Belfast Telegraph

Coveney’s ‘fragile peace’ remarks could encourage dissidents: UUP

Simon Coveney
Simon Coveney
UUP leader Robin Swann
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

UUP leader Robin Swann has warned that Tanaiste Simon Coveney's remarks that the Northern Ireland peace process is "fragile" could "give oxygen" to dissident republicans' cause.

The Ulster Unionist leader slammed the Irish Deputy Prime Minister's comments.

Mr Coveney said that the Irish Government will not compromise on a peace process which he described as "fragile right now" in favour of promises on what might happen to the border after Brexit.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs also accused the British Government of reneging on commitments already made and "wiping the slate clean on the Irish issue".

Speaking in Paris on Wednesday, Mr Coveney said: "My focus is on protecting the country I come from, protecting the British-Irish relationship, protecting Ireland's place in the EU and its single market and customs union and most importantly now trying to protect a peace agreement that is 21 years old, that has saved lives, that has created normality between communities that in the past were in conflict."

He continued: "We have always said if there is to be a no-deal Brexit, it will be the choice of a British Prime Minister and a British Parliament to allow that to happen.

"We want a sensible deal, based on the negotiations that have taken place over the last three years.

"Ireland is reasonable and has always shown flexibility and a willingness to compromise.

"We are not going to compromise on a peace process that is fragile right now on the island of Ireland."

He added it is "hard to tell" if a no-deal Brexit is now more likely following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's move to temporarily suspend Westminster after it returns from its summer break in September.

Mr Swann has since called on Mr Coveney to clarify his remarks and suggested he should consider "stepping away from the microphone on occasion".

"I've heard the Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney claiming that they would not compromise on a 'fragile' peace," stated the North Antrim MLA.

"What I'd like to know from the Irish Government is who exactly do they think is threatening peace in Northern Ireland?

"The peace process is only under threat if those who are committed to it walk away.

"Does he think that some will, and if so, who are they?"

Mr Swann added that republican terrorists have been a consistent threat to the peace process over the last 20 years and that Mr Coveney should be careful of inadvertently "giving oxygen to their twisted cause".

"There is a danger that the line that he and others are taking could talk us back towards violence," he continued.

"We've told him before about the use of language and the damage it can do."

The Belfast Telegraph contacted the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade but they did not wish to respond.

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