Should we stay or should we go?

Posted By: May 24, 2016

EU had vital role in securing peace 

Tom Kelly. Irish News (Belfast). Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Businessman Tom Kelly is chairman of Northern Ireland Stronger in Europe

THE things in life that I am truly passionate about are my family, the credit union movement, my business and a peaceful and prosperous Northern Ireland.

Until a few months ago I hadn’t realized that membership of the EU was also something that stirred a passion in me.

But when I look at my family, my business, my work colleagues and the well-being of my fellow citizens, the EU is there playing its part in all of their futures.

As a lifelong credit union member I perhaps understand better the concept of pooling resources and common bond and that helping each other is a two-way street – and the EU is like that too.

The whole notion of the European Union sprang from the despair of countries devastated by the twin evils of fascism and Nazism.

The EU was born from hope and other countries have since learned from that experience.

Ultimately the EU ideal of coexistence and mutual dependency without loss of identity took root in our own journey towards peace.

The Republic and the UK’s joint membership of the EU were crucial in the thawing of relations between the two countries.

Since then the EU has poured more than £1 billion into infrastructure, education, shared space, marginalized communities and border areas and more than £100 million is in the pipeline. This underpins our peace.

Northern Ireland is the UK region benefiting most from EU membership. In the last five years, 86 EU investment projects in Northern Ireland have created over 2,000 meaningful jobs throughout the north.

Foreign direct investors have indicated that EU membership has been an important factor in choosing here as an investment destination.

Some 25 new investors were attracted to Northern Ireland in the last year, many citing access to the single market as a key factor in their decision.

Our friends in the USA, Ireland, India and Australia have called on Britain to remain in the EU. Even China echoed those sentiments.

At the heart our Remain campaign are the interests of small businesses and local jobs. After all, small businesses account for 98 per cent of our economy.

NI food and drink producers alone export a whopping 83 per cent of their products within the EU.

Even Leave experts suggest that within five to 10 years after a EU exit the manufacturing base in the UK could be wiped out. That’s 50,000 real people in real jobs right now across the north.

What are the chances of a 40-year-old man or woman today in one of those jobs getting retrained at 50? The answer is slim to none.

Meanwhile, the single farm payment from the EU accounts for some 87 per cent of farmers’ income.

These are facts, and it’s why the vast majority of voices from our trade unions, businesses, manufacturers, food producers, farmers, universities, the third sector and from across the political divide recognize the danger posed by some of the reactionary and divisive zealots who back the Leave campaign.

A bus trip back to the future is not an option for us and should be left to the fantasists and fanatics.