Foyle returns UK’s second-highest vote to stay in EU

Largely nationalist constituency bordering Donegal has benefited from EU funding

Counting of EU referendum votes at the Foyle Arena in Derry. Photograph: Trevor McBride

Counting of EU referendum votes at the Foyle Arena in Derry. Photograph: Trevor McBride


With the exception of the tiny enclave of Gibraltar, no constituency in the United Kingdom declared its wish to remain in the European Union more strongly than Foyle.

In all, 32,064 people, accounting for 78.3 per cent of those who went to the ballot box, voted to remain in the EU, while just 8,905 people voted to leave. However, only 57.4 per cent of voters in the constituency cast their ballots, perhaps a symptom of a lethargic campaign by all of Northern Ireland’s political parties.

Despite the low turnout, it is easy to see why this constituency is so pro-European. It is predominantly nationalist. Two miles from Derry city centre is the Border with Donegal – Inishowen is seen as one of the city’s great hinterlands and Letterkenny is only 20 minutes away by car.

Peace Bridge

A new shopping centre received EU funding. Down in the Bogside, near the Free Derry corner, construction is underway for the Museum of Free Derry, which will commemorate, among other things, civil rights and Bloody Sunday.

A sign on the hoarding signals it is part-funded by the EU: “European Regional Development Fund, Investing in Your Future”. In the run-up, people in Derry talked about not being engaged. But they were engaged yesterday.

Mickey Doherty, a supervisor at the Pilot’s Row Community Centre on the Bogside, worried what the result will mean for the Border: “When I was young you had to have a triangle disc on your windscreen when you went to the Border.

“The places we go to from here are Buncrana, Lisfannon and Culdaff. They are all lovely beaches within half an hour of Derry. We don’t know what will happen now. Will we go back to the time when there were queues of hours at the Border?” he asked The Irish Times, describing the decision as a disaster for Northern Ireland.

As elsewhere, Remain and Leave votes roughly divided along sectarian lines.

A woman was walking her dog over the Peace Bridge from the Waterside. When asked for her reaction to Brexit, she said: “It’s great”.

A number of local women had just finished a zumba class at Pilot’s Row and were in their tracksuits and runners. Some worried about the Border, but there were mixed views.

Myra Cannon thought electronic systems could deal with trade and customs issues, but her friends, including Brenda Heaney, disagreed.

One asked if visas would now be needed for holidays in EU countries.

They also complained the campaigns by the parties were almost invisible and that the issues were not fully explained.

Heart of Europe

Colum EastwoodEurope

“The negotiation to come must ensure that any border is only operational around the island of Ireland and not across it. This result must now ensure the full and fast integration of economic interests across Ireland.”