Northern Ireland

31 Oct

We left Dublin on Friday to embark on our journey up to Northern Ireland, unaware of what to expect. We had all heard different warnings about the cities up north– in class we learned about the struggles between Northern Ireland, Ireland and the British and how complicated the relationships are. Some friends told me to be very careful in Belfast due to all of the violence that occurred there, others told me that Belfast has great shopping and a lively nightlife and did not mention anything about being careful. I took all of the comments into consideration, but waited until we pulled into the city to make my own decisions. We visited parliament as well as the headquarters of the Orange Order and looked at both sides of the struggle and I am still unable to say that I sympathize with a certain side. While I do think that the whole of Ireland should be united if only for the reason that it just makes the most sense because the island is so small, Northern Ireland does have benefits from being a part of the United Kingdom. There are good points for both sides of the argument. If I lived in Northern Ireland, I have no idea if I would consider myself Irish or British. Learning about the conflict in class and actually visiting the city of Belfast stirs very different emotions within you. In class learning feels distant, like there is no direct connection to you. Actually seeing the bullet holes in the walls and the murals just awakens feelings and emotions and allows you to really empathize with the people. All weekend, the thing that gave me the biggest emotional reaction was an artifact that I saw at the museum in Derry. Inside a case were actual items from Bloody Sunday. Jackets with bullet holes, shirts with blood, cameras, and belts all stared back at you as you gazed in. Hearing about Bloody Sunday is one thing, but seeing a bloody shirt from one of the victims is a completely different feeling.

I went to Northern Ireland with a basic understanding of the conflict, but left with a deeper understanding of the issue. Murals, artifacts and actual people’s opinions helped to teach us about what happened and what is currently happening. We can learn from a book, or we can experience the world firsthand and actually understand what is going on.

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