Northern Ireland (Brianna Sedor)

18 Nov

Before arriving in Northern Ireland I had many expectations and had made many assumptions about what would be in store for my classmates and me. I know it is never right to make assumptions, but from my Irish Life and Cultures class and from talking to some locals I had learned a lot about the sentiments, culture, and history of Northern Ireland. I did not know that there was so much more I could learn. Many of the things I saw and learned were not expected.

When we first arrived in Belfast we were taken on a bus tour around the city. I was surprised at the size and pace of the city. The Northern Irish city reminded me very much of an American city. During the bus tour we drove through the British part of Belfast. You could tell what the feelings of that part of the city were very clearly. There were British flags, the sidewalks were painted white red and blue, and the murals were extremely hostile, some even a bit frightening. Many of the murals portrayed paramilitaries with guns and wearing masks. Although I had learned about the current and past hostility in Northern Ireland, it was still very shocking to see. It was very eye opening and chilling to see the walls and fences separating the different parts of Belfast. Although they had come so far with the strong tensions and bad feelings, there is still so far to go.

After the bus tour we visited the Parliament. It was very interesting to learn how the government of Northern Ireland works on a day-to-day basis. We saw a very informative presentation about the Northern Ireland Government. We learned of the different parties, the main parties being the Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). We learned about where the main representatives of these parties made decisions and the stances of many of the parties on different issues. After the presentation we were able to see where these people actually did their work. We made a mock decision about whether or not there should be a tax on bags in the supermarket in America. When we voted, our bodies were counted in place of a ballot system that I would have expected. The side that voted no tax won. It was very interesting to see how a real government works and what they do everyday.

The following day we were able to cross the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge at Ballintoy.  Luckily I am not afraid of heights, but even so, it was a nerve-racking walk to the other side. After, we visited Giants Causeway. It was such a breathtaking view at every point. There is an interesting legend behind Giants Causeway. It is believed that the causeway was built by a giant. A Scottish giant, Brenandonner, challenged an Irish giant, Fionn mac Cumhaill to a battle. Fionn agreed and built the causeway so that they could fight. Some believe that Fionn beat Brenandonner and others believe that Fionn hid like a child making Brenandonner think he was actually Fionn’s child. Brenandonner was afraid to ever meet the real Fionn so he ran back to Scotland destroying the causeway along the way. Of these two stories I am not sure wish to believe.

Our final day in Northern Ireland was my favorite. We were lucky enough to see a parade commemorating the soldiers who fought in past wars. The music played was moving, and the march was also very beautiful. Most people in attendance wore poppies on their breast to commemorate. My favorite part of the entire trip was the Museum of Free Derry. The man that we met there had had a brother that was killed by Soldier F on the Bloody Sunday of 1972. The museum was very small, but had so much emotion, life, feeling, sincerity and very importantly, a lot of information. Everything in the museum had been donated and they were hoping to expand in the near future. The Bloody Sunday had occurred right outside of the museum on the 30th of January 1972. Soldiers of the British army killed thirteen men on that day and one more died of injuries four months later. Investigations have been done to persecute the soldiers that killed the innocent men and I hope more will be done to give justice to the families that lost loved ones on that day.

Although I had many expectations about my trip to Northern Ireland, the trip outdid all of them. I am so grateful for the opportunity to see Belfast and Derry and all of the places I have been this semester. I have learned so much and can’t wait to learn even more in the future. 


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