The Troubles

Conflict across Ireland between the native Gaelic tribes and interlopers stretch back for centuries through to the secular violence of the War Of Independence of the 1920s. However the 5th October 1968 is the day 'The Troubles' began when a banned civil rights march in Londonderry/Derry led to clashes between police and protesters, sparking widespread disorder and rioting across Northern Ireland and 30 years of violent conflict.


Old (London)Derry is a walled city dating from the early 1600s - the walls being built as defences by English and Scottish settlers. The wide fortifications encircle fine old Georgian buildings while, to one side, they overlook the Bogside and and its streets of terraced houses, familiar from television coverage of street battles between the Catholic nationalists residents and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. A stroll through on a bright sunny day with barely a soul to be seen was a long way removed from news footage of the exchanges of molotov cocktails, rocks and tear gas. The most obvious sign of those recent troubled times are the several large street murals depicting the events.


The agreeable looking capital of Northern Ireland since the 1922 Partition, host to the imposing Stormont parliamentary building set in large landscaped grounds, the grand Baroque Belfast City hall at its centre, the impressively immersive Titanic Museum at the old docklands and the gothic splendour of the Queens University Lanyon Building.

On taking a stroll from our hotel on the perimeter of the CBD i found myself in Falls Road. OK, may as well keep going; if there was any sense of menace i could just turn around and head back. There is still an undercurrent of a possible resurgence of sectarian strife in this part of Belfast. Irish Catholic Falls Road is separated fom the nearby, parallel Shankill Road of the Protestant Unionists by a Peace Wall - one of several such barriers.

The walls are retained to still seperate the two communities after the Troubles spread from Derry to Belfast with a series of bombings, murders and riots. Heavy iron grilled gates in the Wall are still closed at night. The atmosphere remains tense as verified by Paddy, our staunchly republican blackcab driver on a subsequent drive through the area. (His name really was Paddy but his blackcab was white.) Tours of the area are accepted and common but according to Paddy every movement will be watched and its best to behave inconspicuously. Tense.

(An interesting take on the respective perceptions of northern Irish folk and their southern cousins from the Irish Times.)

Murals & supressed tensions

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