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UK relations with Ireland at worst since hunger strike years, claims academic

Report: Prof Etain Tannam
Report: Prof Etain Tannam

By Staff Reporter

Anglo-Irish relations are at their lowest point since the 1980s hunger strikes, according to a new study by a Dublin-based academic.

"Relations have not been as tense since the early 1980s - and political rhetoric that had vanished by the 1990s has re-emerged," Professor Etain Tannam wrote in a working study, produced for Dublin City University's Brexit Institute.

The study by Prof Tannam, who is Associate Professor of International Peace Studies at Trinity College, was reported in yesterday's Dublin-based Sunday Business Post newspaper.

The author noted the Irish government had insisted the border be dealt with as part of the main 'divorce' deal, rather than as part of discussions on future trading relationships. The border 'backstop' has so far prevented the UK agreeing a formal withdrawal agreement with the EU.

"The Irish government feared that if simultaneous negotiations occurred, the British government would use the Northern Irish issue as a bargaining chip to gain trade concession from the EU and, in that bargaining game, a soft border could be sacrificed in the final outcome," she wrote.

Dr Tannam reported that proposals by Theresa May to remove the backstop had been followed by a resurgence of hardline rhetoric from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tanaiste Simon Coveney.

Her paper also expressed concern about the future of Anglo-Irish relations after Brexit.

With less regular contact between British and Irish officials expected after Brexit, Dr Tannam urged the two governments to set out a legally binding schedule of meetings under the auspices of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. Although the Conference was part of the Good Friday Agreement, it has rarely met in recent years.

She also looked forward to smoother relations once the Brexit process if completed.

"While the halcyon days of the 1990s will not return, the relationship is likely to be relatively co-operative in the decades ahead," the academic wrote.

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