Earlier in the week, I ventured out West to Gweedore in County Donegal with a few journalists/bloggers to visit the town and see some of the local sights.
Yet one issue that was on my mind was Brexit. We have heard many business leaders North and South give their views over the past year about the UK leaving the European Union & the possible economic consequences for many industries locally, particularly tourism.
Gweedore is less than 50 miles from the border and punters from Northern Ireland are important for the local economy, so I sat down with Michael McBride, the Consultant/Director of the local Gweedore Court Hotel to get his views on Brexit both the challenges and the opportunities.
I began by asking him about was he worried about any potential damage that Brexit could cause. In a fairly confidence manner, Michael told me that he is “not as concerned as other people” so long as businesses remain approachable, people will still come to places like Gweedore and that he remains “very optimistic” about the future.
I was fascinated to know, what gave him this optimism despite some sections of the business community in Southern Ireland raising concerns. He believes that the strength of London as a financial centre will help places like Northern Ireland; moreover, he has heard positive comments from some of his business colleagues within the UK about the future direction as the country prepares to exit the European Union.
McBride acknowledges that Northern Ireland and Scotland are two of his biggest markets but fundamentally it is “business as usual” for him as he told me the key thing is having a plan and a strategy to overcome certain challenges. He told me that it is fundamentally little has changed in terms of the type of people they are targeting and the synergies between what places like Donegal are offering to visitors from places like Northern Ireland.
I wanted to know what advice he would give to other businesses in the border region who are concerned about the impact that Brexit could have on economic stability. Michael comes back to the issue again of structure and planning saying it is important for businesses to have a short, medium and long-term plan for their businesses.
As I asked him about the rapid improvement in the Irish economy over the last two-three years, we eventually went back to Brexit as he told me that like the recession years, things will not always be easy, but places like Donegal & Northern Ireland will have to “work harder than anybody else.” Citing examples such as the success of the Wild Atlantic Way, which took years to develop he, remains very optimistic for the future.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs