Concerns have been raise at Brexit's impact on Donegal.
As Revenue Commissioners confirm they are looking at locations for border checkpoints in Donegal, fears of a hard border having a devastating impact here were expressed at weekend protests.
Speaking at a protest in Lifford, Sinn Féin Cllr Gary Doherty said the thousands of people who cross the border from and into Donegal every day may now be facing a nightmare scenario with checkpoints and delays.
“Any semblance of a hard border will have a huge impact on everybody that lives along the border, whether it’s north or south,” Cllr Doherty said.
Cllr. Doherty was among those who stood along Lifford Bridge on Saturday holding signs that said 'No border, no barrier' in an action to highlight Brexit concerns, as cars and lorries passed freely in both directions across what many fear may become a hard border.
A similar action was staged at the same time on Saturday morning at Bridgend, at the Donegal-Derry border.
“We’re standing here at Lifford Bridge. You can see there’s thousands of cars and lorries that traverse this bridge every day,” Cllr. Doherty said, adding that a recent council report showed thousands of people cross the border daily for work.
The group Border Communities Against Brexit organised the action, with similar actions taking place at Dundalk and Aughnacloy. The Donegal protests drew individuals and Sinn Féin elected representatives from both sides of the border.
As part of the action at Bridgend, a protester wore a mock customs uniform, a reminder to passing motorists of what a new customs checkpoint could mean for border communities.
The action came days after Pearse Doherty, Sinn Féin TD, said he received confirmation that Revenue Commissioners are in the process of identifying locations along the border for the return of full customs checkpoints as they prepare for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.
"The people of Inishowen do not want a return of customs posts and checkpoints as it would have serious economic consequences for jobs, the farming community, the fishing industry and local enterprises,” Sinn Féin Sen. Pádraig MacLochlainn, who took part in the Bridgend action, said.
Johnny Kelly, owner of the Fir Trees Hotel in Strabane, took part in the Lifford protest. He said about 25 per cent of the hotel’s business and about 25 per cent of their staff come from the Donegal area.
“For me, there's an importance that there's a continued free flow of people and traffic across the border region,” Mr. Kelly said.
Pat Doherty, Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone, said he and local businesspeople will be in Westminister this week to make the case, “that this is a huge thing on the ground that affects the farming community, it affects the business community, it affects the ordinary people and particularly it cuts across everything that we campaigned for in terms of the Good Friday Agreement.”
“We’ve said all along that we were fearful of a hard border,” Cllr. Doherty said. “The Brexit campaign was fought on the basis of a hard border. Nigel Farage and UKIP and the hard Brexiteers of the Tory party didn’t fight that campaign so that they could have an open border with the European Union between Donegal and Tyrone and the rest of the north and south in Ireland.
”That’s not what they fought their campaign on,” he said.