Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Troubles in Belfast

On the way back to Dublin from the Giant's Causeway we spent an afternoon in Belfast. One of Belfast's claims to fame is the shipyard that built the Titanic and its lessor known siblings the Olympic and Britannic. The museum now dedicated to the famous ship sounded very interesting, but we decided to skip it in favor of learning more about another thing Belfast is famous for, The Troubles.

We took a taxi tour through the sectarian neighborhoods involved in The Troubles. Paddy Campbell's Famous Black Cab Tours arranged for Pat, our driver, to picked us up for a 90 minute ride with plenty of explanation.

This was a sobering experience.

First a (tiny) bit of history. The Troubles refers to the conflict between two groups in Northern Ireland: the loyalists (loyal to UK), a predominantly Protestant group; and the nationalists, a predominantly Catholic group.

The period starting in 1969 had a great deal of violence. In an effort to combat it, a set of walls were built to partition the neighborhoods. The gates still open every day at 6 AM and close again at 6 PM.

We were visiting during marching season, a period aligned with the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne. There was a parade in Portrush while we were there. Pat informed us that Portrush is a Protestant vacation town. During the tour Pat pointed out a very large burn mark on the grass in one neighborhood and explained that there'd recently been a large bonfire there.

Many walls in these neighborhoods are painted with conflict-related murals. Here are a few:

Pat pointed out that the gun appears to follow you as you walk past this mural.

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