Cue the theme song from “Cops” because Marilynn got picked up on Friday by the Irish po po, the Garda.
Anyone who knows my wife surely must be thinking this is impossible. English professors who are representing their countries internationally as Fulbright Scholars surely don’t merit police scrutiny.
So was Marilynn smuggling contraband crisps to Dublin or perhaps running guns for the Real IRA? No, she was visiting her publisher in Dublin and didn’t bring her passport. She had her BRP (biometric residence permit) from the UK, but that wasn’t enough for the Garda who stopped the Belfast-Dublin bus she was riding in Friday morning just over the border. They also picked up a Chilean national who is married to a UK citizen and speaks fluent English with a strong Belfast accent, who was on his way to the Chilean embassy to apply for a replacement passport.
The passport-less scofflaws were taken in a squad car to the police station in Dundalk, photographed, given letters denying them entry to Ireland (and then letters allowing them to come into the country for the day) and taken to the train station, where the Irish government paid for their fare to Dublin.
If you haven’t traveled to Ireland before, you may not realize how significant Friday’s incident actually is. This level of scrutiny has not been seen since the Troubles, which ended in 1998 with the Good Friday Agreement. Marilynn readily recalls security forces boarding a bus or train during the Troubles but not after. I certainly haven’t experienced this in the half-dozen or so times we’ve crossed that border on previous trips.
More fallout from Brexit
We blame UK Prime Minister Teresa May, who last week triggered Article 50 to leave the European Union following last summer’s Brexit vote. The EU supposedly recognizes the unique relationship between the countries on this island (and the 30-year conflict where more than 3,600 people died), as evidenced by the response to May’s Brexit letter late last month.
I’ll let Marilynn pick up the story, from her email to the American consul in Northern Ireland:
“The garda told us that ‘the European Union’ had demanded that they start treating the Northern Irish border as an ‘international border’ and that they had been receiving extra training. Much, apparently, is left to the discretion of individual officers. This one gave each of us a letter saying that we were forbidden permission to enter the Irish state because we did not have a valid passport with us, and then gave each of us another letter saying that, at his discretion as an immigration officer, he was giving us permission to enter just for the day (luckily I was only planning to go for the day, anyway).
“He took our photos and made a record of the incident, and then put us both on the train to Dublin (courtesy of the Irish state). He kept saying, however, that some of his colleagues would have been happy to send us straight back to Belfast, and he expressed relief that his sergeant wasn’t around when we got to the station, since he probably would have taken a harder line.
“I knew, in the back of my mind, that I was supposed to carry my passport in the Republic, but I can’t remember being asked for it since at least 1998. I had gotten a bit blase about it, as (I’m sure) have many foreign nationals living in Northern Ireland. So I thought I’d better let you know about this so you can spread the word to other Americans living here to be sure and bring their passports with them when going to the Republic, even on day trips to Dublin!”
And I can’t stop singing the Beavis & Butthead version of the Judas Priest song “Breaking the Law.”