This panel brings together perspectives from Sociology, Political Science and Public Health to examine debates surrounding boundaries and pandemic-control in Ireland and their relationship to pandemic controls in Britain, Europe and the wider world. It examines the extent, and the limitations, of an all-Ireland approach, the significance of variation within the United Kingdom, and the nature of borders within and around post-pandemic Ireland.
As the Covid-19 pandemic spread rapidly across the world in the early weeks and months of 2020, new kinds of boundaries were established while existing borders took on a new significance: from the self-regulated two-metre boundary that now surrounds every individual, to the local, regional, and inter-state boundaries that are being deployed to control the spread of the virus.
Two distinctively different kinds of boundary are of particular significance in the case of Ireland: the natural boundary of the sea and the island’s contested but porous land border. In common with other islands, Ireland enjoys a natural ‘isolation’ that can be used to help control the spread of disease, offering the possibility of following the path New Zealand has taken to create a zone that is almost free of the virus. Brexit had already pushed the Irish border to the heart of debate on the future UK-EU relationship as it became a line of new international significance. The experience of the coronavirus crisis will further complicate all analysis of the future of Ireland’s borders, not least by underlining the fact that borders are not only lines of division but points of connection too.