Tuesday, 5 February 2019
Ceisteanna (Atógáil) - Questions (Resumed)
World Economic Forum
The British Prime Minister is in Belfast today. The word is that she is still in the grip of delusion. She is now saying that there will be no backstop but the Good Friday Agreement is entirely safe, and there will be no backstop but there will be no hard border. It is reminiscent of the earlier position to which she has returned, namely one of, "Don't worry Ireland, we will look after everything but we are out of the Single Market and out of the Customs Union." In over two years we have moved precisely nowhere with this Prime Minister or the government that she leads.
Our job is not to help Mrs. May from her deluded state; she will wallow in that if she wishes. Our collective job is to protect Irish interests. That means holding firm on the backstop, not blinking and not budging. The fact is that without an agreement or a backstop we will have a hard border unless there is an intervention and a contingency plan. That raises the possibility of soldiers, not necessarily Irish but British, at such an infrastructure. These are real possibilities. However, it is not the Taoiseach's job to conjure up the worst-case scenario and leave it hang; it is his job to deal with the realities and facts and offer a plan for the Irish national interest, for the Irish State and to protect the peace agreements and to protect our economy, and I could go on.
I have asked the Taoiseach consistently to identify for us the ultimate contingency in the event of no agreement, no backstop and the terrible vista which he has conjured into view. The obvious answer is to reach for the Good Friday Agreement, the very agreement that everyone has vowed to protect, and to look to the provisions within it to address the issue of the Border. If politics, the Tories or the negotiating process cannot mitigate or deal with the Border, it should be placed in the hands of the people through a democratic process to decide on the Border and to have the opportunity to remove it, which is the ultimate contingency plan, yet the Taoiseach has ducked and dived on this issue.
I believe the Taoiseach has a responsibility as Head of Government to begin planning for that ultimate contingency. We have said that he should convene a forum. He should do that. The Government must lead the conversation around Ireland post-Brexit and particularly Ireland post-crash Brexit. There will be no hard border on this island. It is not happening.