Posts Tagged ‘Northern Ireland’

This was a big day–our visit to Londonderry. Known as Derry before coming under British (Protestant) control in 1613 under James I, it was the site of the Battle of the Bogside in August 1969 and the Bloody Sunday massacre of January 1972. As we arrived in the city we were met by a guide, who took us on a tour of the city. We started in the area of town known as Bogside, where the events of the battle began and the massacre took place. In 1969, the Royal Constabulary attempted to disperse protesting Irish Nationalists, and riots broke.out. the riots lasted roughly two days and sparked riots elsewhere, and are now seen as a defined starting point for the period of time called the Troubles. In 1972, the British Army attacked a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march, killing thirteen. Today there are memorials to the dead, as well as murals in the area depicting civil rights leaders.

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We walked along portions of the ancient city walls as our guide described sieges (to which the city never fell), and stopped to visit an old cemetary at the small Church of St. Augustine just inside the wall. It was built on the site of what was St. Columba’s abbey in 543 AD.

Our guided tour ended shortly thereafter, and the group.divided, some choosing to explore the Bogside district and memorials and others visiting the Peace Bridge. According to the BBC, “The bridge was funded by the EU’s Peace III programme under the Shared Space initiative which supports projects that bring together communities that have been formerly divided.”

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     Upon our safe arrival in Belfast (great thanks to the capable Terry, bus driver extraordinaire), we picked up a local guide for a narrated bus tour of the city. We passed through both the Protestant eastern side of the of the city–with its many murals memorializing martyrs of the rebellions and heroes of Irish independence, as well as other politically charged images–and the Catholic neighborhoods, complete with Union Jack bunting over the streets.

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     While on the bus tour, we passed the Parliament building and were fortunate enough to arrive just as the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness, was finishing with press photos. He was kind enough to greet us, shaking hands, having a chat and posing for a picture with the group.

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     After leaving the government building, we finished our bus tour, checked into our hotel, and split up into several large groups. Dr. Butler led a group on a rigorous walking expedition into the Protestant neighborhood to study the murals, and Dr. Riggs took a group to the Titanic museum, which offered an in-depth look at the historic ship (built in Belfast) from its construction to its demise.

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