Derry & Strabane Council have voted by majority to back a motion calling for the north’s vote to remain part of the EU to be respected and protected.
The DUP initially expressed supported for the motion, which was tabled by SDLP Councillor Shauna Cusack, but later withdrew it.
Speaking at the July meeting of the Full Council, Colr. Cusack called upon her colleagues to officially recognise “the resounding support” among voters in the council area for remaining in the EU, and to recognising “the severe impact” of withdrawal.
She said: “We have not given our consent to change the constitutional make-up of the North, therefore our membership of Europe should not be altered.
“We here already suffer from the greatest levels of historical, social and economic deprivation and are last on the list when it comes to investment backed and funded by Westminster.
“EU funding has often been our lifeline, it has provided a plethora of capital and social projects here in the North and has changed both landscapes, communities and even lives as a result.”
Espousing the benefits and protections that have come from EU, Colr. Cusack said: “I wonder if history would appraise the values of the ‘British Empire’ in the same way?
“The British political system has deprived us of a lot, for many it has stolen more than it has bestowed. In this single, arguably most life changing political decision of our generation we must ensure that Westminster, for once, respects, protects and prioritises the will of the people here.”
DUP Councillor David Ramsey said his party would support the motion, but said that “respect needs to be shown to the many people who through democracy voted to leave”.
“Why are people trying to divide themselves from our fellow UK citizens, it’s like biting the hand that feeds you, but as history has proven that is no surprise either,” he said.
Backing the motion, Sinn Fein Councillor Dan Kelly said that the overwhelming majority of citizens in the north voted to remain. “The vote has created major challenges for our economy,” he said, adding: “Only a few weeks ago Theresa May said our future lies within the EU.”
UUP Councillor Derek Hussey said “Brexit means Brexit”, adding: “If this motion is to try and reverse the democratic decision of the people of the UK I will not support it.”
Independent Colr. Gary Donnelly also said he would not be supporting the motion, but for very different reasons, claiming the debate pointed to the dysfunctional politics on the island, adding that the EU was not “all sunshine and roses”.
“If that was the case our young people wouldn’t be in Australia and Canada,” he said. “We’re at the bottom of the pile whether there’s a Brexit or not.”
Independent Colr. Maurice Devenney said he was “quite surprised” to hear people who voted for Brexit and to leave Europe say they would support the motion.
He added that the businesses he has been talking to believed Brexit would be good for the economy- an economy he said was already rebounding.
He added that a weaker pound was good for businesses here selling aborad, and was bringing more people from across the border to shop here.
“We can’t have our cake and eat it,” he said.
Responding to Colr. Donnelly’s comments, Sinn Fein Colr. Patricia Logue rhymed off a list of Derry community based and education projects, museums, and other infrastructure which were EU funded.
Prior to a recorded vote being taken, DUP Councillor David Ramsey said that his party had “changed our minds”, and subsequently voted against the motion alongside the other unionist councillors present, and Independent Colr. Donnelly.
However the motion was carried by a majority of 24 to nine against, with two abstentions from Independent Councillors Darren O’Reilly and Warren Robinson.