Northern Ireland: Belfast and Derry

21 Oct

This trip was extremely different from the Galway trip to say the least. While this trip was far more interesting, I am reluctant to ever go back. When we first arrived, I was truly shocked at how completely different it was, it was as if there was no connection to the Republic of Ireland. The city center was nice, but not as pretty as Dublin, and the outskirts of the city were definitely a world different than what I am used to. The areas were still so segregated by British or Irish flags and Catholic v. Protestant traditions. Also, while all of the murals on the walls were beautiful and really interesting to look at, it made for a very depressing vibe throughout the whole city of Belfast. They act as a constant reminder of what happened and never let the people forget about it, which could be good or bad. 

I think that my favorite part of the trip was listening to the two men, a loyalist and nationalist speak about their experiences during the war. Both were political prisoners and held captive for over 15 years each, so their take on the situation was very different than what we learned in school. One of the speakers talked about the hunger strike that was held within the prisons. Since they had not technically committed a crime, they did not have to wear the prison jumpsuits like everyone else at the beginning. However, as time went on, new rules were enforced where they had to start wearing them. The political prisoners were less than happy about this, so they went on a hunger strike. Eventually, when one of the prisoners was on his death bed, the government told the prisoners that if they went off strike, they would make a deal with them. That ended the strike, but there was no deal. Another problem they had in the prisons was that they did not separate the nationalists from the loyalists. The one man ended up being cellmates with the two men he was alleged supposed to kill before he landed in prison. Obviously, this caused a lot of tension within the prison as well. Overall, it was very interesting to hear about what happened in Belfast from the prospective of people who were actively involved in the process. 

The next stop was to Derry, where the Siege of Derry took place. The city was small and quiet for the most part, of was very pretty to look at. The city is known for being a walled city, meaning it is completely surrounded by a wall to protect it from the British army. During our walking tour, we were able to walk along the walls and hear about what happened and see all of the buildings from ‘above’ in a way. The wall is famous for never being broken through, and is one of the only cities that can say that. Also, while the wall is not very high, is it one of the thickest from its time. The walking tour provided a lot of information that I would have never known otherwise, especially because I had never heard of Derry. 

As a whole, this trip was one of my favorites because we got to experience and learn about the history and political issues that happened less than 2 hours away from where we are studying. 

 

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