Fine Gael minister tells of her Border experience

Posted By: January 03, 2019

Claire Simpson. Irish News. Belfast. Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Republic’s business minister Heather Humphreys. Picture by Hugh Russell
FINE Gael minister Heather Humphreys has told of her experiences of living along the border during the Troubles as she warned against a hard Brexit.

Ms. Humphreys, who is from the village of Drum in Co Monaghan, said peace in Northern Ireland remains “fragile” and people will seek to “pull it down”.

The Republic’s business minister said there could be no return to a hard border after the UK leaves the European Union in March.

She also said she believes there will be a united Ireland, but rejected Sinn Féin’s “inflammatory” call for a border poll in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“I don’t think that serves any purpose,” she said.

“What we need to do is find ways to work together.”

In an interview with the Irish Independent, the Cavan-Monaghan TD said as a young child she would cross the border to visit relatives and get chocolate bars that could not be bought in the Republic.

However, she said when the Troubles started, customs posts were among the first to be targeted.

She said she remembered seeing “burned out” posts with her father.

“They were the first things to go… and it was a big thing at the time,” she said.

Ms. Humphreys said the Troubles badly affected businesses along the border. She said border checks caused huge disruption with some motorists facing long delays.

But she said the frontier has seen huge changes since the end of the Troubles.

“There’s nobody stopping you, they’re not asking you where you’re coming from, where you’re going, what’s your name, checking your car, opening the boot,” she said.

Ms. Humphreys said one of her childhood friends lost her father in 1974 Dublin-Monaghan bombings, which were carried out by the UVF.

She said the IRA murder of Fine Gael senator Billy Fox in Co Monaghan in the same year as the bombings sent “shock waves right across the community”.

“I remember my father coming in and saying ‘Billy Fox was shot. He’s been shot dead,’ ” she said.

Although she did not express fears of a return to the violence of the Troubles, Ms. Humphreys said peace in the north is “fragile” and “there are some who will seek at some point to pull it down”.

She also said her government was working to prevent a hard border.

“We have to work harder and more closely with everybody,” she said.