Northern Ireland news

British government minister brands SDLP 'desperate'

Mon 30 July 2018 - Claire Hanna taking part in the Prides Talksback event at the Mac. Picture: Cliff Donaldson.
Connla Young

A British Home Office minister has branded the SDLP “desperate” after it raised concerns about its controversial ‘stop and search border zone’ bill.

The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill is currently going through Westminster.

If the bill becomes law any member of the public could be stopped within a mile of the border to establish if they are entering or leaving the north.

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said the proposals would be a “grotesque assault on border life and on the (Good Friday) Agreement of which the UK Government is a co-guarantor”.

“The UK government appear to neither care nor understand the anxiety they are causing here,” she said.

"At this point in the Brexit negotiations there is very little we could put past this government who seem prepared to sign up to almost anything in the name of Brexit, and oblivious to the tension these proposals create.”

British security minister Ben Wallace later hit back.

“Regrettably the SDLP have got the wrong end of the stick,” he said.

“For nearly two decades, under schedule 7 of the last Labour government’s counter terrorism bill, law enforcers have had the power to stop individuals at ports and the border.

“The current bill going through Parliament simply allows law enforcement to do the same if they suspect someone is an agent of a hostile state.

“Trying to conflate this with Brexit is a bit desperate.”

Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill has also expressed concerns about the bill.

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