Border parishes fear Brexit will lead to dark days of past warns Primate

Border parishes fear Brexit will lead to dark days of past warns Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin
‘Ireland needs bridges rather than borders’


Ireland’s border communities fear border structures and barriers becoming magnets for violence in the wake of a hard Brexit, the Primate of All-Ireland has said.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic about his trip to Poland this month for the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh said several of his fellow bishops expressed their concerns about Brexit and he had explained how crucial the European movement has been to Ireland’s peace process.

In his comments, the archbishop tried “putting a human face on the sort of high level senior negotiations” that took place between EU leaders in Salzburg last week, he said.

Dr Martin had explained how “the solidarity of other European countries formed a very important backdrop and canvass upon which the Irish peace process was written”, he said, noting how John Hume had understood this especially well and had “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 the interior strifes and struggles that could happen between near neighbours. In other words, he was about bridges rather than borders,” he said.

The archbishop said he has used the theme of bridges not borders in speaking to his fellow European bishops about solidarity, noting how he had grown up close to two of Derry’s major border checkpoints between the North and the Republic, “which were heavily fortified and which 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.

Dr Martin noted that his own Archdiocese of Armagh is divided by the Irish border, with roughly 40% of his flock living in the Republic and 60% living in the North. Other bishops, he said, were intrigued by this and by how there are Irish parishes divided by the border, with this being “quite unusual” in Europe.

The gathering in Poznan was attended by bishops from 39 European bishops’ conferences.