Dublin plays down tánaiste's talk of border checks

Tánaiste Simon Coveney reportedly told fellow minister Shane Ross that some form of border checks will be introduced in the event of a no-deal Brexit

THE Dublin government was last night seeking to play down reported comments by Tánaiste Simon Coveney about checks on goods moving between the north and the Republic.

It was reported that Mr Coveney told fellow minister Shane Ross that some form of checks will be introduced in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The private conversation, in which the tánaiste indicated ministers should not talk about the checks publicly for fear of a backlash, was caught on tape.

"But once you start talking about checks anywhere near the border, people will start delving into that and all of a sudden we'll be the government that reintroduced a physical border on the island of Ireland," the Fine Gael deputy leader told Mr Ross, according to the Irish Independent.

During leaders' questions in the Dáil yesterday, Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin said: "Yesterday's exchange between the tánaiste and the minister for transport are deeply worrying because it suggests the public are not being told the full truth for party political reasons."

Mr Martin said it appeared there was a "private understanding and knowledge" within government about a border in the aftermath of no-deal Brexit, but "at all costs that private understanding not be shared with the public".

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar denied his government was planning for border checks and for checks in the sea.

"I can't imagine how you would carry out checks in the middle of the sea, I think they can only be done at ports and airports," he said.

"I think his (tánaiste) only genuine concern is that if you use the wrongs words or say things in the wrong way, people will misinterpret that as if you have some sort of secret plan to impose a hard border."

Earlier, Mr Coveney insisted Dublin was "not preparing for border infrastructure".

"What I have said is that the way in which we provide guarantees that no border infrastructure between the two jurisdictions on this island will re-emerge as a consequence of Brexit is to support the deal that we spent two years negotiating, that the British prime minister also stands over, we stand over and the EU is in complete solidarity on," he told Newstalk.

"And I don't think it's helpful for us to start talking about other ways of doing that".

Asked if the Fine Gael government was doing anything in the border region, Mr Coveney said: "Nothing to do with the border, that's for sure".

"The obligation is on those that actually argue against the backstop to actually talk about alternatives," he said.

"And what some would like is to move away from the responsibility that London has on this issue and put it all on Dublin - and we can't allow that to happen."

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