‘The Irish border’ is a term used to describe the border that divides the North and South of Ireland.
On the Southern side of the border is the Republic of Ireland. On the Northern side of the border is Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom.
Whether you’re travelling to Ireland for the first time, are a seasoned adventurer on Irish soil, share in Irish ancestry or are a local from either side of the border, here are 10 facts you probably never knew about the border in Ireland.
10. Distance & Location
The Irish border is located in the North of Ireland. It divides the six counties of Northen Ireland from the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland. Altogether, the island of Ireland has 32 counties.
The border spans 499 kilometres (310 miles) in total distance. From left to right, the border begins at Lough Foyle in Derry and runs all the way to Carlingford Lough, near Newry in the Northeast.
9. There is Currently No “Hard” Border
Seeing as Ireland and Northern Ireland operate under a Common Travel Area and equally are (until Brexit) part of the European Single Market, the Irish border is technically an “open border”. This means there is no physical division or stop-checks between the two territories.
During the Troubles (a time of conflict, political and social unrest in Ireland from the late 1960s until 1998) there would have been military checks and limited road use between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The first-ever customs checks were introduced along the border in April 1923, an action undertaken after the introduction of the Irish Free State.
Customs and control along the border continued until January 1993, when both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland became part of the single market.
Only for a brief period during World War II and the Troubles were intensified security checks implemented along the Irish border.
Today people can travel freely from one area to the next without having to experience border control or show their identification.
7. Free Travel
There has been free travel (or free passage) of people across the Irish border since 1923.
In 1993 this extended to include the free passage of goods as both territories became part of a single market.
Did you know that it is estimated that somewhere between 270 and 300 public roads cross the border along its 499 kilometres (310 miles) stretch?
During the Troubles, many of these routes would have been closed to stop access from one territory to another.
As reported by the New Statesman in March 2017, approximately 177,000 lorries, 208,000 vans and 1,850,000 cars cross the border every single month.
There are growing concerns that if the UK withdraws from the EU on 29 March 2019 without a Brexit deal that transport, as well as access and free travel, will be greatly affected.
On top of that, a whopping amount of people cross the border for everyday life, daily.
According to The Guardian in an online article in April 2017, 30,000 people move freely across the border to travel to and from work each day.
3. Border Towns
These communities face the greatest concerns should there be a reality of a “hard border” in the near future.
There are a grand total of 39 villages, towns and cities which are located on or near the Irish border.
2. Border Region
Five counties in the Republic of Ireland make up the “Border Region” which traces along the boundaries of the Republic of Ireland and United Kingdom border.
These counties include Sligo, Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim and Monaghan. According to The Irish Regions European Office (IREO), the “Border Region” has a population of 392,837 people.
The term Brexit refers to the United Kingdom’s pending withdrawal from the European Union (EU). This was due to take place on Friday 29 March 2019 but has been extended. it is not known what will happen next.
Should British Prime Minister, Theresa May and the British Members of Parliament not be able to find an agreed upon “exit deal” from the EU there are fears that a “hard border” will be reinstated, inexplicably dividing the North and South of Ireland.