CHAIRING a session of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs examining the possible affects the UK’s decision to leave the EU will have on rural communities along the border with Northern Ireland, independent Deputy Michael Collins said he was very concerned that communities both North and South would be left vulnerable and forgotten when the realities of Brexit takes hold.
“Many farmers are reliant on European aid,” Deputy Collins said, “a majority of people in the north do not want to leave the European Union and they must be very frustrated and annoyed that this is happening. It is happening over their heads. How are they coping with this? Are they angered? Will it lead to the break-up of communities? What is the feeling there? These are questions that must be tackled and resolved now before it is too late.”
Peter Sheridan, CEO of Cooperation Ireland told the committee that the British government has made a commitment to continue to fund the farmers of Northern Ireland at the same EU levels until 2020 but would not clarify their position after this date.
“I do not have to tell people that the future of community, economic and social development, both north and south, is at risk as a result of Brexit,” Mr Sheridan said, “from communities and those with whom we work on the ground, I pick up concerns about the sustainability of local communities.”
“As we face into a very uncertain future for the people of rural Ireland no matter where their communities are on this island, we have to ensure that measures are put in place before the Brexit negotiations begin in earnest,” added Deputy Collins, “I fear that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will have no positive outcome for the people of rural Ireland be they north or south of the border.”