The father of the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has apologised for his comments about letting the Irish shoot each other.
Stanley Johnson, who a former Member of the European Parliament, made the remarks when speaking on the British television show Good Morning Britain in October 2018.
He was expressing frustration at the way issue of how to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic was thwarting Britain’s efforts to leave the EU.
Both Ireland and the EU insist there must be no hard border as that would undermine the Good Friday Agreement and threaten the fragile peace.
While being interviewed on Good Morning Britain, he praised Margaret Thatcher’s attitude towards Northern Ireland saying that she would have been happy to let the “Irish shoot each other”.
“She would have said that it’s quite intolerable that this whole question of the Northern Ireland border has come to dominate the decision about the future of our country.
“She would have said: ‘Look, if the Irish want to shoot each other, they will shoot each other – whether there’s a hard border or a soft border. That is something the Irish will do if they want to.’ Mrs Thatcher would not have had any truck with this scheme by the EU to elevate the border question into a way of making sure we stay in the EU.”
The remarks caused outrage both in Ireland and UK. Now Johnson has apologised while being interviewed on Newstalk in Ireland.
He said: “I’m terribly sorry if I said that…obviously I did say that, and I would like to apologise profoundly. As far as I’m concerned, the peace in Northern Ireland is absolutely crucial.
“It’s absolutely vital we have the Good Friday Agreement, but the point I’m trying to get at is that both the Irish government and the British government have made it clear that under all circumstances they’re not going to construct a hard border in Northern Ireland, it goes without saying.
“I simply don’t understand why our European friends cannot see that at this point the proposals Boris has put forward for coming out, for a standstill…dealing with the Irish situation in the context of the next phase…all that seems to be to be totally, totally understandable…and will indeed provide for the frictionless exit we’re all looking for.”
Johnson also spoke about how his son was bearing up to the pressure of being Prime Minister and the abuse he was getting in some quarter for deciding to suspend the British parliament in an attempt to prevent it thwarting his Brexit plans.
“It comes with the territory, but I shudder to think of the amount of abuse that Boris is getting.
“Boris is absolutely doing the right thing here. I cannot fault him in comparison with the previous administration. He has set a direction of travel and he is going down it, and honestly, even from the Irish point of view, this is exactly the right road to go down because by trying now to get an agreement that can go through parliament he is actually doing his very best to avoid a No Deal Brexit…and a No Deal Brexit is one that will possibly hurt the Irish economy.
“It will certainly hurt the European economy and it doesn’t need to be there at all. Boris has moved the dial on this one and continues to move the dial.”