North feels ‘forced out of EU’ by Brexit, Bishop warns

Posted By: October 07, 2016

Greg Daly. The Irish Catholic (Dublin). Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fears move will damage economy

A senior bishop has warned that there is a palpable sense of fear in communities in the North about Britain’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) with many people feeling they are being forced out of Europe.

Bishop Donal McKeown told The Irish Catholic that people are particularly fearful about potential job losses in an already fragile economy when the North is cut off from the Republic and the rest of the EU.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May announced this week that her government will begin the process of quitting the EU within six months.

Bishop McKeown – whose Derry diocese straddles the border between Co. Donegal in the Republic and Co. Tyrone and Co. Derry in the North – said, “the main concern in Derry is the effect it will have on employment.”

“The border is very open at present: people can commute back and forth for work, for shopping, and so on, and the opening up of the border really has made a big difference to making Donegal part of the natural hinterland for Derry City, and also for parts of Tyrone that are in the diocese on the border,” he said.

Looming restrictions on the border were heightening “concern for people, the future of employment and the prospect of new foreign direct investment,” Dr. McKeown said. Derry being cut off from its natural hinterland, he said, would “certainly have implications for social cohesion, for how people get employment, and for the prospects for our young people”, adding, “I’d be concerned about the effects it would have on the welfare of people and their hopes for the future.”

The bishop added that there were fears about the effects of withdrawal on those farmers in the diocese who depend on EU funding to maintain their smallholdings, and expressed concerns about the impact withdrawal from the EU would have on the ongoing peace process, not least in terms of a loss in funding for cross-border projects intended to build trade and other relationships.

“Part of the problem in Northern Ireland is that the North voted to stay in the EU, and – particularly in mainly nationalist areas, with Derry being one of those – there’d be a considerable resentment against being forced out of the EU, so it’s not just the economic thing, it’s the whole sense of identity,” he said.