Ireland, too, is divided over how to vote in Friday's referendum

Share
Related Topics
NEWBLISS lies eight miles south of the border with Northern Ireland. It was settled in the 17th century by Murray Ker, a Protestant Scot from rocky Lanarkshire.

Why Newbliss ? "When they saw these rolling fields they thought they'd walked into their own hymns," a Scottish researcher once told me.

Historically and topographically these counties, Cavan and Monaghan, belong to Ulster. Demographically, they are a mix very similar to Fermanagh and Armagh - but a peaceful one. In The Black Kesh pub, I've heard both national anthems played at the end of a Saturday night. The garage where you buy drink takes English and Irish money.

In 1922, these counties were excluded from Northern Ireland by a line drawn by the Boundary Commission. Everyone here knows that if the ink had flowed another way, there'd be villages in these shallow quiet valleys where every house would have lost someone - just like twenty miles away, in exactly similar valleys.

Helicopters would shadow the glossy Friesians, who gaze at you down every lane; fluffy Alsatians would pop from the hedges beside British boys with rifles. These are some of the day-to-day external tokens of things you hope might stop over the border - if there's a "Yes" on Friday in the referendum.

But "Yes" feels a long way off. Ingrid Adams, whose husband Gerry Adams plays accordion in the Band of Drum Orange Lodge - the only place in the Republic where Ian Paisley has a church - isn't sure how she'll vote. Like many, she's confused by the Republic's Amsterdam Treaty referendum, also happening on Friday. "It's bad enough being asked to make up your mind on one question, let alone two."

Ingrid works at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, set up 20 years ago on the border in the midst of the Troubles. It gets money from both Arts Councils, Northern Ireland and the Republic. Artists, writers and composers from both sides come and work here.

The house was left to the Republic by the Protestant theatre magnate Tyrone Guthrie, who died in 1971 after outraging everyone as Chancellor of Queen's University, Belfast, when he told matriculating students of 1969 that, as the educated elite, they should ignore "that senseless border down the road". The centre keeps Guthrie's tradition of equal employment for Protestant and Catholic. "My own wish", said the Belfast-born Director Bernard Loughlin, "is for the reintegration of Ulster's nine counties within a federal Ireland where the decency and respect I see here could prevail in a new Beneluxembourg of the North."

Every emotional and technical issue for Friday is a crown of thorns: like the TV theatricals over released prisoners. I've heard the clause which amends Articles 2 and 3 in the Republic's constitution attacked from both sides. "It means giving up our claim on the North! It's legalising partition!" said the Dublin-born Deidre, marshalling a Nationalist "No" vote. "It means a foreign state has territorial interests in my country," said John Hunter from Antrim. "It's the first step to a united Ireland."

"I must look at the leaflets", said Ingrid. "Some people are saying, Don't vote at all. If we don't vote `yes', we'll be sitting here with no change. But - well, I don't know how I'll vote."

Newbliss has new lamp-posts. "Peace Process money,", says Eddie, driving me from the bus. And there are new pavements, also laid with money from the Special European Programme for Peace and Reconciliation that has brought millions into these border counties already. So here's one tangible result.

Maybe "Yes" won't mean new bliss, exactly, even here. But new light - or a new footing, equally under everyone's shoes - seems a handy little omen.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
It's not only the British who haven't been behaving well abroad; pictured here are German fans celebrating their team's latest victory  

Holiday snaps that bite back: What happens in Shagaluf no longer stays in Shagaluf

Ellen E Jones
Simon Laird (left) and Sister Simon Laird, featured in the BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets  

Estates of the nation: Let's hear it for the man in the street

Simmy Richman
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?