The Rule of the Land: Walking Ireland's Border

The Rule of the Land: Walking Ireland's Border by Garrett Carr

The Brexit referendum in 2016 and the subsequent negotiations for the withdrawal of the UK from the EU have brought the issue of the Irish border to the forefront. It was imposed in 1921 to separate independent Ireland from the northern part which remained part of the UK. Inevitably there were infringements, mainly to avoid paying customs duties.

During the Troubles in the 1960s, the border acquired a more sinister aspect with gunmen crossing over with guns in their hands and murder on their minds. The British army moved in and established checkpoints and watchtowers, armed patrols, barbed wire and bombed side roads, despite which policing the long border proved well-nigh impossible. It was the worst of times since the imposition of the border. The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 removed all barriers between North and South.

Garett Carr's journey traversing the length of the border is timely The border is 300 miles/500 kilometres long, meandering across the land and, in places, over water. The book is meticulously researched - the writer is an academic - yet written in an accessible style. As the author makes his way along the border, the reader is taken on a journey of the land and its peoples, past and present.

History, geography, ancient earthworks, passage tombs, underground cave systems, all are explored. The social custom of holding dances was a way of bringing together people living in far-flung farms in the borderlands.

What comes across strongly is the many ways people living in border areas found to overcome an artificially imposed dividing line. He comes across numerous informal crossings, not marked on any maps, ranging from a constructed steel bridge to boulders placed as stepping stones to cross a stream.

A notable feature of the book is the maps of his route drawn by the author. The last two decades of open borders have been the best of times in the recent history of the island of Ireland.

Submitted by Vidya