‘Border Roads 1990-1994’ by Tony O’Shea
(Café Royal Books)
Walking the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland on the eve of the controversial Anglo-Irish Agreement was an extremely brave, and some would suggest foolhardy, undertaking but it is one that photographer Tony O’Shea and novelist Colm Tóibín embraced with spirit for the 1987 book Walking Along the Border.
“Working with Colm on Walking Along The Border had made me a little bit more aware of the significance of the border to local people, how it means something concrete. Where as, in Dublin, it’s something of an idea”, O’Shea tells Murmur. “I was photographing various aspects of republicanism and, rightly or wrongly, I saw it as part of it”.
The work of acclaimed Irish photographer Tony O’Shea has appeared in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines including The Sunday Times magazine, The Guardian, In Dublin and Libération. A collection of 60 of his pictures can be seen in the Irish Gallery of Photography in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Dublin.
While his last book, Italia 90 Dublin (Café Royal Books), unearthed a fascinating collection of photographs taken from the ‘team bus’ during the Republic of Ireland’s Italia ‘90 rapturous homecoming celebrations (see Murmur’s Italia 90 Dublin feature), Border Roads 1990-1994 comes from darker territory. O’Shea presents a haunting collection of images taken around the border between Northern and Southern Ireland during the early 1990s.
Life for people living in the many small villages scattered along both sides of the border was punctuated by explosions and gunfire. “British security services saw it as an easy route for the IRA into the North. They blew up roads or spiked them. They wanted to channel them through the official border crossings”, says O’Shea. “I don’t know if it made any difference to violence in Northern Ireland”.
Following the recent Brexit vote many local MPs in Northern Ireland have been flooded with queries from their constituents about what will happen if the border becomes ‘hard’ again. It’s possible that, come the reality of Brexit, little border towns will potentially become the EU’s back door to Britain. “I’d be interested to see what happens with Brexit as we don’t know what it means yet”, says O’Shea.
Border Roads – 1990-1994 by Tony O’Shea is available to order at Café Royal Books.