A new study across Derry, Strabane and Donegal has found there is no appetite for any sort of border control across the region.
The preliminary findings of a major scoping exercise jointly triggered by the two Councils in Donegal and Derry & Strabane on June 24, straight after the Brexit vote, were revealed at a conference at An Grianan Hotel in Burt on Tuesday.
Michael Gallagher, Strategy Manager at Derry City & Strabane District Council, said that the data being collated would feed into a robust information database “so if we are going to Dublin, London, Belfast or Brussels we have a strong report, saying this is the situation, this is what we need to do and this is where we differ from elsewhere”.
Speaking about the research conducted so far, with input from university experts across Ireland, he said: “In terms of feedback, no-one wants border controls, no-one that we spoke to. The less intrusive, if at all, the better. Anyone who remembers what it was like 20-30 years ago trying to do business will know that.”
He added: “Since the late ‘90s the border has been seemless in terms of labour mobility and goods and services. This region functions as an economic unit.
“We are quite, quite different to any other area from Britain or Ireland because of that and that is one of things we need to make clear to the policy makers. Anyone who drives down Buncrana Road will now see that the last housing is only 500 metres from the border. Your local shop for children there is effectively cycling to Bridgend. That tells you the complexity of border living.”
Speaking about local perceptions on Brexit he added: “So far we have taken a first look as to how this might impact. Early indications from the public sector and others is that they are concerned. With the Health Service in particular, an awful lot of workers will travel cross-border. An awful lot of the people working in Letterkenny in multi-nationals come from Derry and visa versa.”
Speaking about the overall plan to drive growth across the two council areas, Mr Gallagher said: “We can’t let Brexit, whatever shape it takes, to divert us from that. To do that would be fatal.”
He said that it was vital accurate data on the likely impact of Brexit locally was gathered, adding: “There is an awful lot of noise around Brexit, you can’t turn on your TV or radio or go on in the internet without someone saying something. What we are trying to do is get rid of some of that noise.”