The hardest thing i ever had to do

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The hardest thing i ever had to do

The frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland runs for miles. It nudges up close to the border that separates the six counties of Ulster in the United Kingdom from the Republic of Ireland. The bridge was such a popular target for IRA bombers that uninterrupted travel from north to south was often impossible.

A groan would go up as the tinny tannoy announced that, because of problems on the line, all passengers would disembark at the Newry halt, travel by bus across the border and then clamber back on the train at Dundalk in the Republic of Ireland.

We trundled on, we trundled off. It added at least an hour and more like two to the journey. But at least we knew we had crossed the border. Now, commuters sip posh coffee and sail past this once troubled spot, blissfully unaware of where the north ends, and where the Republic of Ireland begins.

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The border is there, but it is not there and the bombs are history. Drive along the modern motorway that links Belfast to Dublin and the only clue that you have crossed is the subtle switch from signposts in miles to those in kilometres.

The hardest thing i ever had to do

Keen-eyed, you might spot the change in the markings on the sides of the road. About 50 years ago, it was easier. The good roads were in Northern Ireland - you knew you had hit the Republic when the potholes rattled the car.

The hardest thing i ever had to do

The road signs in the south were more dramatic than the north. They came in sets and block capitals: The Killeen border checkpoint near Newry, This border is miles km long and meanders from Carlingford Lough in the east to Lough Foyle in the west.

It was never a neat line. It is a squiggle across the map of Ireland — like an awkward child taking their crayon for a walk. That line divides rivers, slices fields, cuts bridges in two and even, occasionally, divides the odd house.

Carlingford Lough marks the easternmost point of the border There are homes where you can have your breakfast in the north and go to sleep in the south.

There are places where mobile phone reception in just one house fluctuates between north and south. The days of the Troubles are behind us - days lived in the dark shadow of watchtowers and turrets are vanished.

But now the UK is getting ready to leave the EU, and the people of the borderlands are uneasy. Up to 35, people commute across the border every day. Hospital patients and schoolchildren and cross-border workers are among those who have to make the daily journey.

None of them wants a hard border, but the EU has stressed that there will have to be some form of customs control. Will thousands of people find themselves cursing daily in long queues at border points?

A foot in both camps The village of Muff lies close to the border between Donegal and County Londonderry. During the Troubles, cars queued at the Army checkpoint, where twitchy young soldiers with rifles rattled out the usual questions.

Where are you coming from? Where are you going to? Get out and open your boot, sir.

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Then it was on down a twist in the road and the Irish customs men were on their marks waiting to catch the locals with the contraband. A black corrugated hut at the old customs post is boarded up - weeds sprout from the chimney.

It is tiny but boasts four petrol stations. The Derry-Donegal crossing point at Muff There is what used to be an old Irish ballroom - a big, squat building called Borderland. When Derry city burned in riots and bombings, Borderland was the escape — the dance hall down the road, where you jived your way into another world.

Marie Lindsay was born in Muff, but the city of Derry is centre stage in her heart. She lives in the hills just outside the village and has a foot in both camps. Each morning she gets into her car in Donegal, in the Republic, and drives up through a little wood.

Like thousands of others, she feels she has a double identity.

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As the Troubles in Northern Ireland escalated in the s, the Army and police blocked and cratered the smaller roads to make all but the approved checkpoint routes impassable, and to stop paramilitaries crossing. Lindsay has known a hard border - the interminable waits at checkpoints. They were dark days that no-one really wants to recall.Pamela R Ashworth - March 4th, at am.

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Loving my kids well. Holding my heart open enough that pain can get in there just as easily as joy. After a string of breakout roles in the late s and early 80s, Eric Roberts seemed poised to become a bankable Hollywood leading man. That didn’t quite work out.

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