The North/South Divide

1 Dec

Many people know about Northern Ireland and how it is part of the United Kingdom as opposed to the Republic of Ireland. However, not many people know why. When I visited the North with my classmates about a month ago I discovered (in very great detail) exactly why Northern Ireland remains under English rule.

Coined as “The Troubles,” Ireland was under great strife from 1968 to 1998 (officially). It was a struggle that is still very pertinent to this day. To put it simply: it was a struggle between the Protestant and Catholic people of Northern Ireland. However, it was much more complex than that. People who called themselves Protestants were generally unionists, loyalists, and would call themselves British. Those who identified as Catholic would normally identify as nationalists, republicans, and call themselves Irish. These two sides fought on numerous accounts for the duration of the 29 years, and, although on much smaller scales, continue to fight into today. These disputes include the Battle of the Bogside, Bloody Sunday, the Hunger Strikes, and countless riots and fights. Eventually, peace walls were established to end violence within cities that had strong Protestant and Catholic inhabitants. The most famous peace wall can be found in Belfast. People from all across the world write on this wall, asking the Irish to bring peace amongst themselves. The gates, however, are still locked tight at 7pm every night and remain that way until 7am the next morning.

While in Northern Ireland, my fellow classmates and I were given tours on each side of Belfast’s peace wall, as well as a tour of Derry/Londonderry. Thanks to our tour guides, this religious divide is very evident in today’s world. A Protestant tour guide will tell you that it was entirely the fault of the Catholics for the troubles, while a Catholic will tell you the exact opposite. This begs the question: when will The Troubles truly end?

– David Byron

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