Brexit – against Northern Ireland’s will, and against our hope

Brexit was not my choice. It wasn’t the choice of 56% of the population of Northern Ireland, it wasn’t the choice of people my age and it wasn’t the choice of my parents. Yet here we are, being forced to leave the European Union against our will. Among those who strongly believed immigration was good for our economy and our society, 85% were stay voters, whereas among those who strongly disagree that immigration was a good thing, 76% voted to leave. The Brexit referendum was never about Europe, it was about division, it was about culture, about ideals, about fear and most disturbingly, it was about xenophobia.

Around me are buildings and parks built with the money that has come from the EU’s Northern Ireland PEACE programme. Scars left behind after a generation of violence and civil conflict have been healed, cities and towns regenerated, and most importantly our rights protected by the European Union. As a LGBT+ person, this is particularly poignant for me. It was the European Court of Human Rights in 1982 which lifted the ban on homosexual acts in Northern Ireland, which Westminster had legislated for the rest of the UK 15 years before in 1967 and again it was the European Court of Human Rights which forced the UK to legislate the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Where our government and justice system has historically failed, the European Court of Human Rights acted as our hope for progress. Yet now, our rights are threatened.

I did not vote for Brexit, and Northern Ireland agreed with me to stay. We are being pulled out against our will, our voice ignored, our rights trampled on and our lives changed for the worse. There should never be a visible border on the island of Ireland, we should never close our doors to Europe, especially at this critical stage of our economic development and regeneration.

I will always oppose fear mongering and racism and xenophobia. I will always oppose human rights abuses and injustice and hatred. I will always oppose Brexit. Brexit was not my choice, it wasn’t my parent’s choice, and it was not Northern Ireland’s choice.

Conor Loughran

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