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Amateur dramatics of mock Irish Brexit border irresponsible nonsense and playing on people's fears - DUP's Dodds

By Jonathan Bell

The DUP's Nigel Dodds has said border communities should not be exploited after mock checkpoints and people dressed as soldiers staged a protest on Saturday at a crossing into the Republic.

He described the protest as "irresponsible".

"Such amateur dramatics do nothing to make progress and only play on people's fears. It's complete and utter nonsense," the party deputy leader said.

"People living on the border are genuinely concerned about what that frontier will look like in the future.  We all know troops will not be back on the border."

Saturday saw a recreation of a Troubles-era border checkpoint on the old Dublin Road outside Newry. People dressed as soldiers and a mock border wall was built. Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill took to to a section of the wall - which was covered in anti-Brexit slogans - with sledgehammers. Men dressed as soldiers posed with guns as others took to a 'checkpoint' with chainsaws.

It came just a day after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warned of troops returning to the border should there be a no-deal Brexit. An Irish Government spokesman later clarified that Mr Varadkar was not referring to the Irish Defence Forces.

And speaking on Sunday his deputy Simon Coveney said the Taoiseach was referring to what a border looked like 20 years ago before the Good Friday Agreement.

Nigel Dodds said there needed to be clarity from Mr Varadkar on his comments and for the EU to engage "constructively" with the UK in seeing an alternative to the backstop.

“Whether it is threats of the Belfast Agreement being undermined or the future need for troops on the border, a lot of hot air has been produced by Dublin," said Mr Dodds.

"With weeks to go until the UK leaves the EU, it's time for Dublin to ease back on rhetoric and engage constructively with their counterparts.

"Rather than protect the Belfast Agreement, the backstop drives a coach and horses through it.  The backstop completely ignores the views of those who want to protect the Union.  A new border east-west is no more acceptable than a new border north-south.  The backstop is the problem.

Border communities should not be exploited.

"It is incredibly disappointing, at this critical time, that the Irish Foreign Minister and the Irish Prime Minister use incendiary language.  Leo Varadkar knows fine well that talk of troops being back on the border is provocative.

"If the Taoiseach misspoke in Davos, he should move to clarify the matter immediately."

The North Belfast MP added: "Failure to clarify will lead many to conclude that Leo Varadkar’s comment was a deliberate escalation to win support on the international stage.  Border communities should not be exploited in that manner.

"The EU, London and Dublin have said that there will be no return to the borders of the past.  It's time to bring clarity to these matters and stop playing on people’s fears.”

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