A real threat to current stability - Borderland crime gangs cross the line

A real threat to current stability - Borderland crime gangs cross the line

When he was Britain’s foreign secretary Boris Johnson compared the challenge of living with a hard border in Ireland to the boundaries dividing London boroughs.

That he assured his ever-gullible audience that it was a “very relevant comparison” suggests he was in the grip of one of those anti-EU fantasies about straight bananas or undersized condoms encouraged by his collaborator editors.

When he became prime minister, when he moved beyond the role of editors’ court clown, he was forced to face realities starker than newspaper circulation figures. PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne quickly disabused him of any idea that his comparison was valid.

He told Johnson, in a “candid” 30-minute conversation that it is not possible to police the border with current officer numbers.

“It was a very open conversation, trying to tell him we saw that it was nigh-on impossible to try and police over 300 crossings with the number of police officers we had,” warned Byrne.

It must be assumed that Byrne has a far better understanding of how the land lies along both sides of the border than Johnson so he will not have been surprised by the arson attack on a car outside the house of Sinn Féin TD for Sligo-Leitrim Martin Kenny.

This is just one of many incidences that defines the borderlands as a wild no man’s land.

It is believed that the attack is linked to Mr Kenny’s support for a proposal to house asylum seekers in Leitrim. A local group has mounted a round-the-clock silent protest in opposition to that plan.

Though that attack was rightly condemned by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin too, it is difficult for them to avoid a charge of hypocrisy.

After all, four Fine Gael MEPs voted against proposals to better protect migrants in Brussels last week while Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher abstained.

The proposal was defeated by two votes, a decision cheered to the rafters by anti-immigrant MEPs.

That is not to only migration issue alive along the border.

Just yesterday a truck driver from Northern Ireland accused of the manslaughter of 39 migrants was in a British court where he was accused of being part of a “global ring” smuggling large numbers of people into the UK.

Maurice Robinson, aged 25, from Craigavon in Co Armagh, was arrested after the bodies were found in the trailer attached to his Scania cab in Essex in the early hours of October 23.

If these accusations seem far beyond any idea of ordinary, decent criminals so too do the persistent and increasingly violent attacks on executives working in firms once controlled by Seán Quinn or his family.

Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) executive Kevin Lunney was kidnapped north of the border last month, brought to the Republic and beaten to within an inch of his life.

That people feel unable, despite many pleas, to help police investigations into these attacks is revealing and disconcerting.

Those happy to play fast and loose with the relative stability we enjoy to day should ask themselves if these events, and many more like them, are isolated incidences or part of a wider, enduring and disturbing pattern.

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