“Even in South Armagh, where boundaries of currency and diesel colour may also be blurred…”

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.

Until then…

Do read the whole thing.

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  • carl marks

    you only know you’re in the UK when you see the Irish flag flying from lampposts.
    what a wonderful line, and its true in the north/northern ireland we love to stick our beloved national symbols on just about anything, then let them turn into rags.
    both sides do it and love to get annoyed when they see the other side at it.
    on the rest of the article what i wonder would happen if someone from forkhill won the raffle. would the rule be overlooked or enforced, and is the condition even legal under the GFA.

  • andnowwhat

    I remember getting the train up from Dublin during the rail strike some 8 years ago. You knew you were over the border when they made you pay your fare. 🙂

  • Dec

    Note the conclusion, which Pete naturally omitted:

    ‘But it seems somehow wrong that Iarnród Éireann should exclude the Republic’s Northern followers from a chance to be part of Euro 2012.’

  • Drumlins Rock

    I think Trankslink should do a take over, the South needs the cash, will email Danny 😉

  • Pete Baker

    Well, Dec, I’d suggest that that isn’t the conclusion you seem to think it is.

    Especially when it then rubs it in by making part of the prize a free month-long pass on the railways of Europe, multiple border crossings included.

    But then, as I’ve mentioned before, the standard of comprehension in evidence here remains as shocking as ever…

    ANYhoo… I extracted a fair-sized section of the diary piece. The full article’s linked, three times, in the original post.

  • Dec

    ‘But then, as I’ve mentioned before, the standard of comprehension in evidence here remains as shocking as ever…’

    Yeah I seem to recall you having difficulty interpreting FIFA’s Statutes of Eligibility on this website.

    It’s all in the eye of the beholder, I suppose. Thankfully northern fans of the National team aren’t exclusively dependent on Iarnród Éireann’s largesse in order to see the team in action this summer.

  • Mike the First

    “The genius of the Belfast Agreement was that, in confirming the Border, it also helped make it invisible”

    I’m not really sure what the “genius of” the Belfast Agreement had to do with this.

    The border is “invisible” * due to the UK and the Republic of Ireland (as well as the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) forming the Common Travel Area, and due to the UK and ROI being part of a customs union (the European Union). And of course due to the lowering of the security threat.

    * I’d actually argue that it’s more visible now than it used to be a few years ago in some ways. Now, travel across the border and most of us will have an electronic device in our pockets buzzing to tell us we’ve crossed a border; get out and spend money and you’ll be aware you’re spending a very different currency, and that you’ve either entered or left the eurozone.

  • BluesJazz

    Yep, the text message ‘welcome to Ireland’ from eircom as you stray out of her majesty’s dominion is as ubiquitous as the prices in euros and the potholes.

  • Mike the First

    Come to think of it, if I wanted to be picky, the ROI’s adoption of speed limits in kilometres per hour in 2005 also adds another way on which the border has become more visible in recent years. Drive across the border now and you’ll immediately see a sign telling you the speed limit is in miles/kilometres per hour.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Mike that is the most obvious one now, but lots of other sublte changes occur, for example the south never caught our obcession with pebble dash, honest its true!