Also in the Irish Times, Frank McNally magnificently tackles the recent kerfuffle over northerners non-eligibility to enter Iarnród Éireann’s Euro 2012 competition. [Does Slugger get a mention? – Ed] Oh yes… From today’s An Irishman’s Diary
…as someone who grew up in one of only three counties in the Republic devoid of a rail service, I have more than average sympathy for Michael Fisher’s point.
After all – leaving questions of national allegiance aside for a moment – I would argue that if you live in, say, Forkhill, you’re more likely to be a customer of Iarnród Éireann (and a euro-paying customer at that) than somebody in Emyvale, or Belturbet, or God help us, Gweedore, where the existence of an Irish Rail network is only a rumour.
But that’s another issue. In general, this is a question of the North’s competing socio-political allegiances and the extent to which State companies should go in accommodating them.
Overall, these are happy days for Northern nationalists wanting to celebrate their identity. The genius of the Belfast Agreement was that, in confirming the Border, it also helped make it invisible. Thus, driving North in certain places now, you only know you’re in the UK when you see the Irish flag flying from lampposts.
Even in South Armagh, where boundaries of currency and diesel colour may also be blurred, it must be a struggle to feel oppressed. In some respects, Northerners have the best of both worlds. On the M1, for example, they still appear to be exempt from that competition whereby, if we travel at more than 70mph, the rest of us have a chance to win a speeding ticket.
So it must come as a shock when Iarnród Éireann imposes border restrictions. Part of the problem, no doubt, is that the company is not seen as a mere commercial entity. It’s the railway wing of the State, in effect. As such, it might be expected to aspire – however implicitly – to a situation wherein one day, by peaceful means, and with the democratically expressed consent of a majority in both jurisdictions, it could collect the fares of Northerners as well.