Border Communities Against Brexit to unveil new posters across the border tonight
Border Communities Against Brexit are launching new posters at 7:30pm tonight, Monday April 9th.
The posters will be unveiled in six locations on the border, including at Killeen Bridge near Dundalk.
The event also seeks to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Border Communities Against Brexit is a cross-community organisation, with people from all sectors coming together due to their concern about the impact Brexit will have on Ireland. The group was awarded a European Citizen's Prize in July 2017.
JJ O’Hara, a spokesperson from Leitrim, says that the Good Friday agreement needs to be protected at all costs. “Our event tonight aims to show the progress that has been made over the past 20 years,” he explains. “We have speakers from both communities, Unionist and Nationalist,” he reveals.
“We want to show that we are cooperating and that there are wonderful cross-community projects taking place, such as Greenways, across the border,” adds Mr O’Hara. “A lot of the funding for these border area projects come from the EU, such as Interreg. When Brexit happens, it is unclear whether this funding will continue.” There are plans in place to extend Louth’s Greenway across the border to Greenore, but there is no set date for its completion.
“So many services and sectors will be affected by a border,” warns Mr O’Hara. “In Donegal, you have cancer patients receiving treatment in Derry hospitals. If the North leave the EU, data regulations will be breached in relation to patients’ files. There will be major implications in the health service as a result... even ambulances are cross-border.”
Mr O’Hara also details how businesses could be affected. “When you think of Abbot medical devices, they will now have to put lorries with their medical devices on a ferry to Spain, and enter the EU this way, instead of going through England,” the BnB owner explains. “Also, patents that they have on their devices are all under EU law, so they might be liable to open patents.”
“In my own sector, the tourism industry, we have tours all around Ireland, North and South,” Mr O’Hara reveals. “It isn’t like we have a concrete Visa system in place with the UK, like we do with America. There is currently no idea what way travel across the border will work after Brexit,” he says exasperatedly.
Mr O’Hara believes this is an issue which will affect all communities in the border area and beyond. “I know a farmer, a Unionist lad, and if a hard border happens, he will have to travel 11 extra miles to feed his cattle,” the Leitrim man says. “In Armagh, there is a graveyard where half of it is in the South and the other half is in the North.”
“There are plenty of school children who live in the South but go to school in the North and visa versa. What will happen to them?” Mr O’Hara asks. “What about the adults working across the border?” he adds. “I don’t think the Brexit negotiators are fully understanding the issues. There has been no conversation with real people on the ground.”
“There is now a lot of cooperation across the border. Peace, projects and so much progress made as a result of the Good Friday Agreement,” says Mr O’Hara. Border communities Against Brexit are concerned that the Agreement will be dismantled because of Brexit, and they are determined to prevent this.
“56% of Northern Ireland wanted to remain in the EU and we think that should be respected,” he adds. When you think of young people especially, who voted to remain, they will not have the same freedom of movement that they would have had,” explains Mr O’Hara. “The Erasmus programme is an EU initiative, giving students the opportunity to travel. After Brexit, students in the North will be subject to blockages on their travel.”
“Currently the British government have no real proposal. It is a year from when Brexit is supposed to happen, and we have nothing,” says Mr O’Hara. “Brexit is something that will affect people from Donegal, to Derry and right to Dundalk… and they haven’t given us a plan yet.”
“We are fighting to keep the North within the single market and to be given special status. We do not want a border, not even a soft one, as within time that will become a hard border,” Mr O’Hara says firmly.