There’s a way of keeping the border dividing Ireland ‘frictionless’. And it doesn’t involve politicians.

Customs Post, Strabane 1968
Tom Coburg

There are reports that in recent weeks people have been asked to prove their identity when crossing the border that divides Ireland. But there may be a way to prevent further identity checks. And it would involve the people of the entire island of Ireland.

The backdrop to this is the continuing intransigence by the Conservative government over the ‘backstop’ that forms part of the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

Border checks

Meanwhile, the so-called invisible border between the north and south no longer appears invisible, thanks to over-zealous border guards.

For example, there was the incident of a woman travelling south who tweeted her outrage when asked by guards to produce her passport or similar ID:

She added in the Twitter thread that she believed this had been going on for months.

In response, another person pointed out the legality – or lack thereof – when such demands are made:

Another advocated that the border should be got rid of altogether:

Preparing for a hard border

These are not new developments. In May 2019, the Belfast Telegraph ran a story about a Derry man, Tristan Drysden, who was travelling from Belfast to Dublin and told that he should always carry a passport.

Drysden told the newspaper:

I explained to the Guard that I didn’t have my passport or any form of photographic ID and he said, ‘Why not, you are crossing a border?’ which stunned me because I assumed people were free to move from one part of Ireland to the other.

The Guard didn’t say why he wanted to see my passport so I assumed it was something to do with Brexit and maybe they were preparing for a hard border.


Although these violations are not widespread – yet – they may be in breach of the Good Friday Agreement.

These checks also appear to breach the Common Travel Area (CTA), which means only “minimal or non-existent border controls” are in force at borders.

According to Citizens Information, the CTA basically means that:

Irish and UK citizens have the right to live, travel, work and study within the Common Travel Area.

Irish and UK citizens can live in either country and enjoy associated rights and privileges

It also means that there’s no requirement to carry a passport, although that is “advisable” if travelling by sea or air.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood told the Telegraph that:

We fought long and hard for an invisible, seamless border on this island. People should be free to travel north and south without the imposition of border controls. The creeping border control apparatus is a sign of the kind of Brexit the DUP and ERG would love to see. We need to fight it. We need to find our pro-Europe voice.

People power

These violations of the CTA are clearly worrying. And any detrimental effect of Brexit (deal or no deal) could invite paramilitary attacks, which have escalated in recent months.

But it is the people of Ireland, north and south, who perhaps hold the key to how the border can be truly open, without such checks, if Brexit goes ahead.

It’s about civil disobedience – on a massive scale – and a refusal to carry any ID when travelling north to south, or vice versa. The authorities would not be able to cope. Indeed, it would be the equivalent of pulling down the Berlin Wall, as alluded to by Julian’s tweet (above). For such action would inevitably bring all parts of Ireland that much closer together.

As it should be.

Featured image via henrikjon/Flickr

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  • Show Comments
    1. All of the above makes sense, maybe something along the lines of the Storm Area 51 event, which whilst it didn’t achieve anything it intended to, could be a better idea for this as no one is defending a military base or military secrets in the borderlands issue, hence no need for extra troops/police and the increased risk of violence that would bring.

      Maybe a joint protest festival right on the border would bring in enough numbers to not be ignored?

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