Many Americans know little about Irish history and politics. Some are aware that Northern Ireland is governed by the United Kingdom while the rest of Ireland has its own governing system. Coming into Ireland, this was my knowledge about Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland, but actually visiting the area showed me that even though the Troubles are technically over and they are working towards peace, there is still a great divide between the two conflicting groups.
Throughout the twentieth century, the two areas did not agree. Ireland had gained independence from the United Kingdom in the 1920s, but Northern Ireland remained a part of the U.K. In the 1960s and 1970s, conflict really started to rise as the Republicans (generally the Irish Catholics in the north who supported Northern Ireland joining the rest of the country) started to protest the oppression of the Unionists (those in favor of staying with the U.K.) These protests and demonstrations lasted for years until the Republicans and Unionists signed the Good Friday Agreement in the 1990s, which has helped create peace amongst the two groups.
However, even though they are working towards peace, there are still problems today. There is still an obvious divide between the Republicans and Unionists in Belfast as seen by the large wall dividing the city into sides for each group—similar to the Berlin Wall. The wall has gates that connect the two sides, but from seven every evening to seven every morning, the gates are closed. Because of this physical divide, it seems that the Republicans are still oppressed. If they are not getting full access to the town, there is obviously some discrimination.
In conclusion, if Belfast and the rest of Northern Ireland want to achieve peace between the Republicans and the Unionists, but in order to do so, they need to recognize that there is still oppression. It is something that you have to see to truly understand.