Dún Dealgan, Dundalk, 7th May 2011

I wonder why Dundalk is so special to me. It’s not unlike any other town in Ireland. In fact, on an overcast day it’s pretty dull.

On the road from Belfast to Dublin, Dundalk is the first major town over the border into the Irish Republic. Although I’m always trying to convince myself that this border that divides County Down from County Louth doesn’t really exist (and the fact that I can freely move between the two counties proves that), there’s something about Dundalk that makes it a place I try to get to visit at least once a year.

I can trace this fascination with Dundalk back to my childhood, to when I was nine or ten. I grew up in Belfast where there was a perennial fear of violence, from sectarian morons who would blow your brains out as soon as look at you and from the “security forces”, the army and the police who could literally get away with murder, and nearly always did.

In the Republic of Ireland there was no such fear. It’s true there was a deep recession and a government in Dublin who didn’t seem to have a clue what to do about it (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose) and most people hadn’t two pennies to rub together, but to me living there was vastly preferable to living among all the misery in 1980s Belfast. Everything south of Newry and west of Derry was a land of freedom.

And it’s not much different today. It has a different currency to any place in Northern Ireland, a different infrastructure, a different set of radio and TV stations… and a different set of mobile phone networks. (It’s the reason why I can’t use the internet on my mobile phone, otherwise this post would have been up two days ago.)

I just wish we’d had a sunny day for our trip. Most of the town’s buildings are pretty grey and an overcast sky is no help at all. Even so, Dundalk is a nice place to visit and to walk around.

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