Living in a Border County like Monaghan Brexit is of huge concern for me. The border region is already disadvantaged when compared to the rest of the country in terms of its exposure to poverty, and social exclusion. Brexit only serves to compound the problems that we in border counties face.
The practical, political, social and economic implications of the UK’s decision to leave the EU and the consequences for Ireland cannot be underestimated.
In the border counties there is a historical and social stigma attached to borders. None of us want to go back there again. A return to borders will no doubt result in an increase in smuggling and black market trade.
The border stretching from Donegal to Louth is 500km long. There are almost 300 formal crossing points and many more informal crossing points with approximately 1.85 million car crossings per month.
Any change to the border will have very serious negative ramifications for cross-border workers, students, businesses, cross-border trade particularly in the agri-food sector; tourism and travel in general. It will also be a major disturbance and inconvenience to everyone’s daily lives.
The potential loss of PEACE Funding, the possibility of a return to the ‘hard’ borders of the past; the regressive impact on North/South bodies and all Island cooperation could set the region back dramatically.
These negatives could undo so much of the great work that has been achieved under the Good Friday Agreement. Almost 20 years on from signing that historic accord, we cannot, and will not, let this happen.
From the outset we called for Northern Ireland and the border counties to be designated as a Special Economic Zone. It is imperative that this happens. We also have been consistent in our calls for the EU to provide a fund to help sectors and regions most exposed to the damaging impact of Brexit.
We also can’t forget that the majority of those that voted in Northern Ireland- voted to Remain. It is taking far too long to reinstate the Northern Executive–it has been fully ten months at this stage. This needs to be rectified so that the people of the North have a voice assuring them that the challenges ahead will be tackled
Brexit was not of our choosing, and not of our making, and border counties will need support if they are to successfully navigate a new way forward.
As Brexit negotiations continue, Fianna Fáil will continue to robustly defend and vigorously advocate for our people and our country’s interests. We will fight our corner to ensure there is no return of a hard border that would divide our island once more. We have come too far and worked too hard to risk all that progress. A daoine uisle go raibh maith agaibh go leir.