Beyond Brexit: Uncertainty hangs in air of Border towns

Posted in Google Brexit News
at 2016.10.20
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Beyond Brexit: Uncertainty hangs in air of Border towns

There is an old fishmongers in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal that has seen it all: boom, bust and everything in between.

O’Reilly’s Fish Centre, on Castle Street, has survived on the Donegal-Fermanagh border for 110 years. But other family-run businesses have not been as lucky.

“There must be at least 10 or 20 shops that are here no longer, family shops – a laundrette beside us, a hairdressers the other side, a grocery shop up the street, a pub on the corner, all gone. There was a butcher’s shop, that’s gone, a jewellery shop, that’s gone,” said owner Claire O’Reilly.

O’Reilly appreciates the cross-Border trade she gets from Northern Ireland customers: “We have people coming in here from Belfast, Derry, Enniskillen, the six counties, you name it. We don’t think of the Border since the peace process, we don’t see it.”

However, the Brexit vote has already changed life in Ballyshannon.

“We can see, even now actually, people from Belleek and other places in the North coming in and not believing that their sterling is (no longer) as valuable here,” says O’Reilly.

“Brexit will most certainly affect us if they put up a border, but I don’t believe it will happen. All of those things are totally up in the air. I don’t see any benefits to this, it simply doesn’t make sense to us living on the Border,” she says.

Growing up, hotelier Benny Dorrian remembers a busier Ballyshannon: “There were seven hotels in the town. We had banks, five bakeries, a factory for fish, it was very industrialist. There were lots of small shops on every street,” he says. But the Troubles crucified the town.

Mass demonstrations

His Cork-born wife, Mary, who moved to Donegal three decades ago when the couple married, recalls: “It was like a war zone. Down in Cork it was like living in another country; people didn’t have to worry, up here they did.”

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