Calls for Alan Dukes to retract 'incendiary' comments about people living on the border

Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys, who represents the Cavan-Monaghan constituency said Mr Dukes' comments were 'wrong and he should apologise'
Calls for Alan Dukes to retract 'incendiary' comments about people living on the border

The comments have been severely criticised with local TDs demanding they be withdrawn. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

A Fine Gael minister has demanded that former party leader Alan Dukes apologise for his comments about people living on the border, with calls mounting for the “incendiary” comments to be retracted.

Mr Dukes was commenting in an RTÉ documentary about the demise of the Sean Quinn empire and said: “Border people have it in their blood. They are living in communities that have a long history of violence of different kinds. And they will more easily turn to it than anyone else will.

"I'm not saying they're different animals to the rest of us. But whether they have Provo links or whatever it is, it is something that is nearer to the way they think than it would be to somebody in South Tipperary,” he said.

The comments have been severely criticised with local TDs also demanding they be withdrawn.

Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys, who represents the Cavan-Monaghan constituency said Mr Dukes' comments were "wrong and he should apologise".

Ms Humphreys said: "It was the people in the border area and our communities who suffered most as a result of the violence carried out by criminals and terrorists.

"Our communities stood against this violence for decades," she said.

Cavan Fianna Fáil TD and former agriculture minister, Brendan Smith, called on Mr Dukes to retract the comments, describing them as outrageous. He said they are completely dismissive of the overwhelming majority of decent people in counties Cavan and Monaghan and the wider border region who abhor violence of any kind and stood against it over decades.

He said: “I am, like many others in the Cavan-Monaghan region, outraged by the ill-informed comments made by Mr Dukes. What he said last night is the very definition of tarring everyone with the same brush. To say that border people turn to violence more easily than anyone else is an atrocious comment to make.

“Those of us living in border communities were also victims of violence throughout the Troubles. Our communities have been victims of intimidation and threatening behaviour from a small minority of criminals,” he said.

Cavan Fianna Fáil TD and former agriculture minister, Brendan Smith, said: “I am, like many others in the Cavan-Monaghan region, outraged by the ill-informed comments made by Mr Dukes." File picture: Collins
Cavan Fianna Fáil TD and former agriculture minister, Brendan Smith, said: “I am, like many others in the Cavan-Monaghan region, outraged by the ill-informed comments made by Mr Dukes." File picture: Collins

Mr Smith said the fact that Mr Dukes was a longstanding TD, former minister, a former Leader of the Opposition as well as a well-respected man throughout this country meant that his comments were all the more incendiary. He called on Mr Dukes to immediately make a full statement retracting his comments.

Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy also criticised Mr Dukes' comments which, he said, "demonised border communities".

Mr Carthy called on Mr Dukes to withdraw and apologise for his remarks which he said were indicative of prevalent attitudes within some sections of Fine Gael, and he called on that party’s representatives to join demands that he withdraw and apologise for the comments.

“Alan Dukes’ comments about our community were completely unacceptable and he should withdraw and apologise for them immediately. He has caused a great deal of hurt and offence and anger. The fact that he has doubled down on his comments today is indicative of prevalent attitudes, particularly within some sections of Fine Gael," Mr Carthy said.

“It goes some way towards explaining the fact that our communities have been abandoned by successive Fine Gael governments. The border communities are made up of hard-working people who are proud of who they are and where they are from, and they will not stand for such disgraceful demonisation," he added.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Mr Dukes said it was not his intention to imply that everyone who lives in the border area would turn to violence. The three-part TV series aired on RTÉ television this week examined the rise and fall of Mr Quinn.

However, speaking this morning on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Mr Dukes acknowledged that his comments were not well phrased.

Alan Dukes (pictured here in 1986): “Border people have it in their blood. They are living in communities that have a long history of violence of different kinds. And they will more easily turn to it than anyone else will." Photo: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie
Alan Dukes (pictured here in 1986): “Border people have it in their blood. They are living in communities that have a long history of violence of different kinds. And they will more easily turn to it than anyone else will." Photo: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

He said: "I shouldn't have said it in the way that I said.

"What I meant to convey was that the protests that were there and the emotion that was there, were seized upon by people who are violent and who carried out acts of sabotage and despicable personal violence against people. And I deplore that."

Mr Dukes said that people in border counties were not violent people, but that they have suffered more from violence than people who live in other parts of the country.

He added that he hoped those who were offended by his comments would accept that he does not believe that people in border counties are violent.

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