• +4553611703

“My own life has been threatened”: Scotsman living in Northern Ireland fears for his safety after Brexit

If you google the 2021 Riots in Northern Ireland, Wikipedia and the BBC tell you that they’re over and ended on the 9th of April. But if you ask some of the people in Derry, one of the hotspots for the riots, they’re still ongoing. Bryan Sutherland has been living in NI for about 25 years since his mum was deployed there during the Troubles but is now moving back to Scotland out of fear for his safety.

Scotsman Bryan Sutherland who has lived in Derry since the Troubles
Bryan Sutherland considers himself Scottish and has never felt able to make a friend in Northern Ireland because he is an outsider.
Photo: Sandra Kaarsgaard

8/6-2021 by Simone Stampe Dreesen and Sandra Kaarsgaard

Before Brexit and after the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland (NI) found itself in relative peace, with unrest but without noticeable violence. Since Brexit was voted through in 2016 violence has picked up in seriousness and frequency, and since the North Irish Protocol was imposed on January 1st, 2021 it has only gone up further. This is the reality of life for Scotsman Bryan Sutherland in the Waterside of Derry.

“I have a neighbour who was bombed in their own house,” says Bryan Sutherland. “I’ve been 2 seconds away from being bombed myself, just taking the bins out and I’ve been evacuated by the police for my safety.“

These attacks, that general media stopped covering in April, often hit ‘British’ targets like busses and people, and are still active. This has forced the Scotsman and his mother to seek their way back to Scotland. They are currently just waiting for a few housing issues to be resolved, before tearing their lives up and moving across the Irish Sea Border.

Map showing where Lincoln Court is in Derry

“There’s like a button in your head that senses trouble and danger, and when alarm bells go off, you either act or ignore them. Those bells have been going off in my head and my mum’s head for the last months,” says Bryan Sutherland. “We need to find a way out as quickly as we can.”

Seemingly, the alarm bells in Bryan and his mother’s heads are not the results of paranoia or anxiety. Both of them have been evacuated by police several times for their own safety, and Bryan even has a ‘go-bag’ packed with a change of clothes, some money, and his passport, ready to go at any time. 

“I’m British by birth, but I’m kind of a stranger even if I’m still in the UK,” says Bryan. “It’s like if you’re not born in Northern Ireland, you don’t belong here. But I shouldn’t be worried about getting hurt on account of my accent.”

The contents of Bryan's go-bag: passport and money, a change of clothes, personal hygiene products, chargers and a book.
“It could be tonight, it could be tomorrow. You just don’t know when they got another shooting or a bomb,” says Bryan Sutherland.
Photo: Private photo
Former mayor of Londonderry Brian Tierney
Mayor Brian Tierney in the Mayor’s Parlour, Guildhall. Photo: Sandra Kaarsgaard

Is the city safe?

Bombs and shootings are not just affecting NI residents at home. In Belfast during late March and early April especially busses were attacked, and in Derry a burning car was purposely driven onto the sole pair of train tracks connecting the city to Belfast, derailing an oncoming train. This leaves people like Bryan Sutherland afraid to leave their homes as well. 

“It has put me off using the train and I don’t feel like I’m safe. What’s my guarantee that they’re not going to do it again or try to put a bomb in the train station?”, says Sutherland.

When confronted with the fact that current residents of Derry are planning to move, Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Brian Tierney, expressed his sadness and concern about the safety of living in his city.

“Violence is not needed or wanted and it should never ever occur. We fought far too long to stop violence from happening,” says Mayor Tierney. “We still have some difficulties, I’m not going to argue against that, but the majority of people in this city and district are good, honest, hard-working, reliable people. We’re building a city for the future, we’re not going back to the violence of the past. We are committed to peace.”

Listen to Bryan Sutherland talk about what he needs to feel safe and what isn’t being met