Across the Border

I’ve got a bit of time to spare between breakfast and the start of a new day of talks at INAM2019 so I thought I’d rattle off a short travelblog.

I went straight to Armagh Observatory and Planetarium from the bus station when I arrived yesterday so had to check in to my hotel after the end of the day’s session. I had reserved a room online (and brought the confirmation with me) so I thought that would just take a few minutes. Unfortunately the hotel had lost the booking so had to start again, which took quite a while. However, to make up for the inconvenience they put me in an `Executive Room’ with a balcony. It is indeed quite luxurious and I now wish I were staying for more than one night. Sadly, however, I have to get the bus back to Dublin this evening as I have lots to do tomorrow.

On the trip up here the main thing I noticed after crossing the border into Northern Ireland was the number of Union flags on display on telegraph poles, lampposts and buildings. I learned from a booklet in the conference pack that the Orange Order was founded in County Armagh and there are obviously strong unionist sentiments around. Flags and sashes and regalia as symbols of national and/or religious identity seem to mean a lot to some people. I find it all rather baffling.

Among the more trivial things I noticed were a change in typeface for the road signs, the fact that roads are numbered as in Great Britain (e.g. `A28′) rather than in Ireland, and that post boxes here are red rather than green. Oh, and Tayto crisps are different here too..

Of course yesterday was a big day in the United Kingdom Parliament, with Boris Johnson suffering yet another humiliation as a cross-party bill was put through the House of Commons attempting to stop a `No Deal’ Brexit. Johnson then attempted to call a General Election but failed to secure sufficient votes, Jeremy Corbyn refusing to support the motion unless and until the No-Deal Bill becomes law.

I don’t know where these shenanigans will lead, but it seems to me that humiliating Boris Johnson is a good thing in itself so I watched the events last night in my hotel room with some satisfaction. Of course if there is a General Election, a new Parliament could repeal the `No Deal’ Act anyway, so in the long run this could all amount to very little.

I’m still eligible to vote in a UK General Election but there is one soon I really don’t know what I’ll do.

2 Responses to “Across the Border”

  1. I’m enjoying these travelblogs, Peter. I grew up very close to a town called Castleblayney in Co. Monaghan, only a few miles away from the border with (south) Armagh — so-called “bandit country”. This Irish Times article, published last year, is a fascinating overview of the “porosity” of Monaghan’s border with the North:

    “There are more than twice as many border crossings in Co Monaghan alone as there are between Norway and Sweden, an international boundary much beloved of simplifying Brexiteers.

    If you include unmapped routes – sometimes no more than planks across a stream – Monaghan may even give the European Union’s entire eastern frontier a run for its money.”

  2. Tom Shanks Says:

    Do they still have RAS meetings in the Republic? I attended one in Dublin and one in Galway. The latter was interesting because Mark Bailey drove us there and back from Armagh. In Armagh Obsy I met a Russian chap who told the story of regularly seeing an old man in the tea room who ranted about EU, who he tried to ignore till he found out he was Donald Lynden-Bell! On the way down I asked why the road had more potholes when we crossed the border – something to do with differences in public spending? But Mark said it had more to do with terrorist bombings. We saw a few Orange marches south of the border. On the way back Mark insisted on playing IRA songs on the car stereo despite a heavy police plus Army presence. In between we saw Lord Rosse’s refurbished Leviathan telescope at Birr Castle and realised the earl was of English descent. All this emphasised the tangled connections between the Irish and the UK and that more of these connections persist in the South than might be thought. So am not quite sure about the moral although RAS meetings in the Republic still might have a colonial vibe? Anyway it was a memorable trip that I enjoyed very much.

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