|A mural in a Catholic neighnorhood|
Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Disclaimer: If some of this is culturally incorrect or sounds ignorant, it's because it probably is. I have one days knowledge of a complicated history. These are just thoughts and observations. :]
Yesterday some friends and I crossed the border to Northern Ireland to visit Belfast. Now, before coming to Ireland, I not only had no idea Northern Ireland was a different country and part of the United Kingdom, but I also knew nothing of Belfast and its history. Conflict and violence consume the city's history. However, we were assured from many Irish friends that it was completely safe now. With that being said, we just decided to take a day trip.
Our tour guide for both our bus and taxi drive were both being extremely sarcastic about the violence, to the point where we honestly had absolutely no idea if the city was safe nowadays or not. I think they get a kick out of scaring tourists, but let me tell you... this is what I learned:
The conflict is between the Catholics and the Protestants. It's not a conflict of religion, however, it is a conflict of politics. The Catholics are Irish and believe their city/country is Irish. The Protestants believe it is fully Great Britain and hail to the Queen. 97% of the city is separated like this. 97% of the city does not interact between the two groups. The catholics have their neighborhoods and the protestants have their neighborhoods. The schools are separated. The workplace is separated. They are separated by giant walls they call "Peace Walls." Every night gates close between the neighborhood. Young kids from both sides approach the gates. They hate each other. They don't know each other, but they know they hate each other.
|My friend Libby signing the Peace Wall|
Peace through segregation. It's their answer. They live with it. At one point our taxi proudly announced Belfast was the 5th safest city in Europe.
Peace through segregation.
|(picture from The Guardian)|
On a happier note, we visited this beaut of a museum in the afternoon. It's only been open for a few months. Built to commemorate the 100th anniversary, this museum is the largest Titanic experience in the world. Belfast (again, I knew nothing of this before coming here) is where the Titanic was built and launched, so much of the museum has to do with the construction of it. But can we just take a moment to admire how phenomenal of an architectural structure this is? Holy moly it's great. It reminds me of some architects I really love, but I looked the guy up. No idea who he is.
Goodness I still get goosebumps when I read about the Titanic.
Anyway Anyway, 7 more scones until home. :]