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Bishop of Clogher tells Prime Minister: Don’t mess with the border

06 September 2019

His diocese straddles the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic


The Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Revd John McDowell

The Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Revd John McDowell

THE Bishop of Clogher in the Church of Ireland, the Rt Revd John McDowell, whose diocese straddles the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, has urged the Prime Minister not to allow the “incalculable” consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

In an open letter to Boris Johnson that was published in July, Bishop McDowell wrote: “The worst thing a Government can be is irresponsible or careless. No Government should commit a country to a course of action in which the consequences were so opaque as to be incalculable. It would, therefore, be both logically and morally correct for a Prime Minister to give deep pause before allowing a no-deal Brexit.”

His chief concern lay with the dispute over the border post-Brexit, which was not simply an issue of trade or security, he said. “The border is the background against which all political and much cultural life in Northern Ireland (and in a more limited way in the Republic of Ireland) is worked out. Some people like the Border and others do not, but positively or negatively, consciously or unconsciously, it is pivotal to how politicians and people here assess almost all policy alternatives.

“For this reason alone, any big change which has an impact on the border is unavoidably complicated and inevitably charged with emotional and symbolic significance. After a period of relative obscurity, it now appears that everybody is fascinated by the border. . . Many of us would rather have been left alone.”

Brexit would have a huge impact on the farming communities along the 310-mile stretch, he said. “The long-term well-being of men and women like these, and their neighbours all along the border, requires and deserves a clearly spelt-out, sustainable agreement between both sides.”

Bishop McDowell concluded by warning the Government to “tread carefully”. It was, he said, “with deep and genuine concern I would ask you to be very conscious of the legacy your Government will leave.”

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