David Trimble says Republic risk provoking loyalist violence over Brexit
Former First Minister David Trimble has said that the Republic of Ireland's government is risking provoking violence from loyalist paramilitaries because of their stance on Brexit.
The former UUP leader told the Guardian that any Brexit deal to keep Northern Ireland in line with the Republic would be a violation of the Good Friday Agreeement.
Lord Trimble was one of the key orchestrator's of the agreement which celebrates its 20th anniversary next week.
He was awarded the Noble Peace Prize alongside SDLP leader John Hume in 1998, in recognition for their efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland.
"What is happening now is that people are talking up the issue of Brexit and the border for the benefit of a different agenda from the agreement," Lord Trimble said.
"The one thing that would provoke loyalist paramilitaries is the present Irish government saying silly things about the border and the constitutional issue.
"If it looks as though the constitutional arrangements of the agreement, based on the principle of consent, are going to be superseded by so-called ‘special EU status’ then that is going to weaken the union and undermine the very agreement that Dublin says it wants to uphold."
The now Consevative Peer said a 'Hong Kong model' would not be acceptable to Northern Ireland.
"I believe that some senior Irish government officials go around Brussels talking about the ‘Hong Kong model’ – the one country, two systems idea," Lord Trimble said.
"That is a precedent they talk about where sovereignty has been transferred from Britain to China. Anything that looks remotely like this or is building on that foundation would be extremely dangerous. Although I think that under this Conservative government I cannot see that prevailing."
Lord Trimble said that he did not regret signing up to the Good Friday Agreement, but said he should have worked more closely with then Prime Minister Tony Blair after the deal.
"I genuinely believe that Blair was the last person to back a strategy which effectively saw the two centre parties, the UUP and the SDLP, abandoned," he said.
"In fact I know now it was a very senior civil servant in the Northern Ireland Office who agreed to the strategy, proposed by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin."
Belfast Telegraph Digital