Ex-IRA men: Dissident Brexit border attacks ‘unlikely’

An Irish customs post near Newry in 1981. It is claimed dissidents are unlikely to attack Irish posts, while the UK insists it will not create any.
An Irish customs post near Newry in 1981. It is claimed dissidents are unlikely to attack Irish posts, while the UK insists it will not create any.
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Two former IRA members have played down suggestions that dissident republicans will attack the only border checkpoints currently being pledged in the event of a no-deal Brexit - those erected by the Irish government.

Anthony McIntyre and Shane Paul O’Doherty were speaking after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar conceded that Dublin would erect some border checkpoints to honour EU commitments. However, after meeting the taoiseach this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnston once again repeated the British position that “the UK will never ever institute checks at the border”.

PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne and others have warned of the risk of violence on the border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

But asked if he could see dissidents attacking Irish customs checkpoints, former IRA prisoner turned academic and blogger, Anthony McIntyre, said he imagined “the chances would be very slim”.

He said: “Logic would suggest not a chance, but logic would also suggest armed force republicanism is pretty much useless violence.”

While at present many southern people would consider dissidents “out of sight and out of mind” this would soon change if they were to start taking actions directly against the Irish state, he added.

Another former IRA prisoner, Shane Paul Doherty from Londonderry, gave a similar analysis.

“Dissidents would prefer to attack border checkpoints on the British side of the border,” he said. “If they were to attack border checkpoints operated by the Irish authorities, that would likely bring a greater crackdown than is usual on their activities in the Republic of Ireland where they normally acquire, dump and transport arms explosives and other equipment.”

A police spokeswoman said: “The PSNI has previously said that if there were to be any physical infrastructure erected along the border, then dissident republicans might well seek to take action which could include attacking people, buildings and other structures.

“There is still uncertainty around EU Exit. Any changes or variances resulting from agreed border arrangements could be open to exploitation by organised criminality and violent dissident republicans who, as we have seen recently, are determined to cause harm to our communities and police service.”

Former Ulster University Professor of Politics, Henry Patterson, author of the book ‘Ireland’s Violent Frontier’ also agreed with the pair, but with some qualification.

“It is true that Provisional IRA had instructed volunteers that security forces of Irish state, although enemies, were not targets,” he said. “However, the IRA did threaten and intimidate Gardai, and Garda and Irish soldiers were attacked and killed in a number of incidents.”

Ulster University economist Esmond Birnie said the UK is less likely to apply Irish border checks than Dublin, as the Republic will be required to “protect the integrity of the EU Single Market”.

The UK, however, has published plans for zero tariffs on imports, which would give no need for border customs checks to tariff duty, he added.

However SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said it was hard to believe Boris Johnston’s pledge to place no infrastructure on the border. “We should not be operating on the basis of trusting a government that refuses to rule out breaking the law to deliver a hard Brexit,” he said. “The UK’s own no-deal Brexit planning outlines that avoiding a hard border will be unsustainable if there is no deal with the EU.”

A PSNI spokeswoman said: “The PSNI has previously said that if there were to be any physical infrastructure erected along the border, then dissident republicans might well seek to take action which could include attacking people, buildings and other structures.

“There is still uncertainty around EU exit. Any changes or variances resulting from agreed border arrangements could be open to exploitation by organised criminality and violent dissident republicans who, as we have seen recently, are determined to cause harm to our communities and police service.”

The News Letter invited Sinn Fein to comment.