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Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Irish Border

One of the joys of Twitter is capacity for satire, parody and irony (if they are not all the same thing). When I holidayed in San Francisco some years ago I was very taken by one Twitter account which played on the fact that the Bay area, and in particular the Golden Gate Bridge is often shrouded in fog.

Karl the Fog, provided regular updates on the weather in an amusing first person way that added to the experience provided by the City. I am not so sure that The Irish Border twitter account is so functional, though it clearly has a relevance and purpose beyond the computer screen.

As the Guardian records, this twitter account channels the spirit of Monty Python, Father Ted and Oscar Wilde, and trolls the Brexit process with a tone that is whimsical, sometimes surreal and always pointed:

“I dislike Brexit but, speaking as a border, I do admire its ability to completely divide a country,” it declared.

@BorderIrish is an anonymous Twitter account with more than 47,000 followers, including the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, which gives voice to the 310-mile (499km) border between Northern Ireland and the republic:

“I’m seamless & frictionless already, thanks,” says its Twitter bio. “Bit scared of physical infrastructure.”

The paper says that Tory tumult over Theresa May’s Brexit deal elicits schadenfreude. “It’s a pleasurable historical irony that I have divided, and created a civil war in, the Conservative party.”

It treats Boris Johnson – who was due to address the Democratic Unionist party conference in Belfast on Saturday – with disdain for the former foreign minister’s blitheness about Irish history.

It mocks proposed “smart technology” solutions for a border which partitioned Ireland in 1922 and gradually became invisible due to Irish and UK membership of the European Union and the Good Friday agreement.

“I currently: – hold together two countries that were once in military conflict – am porous enough to allow two clashing identities to live in peace – allow extensive free movement of goods and people – am as beautiful as the setting sun. So don’t tell me I could be ‘smart’.”

It has compared Brexit to football and cricket. “Invented by the British, then it turns out they’re crap at it.”

It was due to speak to RTÉ radio on Saturday, its sentiments spoken by an actor.

In an email interview with the Guardian, @BorderIrish declined to identify the person behind it but explained why it started tweeting.

“I was living the quiet life, watching the traffic and the sheep go by and then Brexit came along and I listened to people dismissing my importance. I could see the danger coming in the distance, like a cold front on the Tyrone skyline. So I thought, how can an invisible border be heard?”

Sometimes 280 characters are enough to define the problem, if not to solve it. But let's leave the final word to the border itself, in its sneaking admiration for the Tories:

“They have a division running down the middle of them that any border would be jealous of.”
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