Brexit: Arlene Foster takes swipe at those using 'threats of violence' at Irish border as 'bargaining chip'

Lizzy Buchan
DUP's Arlene Foster warned against using 'threats of violence' as a bargaining chip in Brexit talks: PA

Arlene Foster has railed against those using "threats of violence" on the Northern Ireland border as a "bargaining chip" in Brexit talks, in a speech where she recalled wher her father was shot by the IRA.

Taking a veiled swipe at senior figures such as Tony Blair and John Major, who have raised the threat of a hard border to the peace process, Ms Foster said such warnings were "an insult to the people of Northern Ireland".

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader said the horror of growing up during the Troubles in rural county Fermanagh had made her a "glass half full person" and condemned the "diet of doom and gloom" over Brexit.

In a speech to business leaders in London, Ms Foster said: "I can remember the evening when the IRA shot my father. In a bloodstained state he crawled into our kitchen.

"I remember the day the IRA bombed my school bus, severely injuring the girl sitting beside me. That's when I was 16-years-old.

"So growing up in that kind of environment means that optimism is an essential part of one's character.

"Incidentally when I speak about the border in some Brexit scenario, I don't speak about some far away land. I speak about home."

Former prime minister Mr Blair, who helped broker th Good Friday Agreement, previously attacked "sickening" Brexiteers who were prepared to "sacrifice peace in Northern Ireland on the altar of Brexit", while Sir John has said Brexit could undermine peace in the province.

Addressing the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) conference, Ms Foster said: "I do object in the strongest terms to people who have limited experience of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, throwing threats of violence around as some kind of bargaining chip in the negotiating process.

"To do so is an insult to the people of Northern Ireland, who have worked so hard to bring peace to our country."

The prospect of a border on the island of Ireland has become a key stumbling block in the Brexit negotiations.

The DUP - who are propping up Theresa May's fragile administration - have said they will not countenance any difference in regulation between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Ms Foster said the EU's proposals to solve the Brexit Irish border issue were "in bad faith" as the text went back on what was agreed with the UK in December.

It comes after senior figures from the Northern Irish unionist party met with the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier earlier this week, to raise concerns about the withdrawal process.

The DUP is concerned that the EU’s legal text missed out a clause to “ensure the same unfettered access for Northern Ireland's businesses to the whole of the United Kingdom internal market”, prompting fears there could be controls between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.