Belfast Travel Blog› entry 5 of 15 › view all entries
This morning we met with Gerry Gerick who rode with us on the bus around Belfast. We were also joined by a film crew who were creating a documentary about the historical Hotel Europa--the most bombed hotel in Belfast, and the one we were staying in. They asked me a few question about what I thought of Belfast, and if I could tell the difference between the Catholic neighbourhoods and the Protestant ones. It was hard to explain, but I could tell the difference. For one, signs in republican (or Catholic) neighbourhoods wherein both English and Gaelic while that wasn’t the case in the Loyalist (or Protestant) areas. Also, the murals on the Catholic side seemed to be more on the commemorative side, like they were condoning their own actions.
The stories Gerry told us about his friends and students and that everyone in Northern Ireland was affected in some way by the troubles, struck deep within me. I couldn’t imagine growing up in an area where people were constantly committing violence against their own neighbours. So much so that walls had to be erected between individual neighbourhoods to separate them. There was one place we visited that was really striking. It was a small protestant neighbourhood completely surrounded by Catholics. What they must go through, even today, to be constantly asked why they don’t just leave when they’ve lived there for generations.
Later we went to the Northern Ireland Assembly--which is like the American Congress. We were allowed to sit in on an assembly meeting--which although it was incredibly dull, was at the same time a huge honour as we know not many people will ever get to say that they were there.
After leaving the Assembly building, we passed to the other side of Belfast and sat down with members of the Peace People. A special interest group who works towards the end of violence. Their co-founder, a woman by the name of Mairead Maguire, was bestowed with the honour of winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976. They talked a bit about the troubles in Northern Ireland and a little about what they are doing to protest the war in Iraq. Although I respect their opinion--especially with the backgrounds they come from--I couldn’t bring myself to agree with them. One of their main statements saying, “There’s nothing in the world worth hurting another human being over,” didn’t seem accurate with me. I’ve always believed in the phrase, “There are some things worth fighting for.”
After dinner we got back on the bus and headed out of town to a poetry reading and live music by friends of Ken’s. When they were through, we went to the bar where a live session was starting of traditional music. The flutist was amazing, and so were the banjo players. It had to be one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done so far.