Invisible border looks like an impossible option to police

The border...a return to the past?
The border...a return to the past?

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

Anyone born before the early 1980s who travelled North will have some memories of the border. The older you are the harder the memory – and the harder the border.  My own father was from Donegal and we went up every summer on our holidays. We didn’t cross the border on the way up but we sometimes went to Derry or to Strabane for shopping.

My only recollections of it from childhood is an RUC woman rummaging through a handbag of a woman and of seeing kids in Strabane dressed in tartan-hemmed trousers and jackets (a homage to Bay City Rollers, the biggest teeny-bopper band of the time).

It genuinely seemed like a foreign country, a different place. And of course there was the borders themselves, like big fortified mediaeval towers complete with slits for windows, except they were made out of wire and galvanised steel rather than stone.

I remember we travelled North on our annual holidays too on the day that Lord Mountbatten and his party died off the coast of Mullaghmore in Co Leitrim, after their boat was blown up by the IRA. Traffic on the road from Sligo to Bundoran had come to a standstill.

There were army vehicles everywhere and there were hundreds of Gardaí at checkpoints, checking everybody who passed along the road. It felt like a South American country just after a coup.

My working in Dublin coincided with the dying days of the conflict and the ceasefire after 1994. I travelled up North a dozen times a year. I have more memories of the huge checkpoint in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone (on my way to Derry) than I have of any other.

After the ceasefire, I remember in 1994 going to a border crossing, small road connecting Leitrim and Fermanagh.

The road had been closed for many years with huge boulders. Locals were using a JCB to remove the boulders and reopen the road.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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