Belfast Telegraph

Relief as freedom to cross over into Republic remains

 

By Donna Deeney

On the Londonderry-Donegal border yesterday, a bitingly cold December morning began with talk about the weather and the Christmas holidays which are just a fortnight or so away.

Yet as news that a deal - of sorts - had been reached in the first stage of Brexit negotiations, the chat in towns and villages along what will be part of the frontier between the UK and the EU soon changed.

People living here have more reason than most to pay attention to the on-off-on again talks that ran into the early hours of yesterday morning.

It is in border places like Londonderry and neighbouring Buncrana in Co Donegal where the seamless flow of people is taken for granted and any possible interruption of that is feared most.

The news that there will be no hard border between the UK and the Republic was welcomed by people from Londonderry and Buncrana when the Belfast Telegraph caught up with busy shoppers.

Shaun McNutt from Londonderry thinks everyone has a vested interest in the outcome of the negotiations.

He explained: "I think everyone should be paying attention to the negotiations or at least keep an eye on the main headlines. I am delighted with the agreement they have come up with now because I think it is the best we are going to get.

"A few people were digging their heels in when they shouldn't have been probably.

"This is a good start but I imagine there will be a few snags coming through before it is all done and dusted but this is a good start."

Marie McColgan also lives in Derry but is a frequent visitor to Donegal.

She said: "I think things were so much up in the air and everyone has different opinions on it but when you are from somewhere like Derry which is so near to the border, you realise what the implication are if there had been a hard border. I have relatives that live across the border and I am over and back quiet a bit. When I was growing up I remember the Customs and the long queues and I don't want to go back to that.

"I don't think people across the water appreciate just how important it was to get this issue sorted.

"There has to be give and take from all sides in the negotiations and if we can reach a final outcome that will keep the border soft than I will be content with that."

Gordon Reid who voted in favour of the UK leaving the EU was equally pleased that the border issued seems to have been resolved.

He said: "I have been following the negotiations closely and I think it is great news there will be no hard border. At least some of the politicians in this country have come to an agreement that there will be no fixed border.

"The ability to have trade between the UK and Ireland flow across a seamless border is essential. Other countries that are not in the EU managed to do it so I don't see why we can't.

"A seamless border is important but it isn't the biggest issue for me. I voted for Brexit and I think illegal immigrants trying to come into the UK is a bigger issue.

"I think British law should decide the law without the European Union interfering and that is a big thing for me."

Michael Morrow from Derry city was among the few people we spoke to that wasn't all that interested.

He said: "I switched off the whole Brexit thing a bit if I am being honest. I feel the man in the street is a bit out of the loop especially with what is or isn't going on in Stormont. Maybe if they had Stormont sorted out people would turn their attention more to Brexit."

Nowhere is the strong connection between border towns in Donegal and Derry more evident than in Buncrana where so many people commute on a daily basis between the two places to work, shop and visit relatives.

Here too, people breathed a sigh of relief that agreement on Stage One of the Brexit negations had been reached.

Bernie Coyle described the agreement as a demonstration of common sense.

She said: "I have been following this all week and I am glad they have showed a bit of common sense.

"It was important to get it right because it would be ordinary people living in towns like Buncrana and Derry that would suffer if they had brought in a hard border.

"We travel freely up and down - we are Irish but we still like to go to the North and enjoy everything about it.

"I remember being on a bus as a kid when there were Customs and the Customs coming on the bus and checking what you had bought and taking the things you weren't allowed off you.

"Imagine how disastrous it would be if we had to go back to that."

Bronagh Doyle is originally from Derry, but now lives in Buncrana.

She said: "I am delighted there won't be a hard border. It is so important that people are able to come to Buncrana to shop and do business and people from Buncrana can go to Derry.

"This might not be a big deal for people who don't live in border towns and maybe they don't care but it is a really big deal for the likes of us and I am glad it will be a soft border."

Just as delighted that agreement has been reached was Stephanie Elliot who welcomed the new sense of surety.

"I hope the progress keeps up after all the commotions at the start of this week," she said.

"This affects people on both sides of the border and it is important they get it right.

"We take for granted being able to come and go between both towns and it is great that it looks like it will stay that way in the future."

Belfast Telegraph

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