Archive | November, 2012

Northern Ireland

28 Nov

This past weekend on our travels to Northern Ireland I was shocked by the intense presence of political issues and beliefs that are still very much alive today. As we crossed the imaginary border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the landscape remained the same green rolling hills that I knew but only the street lines and the road signs denoted the entrance into a separate country. When I think of all that is Ireland, I think of green grass, pastures, cliffs, pubs, and great people. Northern Ireland has all of those things but also has the underlying sentiment that life is better British. This is something I could not get past.

My biggest questions were, “If you live on the island of Ireland and share the same country physically, do you say you’re from Ireland or from Britain,” and furthermore, “Why would you want to be British and not Irish?” From my viewpoint, the British were directly responsible for a lot of pain, danger, and unrest within Ireland and the only thing more attractive about Britain is its economy. So why in the world do these people, in the country of Ireland, want to be a part of Britain? The tour guide answered by saying that the people of Northern Ireland feel British down to their bones because that is where they come from and that is where their families come from. But this answer still left me wondering that if everyone on the island comes from the United Kingdom for the most part, why did some people feel a stronger tie to Britain than others. As an outsider, I had a difficult time wrapping my mind around the idea of wanting to be British rather than Irish.

Also, I found the cities of Northern Ireland to be rather depressing places to live. On every street there is some kind of overwhelming political mural with graph images and propaganda. The political issues Northern Ireland has with its own British government and with the Republic of Ireland are very present in society. In addition, the political split is so real that the city of Derry/Londonderry is split into a Catholic side and a Protestant side. One man was speaking to me and said he was from the other side, and when he said this I assumed he was discreetly talking about Ireland. When I asked what he was doing in Derry/Londonderry he said there was more to do in Derry but that he was from Londonderry. I was confused because I never had imagined a split within the city. Even within Northern Ireland, “the other side” of the country of Ireland, there is still “another side” within its cities that divide people by political beliefs to this very day. The issues that Ireland, as a whole, has faced are very real once you cross that imaginary border.




Antiquated Education-Danielle W.

28 Nov

I went to a private, Catholic school for ten years, until I was 14.  We had the uniforms, the black shoes, and the awful plaid skirts. We were rarely separated by male and female except for sex education.  The only separations they made within the school were between grades.  Kindergarten existed in its own little world, then first through fifth grade made up our ‘primary school,’ and then there was sixth, seventh, and eight grade. 

An article on the Irish Times website addressed the separation of kids into single-sex schools in Ireland. A mother of two, a son and a daughter, was moving into Dublin city and was having a hard time finding a coed primary school for her two children.  She claimed the choices for education were few and far between and that the one primary coed school that had space was very expensive.

I feel Ireland and the UK are similar in their single-sex education system.  In the US, single-sex schools are much less common.  As I read this article, I happened to be sitting with some Irish friends from a film class, so I asked them about their experience.  Out of the five boys, four had gone to all-boys primary school, but only two had gone to all-boys secondary school.  One did say that he had gone to an all-boys school from age 12 to 18.  The two girls sitting with us had always gone to coed schools. I found this information very understandable, given my impression of the Irish school system.  I feel like there are a larger proportion of all-boys schools compared to all-girl school.

Once again, the religious history of Ireland had left a residual impact, this time not in politics, but in education.  Many times, the single-sex schools have a religious affiliation.  The author says, “This practice of separating boys and girls for education belongs to another age. It dates back to the days when the Catholic Church called all the shots in education and weird old ideas about sex governed the way we organized our lives.” Perhaps this is another outdated system that needs to be looked at, similar to the country’s abortion laws.

Bloody Sunday

28 Nov

After this weekends trip to Northern Ireland, I still have not completely grasped the turmoil in Northern Ireland and Bloody Sunday.  I was very confused to be talking about Bloody Sunday while we were in Northern Ireland because I thought Bloody Sunday was when people marched into Croke Park and fired on the crowd at a game in 1920. Interestingly though, I learned that there was another Bloody Sunday that marked unfortunate events in 1972 in Londonderry/Derry.

