Extremist Brexit “ideologues” are ready to sacrifice peace in Northern Ireland to secure the UK’s exit from the EU, according to former Downing Street communications chief Alistair Campbell.
He describes the prospect as “terrifying” and warned that the Irish political process remains fragile, in an article for The Scotsman.
The ruling institutions having fallen into abeyance over an ongoing dispute between leading Unionist and Republican parties. But former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has called both sides to re-enagage and find a “better future”, in a separate Scotsman piece published today.
A series of events are being held to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement which drew a line under years of conflict in Northern Ireland, marked by terrorist violence, and paved the way for peace and establishment of political power-sharing at Stormont.
Mr Campbell said this was one of the “greatest and most important” achievements of the last Labour Government.
“Now, as we mark the 20th anniversary of the Agreement, at a time the political process remains fragile and the institutions in abeyance, there is the terrifying prospect that Brexit could turn back the clock and put at risk the peace and prosperity that all that hard work helped deliver,” he said. “Terrifying not least because it is clear that to the Brextremist ideologues no price is too high to get out of Europe, and that would include an Agreement that to them, today, is more of an irritant than an essential building block of peace.”
Former prime minister Tony Blair said he did not believe the current problems besetting power-sharing should herald the demise of the political institutions established after the Good Friday deal and insisted it remained the best way to bring deliver devolved governance to the region.
“I can’t believe we can’t find a way through this if we really wanted to,” he said.
Mr Adams has used the anniversary to make a fresh call to save the cross-party power-sharing agreement. “We [Sinn Fein] believe in the Good Friday Agreement and in the institutions,” he added.
“We are committed to their restoration but it can only be on the basis of respect and an appreciation that our future must be a shared future.
“It’s time to draw a second breath and re-engage with each other to build a future in which no one will feel alienated or second class. I believe that better future is still possible.”