Sausages without borders

Is the border open for business?

Last week my colleague started a Facebook page promoting the virtues and challenges of living and working a cross-border life. She called it Business Sans Frontières in homage to Médecins Sans Frontières.

This morning I had the opportunity to see that cross-border collaboration working in person. I attended the Newry/Dundalk Business Club monthly breakfast and had the chance to network with business owners and business leaders from both sides of the border.

The format is surprisingly simple but very effective. The President introduces a theme for the day, today was exploiting the opportunities that being a border region gives business people. Next each person speaks for a minute about what they do and what an ideal business referral to them would be. Then a guest speaker talks about something topical for 15-minutes. And the rest is breakfast and networking.

Which brings me to the fine breakfast and most excellent sausages. Being an ex-pat Brit living in the US I do miss the Great British Banger. It is not that the British Banger is superior to its American cousins: it is that the banger holds memories and associations that make me feel good. Whenever I come to the UK and Ireland I make sure Bangers-and-Mash form at least one meal in my trip.

Little did I know, until today, that there is banger-envy and banger-discrimination in these border towns.

There are some north of the border that think the sausages in the south are the most succulent and aromatic and tasty in the world. And they will travel many miles (usually less than 20) to treat themselves to their taste buds’ desire. Of course there are those who live south of the border who covet the fine ingredients, superior texture and distinctive sizzle that sausages from the north have. They will travel many kilometers (usually less than 30) to secure their next sausage fix.

And then there are those who think that earning money in one town and spending it in another is disloyal … especially if that town, a few miles/kilometers away, is in another country. These are the sausage-discriminators. Why, they ask, would I spend my hard earned pounds/euros supporting the other economy? Why wouldn’t I support my own economy? While this patriotic gesture seems laudable it misses the whole advantage of living in a border region where the border’s are open and free.

I am going to spend my money where I get the most benefit to me. According to the average price for gas (petrol) in Dundalk is €1.269 per liter ($6.58 per US gallon). While on the other side of the border in Newry, according to, gas (petrol) is £1.214 per liter ($7.42 per US gallon). Almost a dollar difference. Would you drive 10 miles/kilometers to save a dollar a gallon on gas (petrol)? Would you drive 20? 30? At some point it no longer becomes viable. [And, by the way, this makes the $3.00 we pay look very cheap.]

If you are competing in this market you can be at a huge advantage, and you should grasp it. You can be at a huge disadvantage too.

So you have to find ways of making your product, service, facility more attractive to drive (literally) your customers across the border. In the north some companies offer euro:pound parity making a southerner’s euro worth 18% more. Some skilled butchers simply make their sausage products worth the drive (even on more expensive fuel).

The point about the border is that it is a competitive opportunity. Competition creates markets that are bigger and more active and everyone prospers. Exercise your economic power in your local geography, ignore the lines drawn on the maps by legislators in far off cities, and create vibrant local businesses serving the whole community. You have a unique advantage over your neighbors in your own country and you have so much more to gain personally, economically working with your neighbors in the neighboring one.

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3 Responses to Sausages without borders

  1. Eavan says:

    Living on the border of Ireland & Northern Ireland I have to say that I’ve had first hand experience of this “banger envy” that you speak of! To me, the best sausages in the world are from Downey’s butchers in Newry, Northern Ireland – they’re lovely, big, fat, thick, juicy sausages, totally mmmmmm mouth watering and yes, I would travel many miles just to buy them. But alas, I don’t need to, as Downeys have discovered the value of offering their premium products for sale in Rep. of Ireland and so they are also available on my side of the border. However, they do sit alongside “Dundalk” sausages, which to me are just not quite the same! (I actually don’t know the difference in price between the Northern or Southern sausages because it really doesn’t matter to me on something as important as getting the “right” sausage – I would actually pay twice the price for that, if it came to it!).

    Earlier this year the Irish government accused me and any other Irish people who travel north to do our shopping of being unpatriotic because we were supporting another economy while our own is on its knees! My response back to the government on this is that I’ll go wherever I get the best value for my money and where I can get the products or goods that I really want. And if that means going across the border (which incidentally I’ve done all my life – I was born in Northern Ireland, and have almost always done my shopping there because it’s cheaper and offers me more choice) then that is what I will continue to do. Besides we live in Europe, it’s supposed to be like one huge big economy – so why wouldn’t I go to where I get what I want at a price I’m willing to pay? Competition is great for pushing businesses into improving themselves and how they treat and hold onto (or not) their customers. Whether this competition comes from across the border, in a different territory or within the same village or town, it is healthy and serves us, the consumers, well. Businesses that can see the possibilities of existing and growing while delivering their best possible product or service, regardless of any real or imagined borders are the ones who are going to succeed in the long term. Considering how much less spending power the people of Ireland will have for the forthcoming years (due to our economic distress), there has never been a more important time for us to have the freedom to travel to whichever side of the border serves us best, and of course to where the sausages have the most sizzle!

    • Kevin says:

      Dear Eavan,

      Thanks for making this my second most popular post!

      I still remember the sausages my grandfather used to get from Pinder Walker’s in Thorne in Yorkshire. They were meaty, and plump and they spat at you as they cooked. The meat would always squeeze out of the ends and granddad always burnt that part when he cooked them so the sausage always had a crusty, crunchy nub on each end. There was nothing like them slathered (and that is the only work that describes is) in HP sauce. Served on a doorstep. Now that’s good eating and good memories.


  2. Eve says:

    Thank you for the article – the biz tech’s “blow in” perspective and the comment — from a native with a lifetime of experience on the border. I’m another “blow in” qualified by only two years here (as opposed to the woman here 25 years from the next county who is still “new” to the area…) – let me highly recommend Annagassan salmon and Clonakilty black pudding to my Northern neighbors – as I would like to offer some opportunity to balance the trade.

    I live in the Republic in a wee town at the very north of County Louth. The government saw fit to close the hospital – a wise move in places where delivery of managed care is competent and efficient; where primary, secondary and tertiary care centres are efficiently managed; supported by state of the art well stocked ambulance equipment and staffed by highly specialised & qualified medics, nurses or attendants. When I pointed out the the nearest hospital (in Ireland) was one hour and ten minutes away, with regular A&E waits of 5-8 hours, short on junior doctors and support staff, long on problems with hospital acquired infectious diseases – I was advised that I was lucky to be so near to Daisy Hill Hospital, in Newry, Northern Ireland. ANOTHER COUNTRY!

    Lucky, yes – I do have the advantage of choice. So I too will vote with my feet. I buy goods and services on both sides of the border – sometimes paying more for good service to get high quality – and sometimes when it is available in neither location – doing without until someone visits from the states! We’ve a lot to learn from each other – and benefit by celebrating success and banning begrudgery.

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