As Boris Johnson looks nailed-on to become Prime Minister, here are the worst things he's said about Ireland
Boris Johnson will be the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
It seems certain now that the former Mayor of London will soon take up a new role in 10 Downing Street, replacing Theresa May as Prime Minister. While Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid and Michael Gove remain in the race, Johnson is exponentially more popular than each of them with his fellow Tory parliamentarians.
And much like your average Tory parliamentarian, in the three years since Brexit, Johnson has made several remarks betraying a staggering ignorance of Ireland, the Irish border, and Anglo-Irish relations.
Johnson's harmful remarks are by no means limited to Irish people, we should quickly note. He has referred to Muslim women who wear the niqab as "letter boxes" and "bank robbers" at a time when Islamophobic crime in his country is skyrocketing.
A trenchant supporter of Britain's colonial past, he has referred to people in the Commonwealth as "cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies" – a racist term for African children. While a journalist, he wrote that Tony Blair would be greeted in Africa by "tribal warriors" who "will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief".
Boris didn't lick these traits off a stone, either. Asked what Margaret Thatcher would have said about the Irish border discussion, Boris' father Stanley said: "She would have said 'It is quite intolerable that this whole question of the Northern Ireland border has come to dominate the proceedings'. 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 not. That is something the Irish will do.'"
While it is quite likely that this is exactly what Thatcher would have said, it's important to note that Stanley Johnson thinks this is a good thing.
Boris' sister Rachel on the other hand, who is a journalist in her own right, caused consternation in the aftermath of the Eighth Amendment refendum when she tweeted: "Huge praise to Beth Rigby and Kay Burley of Sky News who produced world class award winning reporting every step of the way of this powerful and moving and divisive story - and also helped comprehension (in mainland UK) by speaking in clear English not Gaelic throughout."
With all that in mind, let's take a look at the worst things that Boris Johnson has said about Ireland.
In leaked audio of a discussion Johnson had with his advisers, he said of the border issue: "It’s so small and there are so few firms that actually use that border regularly, it’s just beyond belief that we’re allowing the tail to wag the dog in this way. We’re allowing the whole of our agenda to be dictated by this folly."
In those same leaked recordings, Johnson also dismissed fears over the border as "pure millennium bug stuff".
At least 30,000 people cross the border every day.
"The backstop is a monstrosity"
Johnson has no shortage of statements belittling the importance of the backstop. While the EU and Ireland have repeatedly made it clear that a backstop is essential for preventing a No Deal outcome, Johnson has not listened.
In one statement on 17 September, 2018, he called it a monstrosity, said that "it is little short of an attempt to annex Northern Ireland," and "we are straining at the gnat of the Irish border problem".
In March of this year, Johnson wrote an entire column in The Telegraph defending the Bloody Sunday soldiers, arguing that they should be safe from prosecution.
"Are we really proposing to send old soldiers to die in jail," he asked. "After we gave dozens of wanted terrorists a get-out-of-jail-free card under the Good Friday Agreement? Is that balanced? Is that fair?" The column was titled: 'How can we put Bloody Sunday squaddies in the dock for murder, yet tell the IRA they can get away with it?'
Johnson wrote this while the Public Prosecution Service deliberated on whether to bring any charges. In the end, only one soldier was charged with any crime as a result of Bloody Sunday.
In an interview in February 2018, while still Foreign Secretary, Johnson attempted to simplify the border issue by comparing it to congestion charges in London.
“There’s no border between Islington, Camden and Westminster, but when I was mayor of London we anaesthetically and invisibly took hundreds of millions of pounds from people travelling between those two boroughs without any need for border checks."
Johnson interviewed Martin McGuinness for The Spectator in 2000, and his commentary contained plenty of barbs about Ireland.
Read this and draw your own conclusions about Boris' thoughts on Irish culture: "What a place, I think to myself, as I arrive at Stormont. You drive up past the enormous lawns, and the great bronze statue of Carson, the Unionist leader, waving defiance, and everywhere you look there are signs of the British imperium: the vast ghostly pediment fringed with marble palmettes, the ceilings painted eggshell blue, and terracotta and silver; the lion, the unicorn, and honi soft qui mai y pense; the red despatch boxes; the Speaker's Chair, the dedications to those who died for king and country.
"But if you keep going down the marble corridor, and up about three flights of stairs, you will come to something rather odd. 'Crinniu ar siul bain usaid as an doras eile', barks the notice on the door, in what one takes to be a Gaelic demand for privacy."
Johnson concludes by referring to the peace process and a "peace process" — calling it "morally bankrupt, but not wholly despicable".