Archive | October, 2014

Stuck in the Past

24 Oct

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

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Study Tour to Northern Ireland: What really happened…

24 Oct

Last weekend, we took an educational tour to Northern Ireland. I am not proud to admit this but, I honestly had no idea that the conflicts that occurred during the 1970s and 1980s in Northern Ireland actually took place. During our Pre-Departure Orientation in Boston, one girl asked if the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants still existed and I was not aware of what she was referring to. As a “History-buff”, I was interested to learn about the war that went on not long ago.

In the Museum of Free Derry, I was shocked that the tour guide John Kelly could give tours everyday and reflect on his brother (Michael Kelly)’s brutal death in such great detail. When John showed us the letter that families of the victims of “Bloody Sunday” received from “their enemies”, I was blown away. The fact that someone could send a letter filled with pride for killing their son to a mourning family is unbelievable. The next day, when we went to Belfast, when we went on our tour with our guide Mark, I was horrified by the details of what happened in the city, to himself, his friends, and others. I couldn’t believe what he was telling us; I started to take notes so that I could tell my family back home all that I learned. The fact that he has had three death threats and at one point looked under his car to see a car bomb attached underneath is mind-blowing. I was also influenced by the details Mark told us about the Shankill Road Bombing and his first person account of being there and participating in the rescue crew. I was saddened to hear about Mark’s friend that was on his way to meet him at a nearby bar and was extremely injured in the bombing. It is very eye-opening to see the collateral damage of war and how innocent people like children can be affected in a conflict they know nothing about. This trip was one that I was not expecting to enjoy as much I did. I learned far more than I could have ever wished to and hope that more people will visit Northern Ireland and see the effects of war and realize the importance of peace in the world. -Tori Sullivan

 

It Was Grey…

24 Oct

I travelled to the North not knowing what to expect, but with the expectation that it would be something similar to where I’ve been living (but with British flags). When we arrived, I found myself completely wrong. Northern Ireland was nothing like the Republic of Ireland. It was a place that I had expected to be built up, with cities and rolling hills, but instead was dark and dirty. I was taught about the war and the IRA on numerous occasions and understood what destruction the area had faced, but I made the assumption that it was a place that was strong enough to bounce back quickly. The peace wall separating East and West Belfast shocked me, the murals covering the buildings of London Derry took my breath away. It was a place that was still rocked by the war it had fought years ago.

The two speakers who visited us on our tour through Belfast had given the students two very different perspectives of the war. Our first speaker, who clearly wanted some peace and calm in the area, told us about the peace wall and the way that it worked. It was easy to tell that it was a topic he was passionate about but that also cause him a large amount of distress. Two things really hit home for me about his lesson. The fact that the wall opens at 7am and closes at 7pm was shocking. I can’t imagine getting locked into our out of a town that bordered mine. Also, that the better hospital was on one side, while he lived on the other. If he needed to visit the hospital after 7pm, he had to drive 4.5 miles to the mediocre hospital on his side, instead of one mile through the peace wall on the other side for the great hospital. I could only imagine what it would be like if my child was screaming in the back seat on the way to the emergency room and I knew that just across the way I could get her the help she needed and quickly, but instead I had to drive on black roads for over 4 miles to get her what I would only be able to hope was good care.

It is sad to see that the North still hasn’t grown to what it was expected to be, but we can only hope that in the coming years, peace will become a constant and the people living there can go about their day to day lives as normal citizens.

-Kaila Fleisig

Murals in Derry

24 Oct

This past weekend we all took a trip to Northern Ireland. In our Irish Life and Culture class we learned about the political violence that took place there during the mid-20th century; the feud between the Unionist/Protestants and Nationalists/Catholics, Bloody Sunday, and the different military organizations that wreaked havoc on the towns of Londonderry (Derry) and Belfast.

Learning about troubling times in school is one thing. We’ll read about what happened and who was involved in books, watch videos of the events that occurred and have debates about the topic. But going to where it all happened is a completely different experience. I think I speak for everyone when I say that you could feel the impact that the trouble times had on Northern Ireland. There was a somewhat unsettling vibe about both cities, but nothing that would have turned us away from learning about the rich history that lies within Northern Ireland.

One thing that really stood out throughout the tours of both cities was the murals. In Derry we were able to see many of the famous murals that were painted in honor of Bloody Sunday, civil rights, and the troubles. Most of them depicted violent scenes from the street riots that occurred during the trouble times, such as a child in a gas mask, Bernadette Devlin giving a riveting speech to a crowd about civil rights, and a depiction of a picture taken after police force violence ensued during what stared out as a peaceful civil rights march.

