Donegal risks becoming ‘collateral damage’ from Brexit
‘The A5 is our Suez Canal – why can there not be an international agreement over it?’
George Mills from the Irish Road Haulage Association said: ‘I think we are the only country in Europe that has an arterial route going through another country.’
George Mills, from the Irish Road Haulage Association, said Donegal was “most exposed” to the potential impact of Brexit.
“We could be the most adversely affected place in Europe for something we had no hand, role or part in,” he said.
Mr Mills told the conference – which was organised by campaign group Border Communities Against Brexit – that the delays and additional costs created by a hard border would be disastrous for Donegal.
Referring to the main route from Letterkenny to Dublin, he said: “I think we are the only country in Europe that has an arterial route going through another country.
“The A5 is our Suez Canal – why can there not be an international agreement over it?”
He said he believed Donegal should be able to seek compensation for the effects of Brexit, and the only place to look was the EU.
“We should be able to show Donegal as a prosperous county, make people jealous of what we have here in Donegal, and we need support to do that, so now’s the time to ask for that support.”
Mr Mills’ concerns were echoed by Donegal vet Gerard Roarty, who told the conference the county was “incredibly exposed” because of the nature of its farming. “We need to start shouting about how exposed we are in Donegal to Brexit,” he said
Mr Roarty said most farmers in Donegal were beef and sheep farmers, who stood to lose access to Britain – their largest export market – post-Brexit because of the availability of cheaper Brazilian beef and difficulties maintaining the integrity of animal health and traceability if a border was introduced in Ireland.
Letterkenny Chamber of Commerce chief executive Toni Forrester said now was the time to lobby strongly for improved infrastructure for Donegal.
“This region has seen a lack of investment for many years, now it’s time for investment,” she said, adding that the upgrade to the A5 “has to happen soon”.
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said that, since partition, Donegal and other Border areas had always suffered from socio-economic deprivation.
“There is no such thing as a soft border. The only question is, how hard?” he asked.
“In terms of the true implications for what a bad case Brexit would mean, we haven’t seen anything yet,” he said.
“We’re now in a crunch situation, the next six months could potentially define the future of Ireland for a number of decades, so we have a responsibility to ensure that our people are protected, our Border communities are protected, and our all-Ireland economy is protected.”