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Brexit sharpens the focus on the future of Northern Ireland and the border with the Republic of Ireland

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By Euronews
Brexit sharpens the focus on the future of Northern Ireland and the border with the Republic of Ireland

Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland is where the Queen made her first official appearance after the result of the referendum. The future of the province has been questioned in the aftermath of the vote.

The only question it seemed on the mind of the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was the health of the British sovereign as he asked her how she was.

“I’m still alive,” she responded.

Fifty-six percent voted for Northern Ireland to remain in the EU The result has raised long term political questions.

Now there is a groundswell of opinion among the Republicans that a referendum on the re-unification of the island should be agreed. It is something that will be in the in-tray of the next British prime minister.

“Whoever it is, is going to have to deal with what we think is a legitimate demand from Sinn Fein on foot of a vote that is so hugely detrimental to the people of the north, to in a civilised way, conduct a border poll, a referendum,” Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness told reporters.

The Stormont Peace Accords of 1998 have provided for such a poll as Brexit has caused a change in the current situation.

Not least on the border which partitions the north and the south and stretches almost 500 kilometres. Today people cross it freely and face no security checks or passport controls.

In rural communities the border cuts through villages. It separates farms and families and perhaps it is difficult to perceive of how people go between the two countries.

Now Brexit has created a border with the European Union and London could impose restrictions of movement. The border issue has re-ignited old fears.

“I think it would be a disaster. We would have a border again. We tried to get rid of it for 100 years, so we don’t want it back,” said Ciaran McKellan a resident of Belcoo on the border in Northern Ireland.

It is a situation about which the Irish politicians are well aware as with Cavan County Councillor John Paul Feeley.

“It will have to be an agreement between the remaining members of the EU and Britain as to how people can move across the border and we don’t want to see a situation where by going from one village to the other, going between members of our families on one side and when we require passport control or anything like that,” he explained.

The vote to leave the EU could also severely impact on the economy across the island, especially in Northern Ireland, excluded from the single market while the Republic of Ireland remains.

“One in four families in Northern Ireland depend on trade passing across this border. Fifty thousand jobs directly responsible for the trade that happens. We need to make sure that those barriers are not re-erected,” stressed Stephen Kelly CEO Manufacturing Northern Ireland.