Last Tuesday as the MP’s voted overwhelmingly to reject Theresa Mays’s Brexit deal, I voiced my support of the People’s Vote by attending the protests in Parliament Square which was happening as the votes were cast in Westminster. As well as the large vocal crowd that had gathered, I listened to a number of speakers voice their Brexit anger with speakers ranging from the usual Politicians and Celebrities but also frontline NHS staff and factory workers. Two students from Belfast were the most vocal of the speakers letting the public know in no uncertain terms what they thought of the DUP and Sinn Fein and how the former did not represent the views of the majority of Northern Ireland Citizens and how the latter were nowhere to be seen and had literally abandoned the people of Northern Ireland by not taking their seats in Westminster views which many in the crowd seems to agree with given the cheers and jeers that greeted each of the speech soundbites.
There were a few light-hearted moments too such as when one of the speakers suggested that the DUP were political dinosaurs in relation to their views on LGBT and equality issues only to be corrected by the compere that many in the party don’t believe in the existence of Dinosaurs which generated a few laughs.
The attendees were mainly English protestors with a sprinkling of EU Nationals and Scottish, Welsh and Irish citizens and it was welcoming to hear many of the other speakers speaking passionately regarding the negative impact of a Hard Border on the island of Ireland even though the impact of their lives would be limited compared to people living on the island of Ireland.
When the protest had wrapped up a few people I met retreated to a nearby pub for further conversation and the subject matter of protests back home in NI came up. I would have liked to have shared stories of tens of thousands of angry NI and Irish citizens taking to the streets in protest but I had to explain that in reality other than small organised gatherings lead by already politicised groups, in the main there were none. People seemed to be too busy getting on with their lives which I could only suggest could be because the locals have become battle hardened / apathetic to political failure following twenty years of Stormont and have low expectations as to what political protest can achieve.
I find it interesting that many NI citizens from all backgrounds have developed a romanticised view of ourselves as revolutionaries, disruptors, even rebels through our political symbols, song art, spoken and written word, but the facts are in the main we don’t protest too much. Are we dumping manure on railway tracks like the French farmers in protest of the economic Armageddon awaiting our farming community? Are we taking to the streets to protest about the impending impact of Brexit on the NHS? are local Hauliers organising coordinated go slow protests at the border to highlight the impact of customs checks on their way of life? No, nothing is happening not even a murmur from the masses, just a few television and media interviews from the usual politicians and paid lobbyists.
So the question I have is with Brexit less than nine weeks away, with the biggest threat to our way of life nearly upon us, as an overwhelmingly remain voting part of the UK, why has there been so little protest by the people of NI? Perhaps the politically Enlighted amongst the Slugger readership can explain the phenomena as I personally cannot understand or fathom the lack protest here in Northern Ireland.
Patrick Murdock is a dual qualified Chartered Surveyor and qualified Tax Advisor original from and currently in based Newry. An independent free thinking liberal at heart, prior to establishing his own specialist consultancy, Patrick has built a twenty year career working for a number of global advisory firms and continues to work across markets in the construction, property and final services industries and has considerable experience and practical knowledge of working day today in the UK, Northern Ireland and ROI markets.
He is also Cofounder and operator – The Hub, Newry.