Farm Ireland

Thursday 26 April 2018

Brexit on the Border: 'Hard or soft, there has been a border on this farm since 1923'

Farmer Davy Crockett, whose farm outside Londonderry is on both sides of the border
Farmer Davy Crockett, whose farm outside Londonderry is on both sides of the border

Donna Deeney

With a deal on Brexit yet to be thrashed out, Donna Deeney hears the concerns of people in Derry and Donegal about how it could radically affect their lives.

The weave of connectivity for those on the border is taken to an even higher level by Davy Crockett who has a 300-acre farm straddling both Donegal and Derry.

While his home is in Derry, three quarters of his land is in Bridgend in Donegal.

He keeps sheep, dairy cattle and grows cereal in both jurisdictions.

It is the mountain of paper work on his desk with files marked Sheep NI, Sheep ROI, Cattle NI and Cattle ROI that shows this is not your average farm.

Mr Crockett explained that, hard or soft, there has been a border on his farm since 1923.

"My grandfather bought this farm in 1911. He was milking cows here and sending the milk up to Derry, but after partition the border split the farm," he said.

"At the beginning of the financial year in April 1923 my grandfather went to bring the cows in from the Donegal side of the farm.

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"There was a policeman standing there and told him, 'that's the last time you are going to do that'.

"He closed the gate up that day, so right away there was the effect of the border.

"I still cannot bring my cattle across that gate even though we are all in the EU.

"That's classified as a separate herd. I can't house them in here so if it's like that now when we are in the EU, it is going to be a disaster when we leave.

"The bulk of my land is in Donegal so it is in the EU, but if there is a hard border I couldn't go in and bring my cereal across without having to fill in forms because I would be exporting food.

"Whatever I produce in Donegal I would have to keep there and whatever I grow on this side I would have to keep.

"That's the way it has always been for my father and for me. It was my grandfather that actually saw the change from introducing a border.

"If they bring in a hard border I can see this farm as it is ceasing to exist and we will be farming only in the Republic because three quarters of land is there.

"The people living along the border are the only ones that know how bad it will be.

"The people living in Belfast, Liverpool or London are saying 'Oh, it will be all right' because it won't affect them one iota, not at all."

Mr Crockett has always been aware that there is at least a soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, which meant crop and herd segregation and extra paperwork.

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