Political demonstrations were banned in the city because of all the problems over the past few years with the Battle of the Bogside.  The Stormont government  told the protesters  not to do this protest but who listens to the government? On Sunday January 30th thousands of protesters for civil rights began to march down the street the march was diverted from the city centre, not allowing them to leave the Bogside.  Many people followed this diverted path but a group of protesters wanted to continue into the city centre.  Then a small group of youth began to throw stones at the British soldiers.  This resulted in the British Troops opening fire, some troops just fired rubber bullets and used tear gas.  Two soldies of the Machine Gun Platoon fired wounding two men.  A man of the IRA fired a rifle at the gunmen.  The rioters ran down the street to the other marches where the soldiers followed and all hell broke loose basically.  The soldiers were firing relentlessly on an unarmed crowd at this point.  Other soldiers hearing the shots being fired thought that they were coming under attack and began to shoot the people around them.  The shooting only lasted 10 minutes, no one knew how many people were  killed at that point.  In the end, 13 people were killed that day, 6 of them were 17 year old boys the oldest, 59, died a few months later due to complications from the shooting.

The British government said that the people who were shot that day were gunmen and bombers and traitors to the crown of England.  They were all innocent people just victims of this violent act from the British soldiers.  Not until 2010 did the British government take back what they said about those victims and honour them for who they really were. It took the families of the victims 38 years  to honour their loved ones names.  That is unbelievable to me, I just can not imagine.

When we were in the museum there was memorabilia and tributes to those who were killed.  One letter that I read in the museum really affected me and it hurt me to know that someone could say such vile things about a person they shot dead in cold blood.  The letter was addressed to a family of a boy that was killed by a Soldier.  The Soldier wrote that he was not sorry for the death of their son nor for killing their son. He used a lot of graphic language and said really mean things.  As I was standing there reading that letter my mouth dropped to the floor and I could not tell you if I ever picked it up after reading that.  I just could not imagine someone writing that type of a letter to that family after killing their son.   But that letter showed the difference between the Unionists and the Nationalists and how it was a huge conflict during those times.



Bloody Sunday

28 Nov

Leading up to our Northern Ireland trip, Bloody Sunday was a reoccurring theme in our class. That is why our visit to Derry/Londonderry was so interesting. We were taken on a walking tour of the city and showed some specific areas that played large roles in the conflict. In fact, one of our first stops was Bogside, the neighborhood where the actual assault occurred.  A total of fourteen civilians were killed that day, six of them being 17 years old. The event was no more than forty years ago, making it extremely recent. We were taken to the monument that was built in honor of the men that died as well as shown the murals painted in memory. 

The entire neighborhood had a certain air of sadness to it. While the city is working to shed its tragic past, there was still an eerie feeling. After walking through Bogside we were able to go to the Free Derry Museum. It contained a variety of artifacts donated by people in the area in order to commemorate the Troubles and all that the city went through. While it was small, it had impact. There was an entire section dedicated to Bloody Sunday displaying the clothing worn by those that died as well as other articles like letters, the civil rights banner splattered in blood and more.

One particular artifact that stood out to me was a letter posted on the wall. It was written to a family of one of the deceased from a British regiment. The letter showed absolutely no remorse for the loss of the man, and in fact was filled with contempt. The language used was appalling. While I found it disgusting that someone could write that, it clearly shows how adamant people were in their beliefs. Everyone thought that they were right and that their opponents were completely in the wrong.

The man working at the museum was also a major component in bringing the events to life. His brother was seventeen when he was killed in the Bloody Sunday Massacre. Listening to his views and insight on the situation was really interesting. He was at the march that day and narrowly escaped being shot himself. He explained how long it took for the British government to review the case and determine that they were in the wrong. While he triumphed in the monarchy finally apologizing for the murder of innocent civilians, he still sought prosecution against the solider that murdered his brother.

Prior to this I had not realized how long and drawn out the investigation involving Bloody Sunday was. I hadn’t realized that up until a few years ago, everyone that died had been labeled as some sort of radical or bomber. I feel like I now have a much better grasp on the controversies of Northern Ireland as a result of this trip.

Bloody Sunday and Kent State

28 Nov

 Bloody Sunday, also known as the Bogside massacre, is the name of the event that occurred on January 30th, 1972, by which 26 unarmed civilians were injured or killed by the British army. Thirteen of the protesters and bystanders were killed immediately, seven of whom were only teenagers, whereas another male died 4 months later. Army vehicles flattened protesters, injuring them in the process, while five were wounded by shots from the soldiers.

The British Army was given permission to open fire for five rounds around 4 pm that day, though after the cease-fire command was given, more than 100 rounds continued to fire amongst the fleeing crowds. Jack Duddy was killed during the first five rounds, though another eleven were shot dead, often as they were helping others that were wounded.

