Brian Kennedy talks displaced hostility and border controls
Manchester businessman Brian Kennedy, who also helps run the Irish World Heritage Centre in Cheetham Hill as a volunteer, on why the Brexit camp’s hostility to migrants is misplaced and why he will be voting to stay in the EU on June 23
Remember when air travel was beyond the means of ordinary people, especially between Britain and Ireland. People seem to forget the benefits of freedom of travel, not only for tourism, but for Anglo Irish relations.
There’s nothing like a fence or borders to cause arguments, and this has been one of the major successes of the EU.
Cessation of border controls between the North and South, has led to peace and stability, lots of people credit the Americans for this but without free travel within the EU it couldn’t have happened.
Fears about migration to the UK have been successfully exploited by the Brexit camps but most people here in the EU really have no idea how hard it is to gain access to the UK and they often confuse it with the historical rights of people in countries within the Commonwealth.
I’ve travelled quite a bit in Africa, in Kenya I was amazed by the lengths people would go to acquire an EU passport, citing Irish ancestry as far back as five generations to qualify.
At the Irish World Heritage Centre here in Manchester we have recently given out an extraordinary number of application forms for Irish passports. That’s for British people wanting to retain their EU citizenship in case of Brexit.
My family settled in Manchester in 1959 in Cheetham hill after many years traveling around the major construction sites in the UK.
My father and mother were very grateful to the opportunity afforded to them in terms of employment and the kindness of English people in general. We felt very welcome in Manchester, although myself and my brother had the odd playground altercations, probably the same as any new boys. My father started a landscaping business and made a good living supporting my mother the six of us.
All six siblings setup up their own and individual businesses and successful in their own right, although two of my sisters have passed away. We have always contributed to the community and paid our way. I am heavily involved in the Manchester Irish Festival, the St. Patrick’s Parade and spend endless hours working voluntarily at the Irish World Heritage centre here in Manchester.
I quite often hear derogatory comments about migrants coming to the UK the inflammatory newspaper headlines, the ranting of certain political parties designed to whip up fear, one looks back we were no different. We heard it all before especially in the 70s.
I remember the No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs signs of the early 60s in boarding house windows…and the neighbours telling their children not to play with “them Irish tinkers at no 49”.
I look at the new migrants and see the same attitudes: they are taking our jobs, housing, benefits. Et cetera, et cetera Today it is just aimed at the newly arrived people from wherever. No doubt they are the same as my family they have aspirations and mostly just want to get on in life, make a good living, educate their children, pay their dues, in my case all three have university degrees and successful careers.
Not all migrants are spongers: they contribute to the local economy, creating employment just the same as anyone else. And yes, they do gather in certain areas just the same as we did, you settle where you find your own people, in inner city transitional areas.
Cheetham Hill being one of them, one of the most ethnically diverse areas in this country. The jobs immigrants “take” from the locals are there waiting to be filled and, often, the “locals” won’t take them in the first place. My own mother worked in the National Health Service.
The Irish certainly built this country – or much of its infrastructure – but look also at all the migrants who came after the Second World War: from Italy, Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic States, Hungary… and so many more. There’s always a new boy. The general feeling here in Manchester is we will stay with the EU. The ‘No’ campaigners here seem to have accepted it but still want to make a fuss.