Belfast Telegraph

Brexit: Claim no-deal may reignite violence is 'scaremongering'

Criticism: Gordon Lyons MLA
Criticism: Gordon Lyons MLA

By Staff Reporter

Claims by experts of a return to violence in Northern Ireland if a hard border emerges after Brexit have been dismissed as "scaremongering" by the DUP.

DUP East Antrim MLA Gordon Lyons was commenting after a report compiled by two senior Unesco officials said violence could occur in Northern Ireland "in as little as six weeks" following a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Lyons said the focus should be on finding solutions rather than on predictions of violence following the UK's exit from the European Union.

"Northern Ireland must always be vigilant about slipping back into the bad old days of terrorism," he said.

"This report, however, is undermined by scaremongering and an oddly specific claim that violence could occur 'in as little as six weeks' if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal.

"This report feeds into a wider pattern where the focus is on hype and rhetoric rather than finding solutions to the issues we face.

"Some in Northern Ireland still cling to the use of bombs and bullets. That terrorism pre-dates the EU referendum and it should not be in any way excused or explained by whether a deal is in place or not when the UK leaves the EU.

"An acceptance that violence is inevitable, and the only question is over the scale of such trouble following Brexit, completely undermines any sensible analysis of the issues we face."

A key problem identified by Professors Mark Brennan and Pat Dolan is that the 'Agreement Generation' has no memory of the Troubles. They say older people have not shared enough about "the horrors of war" and instead some of the violence has been "romanticised". It adds that marginalised nationalist youths will be susceptible "to being groomed into violent activity by dissident republicans".

In stark terms, the report states: "In as little as six weeks it is possible that a hard border could materialise due to a no-deal Brexit triggering a return to violence in Northern Ireland."

It says that "all indications" that pushing for a border poll against this backdrop - as advocated by Sinn Fein - would also spark violence. "The only question in both scenarios will be the scale of the violence."

Mr Lyons added: "It does not matter whether the authors foresee this violence arising from a no-deal Brexit or, as they have also referenced, from rushing to a border poll. We require a clear and unified voice from right across the community that there are no circumstances in which such violence is justified."

Professor Brennan is Unesco chair for Community, Leadership, and Youth Development and Professor of Leadership and Community Development at the Pennsylvania State University. Professor Dolan is director of the Unesco Child and Family Research Centre at the National University of Ireland Galway and holds the Unesco Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement.

They were assisted by Michael Ortiz, a former security adviser to the Obama administration.

The study was complied in conjunction with Fianna Fail senator Mark Daly.

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