I am very concerned at the recent increase in dissident republican activity in border areas.
The discovery of bombs in Wattle Bridge, Fermanagh; Strabane, Co. Tyrone; and Derry city were all linked to dissident republican activity and were all intended to kill PSNI officers and risked the lives of people living in these areas.
It is well understood that dissident republicans are using the current political vacuum in Northern Ireland and uncertainty created by Brexit as an opportunity to recruit new members and to perpetuate their false narrative. An Garda Síochana and PSNI authorities have said publicly that any border infrastructure or personnel would become targets for dissident republican paramilitaries and require police or other protection. To be clear, the fragility in the peace process predates Brexit, but it is also clear that the Brexit process has exacerbated the regrettable polarisation that had already been occurring.
The Irish Government's determination to avoid a hard border reflects our determination to protect all of the gains of the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process, political, economic, societal and security. Being cognisant of these risks, the Government has been consistent in its opposition to a hard border on the island of Ireland. The consequences of a no deal Brexit for the political process in Northern Ireland could be very damaging. A no deal Brexit risks the reintroduction of some form of checks near the border which could significantly undermine wider community relations and political stability in Northern Ireland, and would bring with it significant potential related security concerns.
I am continuing to work urgently and in partnership with my counterpart, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to support the restoration of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement to full operation on a more sustainable basis, and to address key issues of division between the main parties that have affected partnership government in Northern Ireland. Having the institutions working on behalf of all the people of Northern Ireland would be an essential step to restoring positive momentum in the peace process and could make a major contribution to managing the impacts of any Brexit scenario on the island.
A no deal exit will not be our choice and the only clear way to avoid this is to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement. Without the Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop, there are no easy answers. There is a process of engagement between Ireland and the European Commission on how to meet, in a no deal scenario, our shared twin objectives of protecting the integrity of the Single Market and Ireland’s place in it, and avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.