7 years after ‘that’ vote…

MY social media memories today from 7 years ago are of the results of the Brexit referendum vote, 23 June 2016. The seven-year anniversary of the ‘leave’ campaign’s victory was yesterday. The vote that David Cameron said would reveal “the future we want for our children” and “goes to the heart of the kind of country we want to be”.

I remember feeling rather incredulous at the time, knowing in my gut that NI/ the north of Ireland was about to become a political football once again, as the only country in the UK with a land border with the EU. I was angry too, that no one had said this loud enough to be heard over Nigel Farage. In fact, the DUP supported the leave campaign. Why did no one make this argument? Why did no one highlight the special relationship between NI/ the north of Ireland and the EU? Why did no one say that between 1995 and 2020, a financial contribution of €1.6 billion was provided to NI/ the north of Ireland through four EU PEACE programmes.

The special relationship between NI/ the north of Ireland and the EU can still be seen today, through the work of the Northern Ireland Executive Office (NIEO) in Brussels. Earlier this year, on the back of the then upcoming 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, the NIEO in Brussels released their plan for the next 25 years of NI/ the north of Ireland; “People. Planet. Prosperity. Our Giant Ambition”.

I watched the two-minute video endorsing the plan, Our Giant Ambition video. It has echoes of the Richard Ayoade HSBC advert, which ends with Richard stating, “being open is good for business”. Why are we not open to building relationships instead of cutting ties? Perhaps, if we the people here were shown such videos, we would see what has been achieved over the last 25 years. We would believe in our tomorrow because look at us today.

Why don’t we show this at 5.58pm every night before the 6.00pm news, to remind us that we are more than flegs and fighting, that our mission should be “to transform our future for lasting generational change”. Why do we not sell our brand, to ourselves? Perhaps if we had a better self-image, we would have a hope of finally slowing the brain drain, a legacy of the troubles, which sees some of our best and brightest leave in search of something better, something like us if you look at us through the eyes of NI in Brussels.


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