I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.
The Border: The Legacy of a Century of Anglo-Irish Politics, by Diarmaid Ferriter, Profile Books, 192 pp, £12.99, ISBN: 978-1788161787 The Irish border can be confusing. Indeed, it is hard even to be sure that you are crossing it. There are no checkpoints or fences, and it is only haphazardly signposted. Country roads run past fields and low hills, crossing and recrossing a line that has rarely been accurately mapped. When watching the road during drives to Donegal, I know I am in the Republic when I pass a particular garage that only accepts euro. My Southern friends tell me they know they are in the North when the roads become smooth. It has always been difficult to draw the Irish border cleanly. It follows the contours of the historical Irish counties. These lines were first delineated in the early modern period according to the competing claims of landed families: they are thus winding and meandering, ill-suited to the task of defining the borders of two industrialised states. The border runs through farmland, marshes, hills, and small wooded areas. There are no dramatic natural barriers between North and South. In the absence of man-made landmarks this frontier can seem an ephemeral or unreal thing. The border’s liminal and vague nature may be part of what so has so annoyed the British politicians who have recently been asked to think about it. The failure of all involved parties to find a workable solution to the challenges posed by a post-Brexit border has proved the main obstacle in finding a parliamentary majority for Theresa May’s deal. In attempting to undo the border knot, Brexiteers have wavered between exhibiting an Olympian distance from reality (see Rees-Mogg’s suggestion to return to the border practices of the Troubles) and a sort of frustrated ignorance when confronted with it, such as when a senior Tory remarked that Ireland should, “know [its] place”. The politics of Northern Ireland seems a closed book to many in Westminister. The DUP are seen as a bizarre anachronism, forced upon the Conservatives due to May’s political miscalculations. Sinn Féin’s abstentionism is a bête noire of aggrieved Remainers, who are unable to understand why an Irish republican party is so opposed to taking seats in the British parliament. The motivation of both of these misunderstood political parties is tied to the border. This line has been frustrating British politicians for over a hundred years….
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