Northern Ireland Getaway

19 Nov

Our trip to Northern Ireland was packed to the brim with history and cultural learning. To be honest though, I didn’t really like this trip as much as our trip to Western Ireland. Obviously they were extremely different. Northern Ireland’s priority was on teaching us about the conflict between the Irish and the British, the Catholics and the Protestants, and showing us different war memorials. Western Ireland’s main focus was on aesthetics and seeing the countryside. I think I would have been able to appreciate the trip to Northern Ireland much much more if we had learned about the conflict in Irish Life and Culture prior to us leaving for our journey. While we did receive some historical information along the way, most of it was biased information and opinions of people on either side of the conflict, and I wasn’t able to really understand a lot of what had happened/ what was still happening. 

Because of my own research after the fact, I learned a little bit more about the conflict. The conflict began in 1969 when Catholic civil rights marches and Protestant counter-protests turned violent. Soon, British troops were sent in to help with the violence and unrest but had issues doing so because of the IRA. All throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s violent campaigns took place on behalf of both sides of the conflict; neither was satisfied with the other. Neither side was seeing its goal being accomplished. The IRA carried out deadly gun and bomb attacks in Northern Ireland and Britain, aimed to harm policemen, soldiers, politicians, and civilians. Loyalists targeted the Catholics. Finally, some peace was in sight. In the early 1990s, negotiations took place between the Irish and British governments, which began to end the violence. In 1998, IRA and loyalist ceasefires held and the Good Friday agreement was signed between the two. 

Additionally, I didn’t really feel safe while we were in Belfast. For starters, both of our tour guides were ex-convicts. That’s not saying that they were going to attack us, but it still made me very uneasy. Also, we weren’t given a straight answer as to when the fighting and rioting had stopped. This lead me to believe that it could again happen at any second, and I was definitely not interested in being a part of that. As if that wasn’t enough, it was a gloomy and raining day in Belfast which added to my disconcerting feeling. 

Things were better in Derry, but still not one hundred percent. I did feel safer, don’t get me wrong, but I think because we were still in Northern Ireland where all this fighting had taken place, I was slightly still anxious. Though, I really liked how Derry was a small town and had a lot more history that we learned about rather than just the Catholic and Protestant conflict. Thankfully, our tour guide in Derry was not an ex-convict. She was very informative, theatrical, and passionate about everything she was telling us on our walking tour. My favorite part of the tour was being able to walk along the wall that separated Derry from the outskirts of town and protected the inside from British and Scottish settlers between 1613 and 1618. 

All in all, I am glad that I got to see another part of Ireland that I probably would not have seen otherwise, but I just wish I had known a little bit more about it before I got there.

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