Brexit

The Belfast marchers and the Brexit vote

Gary Wells, member of the Pride of Ardoyne flute band Image copyright Adam Patterson
Image caption Gary Wells will be marching with the Pride of Ardoyne flute band

Most people in Northern Ireland voted to Remain in the European Union, but many others, especially in working class loyalist communities, wanted to leave. Sanchia Berg has been in North Belfast asking how they feel now.

The 12 July is the biggest day of the year for young men like Gary Wells, drum leader in the Pride of Ardoyne flute band.

Just 25, he works in a supermarket: he has been in the band since he was 10, and loves it: they're "family" to him.

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He told me that he voted Leave because he wanted more money to go into the NHS.

He has two young children and told me he'd seen for himself how the doctors and nurses were "under stress".

I asked him if he was disappointed that the pound was falling and the current Brexit plan unclear.

"I think people are just into panic mode, thinking about what's going to happen to their money and so on," he said.

He was not worried about the pound: it had fallen before. "I think we have to wait and see. It's a waiting game now."

Constitutional change unlikely soon

There was a 56% vote for Remain in Northern Ireland. No surprise, some might say, given that the nation has benefited from EU funds, notably to support the peace process.

Some also fear that a Leave vote might mean the return of the "hard" border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Image caption Police say there is less tension this year going into the marching season

Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister, called immediately for a referendum on a united Ireland. But a border poll has since been ruled out by both the British and Irish governments and few expect any constitutional change in the short term.

This is the time of year when the Northern Irish marching season reaches its height: 12 July is the day of the biggest parades, marking the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, when the Protestant William III beat the Catholic James II.

Gary's band is one of those due to march the most contentious route in Northern Ireland, through North Belfast.

In 2013, the Parades Commission ruled they could not take their usual return passage through the nationalist area of Ardoyne, in previous years republicans had often rioted.

That year there were serious disturbances, from the loyalist side. The restriction is still in place.

Since then, the Orange Order have mounted nightly protests at the intersection between nationalist and loyalist communities.

'Let's sustain ourselves'

Last week, I watched as around 20 men in orange collars walked slowly up residential Twaddell Avenue to where six police armoured cars had blocked access to the main road.

It was peaceful, a familiar routine - at the end some Orangemen even took photos of themselves with the officers.

Everyone I spoke to there said they had voted leave. In the protestors' static caravan, parked on wasteland by the junction, I met Tina Patrick, a volunteer.

Image caption Tina Patrick believes the people of Northern Ireland can do more outside the EU

Her coat was patterned with heart shaped union jacks - the flag was on the sofa cushions too. And her reasons for voting leave echoed those I had heard in northern English cities.

She told me that young people in her community could not get jobs - that many people were unemployed and on benefits.

"We have lost our mills," she said, "We have lost our steel industry."

She believed the people of Northern Ireland could do more for themselves out of Europe than in.

I pointed out that the EU has given many millions of Euros to Northern Ireland, in grants, and to support the peace process.

"And how long can that go on?" she said. "We need to learn to sustain ourselves."

She said she was not worried by the apparent lack of Brexit planning - and she said the media should now "leave this alone" and let the negotiators do their work.

'Mad time'

Many people have been worried about the possibility of a "hard" border with the Irish Republic post Brexit. Not Tina, or others I spoke to.

"Why would there need to be one?" she asked. People in Northern Ireland can hold Irish passports, and since the referendum there has been a dramatic increase in applications. Not from the people I spoke to.

Father Gary Donegan of the Catholic Holy Cross Church in Ardoyne has worked hard to keep the peace between communities.

Image caption Father Gary: The 'priest in jeans'

Since 2013, he has been trying to resolve the Twaddell Avenue dispute, bringing together nationalist residents from Ardoyne with the Orange order.

Agreement was very nearly reached this summer: the deal broke down last month. Police say there is a reduced sense of tension this year compared with last.

In an atmosphere he describes as "simmering", Father Donegan is concerned to keep the bigger political arguments over Northern Ireland's future away from the July 12 parade.

"In the marching season, or as we say 'the mad time', we have to not allow anyone to use what has happened in Brexit to be played out in the streets of Ardoyne and Belfast," he said.

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