My name is Liz Needham and I am an Irish citizen. I was born and brought up in Dublin although I can trace very recent British, Irish and Scottish roots back to 100AD. My paternal grandfather moved to Ireland from Leicestershire when he was in his early 20s. I moved to the UK in 1990 with my five year old daughter. I was 24. I am now 50 and have lived in the UK longer than I lived in Ireland. My brother and one of my sisters live here too, and several years ago I adopted a young boy whose mother, my friend, had passed away. I also have other family here in the form of British cousins on my father’s side that I have come to know over the years.
My children and I have made our lives here. My daughter is grown up now with a child of her own and works in social work. She has bought a house and she works very hard. My son is grown up and at University. I run a small accountancy business, employing myself and three others. The business is in its ninth year.
On 24th June 2016, I cried. I was devastated by the result of the Referendum and my feelings of despair were exacerbated by the fact that one person told me to “F*@# off back to Ireland”, while another told me, “Don’t be silly! You’re not the kind of immigrant we want to get rid of.” To be honest, I’m not sure which comment was worse – the outright racist or the closet one.
I have several concerns about Brexit, as we all should, but I have two major ones. The first concerns my own situation as an EU citizen, and that of my daughter and granddaughter. We have made our lives here and contributed to this country, both as taxpayers and charity volunteers. If we need to go back to Ireland, my daughter, who is amicably separated from her husband, would have to take her child away from its father, or worse (for her), leave the child with the father as the child holds a British passport. My adopted son is also British so I would have to leave him behind. As well as family concerns, I would have to shut my company, putting three British people out of a job. I would also be devastated to be far away from all the friends I have made in 26 years.
Secondly, although I grew up in Dublin, I was very aware of the Northern Ireland Troubles, which did not leave the Republic unscathed. I remember a bomb scare at my school on one occasion, and on another occasion I recall being stuck in a traffic jam on a Dublin city centre bridge while three bombs exploded in Dublin during rush hour. A fourth exploded in Monaghan almost ninety minutes later. The bombs killed 33 civilians and a full-term unborn child, and injured almost 300. I was eight years old and frightened. Years later, I sat in a pub drinking champagne with a chap from Northern Ireland on the night the Good Friday Agreement was signed. Nineteen years of comparative peace later, the thought of a new hard border being constructed between Ireland and Northern Ireland horrifies and terrifies me equally.
It concerns me too, that people do not understand the extent to which immigrants to this country contribute to the economy, culture, social fabric and pastoral needs of the UK. For this reason, I will be closing my company for the day on 20th February 2017 in support of the One Day Without Us campaign. Direct but peaceful action is the only tool I can use to persuade people that the “Hard Brexit” direction being pursued by Theresa May and her government is a short-sighted decision that will, in my opinion, take all residents of the UK decades to recover from, wherever they originated from.