Brexit border control concerns raised at Sinn Fein conference

June 13, 2016

The impact of the reintroduction of border controls in the country should a Brexit vote be reached in the upcoming referendum was reiterated at last Thursday’s Sinn Fein conference in the Carrickdale Hotel.

The event to discuss Brexit and its implications for Ireland was well attended and headed by a panel which included Louth TD and Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, Matt Carthy MEP and  Dr Conor Patterson, Chief Executive of Newry and Mourne Enterprise Agency.

Speaking on the night, Gerry Adams called for a clear vote in support of remaining in the EU and said that in the “event that the referendum result is for leaving the EU, Sinn Féin believes there would then be a democratic imperative for a border poll to provide Irish citizens with the right to vote for an end to partition and to retain a role in the EU.”

The Sinn Féin leader admitted that his party is critical of many aspects of the EU “and of the profound lack of democracy at its core.”  Describing Sinn Fein’s approach to the EU as a “critical engagement” he added,

“Where measures are in the interests of the Irish people, we support them. Where they are not, we oppose them and campaign for change.”

Underlining the party’s support for a “social Europe” of equals where people and parliaments have a greater say in creating positive policies, and its opposition to what he called “a fortress Europe which turns its back on refugees,” Mr Adams added that,

“The possibility that a part of our nation could end up outside the European Union while the other part stays in is not a situation that will benefit the Irish people.”

He warned that Brexit threatened the important change which had come about in Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement which saw the border “become all but invisible” and said a vote to leave the EU risked inflicting “significant damage” on both economies.

Echoing her party leader’s sentiments, South Armagh MLA Megan Fearon said a Leave vote would be “bad for Ireland, bad for business and trade, bad for our farmers and bad for human rights and workers’ rights.”

“Partition is at the core of many of the problems we face today and leaving the EU would only copperfasten the worst effects of partition,” said the Sinn Fein Junior Minister.

“The most obvious and retrograde of these would be the reintroduction of a hard EU border in Ireland.

“In areas like this we know all too well what the border has meant.  Traveling from here to Crossmaglen – just a few miles – involves crossing the border several times.

“Thousands of others in border areas across the north from Derry, Strabane, Fermanagh and elsewhere make similar journeys every day for work, study and to visit family and friends.

“A so called “Brexit” could lead to patrols, checkpoints and a return to the disruption of daily life that the border would bring.”

Speaking from the floor Slieve Gullion Councillor Terry Hearty said that European funding, which had been crucial for rural communities, would be in jeopardy “if we are dragged out of the EU.”

Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady added,

“While there are many problems with the EU it has provided huge funding to communities along the border and anyone who thinks, in the event of a Brexit, the British Government is going to replace that funding, is mad.”