Peace?

23 Oct

This past weekend we visited Belfast where the tension between the unionists and nationalists is still present, even after years of fighting and a signed peace treaty in 1998. It is hard to imagine how long the fighting between the two parties lasted and how recently it ended. Only sixteen years ago, the unionists and the nationalists were still fighting on the streets and killing each other. There have been peace lines separating the two sides of Belfast since 1969, with the unionists on one side and the nationalists on the other. The peace wall is still standing there today. It is covered with murals and names of people and short messages. Supposedly the unionists and the nationalists are at peace with each other, but in reality they are far from it. Some people want peace and to one day take the wall down, while many others can’t imagine life without the wall. What surprised me most about the “peace” wall is that the gates separating the unionists and nationalists are shut and locked for twelve hours each day, from 7 at night until 7 in the morning, so that the two parties can sleep at night knowing there is no way the other party will attack them. For 365 days a year the gates are shut and locked for twelve hours each day; many wonder when this is going to end. The government is in no rush to do something about the wall. The only plans by the government are to reassess the wall in 2024, which is ten years from now. That was something that I was shocked to hear. It seems that in this day and age, the government would be much quicker to take action where tension is boiling, but in Belfast they are just letting it simmer.

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