Editorial: The Irish Sea entry points into Northern Ireland must not become the border for Republic of Ireland's immigration

News Letter editorial on Monday April 28 2024:
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The prime minister was questioned yesterday on Sky News about the way migrants are travelling to the Republic of Ireland in fear of the Rwanda policy.​

Rishi Sunak made two reasonable points in reply: the first was that it showed that the challenge of illegal migration is an international one. The second is that it showed that the Rwanda plan, in which illegal entrants to the UK will be sent to the African country to be processed, was working. But Mr Sunak did not address a looming likely consequence of Irish anger at the fact that they are now having to deal with people who are fleeing being sent to Rwanda: what will it mean for Northern Ireland? It is a question that unionists will have to be asking.

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Irish uproar at Brexit and its insistence that there not be so much as CCTV at the Irish land frontier was almost entirely placated by the ultimately weak UK administrations of Theresa May and Boris Johnson. That is why NI now has a trade and legal barrier with the rest of the UK.

Will the current anger of Simon Harris, insisting that anyone arriving in the Republic as a result of the Rwanda policy, be met with UK resolution? Or will we be put on a path that ends in a new policy to please Ireland such as stemming the movements at the Irish Sea?

The Rwanda policy might or might not be a good response to the crisis in which much larger net numbers of immigrants are arriving in the UK than the crowded country can handle. But it is government policy and must triumph over the courts.

However, Ireland has been both high minded and intransigent about Brexit, and indeed until recently about immigration, almost boasting of its welcoming approach until there was a public backlash. That approach has helped to create the problem that it is now grappling with. Further constitutional harm to NI’s place in the UK must not be the outcome of this dispute.