Brexit

Sammy Wilson slams Leo Varadkar over 'despicable, low and rotten' Brexit border terror claims

Sammy Wilson (left) said Leo Varadkar's comments "diminished his standing as a politician who should in any way be taken seriously" 

SAMMY Wilson has said Leo Varadkar's behaviour was "despicable, low and rotten" after the taoiseach used the story of an IRA bombing of a customs post to emphasise the importance of the border issue to EU leaders.

The East Antrim MP said the taoiseach has taken a  "sledgehammer" to years of cross-border political relationship-building.

Addressing fellow EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday evening, Mr Varadkar related the story of an IRA bomb attack at a customs post in Newry, Co Down in 1972.

Earlier today, Tánaiste Simon Coveney rejected any suggestion Mr Varadkar was "scaremongering".

However, the DUP's Mr Wilson claimed the taoiseach had "lost any sense of self control" in relation to Brexit, claiming his previous warnings about the impact of a no-deal had made him a "laughing stock".

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"His latest use of a victim of the IRA who was killed when the republican terrorists blew up a border post scrapes the bottom of the very deep barrel of threats, deception and rhetoric which he has dipped into in order to persuade ignorant heads of EU states that the EU must insist in detaching Northern Ireland from the UK in any Brexit deal," said Mr Wilson.

At dinner with EU leaders, Mr Varadkar had circulated a newspaper article on the Newry bombing.

Mr Varadkar brought in a copy of the Irish Times, which featured an interview with a relative of one of the nine killed in the blast.

Read More: Family of lorry driver killed in IRA bomb at customs post fear return of hard border

Four customs officials, two lorry drivers and three IRA men died in the explosion at a customs clearing station.

The incident has sparked the latest fracture in the DUP's deteriorating relationship with the Dublin government since the Brexit referendum.

The party believes the Republic's unwavering stance in relation to the need for a border backstop to guarantee free movement on the island is a veiled tactic to create separation between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

DUP veteran Mr Wilson expressed concerns that "republican madmen" could be influenced by the taoiseach "stirring up false fears" over violence.

Mr Wilson insisted there was no chance border checkpoints would be erected when the UK leaves the EU.

"His behaviour is despicable, low and rotten," he said of the taoiseach.

"He is not so stupid as to be unaware of the impact it can have especially given the record of republicans over the summer when they used impressionable young people to engage in sectarian attacks against the Protestant community in Londonderry."

Mr Wilson said much progress had been made in forging better cross-border political links prior to Mr Varadkar becoming taoiseach.

He added: "Leo Varadkar has taken a sledgehammer to the work which was done but even more worrying is his total disregard to the impact of his irresponsible and reckless rhetoric on the peace of Northern Ireland."

Earlier, Mr Coveney denied his government was scaremongering over claims violence could return if Brexit brings a hard border.

The tánaiste said concerns about the potential to destabilise the island's "very precious peace" were real, and reflected the fears of people living on the border.

Mr Coveney defended Mr Varadkar, insisting he dealt in facts.

"We are not trying to scaremonger here, what we are trying to do here is protect a very precious peace and normality on the island of Ireland," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

He added: "If you speak to families living on the border area they will talk in very emotive terms about their fears of the re-emergence of that border infrastructure and it's important to be honest about that.

"It doesn't suit some people's political narrative, it certainly doesn't suit people who advocate for Brexit because this is a very awkward and difficult issue for people to deal with, but it's the truth."

In response to Mr Wilson's remarks, a spokesman for the taoiseach said: "The priority of the taoiseach, the government and all parties involved in the Brexit negotiations is to protect the peace process and avoid the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland. 

"The taoiseach wanted to ensure that fellow European leaders fully realise what is at stake and the importance of preserving the peace process throughout the Brexit process."

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