Former RIRA figure warns of armed resistance to a hard border

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A former republican prisoner has said there will be “massive recruitment” by republican armed groups in the event of a hard Brexit and a British remilitarisation of the border in Ireland.

Fermanagh man John Connolly is a former spokesperson of the breakaway ‘Real IRA’. Mr Connolly said he is no longer engaged in armed struggle but that, based on his experience, any form of physical infrastructure at the border would be seen as the manifestation of a foreign occupying military force.

“Cameras would be regarded as spy posts and removed by the local population in border areas”, he warned. “The British government don’t seem to have learned from the past. From oppression grows resistance.”

Mr Connolly was imprisoned for his actions in the Provisional IRA as well as the Real IRA, but does not represent any republican armed or political entity since his release from prison in 2007.

In an interview, Mr Connolly said that life around the border would change “dramatically” in the short-term in the immediate aftermath of a hard Brexit.

Cameras would be regarded as spy posts and removed by the local population in border areas, he said, and the Good Friday Agreement would be “dead and buried”.

He said he didn’t think European Union cameras or border infrastructure would be attacked, but the posts would not stop smuggling. “It never stopped it in the past.”

Former 26 County soldier Tom Clonan, who served at the border during the conflict, said he agreed with Connolly’s assessment - but he believed EU border posts would also be attacked.

It would be felt that the information gathered and data gathered by those 26 County systems or EU systems would be shared with the British government, he said.

“Anything like that would be very, very provocative in the border areas - masts, aerials, sensors, or cameras would be seen as very provocative. I believe that that type of infrastructure would be attacked and would be destroyed.

“You could put the European Union flag on it, you could but the Red Cross on it, you could put the Starship Federation markings on it, it will be taken down and destroyed.”

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