Last year in AP European History, I learned about The Troubles in a 45-minute lecture that glanced through the thirty-year period rather quickly. Although I knew the basic information concerning the struggles that occurred in Northern Ireland, I never realized how recent and relevant the events actually are. It was only after I visited Derry and Belfast last weekend that I became aware of the lives that were and still are affected by a division between the Loyalists and Unionists.
Walking through the city tours and hearing stories from real people who went through these very real events was shocking to say the least. For example, the Museum of Free Derry left me heartbroken as I heard from family members about losing loved ones on Bloody Sunday, all of which were innocent and young. The most horrific artifact at the museum was reading the letter sent to a family from a British solider in which he justifies himself for killing the parents’ son and admits that of having no regrets from the night of the murder. Such statements show the type of aggressive behavior and hatred that existed during this time of discrimination.
And just when I thought I had seen the worst, we made our way to Belfast where we met ex-paramilitary men who showed us their respective partitions of the fence. It was hard to ignore the Unionist tour guide’s prejudice against Britain as he clearly still holds grudges for Parliament’s inactivity in the nation. He also made it clear that they were the sole problem of the Troubles, which made me think, how can someone be so passionate of something that is from History so long ago? But I guess that’s the point. A lot of this stuff may seem to us as if it belongs in textbooks, but in fact it is all reality that is occurring at this very moment. The peace wall that exists is the resolution of The Troubles, but is it really a solution, or is it a compromise to ease tensions between two differing communities that occupy the same area? How can one move on from the past if grudges like these still exists? Although violence has decreased tremendously and the city is heading towards peace, it is frightening to think that future generations will not be able to live in tolerance with one another. If Loyalists and Unionists, Protestants and Catholics, are unable to live in harmony without a wall, then children will never learn, and things may never change. Northern Ireland has come a long way, but it seems there is still much more to be done and hopefully this change is coming its way.
– Prachi Gupta