Northern Ireland: Managing COVID-19 Across Open Borders

Managing Covid-19 in Northern Ireland

  • Katy Hayward Queen's University Belfast

Abstract

The early response to the coronavirus pandemic in Northern Ireland revealed three things. First, although part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland is integrally connected in very practical ways to the Republic of Ireland. Policies and practices regarding COVID-19 on the southern side of the Irish land border had a direct impact on those being formulated for the North. Secondly, as well as differences in scientific advice and political preferences in the bordering jurisdictions, a coherent policy response was delayed by leaders’ failures to communicate in a timely manner with counterparts on the other side of the border. And, thirdly, different policies on either side of an open border can fuel profound uncertainty in a borderland region; but this can give rise to community-level action that fills the gaps in ways that can actually better respond to the complexity of the situation. This essay draws on the author’s close observation of events as they happened, including news coverage, press conferences and public statements from the three governments concerned over the period of March-October 2020. 

Published
2020-12-15
Section
Essays