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Mass protests on Derry-Donegal border to mark Brexit

Grianan Outdoors on the Derry-Donegal border is Ireland's first retail store to implement a card-only payment policy

Mass protests on Derry-Donegal border to mark Brexit

Catherine Weatherall, store manager at Grianan Outdoors which operates a card-only payment policy

A number of protests will take place on the Derry-Donegal border tomorrow night to send the message that local communities rejected Brexit.

At 11pm on Friday, January 31, the UK, including Northern Ireland, will legally leave the EU.

That means the UK will no longer be represented in EU institutions and Northern Ireland's three MEPs, including Derry Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson, will no longer sit in the European Parliament.

Trade negotiations will now take place which British Prime Minister Boris Johnson aims to complete within a year, however, the EU insists it will not be rushed.

Foyle voted by 78.3% to remain in the EU, with the exception of the tiny enclave of Gibraltar no other constituency declared its intentions to remain more strongly.

Dermot O’Hara of Border Communities Against Brexit (BCAB) said Brexit does not have the support of the people in the North of Ireland.

BCAB is holding a rally at Bridgend this Friday, January 31 at 9.30pm to show its opposition to Brexit. 

Further demonstrations will take place at the Magilligan ferry terminal at 11pm in parallel with others at Strabane, Aughnacloy and Killean to highlight uncertainties that remain.

Protesters have been encouraged to use their mobile phones to light up the border area.

Mr O’Hara commented: “Whilst the current deal means that there will be no hard infrastructure at the border, many threats and serious challenges remain.  Brexit in any form is bad for citizens, our economy, our peace and our future.

“It remains the case that the British government has unilaterally decided to walk away from not only the EU, but also from important aspects of the Good Friday Agreement.

“All of this is being done in opposition to the democratically expressed wishes of the people in the North who voted 56% remain.

“For people in the North, Brexit still means that their rights and protections will be reduced.”

Opportunities for young people will disappear, he says, and essential funding streams will be lost, including payments under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

“The Tories will also seek to roll back on EU safeguards for workers' rights.  Human rights and equality guarantee’s in law are a central part of the Good Friday Agreement but Tory/DUP Brexiteers are planning to scrap the Charter of Fundamental Rights post-Brexit.

“We should never ever forget that the DUP policy towards a Hard Brexit would have created a hard border on this Island, resulting in a serious threat to our peace process and caused 100,000 jobs to be lost on this island.

“The British Government must meet their obligations under the Good Friday Agreement, including the continued incorporation into law of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“The interests of Ireland and the rights of citizens in the North must be front and centre of negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and Britain.

“The lobbying, profile and activity of BCAB helped to ensure that there will be no hard border in Ireland.

“The work of BCAB has included public meetings in border communities, widespread media engagement in Ireland, in Brussels, and engagement with political representatives at local, national, EU level and America.”

Mr O’Hara concluded by saying political representatives in border counties must continue to apply pressure to ensure that the Irish Government stands up for the interests of all the people in the North.

‘Irish unity’

Martina Anderson has called for maximum support for the protests.  She said: "I would urge as many people as possible to come out on Friday night and send a strong message to the British government that although it ceases to be a member of the European Union at 11pm, that you as Irish and EU citizens will continue to demand that your human and others rights as such citizens will be respected.

"You expressed your democratic choice to stay in the EU in the 2016 referendum and again when you elected MEPs in May 2019. Despite this, the British government is dragging us out of the EU with all the drastic consequences that it will have for all aspects of our lives.

"Brexit is a threat to the Good Friday Agreement, to our hard-won rights and will decimate our economic potential.”

Ms Anderson added: "When the impact of Brexit hits home and community groups are starved of EU Funding, when young people can no longer avail of the Erasmus programme, when farmers no longer receive CAP Payments and when environmental, labour and consumer protections evaporate, I believe that it will result in more and more people joining the reasonable, sensible and mature conversation about the need for constitutional change in Ireland.”

The Sinn Féin representative believes a referendum on Irish Unity would “mitigate the damage” that Brexit will “inflict on Derry and across Ireland”.

‘Uncertainty’

Ahead of Brexit Day on January 31, Redmond McFadden, President of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce said that while businesses in the North West are relieved that they will be leaving the EU on Friday with a negotiated deal, “Brexit day is certainly not a cause for celebration” for the majority of its members.

He said: “This is not the end of Brexit but, rather, the end of the beginning. The negotiations before December 31 this year will be crucial to the future prosperity of the North West’s economy.

“Given our unique position on the border, it is vital that businesses in the North West can continue to trade openly across these islands and that they have seamless, unfettered access to markets in Great Britain and Europe and unfortunately we don’t have any certainty around that yet.”

One business which set-up on the Derry-Donegal border amid Brexit uncertainty last November is Grianan Outdoors.  Located at Bridgend it at the site formally occupied by Harry’s restaurant, the store specialises in top outdoor brands.

Store manager, Catherine Weatherall said that concerns have lessened given assurances that no border infrastructure will be put in place.

However, Brexit has partly influenced their decision to operate a card-only policy because of constantly fluctuating exchange rates.  She said they are the first retail store on the island to implement such a policy.

“Business has been going great, and I suppose you do think about what’s going to happen after Brexit.  Our staff would come in from the north so we would never want to see a hard border.

“Then there’s the issue of tax and whether you’d be charged more.  If that happened then it would have a big impact on business.

“In terms of goods coming in, if manufacturing prices went up then that would also have a knock-on effect for retail and for everybody.”

Visit the BCAB Facebook for more details about tomorrow’s rallies.

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