Trip to the North!

23 Oct

To be completely honest, I did not have high expectations for the study tour of Northern Ireland. I had such an amazing time on the tour of Western Ireland that I thought it would be impossible to have another trip that was just as fun or interesting, but this past weekend in Belfast and Derry completely proved me wrong. I had a great time, and I really feel like I learned a lot about the politically heated history of Northern Ireland.

            What struck me the most, on this trip, was how the history of the area (particularly the city of Belfast and the area of “Free Derry”) was not very distant at all. The intense segregation, violence, and warfare experienced in the area happened within memory of the people still living in these cities. For example, both of our tour guides on the political (Unionist/Nationalist) bus tour were imprisoned for upwards of 10 years for their involvement in the “troubles.” They were not removed at all from the history of their cities; they were completely shaped by it. They were it.

            While we were on the walking tour of Derry, we learned about Bloody Sunday. I had no idea that this tragic event occurred in 1972—the relatively recent past. Recent enough that you can still sense the lingering nervous energy of a town well aware of it’s “trouble”-stricken past. 

            I think this understanding of the history of Belfast and Derry being so intertwined into the daily lives of their constituents is so striking to me because when we learned about the history of Ireland as a nation, the Vikings and St Patrick all seemed so far removed from the lives of the people now living in Dublin or Galway, for example. This weekend showed a completely other side to history. The events that have shaped the history of Northern Ireland are all within recent memory of those living there—and this makes the political troubles of the area even more charged than they already are. 

 

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