I feel that these three murals in particular represent three aspects of the trouble times larger and broader than what is painted. The child in the gas mask represents how the troubles deprived many children and teenagers of their youth, whether it be demolishing the streets they played in with bombs and violence or sucking them in to participating in the violence. The mural of Bernadette Devlin represents women’s rights and feminism. Lastly, the last mural symbolizes the corruption within the police force, and how those that are meant to protect can turn around at any moment and destroy.

As a final summation, going to the North made everything we learned about in Irish Life and Culture very real and served as a reminder that all that happened was not so long ago especially in the context of all of history. It was evident to see that the effects of the trouble times still are very prevalent in society in Northern Ireland.

A Trip to the Walled City

24 Oct

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.

“We eat, we drink, while tomorrow they die.”

24 Oct

It’s quite strange to me that I grew up singing the U2 hit “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”, yet I had no idea what the lyrics truly meant. I doubt anyone I know that used to sing along with me had any shred of a clue as to the events that inspired the ballad. This past weekend, I was lucky enough to travel to Northern Ireland to learn about the tragedies and horrors that occurred inspiring so many songs and poems pleading for peace.

Twenty years ago, it would have been unheard of for a tourist to safely explore the battlegrounds of Northern Ireland. It’s surreal to think that just two decades ago, bombs were flying, houses were being burned, and innocent men, women, and children were being murdered in the name of what? Religion? Patriotism? It almost seems foolish to an outside perspective, but putting myself in the shoes of those who lived through the horrors, it was deeply rooted hate that fueled it all. Hate turned neighbors into enemies and local shops into mass murdering sites. To see the scenes of such destruction and hear stories of those affected by the terrible events was really quite humbling.

Safety in my home has always been a given. I’ve been fortunate to be completely and totally free to go anywhere in my home and the surrounding area without fear of being harmed. Fighting and terror has always been something that seemed so far away from reality and everyday life, but in Northern Ireland it was once a given. While people walked, ate, and lived freely and safely in the United States, terror and destruction reigned in Northern Ireland. After seeing the effects of such terror and seeing each and every name on the countless memorial walls, I will never take my safety for granted again.

Not only was my trip to Belfast and Derry a humbling experience, it was also one of magnificent sights. In addition to the fantastic tours we [the NUin program] were given, we were given the opportunity to explore the beautiful cities as well as Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. These places were a beautiful contrast to the harsh truths we learned about the area. The natural beauty of Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge only added to the magical aura of Ireland, while the striking murals of Belfast and Derry served to remind everyone who sees them of the terror and horrors that the people of these cities endured in the most beautiful way. In all, my trip to the North of Ireland was one of great gain in insight and perspective. Each of the things I saw moved me in its own way and I feel nothing if not thankful for the chance to experience it all.

-Jenn Kollman

Glasnevin Cemetery

24 Oct

When I heard that our class would be touring a cemetery my first thought was “This is going to be boring.” What I had pictured in my mind compared the the actual cemetery was an utter mistake. I was astounded by the magnitude and beauty of the Glasnevin Cemetery. It first opened in 1832 and is the largest non-denominational cemetery in Ireland. The cemetery originally was only nine acres but has expanded to 124 acres.  It is officially known as the Prospect Cemetery. While walking around this massive plot of land I noticed that wherever I stood I could see a gigantic tower. We were informed that this indeed was where Daniel O’Connell (The Emancipator) was buried.

Before the establishment of  the Glasnevin Cemetery, Irish Catholics did not have any cemetaries of their own. This was due to the repressive Penal Law of the 18th century. (In fact, in 1823 at St. Kevin’s, a Protestant Sexton rebuked a Catholic priest for performing a limited form of a funeral mass. It wasn’t until Daniel O’Connell, a very active Catholic rights activist, launched a campaign and legal opposition, that there was no law that forbid praying for a deceased Catholic in a graveyard. He wanted Catholic and Protestants were finally able to give their dead a dignified burial.

The most amazing fact that I learned would have to be that at Glasnevin Cemetery there are about 1.5 million people buried there. There were marked and unmarked graves scattered throughout. All the land that the cemetery has is being put to use. Even while walking on the grass, there are people buried right beneath one’s feet. It is nice to know that even if one was very poor and could not afford a burial, the person could still come to Glasnevin Cemetery and have a decent burial. While it is a pleasant place, it is still a little unnerving that I was standing atop of many buried dead bodies. Nonetheless it was an amazing, as well as informative, experience.