Monday, May 14, 2012

The Troubles

Day one in Northern Ireland and I’m already feeling quite ignorant.  Aside from a Daniel Day Lewis movie and a vague recollection of stuff on the news over the years, I had no idea the extent of the “troubles” here in Belfast.  After a long walk around the city, we heard about a Peace Wall and decided we ought to check it out.  Expecting a sort of memorial with murals and the like, we were really surprised to find a 25ft wall separating the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods built to quite literally keep them from killing each other.  While there were murals and graffiti and political statements all over the Protestant side of the wall, it wasn’t a memorial of any kind, it was a barrier, still used to this day to keep the peace.  Every night at sunset, the giant metal gates close off the one main road from the Catholic side into the council estates on the Protestant side.  So there is effectively a curfew….today!  Although these walls were originally meant to be temporary, the first ones were built in the late 60’s and they’ve multiplied over the years.  In the 90’s there were less than 20 and apparently now there are 40. 

These aren’t Muslims and Christians killing each other.  They’re Christians….both sides.  I think most Americans would find it as strange as we did that two Christian groups whose beliefs are very very similar would actually want to kill each other.  I suppose it shouldn’t be all that surprising – most, if not all of the killing going on throughout history has been in the name of religion.  But, having grown up very Christian, it still amazed me that two Christian groups were fighting this way.  To me, it would be like the Baptists going after the Presbyterians….an idea that we would laugh about.

On the Catholic side, the houses are built right up next to the wall, so close that they have chain link enclosures protecting the homes from objects being lobbed over the wall.  


John Hesch said...

Jamie, if you get back to Dublin, check out Killiney Hill, just south of Dalkey. I flew there a few years ago when my wife and I were over. The launch is atop Dalkey hill and soaring the ridge takes one over the homes of U2, Van Morrison, Enya(sp)and others. Enjoy, it's a beautiful country.

Anonymous said...

About the "Troubles", it isn't so much Protestent Vs. Catholic as English vs. Irish, with the English or those of English descent being Protestent and the Irish being Catholic. Many see the English as an occupying force here.