Republic of Ireland-United Kingdom border

Republic of Ireland-United Kingdom border

The Republic of Ireland – United Kingdom border also referred to as The Irish border, or (in Ireland) as The Border, is the international boundary between the north-east part of the island of Ireland, Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the rest of the island, which forms the Republic of Ireland.

The Border runs for a total of 360 kilometres (224 miles) from Lough Foyle on the northern edge of the island to Carlingford Lough in the east on the Irish Sea, and is the only land frontier in either the Republic of Ireland or the United Kingdom. In common with many international borders in the European Union, it is very inconspicuous and open by world standards. The two states share a common travel area similar to, but separate from, the Schengen Agreement countries.

Establishment: Secession and partition

The Border was created in 1920 by the United Kingdom Parliament's Government of Ireland Act of that year, legislating for Home Rule in Ireland, with separate parliaments for Southern Ireland and what became Northern Ireland. Six of the thirty-two counties of Ireland were assigned to Northern Ireland, and the rest of the island of Ireland to Southern Ireland. The Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921, which led to the creation of the Irish Free State (a Dominion established for the whole island of Ireland on 6 December 1922), retained the 1920 border as a provisional frontier.

Originally intended as an internal frontier within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the Border became an international frontier in December 1922 when the Parliament of Northern Ireland exercised its right to opt out of the Irish Free State. The Irish Free State was largely independent of the United Kingdom from its creation, with this status being formalised by the adoption of the Statute of Westminster in 1931. An Irish Boundary Commission met to draw a border between the two jurisdictions, based on the demographic make-up in the north of Ireland (including the counties now in the Republic of Ireland). However, its recommendations were not favoured by either side and the boundary was agreed formally, without changes from the 1920 demarcation lines. The Boundary Commission Report has never been published.

The Irish Free State was succeeded by a new state, "Ireland" ( _ga. Éire) in 1937 which, eleven years later, formally declared that it was a republic under the Republic of Ireland Act 1948.

Customs and passport checks

Customs controls were introduced on the frontier shortly after the establishment of the Irish Free State. These controls were maintained, with varying degrees of severity, until 31 December 1992 when the European Single Market came into effect. There are no longer any operational customs posts along either side of the Border.

Whilst it has never been necessary for Irish or British citizens to produce a passport to cross the Border, during the troubles, security forces regularly asked travellers for identification. In recent times (since the early 90s) such controls have not been in operation on the Border.

In October 2007, details began to emerge of a United Kingdom government plan that might end the Common Travel Area encompassing the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland (and also the Isle of Man and Channel Islands) in 2009, possibly creating an anomalous position for Northern Ireland in the process.Sharrock (2007)] In a statement to Dáil Éireann, the Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern assured the House that "British authorities have no plans whatsoever to introduce any controls on the land border between North and South. I want to make that clear. All they are looking at is increased cross-border cooperation, targeting illegal immigrants." This immediately raised concerns north of the Border. Jim Allister, a former Democratic Unionist and then Member of the European Parliament told "The Times" that it would be "intolerable and preposterous if citizens of the UK had to present a passport to enter another part of the UK".

Possible reinstatement of border controls announced

In July 2008, the British and Irish governments announced their intent to resume controls over their common border (and the Common Travel Area in general. Each proposes to introduce detailed passport control over travellers from the other state, where travel is by air or sea. [ Britain and Ireland agree to tighten border check] However, the land border will be 'lightly controlled'. [ [ Strengtening the common travel area: a consultation paper (PDF)] "We are clear that we will not introduce fixedimmigration controls on the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland or on traffic from the Crown dependencies to the UK. However, mirroring activity in the Republic of Ireland, the UK will consider increasing ad hoc immigration checks on vehicles in order to target non-CTA nationals on the Northern Ireland side ofthe land border."] In a joint statement, Jacqui Smith, the British Home Secretary, and Dermot Ahern, the Irish Justice Minister, said:

It is crucial that our two countries work closely together to ensure our borders are stronger than ever. Both governments fully recognise the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland. Both governments reaffirm that they have no plans to introduce fixed controls on either side of the Irish land border.

"The Times" reports that another consultation paper is to be published in the autumn [of 2008] on whether people travelling between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom should be subject to further checks.

One proposal is expected to suggest extending the electronic borders scheme, requiring travellers from Northern Ireland to provide their personal details in advance. This would mean residents of one part of the UK being treated differently from others when travelling within the country, something to which Unionists would object.

The Troubles

The Troubles in Northern Ireland required that attempts were made from the early 1970s until the late 1990s to enforce Border controls. Many smaller cross-border roads were cratered or blockaded with the intention of making them impassable to regular traffic. Bridges were also destroyed to prevent access at unauthorised Border crossings (known officially as "unapproved roads"). In particular, the Border area in south Armagh was dominated by British Army surveillance posts. Despite these measures, the Border was simply too long and had so many minor access roads to control the majority of cross-border movements. In any case, authorised crossing-points on the Border remained open to civilian traffic in both directions at all times, though vehicles and their occupants were subject to detailed searches/

Difficulty in patrolling parts of the Border and large taxation/currency differences (particularly during the 1980s) led to widespread smuggling. However, greater European integration has led to roughly similar tax rates on most items and easing of restrictions on cross-border trade. Smuggling nowadays is mostly limited to fuel, livestock and a seasonal trade in illegal fireworks (which are strictly regulated in the Republic [In both countries there are restrictions on the types which can be used and a licence is required to possess/use fireworks but in the Republic such licenses are almost never issued to private individuals] ).

