Irony is lost on some people. Like the person I spoke with in India representing a well known mobile phone company, which is available on both sides of the border, as I tried to finalise a mobile phone contract in Northern Ireland/the North of Ireland.
I explained to her that I had moved back to Belfast in the past month to take up a new job.
Where had I been previously?
Cork, I responded.
What’s your post code there?
There are no postcodes in the South of Ireland, I said.
How long were you overseas?
Cork is not overseas from Antrim, I said, with increasing exasperation.
I have had a phone on contract from [this company] since 2010 and I have paid my bill regularly and in full. My credit is impeccable.
We cannot validate your address in Northern Ireland.
You managed to take money from my bank account using my chip and pin card on Friday, when I ordered this phone, all the same. You didn’t have any problem then.
You are not a valid customer. Goodbye.
Wait, what about the money you took from my account? When will I get that back?
Continous dial tone.
This is an illustration of just one of many ways in which partition is becoming more and more entrenched thanks to heightened regulations surrounding credit checks, not to mention broadcasting rights, banking, insurance, social welfare.
This galloping partitionism is becoming more and more an infringement on the lives of ordinary people, ironically in an era when there should be increasing co-operation and a partnership approach in the years following the Good Friday Agreement, now fifteen years old.
Parties who espouse trenchantly and to their political advantage a United Ireland, on both sides of the border, have been remarkably slow in tackling issues such as the stringent regulations regarding credit checks. These regulations not alone run counter to the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement but also to the founding principles of the European Union and aren’t we all supposed to be good Europeans now? After all, wasn’t the EU supposed to be about the free movement of workers throughout? The unsavoury cocktail of roaming charges and regulations which make it virtually impossible to get a mobile phone contract from the same company in the north of Ireland with whom I had had a contract in the south have left me with a partition hangover.
Political parties who advocate a United Ireland prefer, it seems, to squabble about flags. Whether the Union Flag or the Tricolour flies over every public building in the North, it makes not a whit of difference to the real lives of people unless you deal with the mechanical and fnancial outworkings of partition. But neither Sinn Féin nor the SDLP in the north, nor Fianna Fáil in the south, all of which advocate a United Ireland, have ever gone near this issue.
The issue of mobile phones notwithstanding, there are other complaints I have about the way partition has become more and more entrenched. Last Sunday week I sat down in front of my TV to watch the All Ireland Hurling Finals. Traditionally I like to watch the minor match, with its commentary as Gaeilge. As my TV is connected to Virgin Media, I don’t have access to TV3 and as that station broadcasts the minor match, I was denied access to an ‘All Ireland’ final. I tried to watch it on the web – and access was denied also as the match ‘wasn’t available in your region’. If you try to watch on TG4’s website the All Ireland Under 21 hurling final featuring Antrim and Clare, you will be told it’s not available even though TG4 have the rights for the island of Ireland. Some web companies, however, do not make the distinction between a Northern Ireland IP address and a British IP address and they unilaterally deny access to the desired content. Would that they were as careful about allowing access to internet porn!
A similar fate befell me when I sat down to watch the Ireland v Sweden World Cup qualifier on RTE 2, I was again told it wasn’t ‘in your region’. Ironically enough I suppose, neither could I watch the Northern Ireland V Russia game as U(for Ulster)TV was only showing England V Moldova! If I get an aerial I can watch it on Saor (stat, I presume) View but as I’m in rented accommodation and the issue had only arisen within minutes of kick off, the resolution of the matter was out of my control.
When I moved to the South in 2007 I closed my account in a bank which is an All Ireland banking chain (as I thought). Weeks later I got a cheque for £1.96 as a settlement of my accont following the calculation of exchange rate calculations. I found out if I wanted to cash this cheque then in the south, it would cost more than it was worth. So I held on to the cheque as a keepsake. When I reopened my account in the same bank upon my move back, I was told the cheque was out of date.
It still takes way too much time and expense to transfer money from north to south – or vice versa. There’s far too much bureaucracy surrounding people who move north or south regarding social welfare and insurance. If we could sort out these bureaucratic issues, making life better for everybody, then the flags issue might take care of itself.
I don’t think these issues are too complicated to solve. They have arisen because, as we carried on our neighbors’ row, technological progress carried on and enforced the simplest solution (for them) on us. In all likelihood nobody asked them to do otherwise. That’s why politicians are paid out of the public purse but as they’re too busy, it seems, getting involved in sectarian squabbling over flags or undertaking taxpayer funded expensive personal crusades against gay couples and blood donors.