Wednesday 22 August 2012

Going for the border bus bonanza

It pays to take the bus from Lifford to Dublin, through Strabane.
Would you go the extra mile for Bus √Čireann, Ireland’s national bus service? I did yesterday (Tuesday) when I took the Letterkenny express bus to Dublin.
Not only that, I went the extra mile on the outward and return journey – and I saved myself €5 (or £4) for each of those miles. Surely that must be the best (or worst) mileage rate in the land and it was all courtesy of yet another foible of our fickle frontier.
I got the 9.45am bus from Lifford to Dublin Busaras and returned on the 8.45pm departure. On each leg of the journey, I went through Strabane, just over the bridge from Lifford. From where I live, Strabane would be the more expected point of my departure and arrival.
A small cross-border mile with a big saving.
The reason I set out from Lifford on the Letterkenny-Dublin express service is that I booked my Bus √Čireann ticket online. That does not allow the option of boarding in Strabane, presumably because it is ‘across the border’.
In any event, I discovered that my same-day return ticket would cost me €21.85. A bargain, I thought so I enquired about the alternative to online booking. That would have been to go to Strabane bus station, a mile closer to where I live, and purchase from ticket from the booth there. My phone enquiry to the Translink service revealed that I would have to pay £25 for a same-day return to take the same Letterkenny to Dublin bus, boarding just a few minutes after its departure time from Lifford.
On the conversion rate for the day, that worked out at €31.81 – an extra €10 (give or take a few cent) for a journey that was shorter by a combined two miles.
So I walked the extra mile. Well, I drove it, but I could have parked my car in Strabane, walked over to Lifford for the connection, come back on the bus through Strabane (checking my car en route)  and then  disembarked there on my evening return. The online ticket only stipulates a point of boarding and who was going to prevent me getting off a stop earlier.
Next time I'll take a stroll past the 'Tinnies'.
That way, I could have saved my tenner and had a pleasant stroll up Bradley Way, across the grassy knell of the quaintly named Camel’s Hump with the wonderful ‘Tinney’ sculptures in the ‘Let the Dance Begin’ installation. Now that I’ve found my way to Dublin, spent my saved tenner on a hearty pub lunch, and returned again all at the border bonanza rate, I think I’ll just do that.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Rocky road to Rio 2016

Filling in the faces for the next Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
So now that the most wonderful Olympics ever have come to a close with London 2012, and golfer Rory McIlroy has turned in a hugely impressive win at the US PGA, the speculation has begun on where he will hang his cap in the Olympic Village for Rio 2016.
Will the Hollywood, Co. Down wonder opt for Team Ireland or Team GB in four years time?
Some on-air speculation from Dublin today followed the increasingly familiar pattern of born-again cross-border deference to difference.
Golf champ Rory is up for grabs for 2016.
One contributor wondered if the new US PGA champion would go for Team Ireland given that the Golfing Union of Ireland financially supported his early professional golfing career development.
On the other hand, sure hasn’t he the choice by virtue of his birth in Northern Ireland to opt for Team GB? And good luck to him whatever he decides.
Where is the passion? Where is the tribal resentment? Has the very essence of our sporting rivalry been boxed to a standstill in the ring last Saturday night during the bout between John Joe Nevin and Luke Campbell? 
Instead, the airwaves gush with the milk of human kindness after the Friendly Games.
So here at the Frontier Post, we are left alone to shout at the radio that Rory should be ours because the official name for the British team pointedly excludes Northern Ireland. It is our job to keep an eye on such legalities of jurisdictional demarcation. 
In the after-glow of London 2012, even the most truculent and resentful must concede that Northern Ireland  is a de facto constituent of the United Kingdom (UK) of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but it most assuredly is not in the Great Britain of Team GB.
Furthermore, nobody thought to ask if the Team GB brand name would even be appropriate for Rio in 2016. Or would Scottish Premier Alex Salmond’s 2014 referendum on independence put paid to that?
Scotland's gold
If the Scottish Nationalist Party leader has his way, Team Scotland will be entering the fray in 2016 and Andy Murray and his fellow athletes will stand to attention on the winners’ podium for a rendition of ‘Flower of Scotland’.
In that event, could those of Ulster-Scots background (Graeme McDowell) opt for Team Scotland too?
Meanwhile, would a truncated team from the biggest island of the British Isles be renamed Team Britain. And would that then transform Team GB into Team B? Hardly the most auspicious acronymn for the fastest, longest, strongest etc.
I’ll bet none of the branding experts thought of this when they settled for Team GB over Team UK.
Maybe Rory should just declare for Team Ireland now and avoid all this uncertainty and embarassment between here and Rio.

Thursday 9 August 2012

Signs of the times

Northern Ireland’s Minister for Regional Development Danny Kennedy was accused this week of being ‘pretty petty’ in his insistence on erecting ‘Welcome to Northern Ireland’ signs on Border road-crossings. At the Frontier Post, we think he’s also being rather picky in choosing nine roads to signpost – at a cost of almost £200 a sign.
Two of the new signs have been uprooted already – both in the Clones-Roslea-Newtownbutler area – and there seems to be general expectations that the others will be vandalised also. The DRD is reported to be on standby to replace the signs in such an event.
The official excuse for the signs, meanwhile, is that they will remind motorists that they are entering another jurisdiction where speed limits are measured in pounds, shillings and pence and not in those foreign ‘European’ currencies. Most motorists can be forgiven for thinking that the signs saying that ‘speed limits are in MPH’ were erected for that very purpose.
So obviously in the interests of road safety, the minister is using taxpayers’ money for a ‘belt and braces’ approach so that motorists can then adjust their speedometer gauges, or something like that.
Dannk K – a belt and braces guy
Meanwhile, here at the Frontier Post, we are somewhat peeved that Minister Kennedy does not come clean and acknowledge that our 2 February blog, Size Matters in Border Rivalry, comparing our border with the one between Scotland and England might have spurred him to action. Obviously the Ulster Unionist Minister was upset by our observation that the much smaller Border across the water is festooned with signage, while ours boasts only a few ‘Fermanagh Welcomes you… Naturally’ signs, as well as some signs on the southern side reminding us – in German, French and English, but not the first official language – to drive on the left.
So besides needing to replace the two signs in the Clones area, the minister has had his signs positioned on the following roads: Strabane-Lifford, Kesh-Pettigo, Aughnacloy-Emyvale, Derrylin-Belturbet, Belleek-Ballyshannon, and even one near Wattlebridge on the road from Clones to Cavan where it makes one of its forays into Fermanagh. Soon also, there will be signs erected on the old road between Newry and Dundalk, on one of the Derry to Letterkenny roads – probably at Bridgend – and another near Middletown on the Armagh-Monaghan road.
We reckon that this leaves only 300 or so roads with no signs to inform motorists that they are crossing the Border and they are welcome to do so!
Mind you, at a cost of about £200 each, the spending on replacement signage for the stipulated roads, should keep a medium-size signage shop and half a dozen DRD road crews busy for a while. It will certainly supplement the work of replacing and restoring the defaced direction signs for ‘Londonderry’.
But it’s good to see that we are all being welcomed along the road to a shared future, even if only on a few choice border crossings. Time was – and not really that long ago – that Unionist politicians seemed hell-bent on keeping our cross-border roads closed. Now Danny K is rolling out the Welcome mat, even if disgruntled locals would prefer to keep their Border location a secret.