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Border communities urge politicians to sign declaration protecting backstop

(left to right) Damian McGinnity, JJ O'Hara and Tom Murray, from the campaign group Border Communities Against Brexit, outside Leinster House in Dublin before they addressed TDs and senators in the Oireachtas. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 7, 2019. See PA story POLITICS Brexit Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

By Aoife Moore, Press Association

Protesters have gathered outside the Irish parliament to call on public representatives to sign a declaration to protect the backstop.

Border Communities Against Brexit unveiled a poster outside Leinster House on Thursday, urging political parties, unions, civic leaders and citizens to join them at a demonstration along the border on March 30.

The declaration's stated aims include no hardening of the border by implementation of the backstop and preservation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Damian McGenity, who lives a mile from the border in Co Armagh, said his family will be severely affected if a border is introduced.

"Given what's going on at Westminster, and what we're hearing from Brussels, we don't think, standing here today, there's going to be a deal," he said.

"We're at the coalface on Brexit in border communities, whether you live on the northern or southern side, and we need political parties here to be steadfast, and stay the course we're on and stay behind the backstop.

"A border would be catastrophic. For us to travel around just where we live, we cross the border several times a day, a lot of our life is in the south, where we shop or socialise.

"My children go to Dundalk for football training, one set of their grandparents lives in the south. It would have a huge impact on their lives."

David Cullinane, Sinn Fein's Brexit spokesman, said the DUP may now be realising it cannot renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement.

"I don't know whether the DUP are softening their position or whether the British Government are realising they cannot get any changes to the backstop, and that the Irish Government and the EU are holding firm," he said.

"We've always said the British Government need to change their red lines, if we want to get a resolution on these issues.

"The text is the text, it's a legal agreement, signed off on by the British Government. It is the stated position of the EU, there will be no changes, legal or otherwise, to the Withdrawal Agreement - the best that can be given to the DUP and to the British Government are clarifications.

"We always try to be helpful to the DUP and the British Government, and we hope that those clarifications will be enough to get the agreement over the line."

DUP MP Sammy Wilson told a British parliament committee on Wednesday: "The backstop could be removed if they didn't want to have the Withdrawal Agreement totally destroyed, you could impose a time limit on the backstop."

The Irish Government says the backstop will be temporary but has ruled out imposing a time limit.

The UK will leave the EU without a deal later this month unless MPs support the Prime Minister's deal or Britain secures an extension from the EU.

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