28 September 2020
28 September 2020 - Written by PhMuseum
Irish photographer Garry Loughlin undertakes a journey that retraces the perimeter between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, a place supposedly linked with a 1980s spy story and political speculations.
In September 1983, a Russian diplomat by the name of Victor Lipassov and his wife Evdokia were expelled from Ireland. Lipassov was working in the Russian Embassy in Dublin, and it was believed that he was involved in activities deemed unacceptable for a diplomat working in a guest country. Very little information was released in regards to what such activities entailed, but this did not stop the speculation from political parties and the media.
The Lipassovs’ expulsion led to the unearthing of a somewhat hidden truth. It revealed the presence of a border cutting through four counties in the Republic of Ireland. This border, unknown to the general public, marked a 25km radius of which Soviet diplomats could not travel outside without requesting permission from the Irish authorities. This travel restriction had been imposed at the request of the British government, as they feared that the presence of Soviet officials in Ireland would be a threat to their national security. Ireland being considered a neutral country meant there was a low level of surveillance compared to other countries in the EEC, making it a prime location for transferring information undetected. The free travel between Ireland and the UK also left open many avenues for information to pass through before making its way to Moscow.
Recording a journey along the outskirts of this 25km radius, The Clearing House explores the use of invisible borders as an attempt to gain territorial control. While searching for hints of the border’s presence, it also casts light upon the insignificance of such lines to those with power.
This imagery made around the border is interwoven with a narrative tracing the activities of the Lipassovs’ time in Ireland. In drawing assortedly from official documents, newspaper headlines and local hearsay, The Clearing House investigates the role that speculation plays in the absence of evidence, interrogating its role as ‘a tool of the powerless’.
Words and Pictures by Garry Loughlin.
Garry Loughlin is an Irish photographer based in Bristol, UK. Loughlins interests lie in the use of power, and the control of truth and territories by those with that power. Find him on PHmuseum and Instagram.
This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.
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