Homes and businesses divided by Irish border

Their front door is in Northern Ireland, their back door in the Republic.

With mail coming from one side of the border and electricity the other, it is a house divided.

“They can go to bed in Northern Ireland and have their breakfast in the Republic of Ireland,” explained neighbour Mary Rafferty.

She has lived alongside the land boundary – where County Monaghan meets County Fermanagh – for 70 years and fears the return of customs posts.

“We need no border here.

“We have had enough of it over the years.

“We lived with it all our lives, terrified of just going to a shop up in the North for a couple of pounds of butter but the customs would seize it on the way back.”

Border crossing point sign between Northern Ireland and Ireland

Image: Many people do not want the return of the hard border

On the N54, the main road between Butlersbridge and Clones, we crossed the Irish border four times in six miles but the only indication was a change in road markings and the speed limit, from miles per hour to kilometres.

Some MPs fear checkpoints will be inevitable at places like this after the UK leaves the European Union.

The Commons Committee on Brexit has described the government’s proposals for a “light touch” border using technology as “untried and untested”.

“All of this is untried and untested,” was Arlene Foster’s response to a report claiming a frictionless border was not compatible with leaving the customs union and single market.

The DUP leader, whose own constituency is along the border, said: “We’re looking for innovative solutions.

“Indeed, the European Commission actually said that they wanted to see innovative solutions to what was happening here on this island so we’re trying to find those innovative solutions but we need partners to work with.”

The border cuts through Eamon Fitzpatrick's grocery, hardware and fuel business on the outskirts of Clones.

Image: The border also cuts through Eamon Fitzpatrick’s grocery, hardware and fuel business

The border cuts through Eamon Fitzpatrick’s grocery, hardware and fuel business on the outskirts of Clones.

“Those fuel pumps are in the north and those ones in the south,” he says, joking that his customers would not be amused by the return of customs posts.

“The Troubles have finished, they have good access to roads, they can go anywhere and there’s no hassle or no delays.

“People want to live in that environment.

“They don’t want to be going back to this situation where the roads going to be closed and if there is a hard border – I think it will cripple the country.”

If anyone needs a solution, it’s the 100 people living in a narrow pocket of land they call The Connons.

With the border snaking around them, they are effectively surrounded by Northern Ireland, only attached to the Republic by a 200-metre stretch of land.

It is the most unlikely of international frontiers but that’s what this patchwork quilt of green fields is – the place on land where the UK will end and the EU begin.