Sunday 22 April 2018

UK election shock: What do Irish people living in Britain really think?

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Conservative leader Theresa May cast their votes early on Thursday
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Conservative leader Theresa May cast their votes early on Thursday

Kathy Armstrong

There was widespread shock this morning when it emerged that the UK elections resulted in a hung parliament.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is on cloud nine after his party's best performance at the polls in years.

When Theresa May called the snap election seven weeks ago it looked like the Conservatives would enjoy a comfortable majority, today she announced she will form a government with the Democratic Unionist Party and her future as Tory leader looks uncertain.

What do the hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants living in the UK think of the fallout and how do they think it will affect them?

We asked a selection of Irish people overseas what they make of it all:

Business owner Gerry Keany

Leitrim native Gerry Keany moved to London 26 years ago.

Cara Stationery director, Gerry Keany (right)
Cara Stationery director, Gerry Keany (right)

Mr Keany is the founder of Cara Stationary, which employs over a dozen people, and he admits he's worried the political turmoil could be bad for business.

He said: "As the owner of a small business I’m horrified with the hung parliament.

"I remember the uncertainty leading up to the Brexit referendum and especially the effect it had on our clients.

"The majority of our clients are in Construction and property development and the uncertainty then (and for the next few months I fear) led to a downfall in activity as major projects were mothballed.

"According to our Estate Agency clients (and the UK press) the UK  property market  has dived and  this election result won’t help.

"A large number of my company’s products are bought from Europe and paid for in Euros or dollars.
"We’ve already had a 10 to 15 per cent price increase as a result of the weak pound over the past 12 months. More of the same to follow as a result of a hung parliament.

"I guess I was hoping for a clear increased Tory majority so that the Brexit hardliners might be sidelined.

"Now if Theresa May goes, then will a Boris or David Davis led government go for a hard Brexit which will be detrimental to the UK and Europe."

Jenni Murtagh
Jenni Murtagh

Global ecommerce worker Jenni Murtagh

Jenni Murtagh (26) moved to London two years ago and she said while she is worried how the upheaval could impact Brexit.

Jenni, from Westport in Co mayo, told "The Irish have a unique perspective on Brexit, as the border with the North means freedom of movement for us is a touchy subject.

"I don’t think I would reconsider living here, but I do work for a global ecommerce company, so I see the negative effects of the weakening pound on a daily basis.

"As far as Brexit negotiations are concerned, I think it would be foolish to begin talks in 11 days, while the country is so divided.

"The UK needs to approach Brexit with a firm standpoint, and that doesn’t exist yet. I think they should postpone the talks."

She also claimed that voters have lost faith in Theresa May.

She said: "I’m glad Labour managed to win more seats. Jeremy Corbyn did a fantastic job of mobilising the youth - his online campaigns far surpassed the Tories.

"Some say it was too little too late, but hindsight is always clearest.

"Theresa May’s history of U-turns caused people to lose faith in anything she was saying.

"She said there would be no elections until 2019, two months later there was a snap election. She didn’t appeal to the youth, who are disillusioned with what a mess Brexit has become."

Student Fionntan O'Hara

Fiontann O'Hara moved from Galway to London last year, where he is studying for a masters degree.

Fiontann O'Hara
Fiontann O'Hara

He spoke about why he is backing Corbyn and how he hopes the upheaval could help the Irish in England.

Fiontann (24) said: "Hopefully whoever is negotiating Brexit is going to have to adopt positions that reflect those who aren't so keen to get a hard Brexit.

"I know Corbyn spoke about guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens so hopefully that'll be on the agenda which would be good for all the Irish here. "As a student I think it's great that someone who talked about reducing student fees and loans did so well.

"I'm happy that Labour did so well, I think some of it is because Corbyn came across as a regular person with deeply held beliefs about how he can improve the UK, while May came across quite badly, she was unwilling to engage with people. "

Academic Tom Felle

Tom is a lecturer of journalism at City University in London and said that many Irish people he knows are thinking of moving home next year.

Tom said: "Sterling has tanked, there has been a huge drop in value over the last few years and it's not good for anyone.

Tom Felle
Tom Felle

"I think a lot of people would see Brexit as a shambles and would like to see a second referendum but that's probably not going to happen.

"There's a lot of uncertainty and I have had talks with a lot of Irish people I know who are thinking of moving home in 2018, looking back to Ireland it doesn't seem so bad.

"The beauty of being Irish and an EU citizen is that we can travel freely and cheaply."

He also spoke about why he thinks the Tories didn't fare as well as expected.

Mr Felle said: "Theresa May ran a terrible campaign, she called it when she didn't have to and seven weeks was too long.

"They didn't give us enough information and there were issues like pensions and students where the Conservatives really messed up.

"I also think they underestimated the anger of many of the population and they underestimated Jeremy Corbyn.

"I would put £10 on Theresa May not being Prime Minister for too much longer."

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