Bring down the walls
by Katie Gotta
I had always thought I knew a lot about the UK due to friends and family who live or have lived over here, but upon reaching Belfast I realized that I was actually clueless. In the past two days, I’ve gotten stared down more times than I can count and it seems like wherever I go I have a big sign pointing to me stating “American” in big flashing letters. After now spending 2 full days exploring Belfast I’ve figured out a lot about this city and the culture of the people here that differs from the US, including their deep and outward sense of pride for their religion.
Religion in Northern Ireland is not taken lightly. It has triggered wars and has continuously caused turmoil for years. This unrest between religions has been termed “The Troubles”, referring to a specific period of time where tensions were extraordinarily high between the Irish Nationalist Catholics and British Union Protestants. Through a hop on-hop off bus tour as well as the Black Cab City Tour we learned many of the struggles behind what has made up “The Troubles” in what was essentially a civil war in Northern Ireland. And while the dangers have largely passed, there are still tensions today with a massive 30+ ft wall still dividing the city Catholics from the Protestants.
Upon walking into a local pub, I began talking to some of the locals and once learning that I was American, they began to give their point of view on the Troubles, referring to themselves as proud Nationalists. Not even a day later I met another group who considered themselves proud Unionists. With the government planning on taking down the wall by 2023, it is overwhelming to me that so many people still feel so strongly about issues that happened over 20 years ago. And while there are many murals in the city depicting hatred, there are several that also depict a great hope for peace one day.
Pat (one of our Black Cab tour guides) said it best, the wall will come down when the people are ready, not when the government forces it. I truly do hope one day the people will reach a point of peace towards each other and find that the wall in no longer needed. With so much hatred in the world, I pray that one day Northern Ireland will not be a place of hate, but rather of peace and love.
To find out more information on the wall and the possibilities of it ever being torn down check out this article from the guardian