THE THIRD DEGREE

belfast 1106

'That wasn't so hard now, was it?' An incredulous look overtook my face. I gathered he had fun giving me the third degree for the past five minutes and wondered which stamp he would grab. Deny or Allow.

'Why are you here?' he started in his thick Irish accent.

Knowing there were only two acceptable answers, I replied 'Pleasure, personal'.

'Where are you staying?' he continued with his interrogation. His tone was nothing close to friendly and made me wish I had chosen another immigration officer.

'I'm going to Northern Ireland.'

'Well, I'm also responsible for Northern Ireland. Do you know how many...' and his words trailed off as he lamented about illegal people coming into Ireland and such.

'Where are you staying?' he demanded.

'Outside of Belfast.' At this point I was not sure he had a right to ask me as I was flying in from Scotland, not the States. I did not need a landing card. Yet, he continued with his questioning in a tone so rude it reminded me of the other rude Irishman I encountered almost a year ago. The bus driver in Dublin.

'Do you have a county name?' I remembered the name and replied with 'Down'.

The answer was not sufficient as he asked once more which county. 'Down County' I answered again, getting more irritated by the minute and trying hard not to say something which would cause him to deny my entry into Ireland. Later I thought I should have said more.

'City?' he continued. Wasn't the county enough, I thought.

'Greyabbey' I offered but my patience was getting the best of me. Still, my answer did not suffice until I told him the name of the cottage.

'You've never been asked these questions before', he continued. Just stamp my passport and let me go, I thought.

'No and I've been to Ireland ten times in the past almost two years' I replied with my longest answer yet.

'I've been to New York three times and the fourth will not be any easier' he retorted.

'I usually go through Shannon' I told him as I recalled the simplicity of the customs process at Shannon airport which does not require my going through the same process once I land in New York.

'Well that's Shannon fer ya. They don't have as many denials as we do.'

He stamped my passport and I ran off to grab my bag to meet my boyfriend who was already waiting for me as my flight had been delayed.

As I walked towards the exit, I approached a woman customs officer and told her of my experience with the rude immigration officer. She apologised for my experience and told me to contact the Justice Department. At that point I realised I did not get the name of the guy who stamped my passport but perhaps someone can figure it out somehow.

My boyfriend had been at the airport for the past three hours, having come on the bus early from Ennis. We were both tired but did not think the journey to the cottage outside of Belfast would end up taking another five hours. We took the X1 to Belfast which brought us to the main bus station at 17,00h.

We walked fifteen minutes to a bus stop where we were told we needed to go to another bus station which closed in 20 minutes. The lady was kind enough to ask the bus driver to take us there free of charge. Once there we boarded the last bus going to Portaferry and reached the cottage an hour later. Our day-long journey came to an end as I realised it took me less time to travel from the States to Edinburgh. That is Ireland for you, I thought.