While reading and learning about Bloody Sunday, I could not help but think back to the Kent State shootings in the US. On May 4th, 1970, four unarmed protestors were shot dead when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on the students at Kent State University in Ohio. The students were peacefully protesting the US invasion of Cambodia at the time when guardsmen fired 67 shots into the open crowd. In both situations, the military shot and killed its own unarmed civilians on domestic soil.  

File:Kent State massacre.jpg

The Kent State Shooting’s most renowned photo

Forty years have passed since these two tragic events, though the individuals involved have been held accountable in both situations. However, unlike in the US, the British Prime Minister apologized to families for the loss and grief experiences by deaths of their loved ones. David Cameron acknowledged the mistake and offered his condolences:

“What happened should never, ever have happened.The families of those who died should not have had to live with the pain and hurt of that day, and with a lifetime of loss.Some members of our armed forces acted wrongly, the government is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the armed forces, and for that, on behalf of the government, indeed, on behalf of our country, I am deeply sorry.”

 This was a great step towards ending the Troubles and achieving peace between the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. I can imagine it allows the families to feel some justice has been served of their son’s, father’s or brother’s death. Interestingly enough, these words can be easily applied to the Kent State shooting as well if the Ohio National Guard acknowledges its past wrongdoings. Perhaps then will the wounds of the Kent State shooting victims will heal slightly. But what will it take for America to finally apologize like Britain?

Morgan Ilaw


Mural painting of Bloody Sunday
Jack Duddy, mortally wounded, is carried by his father


Civil Rights: “The White Negro”

28 Nov

My experience in Northern Ireland was nothing like I was expecting. I was confused, enlightened, sad, and angry all at the same time. After my visit to the Museum of Free Derry, I was stunned to learn about the devastation this part of the world was experiencing without hearing about any of it. Granted I was only in elementary school at the time but what the people of Northern Ireland experienced (and still do it an extent) is utterly devastating and left me speechless. Before I toured the museum I learned about the Civil Rights movement here and how influential Dr. Martin Luther King was to the struggle for equal rights for all mankind. Up until this point of the trip I was not too interested in Northern Ireland or its history to be honest. It is said that King was one of the most influential figures to the Civil Rights Movement in Ireland because of his quest to give African-American equal right through non-violent tactics.

“Our inspiration to take to the streets in peaceful mass marches came directly from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights marches we saw on television.” -Civil Rights leader, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey The struggle for equality in Northern Ireland began when the country filed a formal partition in 1921 to declare independence. The determination to declare independence made Ireland ungovernable, and the British government was forced to give up control of 26 of Ireland’s counties. However the six other counties in the north held key economic and industrial concerns on which the British ruling class was determined to maintain a grip leading the north into the violent ages known as The Troubles. Irish Catholics were determined to gain equal rights among the British Protestants in the country. Unfortunately the Catholics were in the minority and found great difficulty holding up against the violent acts of the Protestants to maintain control.

The Orange Order

28 Nov

This past weekend my Irish Life and Culture class ventured off to a whole other part of Ireland. We traveled off to Northern Ireland. This part of Ireland was such a different experience than what I was expecting. The way Northern Ireland is divided up between Protestants and Catholics is unlike what I have ever seen. The people in Belfast were so for being part of Britain that the considered themselves English, and not Irish.

Our first stop to our early morning start was the Orange Order. Now I have never heard of it before our trip, so I was all ears into hearing about this group. They are a protestant group scattered around the world, to help defend protestant against their beliefs in what is wrong and right.  What they are mostly known for is the parades they partake in every year, on anniversaries of the battles that they have one throughout history. To be a part of the orange order, you MUST be protestant, and a male. No females are allowed in the order. If you marry into a Catholic family you will be asked to leave the order. They are very strict about these policies, and stand strongly for their religion and beliefs.

We have something similar to this in the states, but not as strict. It may not be even related, but hearing about this group reminds me of something back home. It’s called “The Elks” it is a lodge group also, and is created to help bring communities together, and improve them as well. The only thing that is probably related to the Orange Order is that you have to be a male in order to join.  They don’t have parades but they do a lot of charity work for towns and their local communities. They are scattered all across the United States.

The trip to Belfast was very educational. I still can’t get over the fact that the people that are a part of the Orange Order consider themselves English, when they are clearly part of Ireland. I don’t think I will ever understand how they believe that they are not even nearly related to the country that they are a part of.