I’ve seen the ‘soft border’ and it’ll hurt the North West: Johnny Kelly

editorial image

Anti-Brexit lobbyists warned even the establishment of a so-called ‘soft border’ could damage the local economy during a presentation to the Council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee.

Johnny Kelly from Border Communities Against Brexit and Dermot O’Hara from Breaking Down Brexit warned an EU exit could have a devastating impact here.

Mr Kelly said stemming the “uninterrupted flow of labour and trade” would spell disaster. He recalled a recent journey from Dubrovnik in EU Croatia to Mostar in non-EU Bosnia and Herzegovina and how he travelled through four custom points with passport checks at each.

“These were considered soft borders by the locals,” he said, but it added 30 minutes to his journey.

He said: “If you are a Brexiteer or a Remainer, or a ‘remoaner’ as we are sometimes known, we all want what is best for our communities.”

Mr O’Hara, a founder of Destined, which supports people with learning disabilities, said he was most worried about the dilution of human rights protections.

He referred to a Conservative promise to scrap the Human Rights Act and said equality provisions under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act must be protected.

Sinn Féin’s Mickey Cooper, said Brexit would set us on a “disastrous course.”

“We will be the last on the list of those to benefit from money saved by London,” he said.

The DUP’s David Ramsey objected to what he saw as a political campaign.

“You didn’t even recognise the border by referring to the North of Ireland, rather than Northern Ireland.”

Mr Kelly replied: “We are a non-political organisation. In terms of recognising the border, we want to avoid the sort of border, which restricts the free movement of trade and people.”

He added: “The soundbites from London, Dublin and Belfast are all about a soft border. I’ve been merely trying to describe to you the soft border that I witnessed.”

The SDLP’s Brian Tierney said: “I recently attended the protest at Bridgend with our party leader Colum Eastwood and we openly and proudly campaigned to Remain along with others.”

He said the most important statistic was the 56 per cent Remain vote in the North.

Mr O’Hara responded to unionist claims the presentations were political.

“If someone takes the Human Rights Act away from the people I represent then I’m going to campaign against it.”

Independent Gary Donnelly said: “There was talk about recognising people’s mandates but partition is the problem here, when they didn’t like the result and drew an artificial border, inflicting the greatest injustice on the people of Ireland.”

A motion by Sinn Féin Councillor, Dan Kelly, tabled at the monthly Council meeting last Thursday but deferred until after Mr Kelly and Mr O’Hara’s presentations was put to Committee members and was passed with Sinn Féin and SDLP support by eight votes to five.