“How long must we sing this song…”

Note: This is the first of two posts recounting Eye on the East’s recent visit to Northern Ireland. Part two can be found here.

I’m not quite sure when I first set my eyes on Ireland, but I know it has been for longer than I care to remember. And when the trip finally took place, it isn’t by surprise that I also found myself in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

“Once lumped with Beirut, Baghdad and Bosnia as one of the four ‘B’s’ for travelers to avoid, Belfast has pulled off a remarkable transformation…” is how the travel book I was carrying started its chapter on Belfast. Indeed, although I knew it must be a lovely city, surrounded by even more beauty as most of the Republic of Ireland is, I know that what drew me to it was more its troubled history, which so resembled the history of my own city and entire country, torn apart by racism and sectarianism, leading to nothing but bloodshed, poverty of pockets and souls, with no practical end in sight.

But sadly, danger in Northern Ireland still exists until today. Two days before I arrived, there was a bomb scare in Belfast, but why would that ever stop someone from Beirut?

My visit was too short to explore the city to the fullest, yet long enough for me to get a plethora of thoughts, ideas, feelings and comparisons running wild through my head. As for the images, there are a lot, most notably the powerful graffiti that truly bring the conflict to life in almost every corner of the city, often speaking louder and clearer than words, while sometimes distorting and exacerbating the full reality on the ground.

I leave you with a song – Irish rock band U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday that sings one of Northern Ireland’s bloodiest days and from which the title of this post is taken from – and a little of what I saw. My thoughts will follow…

“Welcome to Belfast” – Belfast Central Railway Station

Sandy Row, south Belfast, predominantly Protestant and loyalist (i.e. pro-British) neighborhood:

“In proud memory of our fallen comrades. We forget them not. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.” U.D.A (Ulster Defence Association); UFF (Ulster Freedom Fighters).

“British and Proud”

Sidewalks painted in the colors of the British flag

In and around a northwestern, predominantly Catholic and republican (i.e. pro-Irish) neighborhood:

On Iveagh Street, featuring (from right to left) the Chinese, Irish, Palestinian and Polish flags.
“Since 1970 seventeen people killed- including 8 children.”
“Political Status Now” superimposed on an Irish flag.
In the “Holy Land” neighborhood, which includes Jerusalem Street, Damascus Street and Palestine Street (pictured).

The Peace Walls, separating Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods:

“Slowly those who create the wealth of the world are permitted to share it. The future is in labor’s strong, rough hands. Mother Jones.”
“there’s more in common…than what divides us.”
Gates along the peace walls about to be closed separating Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods.

Graffiti along the Peace Walls.

Neighborhoods on the borderline:

“SpringHill WestRock Massacre. Belfast’s Bloody Sunday. On Sunday the 9th of July 1972, the British Army murdered 5 Irish citizens and severely wounded 2 others. It’s time for the truth.

“No Blacks. No Irish. No Dogs. No POWS. Sponsored by Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP).”
Pictures of fallen Catholic Irish nationalists, including MP Bobby Sands (upper left corner) who died in 1981 in prison as a result of his hunger strike.

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