Northern Ireland news

Rugby's Tommy Bowe urges free cross-border bus passes to promote a' shared island experience'

Former Irish rugby star Tommy Bowe spoke at a Shared Island Dialogue event in Dublin yesterday.
Staff Reporter

FOREMR Irish rugby star Tommy Bowe has called for the Republic's government to provide free bus passes for people in the south to visit the north to encourage greater understanding.

The former Ulster winger was speaking at the Shared Island Dialogue event in Dublin Castle today, which was also attended by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

He called for the former taoiseach to encourage more cross-border travel in the months and years ahead.

Mr Bowe, who retired from rugby in 2018, told guests he had experienced a "shared island" due to being born close to the border, and described his life experiences on both sides of it.

"The reason I was picked for a shared island discussion is because I have lived it," the 37-year-old sportsman said.

"I grew up just south of the border in Monaghan. I studied in the north, played rugby for Ulster, live in Belfast but work in Dublin. I am the epitome of an inbetweener."

Mr Bowe called for reciprocal bus pass initiatives in both jurisdictions to encourage more people to explore the island.

"My question is, how many schoolkids or university students from south of the border have been to visit Belfast, or anywhere in the north?" he asked.

"I would ask Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to encourage young people and all people to cross the border with the same vigour he had a few months ago about trying to stop people.

"I’d like to see free bus passes to visit places like the Marble Arch Caves, Portrush Strand and the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast."

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