As my time here in Ireland nears a close, I find myself looking back on all of the immeasurable experiences I have had. And while there have been the touristy posts of the land, the modern museums and the beer factories, what I have found most incredible is the story of persistence found in Belfast and Derry.
While visiting Northern Ireland for one short weekend, I was overwhelmed by the history of two cities. First in Belfast, I learned about the area’s wartimes from two tour guides, one Protestant and one Catholic. Having grown up immersed in The Northern Ireland Conflict, which took place from the 1960s and is said to have ended with the Good Friday agreement in 1998, these two men were passionate about their involvement. The first being Protestant, this man was clear in distinguishing his separation from England. Many listeners were even more fascinated by the second guide, who stated that he had been imprisoned for killing a man during The Troubles. This was not uncommon, as according to CAIN, between 1969 and 2001, “3,531 were killed as a result of the conflict,” (Sutton Index of Deaths). And while the conflicts were said to be put to an end in 1998, clearly, as this statistic notes, this political and religious battle continued to tare Ireland apart years later, and great tension still exists today.
Another tragic story is that of Derry. Known in particular for “Bloody Sunday,” this 1972 peaceful march against England and unlawful imprisonment by Derry citizens left 26 unarmed civilians shot and 14 dead, killed by British soldiers. After hearing accounts from family members of those killed, it is clear that there is no moving on from this day. While both experiences, those in Belfast and Derry, were heartbreaking, I do not regret visiting these spots, as they illustrate the perseverance of this nation, while also highlighting that much more needs to be done to help these people reach prosperity and freedom.
– Kate Nichols