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Arlene Foster's border comments spark nationalist anger

DUP leader accused of rewriting history with claim

Arlene Foster yesterday
Arlene Foster yesterday
SDLP MLA Justin McNulty
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

The SDLP has hit out at Arlene Foster after she said that even during the Troubles there had never been a hard border in Ireland.

Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty accused the DUP leader of being "divisive" and "flippant" when speaking at a conference in London yesterday.

Mrs Foster said: "The borders of the past were there for a completely different reason.

"They were there to stop terrorists; they were there to stop the flow of Semtex as opposed to the flow of powdered milk."

Mr McNulty said: "We all know Arlene has admitted to the RHI Inquiry that she could not be expected to be over 'every single jot and tittle'.

"However, at a time like this how can she get her facts so wrong and be comfortable making divisive, inaccurate comments? 

"The DUP leader has unashamedly not let the facts get in the way of a good soundbite." Mr McNulty added: "Long before the Troubles broke out there was a customs border.

"A border existed since partition and it existed primarily as a customs border.  

"It sought to prevent the carrying of goods across the border without paying excise duty.

"It was only in the 1970s the militarised border appeared and this lasted for over 30 years.

"The people of Ireland, north and south, do not want to go back to any form of border on this island.

"Mrs Foster and her colleagues have blindly followed the right-wing pied pipers Jacob Rees-Mogg, David Davis and Boris Johnson into a Brexit cul-de-sac."

South Down Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard shared a picture on social media of a fortified border post from the Troubles era.

"What absolute nonsense; I'm guessing she never attempted to cross the border then?!" he tweeted.

Responding to some of the criticism on Twitter, DUP MLA Christopher Stalford said: "We know why there was a harder border during our recent history and it had precious little to do with trade policy. Secondly, if the Provos had tried to murder your father and escaped over it, maybe your perspective would be different."

Speaking at the pro-Brexit event in London, Mrs Foster called for a better deal than the withdrawal agreement.

"There is no need for the backstop," she said.

"The Irish Prime Minister has indicated he will not be putting up a harder border on the island of Ireland. As someone who lived through the Troubles, we never had a hard border.

"There were 20,000 soldiers in Northern Ireland and they couldn't hermetically seal the border in Northern Ireland.

"It is a bit of a nonsense, frankly, to talk about a hard border."

She added: "What we should be looking at is ways to use technology.

"We are living in the modern world. We should be using technology.

"We should be using our intelligence.

"We should be using risk analysis in terms of the single market which they want to protect - I understand that."

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