Saturday 19 October 2019

'I was caught completely unaware' - man travelling on bus from Belfast to Dublin says he was asked for his passport on the border

Tristan Drysden from Derry, who says he was asked to show his passport on the Belfast to Dublin bus
Tristan Drysden from Derry, who says he was asked to show his passport on the Belfast to Dublin bus

Donna Deeney

A Derry man travelling from Belfast to Dublin has warned Translink passengers to make sure they carry their passports after claiming that he was quizzed by gardaí last Monday.

Tristan Drysden said he was shocked when two garda officers boarded the bus shortly after it crossed the border into the Republic and asked passengers to show their passports or photographic ID.

Mr Drysden said he was unaware this was a necessary part of travelling between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

He said: "I couldn't believe it when the two gardai boarded the bus and started asking passengers for passports.

"I didn't have my passport on me because I didn't think for a second it was necessary.

"I am not a frequent user of the bus; I usually drive across the border in my car and I have never once been stopped and asked to show a passport or any form of photographic ID.

"I explained to the garda that I didn't have my passport or any form of photographic ID and he said, 'Why not, you are crossing a border?' which stunned me because I assumed people were free to move from one part of Ireland to the other.

"The garda didn't say why he wanted to see my passport so I assumed it was something to do with Brexit and maybe they were preparing for a hard border.

"When he heard my accent and realised I was from the North, he said it was okay, so I was left with the impression it may have been an immigration check but that certainly wasn't mentioned and it wasn't something I had ever come across before," Mr Drysden said.

"I asked some of the other passengers if they had been asked for their passports before and they had, so it is something that is happening fairly frequently now.

"I was caught completely unaware, the last time I heard of anything like this happening was during the Troubles when there were lots of check points at the border."

According to the Common Travel Agreement between Ireland and the UK there are no passport controls in operation for Irish and UK citizens travelling between the two countries and a passport is not needed to enter the other country.

SDLP leader and European Election candidate Colum Eastwood said the imposition of border controls was not acceptable.

He said: "We fought long and hard for an invisible, seamless border on this island. People should be free to travel north and south without the imposition of border controls.

"The creeping border control apparatus is a sign of the kind of Brexit the DUP and ERG would love to see. We need to fight it. We need to find our pro-Europe voice."

However, Translink suggested the checks may have been for immigration purposes.

A spokeswoman said: "Occasionally, immigration checks are carried out on cross-border services. We facilitate these checks, which are not related to Brexit."

The Citizens Information Website advises the carrying of passports for this purpose. It states: "As you are being asked to prove that you are an Irish or UK citizen who is entitled to avail of the Common Travel Area arrangements, it is advisable to travel with your passport."

An Garda Siochana have been contacted for comment.

Belfast Telegraph

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