Our Black cab tour guide said it best, “There is two sides of the story and they are both wrong”. I absolutely loved my time in Northern Ireland and Belfast but the reason I was visiting was because of “The Troubles” If you are over the age of 40, Belfast is not a UK
destination because the town evokes memories of car bombs, violence and general instability. Both sides feel very strongly about the situation and tell their version.
Northern Ireland is the northern six counties on the island of Ireland that did not join the Republic of Ireland when they gained Independence in 1920. This was due to many Protestants living in those counties. Many of them can trace their roots to Scotland when the British wanted more influence when they ruled over Ireland. For a short history from the 18th Century to 1968, we can say British did not treat Irish Catholics well but the same can be said for Protestants living in area of Ireland.
The Troubles started in 1968 when their was a growing fervor again by Catholics (Republicans) to create a unified Ireland again. This was due because many Catholics were discriminated against in Northern Ireland. A protest that turned violent, which everyone knows as Bloody Sunday, turned long standing hostilities into violence from both ends. The main cities where the violence occurred was in Belfast and Londonderry (Derry). Both cities were divided into two. For Belfast, Protestants (Loyalists) lived around Shankill Road. These area you will see the flags of the UK and Northern Ireland because they want to stay with the UK. Catholics (Republicans) live along Falls Road. Between both communities there are walls. This keeps the communities separate and still breeds hostility today. Gates between the two sides are closed each night. If its too late, you much drive all the way around the city to get to the other side. Each side has murals and memorials. Beautiful and powerful yet give each side justification for their hate for each other. In the Loyalist communities their will be a mural glorifying someone who had fought bravely defending Belfast from the IRA. While on the other side there will be a memorial for those he had killed. This goes the same way in Republican areas. Murals show the glorification of the IRA but you will see memorials of the indiscriminate bombings done in Loyalist neighborhoods.
Neither side won, it was a truce with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Things were still tense and the last British troops left Belfast in 2007. Tensions are still there. Our tour guide did have some bias but I thought he did great showing both sides of the story. Its hard not to have bias when you have people close to you die or get hurt. He told about his change of hearts to those who fought against him. So I would have considered him unbiased.
Overall, the Black Cab Tours are a must-see to a trip in Belfast. It is also a must see in life because it puts in perspective in which we see history and watch media. There are a lot of videos on YouTube or articles that can be found about the Troubles. This is how you can have a one-sided view to the conflict which is seen in each community of Northern Ireland. In reality, tear fell for a life lost where as hero was raised up for the same death.
Whenever you take in information, you must ask; Who is writing the information?, Why are they writing this? and How do they want you to act with this information?. This is important when reading our news today. Fear and ratings seem to be the name of the game in the United States. It is surprising to hear how foreigners see our news and shake their head.
The Troubles has simmered down for a while and city is seeing a renaissance. With a Titanic museum and improved downtown, people from the even the UK are visiting Belfast for the first time. My hope is that when tourists take the Black Cab Tours, they remind both sides of how quickly their differences can turn into a pointless battle.
Disclaimer: Its hard to put the situation in Northern Ireland into perspective. If you feel one-sided and I left a part of the story, my apologies but I’m not that free to make a dissertation. If you want to learn more, there is a wealth of information on the internet.
Information: Tours are booked by calling them up like a cab service. They will pick you up at your accommodation. These are actual cab drivers and do tours on the side. The more in your group, the less it is individually.
This was a mural for peace made. The old mural was of Republican’s names on grave stones. The difference was that those people had not died yet. (Get the message the Loyalists were trying to send)
Shankill Road: Loyalist neighborhood.
This the most heavily fortified non-government building in the world. This is headquarters of the Sinn Fein Party. Above is a memorial for the three men who were shot to death by a loyalist.
Here is a memorial for civilians who died by IRA attacks in Loyalist neighborhoods.