It’s strange to be in a place that feels like it is two places at once. Northern Ireland definitely looks and feels a lot like The Republic, but also in some ways shows off its British influences.
Last weekend on our study tour, I went to Derry and Belfast – two cities in the North with a whole lot of history. First, in Derry (or Londonderry as it has been called for a period of time) we had a walking tour of the city. We strolled along the top of the wall built by the British, walked through three gates, and saw cannons that haven’t been used in years. At the same time our tour guide recounted how it used to be when it was constructed in the 17th century – the wall was used for keeping Englishmen out, not for pedestrians to see the city. The wall was home to 16 heavy, disinviting gates and Irishmen manned the cannons to ward off any British attacks. From the top of this wall we were able to see the Bogside, which is colored both with kids’ graffiti and powerful murals. We passed by completely normal regular houses, stopping next to them to gawk at the sides of the buildings covered completely by images of Bloody Sunday. One of the images that stuck with me the most was of a girl. “The Death of Innocence”, as the mural is called, is a one that has changed in recent years. During the hard times that the Bogside faced, this mural was all in dark shades of blue and gray, with a gray butterfly and a rifle, to signify the lost hope for the girl – and many others – who were shot and killed. When I saw this same mural a few days ago, it was painted differently. The butterfly is now painted in color to represent the new hope and peace of the people, and the rifle has been painted in too…but it’s now broken in half. I look forward to a time when Northern Ireland has finally found complete peace.