With the looming threat of a no-deal Brexit, people on both sides of the community in the North of Ireland are in the dark as to what’s coming around the corner.
The main issue surrounding Brexit on these shores is the possibility of a hard border and what impact that may have on travel, trade and tensions within Ulster.
Having lived through the darkest of periods north of the border, former Antrim hurler, now GAA Hall of Fame inductee, Terence ‘Sambo’ McNaughton is fearful of a no-deal Brexit and specifically a hard-border.
“It’s hard for my friends that I have made in the south to appreciate how difficult it was for us. Even on the best days, I couldn’t go to certain places with my club top on. Back in the day, you couldn’t wait at a crossroads to be picked up by a bus in certain areas because it wouldn’t be safe.
“It’s okay when you come from a village like Cushendall that’s very tight-knit. But if you were in Belfast then you didn’t want your kids out walking about with a hurling stick, you didn’t want them wearing GAA tops, you maybe didn’t want them involved at all.”
“The one thing that history has proven in Ireland, and I worry about it, that even though people will say, ‘ah there’s not the support there’, well there wasn’t the support there in ’69 either. But things happened that drove young people towards the paramilitaries and there’s no guarantee that wouldn’t happen again.
“Because if something like a Bloody Sunday happens, then people will rush towards it and away we go again.”
The former All-Star reflects on a state that has come along way since the pen replaced the gun.
However, he is fearful that the discontent surrounding Brexit is giving extremists in the north fuel for the fire with his deepest fear being that the end result will see a hard border in Ireland.
“We have peace in our country now, and whatever about the rights and the wrong and politics of it which I won’t get involved in, there’s no disputing that everybody has a way better life now in the north than they did before. The north is a great place now.
“I see tourists in my own village all the time coming up to watch hurling matches. More GAA people are coming up to us as well. Friends I’d made through years of hurling had never come north because they were afraid of the north. That’s all gone. The Glens of Antrim, and I’ve said this 1,000 times, is as nice as the Ring of Kerry or anywhere else in this country.
“I think they’re playing with fire here. We need to live in peace and this Brexit thing is just like throwing petrol on a fire. It’s giving the extremists fuel when we should be taking energy away from them.
“That’s the way to defeat them, on both sides. To take the energy away from them. But Brexit is just giving them fuel. I don’t understand Brexit and I don’t think anybody does because anytime you lift a paper or watch a TV then someone has a different swing on it.
“I don’t know what the truth is or what’s going to happen and I don’t think anyone does. But the one thing I don’t want is a return of the border. A border just sends out the wrong signal and here we go again.”
The former Antrim manager is currently working with St. Enda’s Glengormley who achieved notoriety after being monikered, ‘the most attacked GAA club in Ireland‘.
McNaughton believes that many south of the border don’t understand what it was like to be a Gael hailing from the greater Belfast area just a generation ago.
“People don’t understand what it was like. Belfast GAA clubs suffered tremendously. I’m involved managing the St. Enda’s hurling team at the moment, and they were the most attacked GAA club in Ireland. They had 13 members shot.
“If you’re not coming from a staunch GAA family, would you send your kids to a club like that back in the day? You’d have to be a really staunch GAA person to really want to keep going back there if you think about it.”
Overall, the Antrim legend believes that keeping the peace in the North should be politicians’ number one goal, however, it doesn’t seem that way.
“People just want to get on with life and we just love our games and love our hurling and the majority of Ulster love their football. Keep the politics out of it and lets just live life.
“Who do you believe? People are telling lies. You watch Boris Johnson, and it’s like Donald Trump has come over here. The whole thing just seems to be mad. It’s crazy.
“There are more educated than me who don’t understand it. But I just know you can’t trust that man. When will common sense kick in here?”
Interview originally published in September following Mcnaughton’s induction into the GAA Hall of Fame