Border TDs express concerns about future after Brexit
‘We live in the shadow of the Border here...counties like ourselves will feel the impact far worse than anybody else’
Thomas Pringle: he says there have been lots of reassurances but there has been huge uncertainty about what will happen
The biggest dairy in the northwest, Aurivo, receives a third of all its milk from the six counties of Northern Ireland. Post-Brexit nobody is sure if that situation will continue, says Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry.
“Will that operation continue to be as seamless as it is or will raw materials like this be impacted depending on what is agreed?” asks the Fianna Fáil Deputy.
In Donegal the situation is similar. Independent TD Thomas Pringle says that there is a situation where milk comes from the North into Donegal, is processed, and then returns to Northern Ireland for sale.
He says there have been lots of reassurances but there has been huge uncertainty about what will happen.
The Irish Times has spoken to a number of TDs whose constituencies run up to the Border about the impact of the UK leaving the EU in January, deal or no deal.
All highlighted slightly different concerns, but many pointed to worries about agri-food, fishing, exports and imports, as well as implications for long-term stability and peace.
Perhaps surprisingly, all said they have had little or no communications from constituents about Brexit in the past year. Most ascribed this to the more immediate challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as fatigue at a process that has been grinding on for over four years now
“To be honest people have not been ringing or talking to me [about this]. I am a little nervous about complacency,” said Sinn Féin TD for Donegal Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.
“Once the protocols were agreed perhaps people thought it was now sorted and there is a sense even now among people it will be okay. There is definitely not the same interest as there was a year ago.”
Both Mr Mac Lochlainn and Mr Pringle separately point to real concerns coming from two sectors, fishing and agri-food. Killybegs in Co Donegal is Ireland’s main port for pelagic fishing, such as mackerel and herring, a lot of which is done in UK waters.
Another Border TD, Fergus O’Dowd of Louth, expressed concern that all the gains made since the Belfast Agreement might begin to ebb away if there is a hard Brexit.
The Fine Gael TD pointed to Dundalk and Newry and how both towns suffered during the Troubles and the substantial improvement that has occurred in both places since then.
“They are like two parishes and both have done well since the Border disappeared. I am concerned about a return to violence. If there is uncertainty and if you give violence any wriggle room it can return.”
Niamh Smith, a Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, has said she also worries about apathy.
“I am concerned that business is not engaged enough about the impact of Brexit. People are worried, though. We live in the shadow of the Border here. I am really concerned that counties like ourselves will feel the impact far worse than anybody else.”