Protests planned against return of border checks

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A group of residents have called for mass demonstrations along the Irish border the day after Brexit, when Britain leaves the European Union and takes the north of Ireland with it.

‘Border Communities Against Brexit’ have launched a new billboard at Stormont to announce a day of protest on March 30, when the remilitarisation of the border through Ireland is set to get underway.

Politicians from the north’s main pro-Remain parties also turned out for the event, including representatives from Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Alliance Party.

Group spokesman Declan Fearon announced several locations for the border demonstrations on March 30, including at border crossing points in Counties Down, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Derry.

He said their purpose in coming together is to press to ensure there is no return to a ‘hard border’ in Ireland.

“From 2016, when a clear majority in the north voted to remain within the European Union, border communities have lobbied extensively in Dublin, London and Brussels and indeed here at home,” he said.

“We have organised large-scale protests on the border itself which has helped give a voice to local people who are very frustrated and feel disenfranchised by the Brexit process.

“March 29 is the date by which the Tory government is due to take Britain and indeed ourselves here in the north out of the European Union.

“While there has been much talk about delays and extensions of the withdrawal date, the political machinations at Westminster have completely ignored the views, needs, fears and desires of the people here in Ireland, in particular those living in the border region who will be so adversely affected by Brexit.

“Brexit and a hard border have the potential to cause devastation to our economy, our industries, jobs and especially to the farming sector, to the free movement of people crossing the border every day in our communities to work, study or to trade.

“Border Communities Against Brexit remain focused on ensuring that Irish voices from the border area continue to be heard in the crucial days and weeks ahead.

“To that end we have organised a significant people’s demonstration against Brexit at various points along the border for Saturday March 30.

“These mobilisations will take place at the Old Dublin Road in Kilcarn, on the old Newry to Dundalk road, at Belcoo/Blacklion, Moybridge and Aughnacloy, Lifford and Strabane and Coshquin in Derry.

“We are asking everyone living along the border on either side to make an effort to attend your nearest demonstration. We are calling all trade unions, all representative groups, civic leaders and citizens to join with us and demonstrate our anger at being taken out of the European Union.”

The group also gathered outside Leinster House in Dublin, and later addressed TDs and senators in the Dublin parliament.

Damian McGenity, who lives a mile from the border in County Armagh, said his family will be severely affected if a border is introduced.

“Given what’s going on at Westminster, and what we’re hearing from Brussels, we don’t think, standing here today, there’s going to be a deal,” he said.

“We’re at the coalface on Brexit in border communities, whether you live on the northern or southern side, and we need political parties here to be steadfast, and stay the course we’re on and stay behind the backstop. A border would be catastrophic.”

Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson backed the call to protest.

“The least damaging option for the people in the north of Ireland is the backstop, and as we stand here today we have the DUP and the Brexiteers trying to tear up that backstop,” she said.

“We call on the people not to allow those who are playing fast and loose with the Good Friday Agreement to continue on with the reckless behaviour of the Brexiteers in the House of Commons and to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of the Border Communities Against Brexit on March 30. Regardless of what you are doing, it is crucially important that you stand up for your rights.

“There is a solution to the problem, that is the conversation that has already been mainstreamed about the kind of constitutional change that will take place I believe on the island of Ireland and that is the reunification of our country.”

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