Northern Ireland: Belfast Murals

23 Dec

In Belfast, where we visited for a day, there lies a rich history of the Troubles that occurred in Northern Ireland not too long ago. The troubles were born out of the conflict between those who wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom, and those who wanted to break off and become part of the Republic of Ireland. After the war of independence, a few counties stayed in Northern Ireland stayed as part of the United Kingdom. However, in that area, there were groups who were considered ‘nationalists’ who wanted to become part of the Republic, and groups that were called ‘loyalists’ who wanted to stay under the British rule. This polar opposition of views led to what we now refer to as the ‘Troubles’ of Northern Ireland.

In the 60s through 80s and 90s, the troubles were associated with Northern Ireland, including Belfast, its capital. In the 60s, the Royal Ulster Constabulary started a brutal attack on a civil rights for Catholics protest, and when a Protestant loyalist counter protest occurred, violence did as well. During the early 70s, when the Bloody Sunday attacks occurred, there were also other violent attacks between the groups. In 1974, there was a bombing by the IRA in two Birmingham, which directly led to the British government’s establishment of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which meant that any suspects could be put in prison for up to a week, without any actual charges. In the 80s, there were the hunger strikes, led by the IRA leader, Bobby Sands, in prison. During the 90s, violent protests kept occurring throughout Northern Ireland, and in 1998, the Good Friday peace agreement finally was reached. Although that did not immediately stop the troubles, it is considered a landmark, and the beginning of the end of them.

In Belfast, there are many murals that are depictions of the troubles that occurred over time in Northern Ireland. We were fortunate enough to go on a bus tour to see many of these murals, both from Irish nationalists and British loyalists. They are located all throughout Belfast, and are detailed and enormous. There are murals of Bobby Sands, of Catholics being hated by Protestants, and of nationalists promoting violence against loyalists. The murals are both symbolic and straight to the point. They are representatives of history, and clearly mark the views of whoever created them. Being able to see these murals was both educational and exciting and interesting.

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