British Army checkpoint Strabane
Polarisation in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s meant the roads that crisscross the #UlsterBorder were blocked during the “Troubles” and the main border crossings like this one in Strabane, my birthplace, had heavily fortified checkpoints. After demolition, it is hard to know when you cross the #Ulsterborder. Many crossings between Donegal, Tyrone, Fermanagh are single track and rural. Since #Brexit this international European border can run through a house so someone can sleep with their head in #EU and their feet in the #UK.
German friends, curious about the creation of a European border after #Brexit recalled the building and demolition of the Berlin Wall which ran through buildings, streets, and farmland. (Some of Sabine’s photos appear in this #Ulster Border series.) Since their visit, #Article 16 of the #Brexit agreement seeks to avoid a hard border by keeping Northern Ireland in the #EU single market for goods, but the potential for a new economic border in the Irish sea between Northern Ireland and Great Britain has produced friction and fear. There are always those who are ready to take advantage of the tensions between US and THEM to provoke violence and crime.
Crime can “blur the border” in the words of best-selling crime novelist Brian McGilloway from Derry (brianmcgilloway.com). Set in the Ulster borderlands, he captures an atmosphere where the boundaries between revenge and justice or between cop and criminal are also blurred. Do #UlsterBorder writers create a space which blurs false distinctions between Self and the Other, between ME and YOU? Where is the beginning of “othering”? We know the ending is hatred and violence. Toni Morrison says “Narrative fiction provides a controlled wilderness an opportunity to be and become the Other.” (The Origin of Others pub, Harvard University Press.)