Saturday, April 3, 2010

"A people free to choose will always choose peace." Ronald Reagan

As soon as we drove into the city of Belfast I noticed the banners above many of the tall residential buildings. I soon learned that they are memorials to the hunger strikers in 1981.

After being denied Special Category Status, or being treated as a political prisoner, many Republican prisoners went on a hunger strike which resulted in 10 deaths. I was in 7th grade at the time, but I do remember hearing about the hunger strikes and hearing the name Bobby Sands. He attracted a lot of media attention after being elected to Parliament while on hunger strike.

This is a residential building in the Catholic area of the city. Note the very high protective gates surrounding the complex.

This is one of the first murals that we saw. We decided to do a private taxi tour that could take us into the areas where "The Troubles" really took (are taking?) place?

This is a memorial in the courtyard of some residences on the Catholic side. There is a list of the IRA volunteers who died and an even larger list of the innocent bystanders who died.

Well, I can't say that I would have disagreed with OC in the 17th Century. The church has a long history of being both very influential and very influenced by politics. Then again, the King of England made himself Head of the Church of England so that he could divorce his wife and marry a mistress who might give him a male heir (she didn't). But this sentiment by Cromwell was so strong that it defines a conflict that remains alive today.

This mural on the Protestant side is notable because as you walk or drive by, the gun follows you. - Creepy.

This mural depicts William of Orange (a Protestant) who is celebrated by loyalists for defeating his Father-in Law, King James II (a Catholic) at the "Battle of the Boyne" in 1690. England and Scotland were Protestant again. The College of William and Mary are named for William and his wife.

Sinn Fein (Ourselves Alone) Headquarters in Belfast, with a Bobby Sands Mural on the side. Sinn Fein has historical links to the IRA, and is an active party in Northern Ireland and has representation in the Dail Eireann, the Irish Parliament.

The Peace Wall which divides areas of Protestant and Catholic. There are parts that of a gate that are locked at certain times of the day.

Signing the Peace Wall

The Crown Bar. We were told that the original Bar Owner was Catholic and his wife was Protestant. Apparently, she had the upper hand in the marriage because she demanded that he call the place "The Crown Bar". He had the last laugh when he had a crown laid in tiles on the ground by the door so that all who entered stepped on the crown.

I am taking the most objective approach that I can to my quest for understanding Irish History. But I couldn't resist!

The Europa Hotel- the most "Bombed Building in the world". Apparently British Journalists often stayed here so it was a big IRA target. Bill Clinton also stayed here twice when helping to negotiate the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. It's a nice hotel.

Belfast City Hall

It was great to learn so much about Belfast, the Troubles, and Protestant -Catholic relations. But the best part was being with all of my boys on my 6th wedding anniversary! Happy Anniversary Tom!

P.S. We stayed about 5 miles out of Belfast in a town called Hollywood, and this happened a week later!

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