Boris Johnson is our biggest threat to peace in Ireland and Europe alike
2019-08-01 13:43:42 -
Editorial
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Michael McGowan

The new Government of the UK, with Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, is not good news for the people of Ireland. It is a serious threat to both the Good Friday Agreement and the European Union. 

The Good Friday Agreement is a historic peace initiative and one of the great achievements of the European Union, which itself is one of the greatest peace successes of all time. And it is tragic that the new Prime Minister and his team represent a grave obstacle to this progress. 

Following the UK’s decision to leave the EU, the ‘backstop’ was written into the Withdrawal Agreement as an insurance policy to prevent a hard border returning, should Brussels and London fail to secure a future trade deal. This is the very backstop that Johnson and his allies came out immediately saying they are determined to remove.
But Boris Johnson has always shown a cavalier attitude to Ireland and the Irish border. Micheál Martin, leader of Fianna Fáil, has said that on Johnson’s most recent visit to Ireland he did not show the “slightest level of understanding about the Good Friday Agreement”. Indeed, when he was UK foreign secretary, Johnson compared negotiations about the Irish border as “the tail wagging the dog”.

The decision of the UK to leave the EU is the biggest threat to peace in Ireland since the Troubles, and more widely undermines the influence of the EU’s role in peacekeeping. 

The success of the peace initiative in Northern Ireland captured the imagination of the world, and the hopes of future generations. I was in Dublin on the day of the Good Friday vote and saw children taken along to polling stations to witness the historic vote. I was there because I wanted to be present as history was being made.

Johnson’s decision to appoint Priti Patel, the former international development secretary, as his new Home Secretary is also a matter of serious concern. She previously said that Downing Street should use the threat of food shortages in Ireland to pressure the country’s leaders to drop demands for the backstop.

It is of course an insult to all the people of Ireland to even contemplate stopping trade. It displays an ignorance of Irish history and political sensitivity and the significance of threatening to use food shortage against the Irish.

Decisions by the ruling British Government during the time of the Great Famine in the mid 19th century resulted in the deaths of a million people and the emigration of a million more. And the country’s population has still not returned to the levels before 1845.

Unless Boris Johnson changes his attitude to the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, and to the island of Ireland in general, the progress of ending the Troubles with years of violence which cost more than 3,000 lives will have been lost. We must not let that happen.

Michael McGowan is a former MEP and president of the Development Committee of the European Parliament.
TAGS : Good Friday Agreement EU UK
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