The North

20 Nov

Northern Ireland

 

            Last week we took a trip to the North of Ireland. We visited Belfast and Derry and made some stops a long the way. On this trip I learned a lot of history about the North of Ireland and some of the conflicts that are present there. I had heard about the troubles before, but there was nothing like hands on experience to learn the gravity of the situation.

            The first stop we made was in Belfast. It was alarming how different it was from Dublin. I have often heard that Dublin is influenced by American and British society, but after being in the North, it is clear Dublin has its own unique identity. Belfast was very different and almost felt like I was in Britain. Even though it was more British than I expected, you could almost feel the history. Just by hearing that great Britain’s flag was taken down, I experienced the tension that was there almost as if it was present in the bus as we drove around the city. As we made our way into different parts of the city I experienced something I never have before. I never really spent time in a place where there was honest divide. People say America is very polarized, but I never really felt it. After seeing murals of IRA “heroes” and violent images painted on buildings with propaganda, I truly understood the meaning of polarization.

            The next day, we visited the rope bridge. It was definitely cool, but it was clearly just a tourist attraction, not a part of history. The bridge did not hold as much weight with me as seeing the murals.

            The tour in Derry was inspiring. Hearing our tour guide speak so passionately about his city and its history was very emotional. What impressed and amazed me was that he never once pointed fingers. He certainly felt sorrow for the Bloody Sunday events and for the violence that had happened in the past, but unlike other people he wasn’t completely biased. It was clear he thought the British troops were unjust during the time, but he was so committed to peace and not interested in revenge. I think this is a symbol that Northern Ireland is ready to move on from the past and head into a bright future. While partisanship exists now, progress is being made. Like the tour guide said, “as long as they are talking, they are not shooting.”

            Being in Northern Ireland was the most meaningful part of my Ireland experience. I really began to understand what inspired the passions that people had for their countries and their history. I felt almost uncomfortable being in the shadow of so much past violence, but it was an important learning experience. Being in the North gave me so much better understanding of Irish history and the reasoning for the unionist/loyalist divide.

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