Bogside on Brexit: ‘A complete mess, bizarre, unedifying’

You are now entering free-spoken Derry, where views on the Tories are strident

There’s never any shortage of chat in Doherty’s Cafe in the heart of Derry’s Bogside, where staff wearing elf costumes to mark the Christmas season serve its famous stew.

"The bottom line should be that the referendum is rerun," says Tony Harkin, as he tucks into his lunch. "If the Brexiteers felt confident there should be no reason they would object.

“People realise the implications now, so why not make a decision to listen to the majority and have another referendum?” he declares, accompanied by his wife, Kathleen. “If there’s no deal it will be a disaster for us,” she says simply.

Sitting nearby, Sadie, who is able to quote chapter and verse about the no-confidence vote faced by prime minister Theresa May, says: "No matter what I think of her, I admire her taking a stand.


“I think they should go back to the people and have another vote,” she says, adding. “I am worried about what’s happening, but I’m trying to be positive. It could be worse – we could be in America and have Trump to deal with.”

Shauna Curtis is less concerned. She recently moved her family to Derry from England in search of a better quality of life. Brexit is not part of her thinking. "We're not really bothered about Brexit, to be honest. We love it here."

Farming news

Raymond McDaid is equally unconcerned, though he knows Brexit will hurt some: “Businesses like this one, they will be affected – all businesses will be. And I’m a former farmer, and I know it’ll affect the farming community as well.”

Nearby in the Museum of Free Derry, Jean Hegarty has divided thoughts: "I don't know if I want Teresa May to win or lose, though I do think it's a poisoned chalice for whoever takes it over.

“What really annoys me is all those stupid comments you hear from Tory politicians, like the man who said the Irish should know their place. It has me swearing at the TV. A hard border would affect us and our lives.

“People in England won’t be affected by the Border on a day-to-day basis. There will be an economic effect, but it’ll hurt the working class, not the Jacob Rees-Moggs of this world.”

Directly affected

“People are bewildered and appalled by what’s happening, but they are also directly affected by it,” says journalist Paul McFadden.

Bogside born and reared, he fears Derry and the Border will be “painfully affected” by what he describes as the “chaos unfolding” at Westminster.

"My attitude to Brexit is that it's more of a private fight that could have occurred between David Cameron and Boris Johnston on the playground at Eton. It's a private argument within the Tory party, and we're all affected by it.

“Theresa May could win the no-confidence vote, but she’ll be damaged by it.

“If even the people negotiating the deal don’t know what they mean by Brexit, how can they expect the people to know?

“They need to go back to the people and have another referendum.

“But this – it’s a complete mess, it’s a shambles, it’s bizarre, it’s unedifying, and the awful thing about it is that it’s serious.”

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times