Former Tory MEP Stanley Johnson has said the Irish would shoot each other “if they want to” irrespective of the status of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic after Brexit.
The former European parliamentarian and father to Tory Brexiteer Boris Johnson told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that the border issue has become ‘intolerable.’
He said former PM Margaret Thatcher would have resolved the issue by taking a hard line to the threat of violence if a hard border separated the two countries.
He said: “[Thatcher] would have said it’s quite intolerable that this whole question of the Northern Ireland border has come to dominate the decision over the future of our country.
“She would have said ‘look if the Irish want to shoot each other they will shoot each other whether there’s a hard border or whether there is a soft border, that is something the Irish will do if they want to’.
“Mrs Thatcher would not have had any truck with this scheme by the EU to elevate the border question into a way of making sure we stay in the EU.”
Johnson’s comments were condemned by many on social media, with one man tweeting: “Disgusting remarks about the Irish killing each other. Very disappointed.”
Another slammed the GMB hosts for not challenging Mr Johnston over his remarks, stating: “As an Irish person living in the north of Ireland I must say that was deplorable commentary from Stanley Johnson and worse you skimmed over it like it was no big deal.”
Around 3,500 people died during the Troubles, with border checkpoints frequently coming under attack by paramilitary groups.
But DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said suggestions that a hard border could led to a return to violence had been “over-egged”.
He told the News Letter: “There are a lot of things that are being said at the moment by many people, some of them are ill-informed.
“The reality is that I don’t believe people are going to resort to violence because of the outcome of Brexit.
“We are clear that we want a soft border and want to get a deal that benefits everyone in Northern Ireland and the whole United Kingdom.
“But we are equally clear that we cannot support an outcome that creates a border in the Irish Sea and which divides NI from the rest of the UK.
“I think that Margaret Thatcher and unionists in Northern Ireland would be in agreement that we must hold the UK together and not allow the EU to split us up.”
TUV leader Jim Allister said claims that there could be a violence at the border post-Brexit had been “whipped up by Remainers to try and keep us in the EU”.
While he said that Mr Johnston’s remarks were not helpful, Mr Allister added: “I don’t buy into the fact that a hard border equals violence. It is a total distortion.”