Northern Ireland

22 Oct

Our visit to Northern Ireland was an eye-opening experience. I had no idea the conflict between the Catholics and Protestants existed, let alone how severe it was. The murals in Derry and Belfast represent a past stricken with violence. On the Catholic side, they represent the struggle for civil rights that won’t end until they get complete equality. On the Protestant side, the murals depict years of strife and a desire for peace. Although the Good Friday Agreement ended the conflict, there is still tension in both Derry and Belfast, and it won’t go away until the peace wall can come down permanently. The conflict in Northern Ireland has existed since its founding, and has gotten progressively worse until the peace agreement. The real troubles began in the late 1960’s, during the height of the civil rights movement in the United States. The violence began in 1969 with a civil rights march in Derry. The marchers were attacked by a unionist group, which provoked a series of attacks throughout the next thirty years. The majority of the attacks were executed by para-military groups like the IRA. Some of the major incidents included the Hunger Strikes and Bloody Sunday. After the peak of the violence in 1971, the killings decreased to between 50-100 deaths each year. Peace finally came for Northern Ireland in 1998 with the Belfast Agreement, otherwise known as the Good Friday Agreement. While the Good Friday Agreement brought some peace, the IRA did not issue an official statement ordering its members to put down their arms until 2005. In theory, Northern Ireland is supposed to be a peaceful place to live in 2014. However, the murals that fill the region act as a constant reminder of its violent past, and a warning of the possible future. In my opinion, the region will continue to be filled with tension until the peace wall that divides the city of Belfast is taken down, and Protestants and Catholics can live together in peace. Casey Smith

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