“This wall keeps us frozen in time,” said our unionist tour guide. “The wall is necessary to keep out the few,” said our nationalist tour guide. The sentiment in Northern Ireland toward the peace wall is one of resignation and fear; they know it should not be there but they do not have the confidence in each other to take it down. After the political tours the idea of being frozen in time stuck with me. The new generation that was never involved in the troubles has been brought up with their parent’s distrust of each other. The people they are pushing this view onto have never personally done anything besides be born into the opposing side. I believe that the peace wall does keep the communities prejudices frozen in time, without the ability to interact the few extremists are enabled to fuel a fear in the majority. Taking it down however is harder than simply breaking the cement. Hatred is easier than forgiveness and suspicion is easier than trust: there is no easy way to break the cycle of fear. Taking these tours has opened my eyes to the complexity of the conflict and given me respect for those working to overcome it.
All over the peace wall were names, quotes, peace signs, and messages, from people of all different backgrounds from around the world. During the troubles Northern Ireland became infamous, followed by the rest of Ireland and much of the international community with bated breath. The attention and mobilization for peace Northern Ireland received from international leaders lead to the Good Friday Agreement. I have always been moved by the ability for people with no relation to the conflict to mobilize against injustice, and in Northern Ireland it was no different. I believe however that the conclusion to the conflict will come from hard work within the communities affected, not just from big leaders declaring peace. From what I learned visiting the North, this is the point the communities are at now. They have to band together and work to strip away prejudice and fear, giving each other a fresh slate.