As a child of the Good Friday Agreement, I back a People's Vote
PUBLISHED: 10:06 09 November 2018 | UPDATED: 13:32 09 November 2018
Even at a most basic level there is a complete lack of knowledge about the very nature of the Irish border, says SARAH JANE SMYTH
I was born in November 1997, just five months before the Good Friday Agreement was signed.
Because of this, some may assume I have seen little of the conflict which dominated much of my parent’s lives. In fact, the British army only officially withdrew from South Armagh - where I grew up - in 2007. Not long before my 10th birthday. As a child, I thought it was normal to have soldiers patrol my road, and for military helicopters to land in the field behind my house. It’s only with age that I began to realise that this was very much not the norm. I do not claim to have lived through the Troubles, but I have had a taste of what Northern Ireland could be facing with a return of a hard border.
Throughout the EU referendum in 2016, I watched on from my small village - three miles from the border - growing more and more frustrated as Northern Ireland was consistently left out of the Brexit conversation. Since that summer, day after day, I see the Brexit Elite spouting their ignorance about Ireland and the Irish Border.
Even at a most basic level, there is a complete lack of ignorance about the very nature of the border. Houses intersect it, and people cross it for work, study or family every single day. To create a hard border seems almost impossible without resorting to the measures used during the Troubles of blowing up bridges and blocking roads.
But the border is so much more than just a line on the road. For the nationalist community in Northern Ireland, an open, frictionless border is an essential part of our national identity and a vital clause of the Good Friday Agreement. To compare the Irish border to that of any other country is simply short-sighted. For lots of people, a hard border will be one straw too many. With a hard Brexit looming, the possibility of a border poll - and the potential break-up of the union - is becoming increasingly likely
There is no feasible way to maintain an open border and completely leave the EU’s Customs Union. Theresa May is too busy pandering to the DUP that she refuses to act in Northern Ireland’s best interest. Arlene Foster’s hypocrisy on this issue is clear to all. On the one hand, she claims to have absolute aversion to Northern Ireland being any “different” than the rest of the UK. On the other, she has repeatedly blocked attempts to introduce the rest of the UK’s progressive laws on equal marriage and reproductive rights in Northern Ireland.
The possible consequences of any form of Brexit and a hard border terrify me. Particularly given that Northern Ireland has not had a functioning government since January 2017, this would be unbelievably detrimental to the 20 years of progress. As the alarming truths around the border issue have become clearer, it is only fair that the public has an opportunity to reject the Tories’ Brexit plan before it’s too late. We need what is best for Northern Ireland, and Northern Ireland needs a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal.
Sarah Jane Smyth is a supporter of For our Future’s Sake, a group of students and young people across the UK working together to stop Brexit