Northern Ireland news

European clerics told how border communities fear they will become `magnets for violence' with hard Brexit

Army Observation post on the south Armagh border. Picture by Pacemaker

BORDER communities fear they will become "magnets for violence" if there is a `hard Brexit', Catholic primate Archbishop Eamon Martin has said.

The Archbishop of Armagh told the Irish Catholic he had shared their fears at the Council of Bishops' Conferences of Europe in Poland earlier this month.

"The solidarity of other European countries formed a very important backdrop and canvass upon which the Irish peace process was written," he said.

Archbishop Martin, who grew up close to two of Derry's "heavily fortified" major checkpoints, said former SDLP leader John Hume "effectively used the European platform to bring us beyond the kind of squabbles and narrow understanding of nationalism which could itself engender strife and division.

"Hume was very much somebody who spoke about our common belonging to Europe as something that lifted us beyond their interior strifes and struggles that could happen between near neighbours.

"In other words, he was about bridges rather than borders."

The archbishop said that in the past checkpoints "themselves became symbols of division and therefore attracted violence, attacks and indeed death and destruction".

"I therefore expressed the nervousness of the communities that live on the border that any return to border structures and barriers could attract violence and could become sparks or tinderboxes for strife once more."

He said his aim was "putting a human face on the sort of high level senior negotiations" happening between EU leaders in Salzburg last week.

Archbishop Martin pointed out his own archdiocese is divided by the border, with around 40 per cent of worshippers living in the Republic.

He said other bishops were `intrigued' by the notion of divided parishes, which is "quite unusual" in Europe.

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