While it still exists, the Border now creates less impediments than before. This has been mainly due to the Common Travel Area between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, as well as a sharp reduction in terrorist activity. European integration has also played a part. Following the Northern Ireland peace process, military surveillance has been substantially scaled down.

Border settlements

The following cities, towns and villages are located on the Border or not far from it (from a north-west to south-east direction):
*Derry, Northern Ireland
*Strabane, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland and Lifford, County Donegal, Republic of Ireland; the two towns are linked by a bridge
*Belleek, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland (part of Belleek is actually in County Donegal, as the Border passes through the town but most of it is on the "northern" side)
*Pettigo, County Donegal and Tullyhommon/Pettigoe, County Fermanagh (the same village but officially known by different names on either side of the Border)
*Belcoo, County Fermanagh, and nearby Blacklion, County Cavan, the two villages being separated by a bridge
*Swanlinbar, County Cavan do not delete
*Ballyconnell, County Cavan
*Newtownbutler, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland and Clones, County Monaghan
*Aughnacloy, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
*Cullaville, County Armagh, Northern Ireland
*Jonesborough, County Armagh, Northern Ireland
*Dundalk, County Louth
*Newry, County Armagh/County Down
*Scotshouse,County Monaghan]
Warrenpoint, County Down, Northern Ireland. The village is separated from the town of Omeath in County Louth across the Border, by Carlingford Lough, which a stretch of sea a couple of hundred metres wide.

Since ferry services across to Omeath have recently resumed (and the recently proposed construction of a new bridge) it is hoped that there will be revived interaction with the other side of the lough since these two towns are 20 km (13 miles) apart by road.

Identifying the Border

Unlike other borders in the EU, the Irish Border is not officially marked by either government. This can make identifying the Border difficult for those unfamiliar with landmarks known to locals as the crossing point. At some crossings, there are signs welcoming visitors to the relevant local government authority district or, occasionally, reminding motorists of the need to ensure that their insurance is valid in the relevant jurisdiction. Generally signposts in the Republic of Ireland which indicate how far away places are bilingual (in Irish and English) while such signposts in Northern Ireland are only in English. Another immediate indicator of the crossing is the change in road markings. The hard shoulder in the Republic is marked with a yellow, usually broken, line. The same marking in Northern Ireland is white and usually continuous. In Northern Ireland, roads use A (major) and B (minor) route prefixes, whereas the Republic's route prefixes are N (major, standing for "national") and R (minor, standing for "regional"). Road signs in the Republic of Ireland are mostly black/yellow and diamond shaped (similar to those in North America and Australia) whereas those in the UK are mainly black/white/red triangles (the same as the rest of the European Union).

By rail, there is no immediate sign of crossing the Border, but the trackside mileage markers change from Irish-style markers at the 59¾-mile post (from Dublin Connolly railway station) to black-on-yellow markers, common to the rest of the United Kingdom, at the 60-mile post, between Dundalk and Newry stations.

Since the adoption by the Republic of metric speed limits, warning signs have been placed on either side of the Border to alert motorists to the change to or from miles or kilometres per hour. As the United Kingdom does not use the euro, advertised prices for service stations and shops will change currency on crossing, although many places along the Border will accept cross-border currency informally (albeit usually at a rate favourable to the trader).

Other typical signs of crossing a European border are also noticeable. These include subtle differences in the technical standards for road surfaces and pavements, changes in the colour of postboxes (green in the Republic, red in Northern Ireland), or the beeping of a mobile phone as they switch from a network provider in one country to one in the other. Likewise, language differences between the two jurisdictions will mark a change from one to the other. Place-names used for signs in the Republic are usually bilingual, Irish and English, or occasionally in Irish only, whereas in Northern Ireland place-names are marked in English only. Signs have subtle difference in colouring and fonts.

Mobile phone roaming charges

As in most places, radio signals from the cellular networks on both of the Border sides often travel several kilometres across it. This is a source of annoyance to those resident in Border areas as roaming charges are incurred with most service providers if the phone connects to the "wrong" network when making or even receiving a call. [" [ Cross-border telecoms issues] ", Report of ComReg/Ofcom Joint Working Group, 19 January 2005] [" [ Follow O2 roaming move - Dempsey] ", RTÉ News, Wednesday, 8 February 2006 ] It is believed that one third of mobile phone users in Northern Ireland have been affected by this. [" [ Mobile users take border roaming hit] ", RTÉ News, Wednesday, 19 January 2005] Discussion between the relevant communication regulators in the two jurisdictions is under way in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Recently, Sinn Féin have called for there to be an 'all-island' telecommunications network, especially regarding mobile phones. []



* Sharrock, D. (2007) " [ New border control will abolish free movement between UK and Ireland] ", "The Times", 25 October, TimesOnline website accessed 10 June 2008

ee also

* Foreign relations of the United Kingdom
* Foreign relations of the Republic of Ireland
* Partition of Ireland
* Common Travel Area
* British passport
* Irish nationality law
* British nationality law
* Repartition of Ireland
* Boundary Commission (Ireland)
* Special European Union Programmes Body

External links

* [ Centre for Cross Border Studies - researches and develops cooperation across the Irish Border in education, training, health, business, public administration, communications, agriculture and the environment, and acts as secretariat for a number of cross-border educational organisations.]
* [ "Border Ireland" - an information portal on cross-border co-operation on the island of Ireland since 1990 including a searchable database of cross-border activities, publications, organisations and funding, a series of critical briefing papers and an up-to-date media centre of cross-border issues in the national and regional press.]
* [ "Mapping Frontiers" (a cross-border research project between UCD and QUB specifically about the Irish Border)]
* [ "Border People" - cross-border mobility portal with four main themes - Commute, Work, Live, Study]
* [ Popular ferry back in action]

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