Taoiseach warns of Brexit threat to peace process

Enda Kenny was speaking ahead of chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier's speech to the Oireachtas

Taoiseach warns of Brexit threat to peace process

Enda Kenny addresses the EPP conference in Druid's Glen, 11-05-2017. Image: Sally MacMonagle / MacMonagle photography

The Taoiseach has warned delegates at a meeting of the European People’s Party in Druid’s Glen that there can be no return to the borders of the past following Brexit.

Enda Kenny is in Wicklow this morning to address a gathering of MEPs affiliated to the transnational European group – of which Fine Gael is a member.

The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is addressing a joint session of the Dáil and Seanad this morning – ahead of a meeting with the Taoiseach at government buildings this afternoon.

This morning Mr Kenny warned that the peace process would be threatened by any return to a hard border in Ireland:

“It brought with it sectarianism and thirty years of real difficulties where 3,000 people lost their lives,” he said. “[With] acts of terrorism, indiscriminate bombings and all of that trouble and tragedy that it brought on so many families.”

“We do not want a return to that sectarian issue - and therefore politically we cannot have a border as applied before.”

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny greets EPP head Manfred Weber in Druid's Glen, 11-05-2017. Image: Sally MacMonagle / MacMonagle Photography.

He also highlighted the importance of conducting the upcoming negotiations in a respectful manner.

“We believe that it is crucial that the withdrawal of the United Kingdom is managed in an orderly and competent fashion,” he said. “We have consistently urged both sides to adopt a constructive approach to these negotiations.”

“There is no point in having verbal wars before the negotiations even begin.”

Mr Kenny warned delegates the Ireland remains heavily dependent on the UK as a trading partner - but repeatedly insisted that the country will remain "at the very heart of Europe."

He also expressed his hope that a new Executive can be formed in Northern Ireland before the negotiations begin in earnest.

Mr Barnier has repeatedly stated that Irish concerns - including the peace process and the border –will remain top priorities during the Brexit talks.