Irish History has always been extremely interesting to me. Before going to the North I had heard plenty of Republican songs; in fact, one of my first nights here I wound up drinking with a few of my new Irish friends and they jokingly began to sing “Tiocfadh Ar La (SAM Song)” before they stopped and apologized to the Northerner in the room. It wasn’t a very big deal though and the Northerner laughed along with them and said to continue. From kids born as late as 1996, I’m sure the personal aspect isn’t quite as strong with them, but the men who gave us the tour in Belfast were certainly passionate about what they had done jail time for.
It was amazing to see how segregated the communities are in Belfast to this day, when one man got off the bus and the other got on you could almost feel a sense of tension, an odd tension, between the two of them.
I remember when I first heard the quote, “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children” it was out of context. It was casually used without a name and for a cause way different than that of Bobby Sands’. Then I found out who said it and very quickly learned who he was. He led a hunger strike and would eventually die of starvation 66 days after he began it, the first of ten men. He was also elected MP of Fermanagh during his hunger strike and was widely respected among the Catholic community (Bobby Sands and the Tragedy of Northern Ireland. 1985). The mural of Sands’ is a very popular one, and I always thought that if I’d ever get to see it there would be some long line to wait in to get to walk up and finally see this famous mural. Instead we casually drove up to it in the rain, but for some reason it wasn’t in the least bit anti-climactic. It was eerily perfect. The smiling Bobby Sands’ with the quote scribbled to his left, our right. It was emotionally very captivating.
The next day when we got to the Free Derry museum and saw the numerous atrocities that had occurred in the area I couldn’t help but compare it within my mind to America’s civil rights movement. Both areas are more peaceful than they were, even with recent events threatening to escalate violence it’s definitely nice to know people need not be wrapped up in violence like they were during the Troubles, over 3,500 people were killed according to some estimates during the troubles (http://www.wesleyjohnston.com/users/ireland/past/troubles/troubles_stats.html).