Unionists have rounded on a contender for the Tory party leadership after he posted a ‘pompous’ video clip about the Irish border and Brexit.
In recent days Secretary of State for International Development Rory Stewart posted a video of himself on Twitter in which he gave his opinions on Brexit and the border, as he walked across it.
“There’s only one thing you need to know about the Troubles in Ireland,” he said.
“And that is that the problems, the Troubles, the nationalism began with borders. And the Troubles were ended with the removal of this border, through the Good Friday Agreement.
“And at the heart of this entire Brexit debate is the question of what happens on this border.
“I’m walking now from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland and there’s nothing to be seen.
Apologies if I’ve filmed this a little pompously...Rory Stewart MP
“And that’s really important because it means that instead of rubbing communities against the edge of the border, people are able to trade and move across it and people’s identities can flow across that border.
“If there is one thing that I am begging people to do in Westminster and in this debate, it is not allow this Brexit argument to get away from the fact that a good deal ... that works between NI and Europe is going to be absolutely essential, not just for trade, not just for commerce but for identity.”
But Owen Polley, former manager of the Conservative Party campaign office in NI, described the video as “appalling nonsense” and accused Mr Stewart of “parroting nationalist propaganda on the Troubles without qualification”. He added that it was “chilling for unionists to watch” and that it was “unforgiveable” and “pompous”.
Acknowledging criticism, Mr Stewart replied: “Apologies if I’ve filmed this a little pompously – but the point is a serious one – this is the only land border in the UK and it matters not just for trade but for identity.”
But TUV leader Jim Allister said Mr Stewart had “merely confirmed his ignorance” about NI.
“Thirty years of terrorist violence was not caused by the border but by murderers intent on bombing and shooting the majority of people in this part of the UK into submission,” he said.
“It is deeply offensive that Mr Stewart should ignore this reality or be ignorant of it. The one consolation is that he isn’t going to get anywhere near Number 10.”
A DUP spokesman said that “terrorism was the cause of the Troubles”, adding the Conservative Party leadership is “entirely a matter for Conservative Party members”.
Rory Stewart voted to remain in the EU and says a no-deal Brexit would be “catastrophic” and is “undeliverable” and “unnecessary”.
He is advocating citizens’ assemblies for Brexit to thrash out a compromise.
The MP is planning to focus on getting Theresa May’s existing deal through Parliament, saying there is “no evidence” the EU will offer a different deal. He is a former chair of the Defence Select Committee and has been a minister at the Department for the Environment, the Foreign Office and Ministry of Justice. Before becoming an MP he was a diplomat and a lecturer.