Sinn Fein's Hazzard challenged over '˜civil disobedience' claims

A customs border post between Northern Ireland and the Republic near Newry in the 1980sA customs border post between Northern Ireland and the Republic near Newry in the 1980s
A customs border post between Northern Ireland and the Republic near Newry in the 1980s
Claims by a Sinn Fein MP that Brexit could lead to civil disobedience in Northern Ireland provide a 'disturbing insight' into the party's strategic positioning, the UUP has said.

Addressing a press conference at Westminster on Tuesday, Chris Hazzard said people are “angry and frustrated” at the thought of customs posts on the Irish border.

The South Down MP also referred to the threat posed by dissident republican organisations, and added: “But it is wider than that – it goes right down to a feeling of civil disobedience.”

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Mr Hazzard went on to say: “When you talk to normal people in civic society they are very, very angry and frustrated at even the thought of a customs post going up.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie described the comments as “incendiary”.

“When he doesn’t follow it up by asking people to remain within the law, then you have to look at it as something more than just words but a threat,” Mr Beattie told the Nolan Show.

“It’s a really bad choice of words and I really am staggered by it. It’s not peaceful protest when he’s linking it to dissidents.”

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The Upper Bann representative said any protests at new border facilities could escalate out of control.

“It can lead to dissidents believing that they have got a mandate to go out and do what they are doing. I am concerned about the language,” he added.

Mr Beattie’s UUP colleague, councillor David Taylor, questioned whether the Sinn Fein MP was “implying the threat of violence” and called on him to clarify the remarks.

Mr Taylor said: “His comments are completely unacceptable. They are a worrying reflection of Sinn Fein’s thinking on Brexit and provide a disturbing insight into their future strategic positioning on this issue.”

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Mr Taylor added: “It is extremely unfortunate that republicans always resort to type by making threats of violence when they fail to get their own way on various political issues.

“Sinn Fein must clarify its position in terms of Chris Hazzard’s remarks.”

Also speaking on the Nolan Show yesterday, TUV leader Jim Allister said the “pattern with republican involvement in civil disobedience is that it has been a portend to violence”.

He said: “If there is infrastructure at the border, it will have been put there by the Irish Republic at the behest of the EU, because there is a customs union that is being protected.”

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A Sinn Fein spokesman said the party was “very concerned at the comments made by councillor Taylor and have sought legal advice in relation to this matter”.

He added: “In the circumstances we will not be commenting any further at this point.”