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Enda Kenny warns hard border in Ireland could trigger armed conflict

By Kevin Doyle

The re-establishment of a hard border in the wake of Brexit could lead to an upsurge in criminality and even armed conflict, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has suggested.

While saying he did not want to be "alarmist", Mr Kenny said the threat to the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic needs a political solution.

"The Irish people didn't cause this problem; the challenge is not just psychological - it's also political.

"I have made this point very clearly in that any semblance of a return of what they deem a hard border or borders of the past brings serious issues for this country, and I don't mean just in terms of trade or the economy, but going back to before, criminality and even armed conflict.

"I don't want to be alarmist about it but this is a political challenge here," Mr Kenny said.

The statement is the starkest warning yet from the Taoiseach about the implications of the forthcoming Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU.

It came after Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar appeared to stray from the Government line to criticise Prime Minister Theresa May for what he believes is her overuse of "sound-bites", adding that he gets annoyed when he hears her say there will be "no return to borders of the past".

Speaking to RTÉ's Sean O'Rourke programme, the minister questioned whether Northern Ireland could be allowed to continue taking part in some aspects of the EU. "Could Northern Ireland not opt into certain programmes, like the CAP which would be of huge benefit to their farmers and ours, and like Interreg so we keep that European money and also the single market?" Mr Varadkar asked.

In response, Mr Kenny said everything has to be negotiated.

"We have got to have new outcomes because it doesn't just affect the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland but it has global implications. But also the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union is one that is going to be discussed."

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