Consigning Border divisions to history
Initiative seeks to identify local communities' needs
The summer rain was pouring down as I drove along the once familiar border roads. It was evening time in and out of Monaghan and Fermanagh. The colours of the road markings at the verge went from white to orange and back to white again. Ironically, the orange lines told you that you were in the Republic.
Almost all the man-made additions to the landscape speak of two distinct sets of footprints in this place. Every few minutes symbols and signs remind you that you are crossing an international border.
The magnificent community centre at Corcaghan, on the outskirts of Monaghan town, is packed for the launch of the 'Community Sharing Project'. There's a mix of Northern and Southern registrations in the car park. As I sign in, I notice that the names of many of those before me are from Loyal Orange Lodges from Donegal to Armagh.
From the moment Breege Lenihan, coordinator of the Co Monaghan Community Network (CMCN) begins to speak, one realises that this border is deep and there is more to it than road signs. However, tonight in Corcaghan, they are not talking about the burdens of the past, rather the practicalities of the present and hope for the future.
Mary Mullin, chairperson of the CMCN, begins the proceedings with a welcome and then reads out a list of apologies that sounds like a veritable who's who of Border society. Ministers, MLAs, TDs, two bishops, various ranks of lower clergy and local councillors all regret they cannot attend; it is not like such characters to pass up a full hall and a feelgood project.
As the night goes on, though, it becomes clear why the political caste and other representatives of the ruling classes have passed up on the event: things have moved beyond rhetoric, beyond the 'hand of history'; the glitter that attracts them has faded and has been replaced by the mundane stuff of ordinary life.