A no-deal Brexit would mean a certain return to violence along the Irish border a UNESCO backed report has warned.
As the Brexit deadline looms, UNESCO chairs Professor Pat Dolan and Professor Mark Brennan say a border on the island of Ireland would lead to conflict and the only question would be the scale of that violence.
It comes as the Government prepares to publish the omnibus emergency legislation which would be required if Britain crashes out of the EU at the end of March.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Hugh Orde, the former chief constable of the PSNI, have already warned that the return of a hard border in the North could risk peace as customs and border posts would become targets.
The report firmly concludes that, in as little as six weeks it is possible that a hard border could materialise due to a no-deal Brexit, triggering a return to violence in Northern Ireland.
All indications are that without direct efforts to engage youth and citizens of all backgrounds, there will also be a return to violence in the event of rushed border poll on the island of Ireland the researchers have found.
The study was carried out by both professors along with Senator Mark Daly and Michael Ortiz, who served as a US diplomat on Countering Violent Extremism in the US State Department during the Obama administration.
“This research and report, we have just published, identifies and highlights the responsibility of the UK government to stand by the backstop that they agreed to. This will ensure that the peace process on this island is not jeopardised by a no deal Brexit related hard border.
“The EU need to ensure there is no return to a hard border in light of the facts outline in the UNESCO chairs report,” Mr Daly said.
The research highlights the issue of ‘Loss of memory of harm’, among the ‘Agreement Generation’ a term which applies to the generation born just before or since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
This generation has no first-hand knowledge of the horrors of conflict and some will have been given a romanticised account of the Troubles.
Professor Dolan said: “The human harm and damage that can be done by a small population of dissident youth from either or both communities can lead massive harm to people up to and including tragic death. So, this is not a simple matter of scale.”
Meanwhile, Minister for Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan said that the Government “don’t accept” that there will be a hard border and are not planning for that scenario.
“This is a really difficult time for the UK and for Ireland but he most important thing as far as we are concerned is that the backstop is maintained and that is kept and the only way to guarantee that is to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement otherwise there has to be some sort of regulatory alignment,” she said.
“I don’t know how Theresa May is going to achieve that when on one hand she says that she wants to see negotiations and changes to the backstop and at the same time she is acknowledging that the EU won’t make any changes to the Withdrawal Agreement,” she told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics.