Many pro-Brexit and some pro-Remain MPs have expressed concern about whether the backstop would threaten Northern Ireland’s status within the United Kingdom; others have said that the backstop needs to be time-limited, which EU leaders have said would make the backstop entirely pointless.

With time running out before the 29 March, which is when the UK must legally leave the European Union, the UK government, the EU and Ireland are scrambling for solutions.

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

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Adam Daly

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