If you have ever met a ‘Derry Girl’ you will know that we are a determined, courageous and caring species.
A few weeks ago I returned from work in London to take some time out at home in Derry. Of course, that also meant plenty of downtime in Donegal, a place I also call home.
Despite motoring over and back across the border several times durint those few days, it was only when I was sitting on Culdaff beach one warm evening that I got to really thinking . . . how I can sit by and allow anyone to take this away from me?
Having travelled without difficulty from London to Belfast and from Derry to Donegal, I didn’t think twice that anyone would stop me, let alone question me beyond a very quick wave of my Irish passport at the Easyjet terminal. The reason I didn’t have to worry, was simply because it’s always been this way for me. Easy, breezy, frictionless freedom across two islands – a journey I make on a monthly basis, if not more.
However, having spent the past two years listening and reading about the challenges of the British exit from the EU, my anxiety over what the future holds has grown. And it was in that moment, sitting on the beach, where I truly felt that those in London, in Dublin and in Brussels who are tasked with actually deciding our futures, may not fully understand the sense of belonging I cherish from my current freedom.
So I whipped out my mobile and drafted a tweet, a pretty long one actually … mincing my words has never been a strong point. Some might say it’s a Derry girl trait. But anyway, it wasn’t so much the content of my tweet that excited me, but the reaction to it.
Very quickly I noticed lots of Derry girls - and others - liking and commenting on my tweet. When I clicked into their profiles, I saw the diversity of those who clearly felt the same as me. Young, old, politically similar and politically different. It was then that I thought, well I’m not alone in my anxiety and fear - and if I’m not alone, then I am not defeated.
On returning to Derry, I decided to reach out to a selection of talented Derry girls I know and asked them to help me put together a new group: ‘Derry Girls Against Borders.’ And in an instant it was done. Well, when I say it was done, it was really just the beginning.
There’s no rocket science behind this initiative. Our aim is simple - to ask those with power in Dublin, London, Belfast and Brussels to listen to the impact any border will have on our lives.
For years we have all heard the commitments from politicians that there will be “no hard border” but beyond words is there anything cast iron? Possibly, probably, maybe - but when you live here and you know that your way of life is at risk, we desperately need more than words.
Talking to Derry girls, boys and those beyond our city, the threat of any change to the status quo here is beginning to fashion real fear. And while politicians do what politicians do, we feel that our voices are being silenced and in some cases sidelined.
So ‘Derry Girls Against Borders’ has decided to end that deafening silence.
Between now and the October European Summit, we aim to share as widely as possible the stories, the fears, the anxieties; the challenges and the concerns of people here. Central to our campaign is to make approaches to each government, getting them to listen to those concerns and to understand them.
Already ‘Derry Girls Against Borders’ has established a strong network in Derry and we have hubs led by Derry Girls in Dublin, London, Belfast and Brussels. These hubs will connect us directly to those with power and ensure that the voices of people here are heard and not silenced.
On Monday, August 20th, we will launch a four pronged petition to those with power in Dublin, Belfast, Brussels and London. Alongside the petition, we will also share the stories of our own people with those in power.
All we are asking is that they listen. We are tired of being treated as an experiment. Even with the best will in the world, without the guarantees that our lives will not be damaged, people here will remain worried and frightened about their futures.
In order for us to succeed, we need every single person, from Derry and beyond, male or female, young and old. Only when we come together can we make enough noise so that those that keep talking about us, actually start listening to us.
I realise what you’re all thinking - where’s the politics in this? It is Northern Ireland after all. Well I’m sorry to disappoint you, we aren’t up for another game of political football when one border is assigned to one community and another border to the other. No thanks. Our aim is clear - we are worried about all our futures.
Dog walkers getting to the beach; businesses getting their supplies; Sunday pink and white ice-creams; Letterkenny nights out, going to Derry matches and much, much more. We know the challenges are huge economically and socially.
That’s why we want to share the reality of those concerns. We want to defend our way of life. And yes, we know the answers aren’t easy. But for us, the best solution is the status quo.
For us, both islands still being able to freely interact, as per normal, is the best solution. We don’t want border checks and tighter controls anywhere.
I know all of this might seem ambitious – it is. But I am always reminded of the famous quote ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can bring change; because, it’s the only thing that ever has’
So if you too are worried, if you want to give voice to your feelings and concerns. If you want to help us defend our way of life for all peoples here, then join us and help us. We may just be a small group of Derry Girls but we are determined, courageous and we care.
Derry Girls Against Borders are launching their petition and awareness night on Monday August 20 at the City Hotel, Derry at 7pm. All welcome. Register here: