Wednesday, July 26, 2017

On to Derry

...I stopped in for a Guinness at a place called The Nook outside the Giant's Causeway Visitors Center before taking the bus back to Portrush. I was already tired of Portrush and was contemplating eating the cost of the last night on my hotel stay to go somewhere else the next night. The town is meant for family trips to the coast, not adults looking for any sort of fun.

I returned to my hotel for a rest before heading down to the Harbour Bar, literally the only place in this seaside town that served fish that wasn't fried. I had grilled seabass, which was good, though I'm not sure it was fresh or local. It was one of the only good things I ate the entire trip. After I ate I went upstairs to listen to live music. A guy called Ricky Lortimar was playing; I was rather impressed with his voice.

But I had nothing to do in Portrush the next day, so I took the train to Derry.

That's when I felt like I was in Ireland again. I went straight to the Irish neighborhood, the Bogside, to look at the murals and to go to the Free Derry Museum. Derry had seen some of the worst of The Troubles; indeed, it was where it began with civil rights marches and the infamous Bloody Sunday.

The Irish in Derry have managed to reframe The Troubles in terms of civil rights, which is how it started in the first place. Gone (not totally) are the blatant "Unite Ireland" slogans, replaced by an emphasis on memorializing the dead and bringing attention to the civil rights plights of other marginalized groups in the world. That took years of work. Sure, there is still IRA graffiti around, and the mentality is still there among some or many, but the outward image is of the movement that sought equality for Catholics, who are a majority but who were treated like second class citizens, denied government jobs, and shoved into one neighborhood of the city that was overcrowded and underserved. Focusing on civil rights and democracy is absolutely the way to go forward.

I went to the Free Derry Museum, which was pretty powerful at times. Bloody Sunday was much worse than Kent State, but the idea of police shooting at student protesters is the same and I couldn't help but wonder if we are about to experience more of the same as the GOP continues its descent into fascism. Then I thought about how fragile the peace is in Northern Ireland and how one bad economic turn can lead right back to violence, and then I thought Brexit could be that one bad turn. When will the police in the US who shoot innocent kids already turn on protesters trying to protect their rights? When will angry white men with guns start shooting at those they deem "liberal" or journalists or gay? What would it take for black Americans to turn to violence against whites when social ills not unlike those experienced by the Derry civil rights marchers continue on? When the social contract among people is broken, violence is the result. We are all forced to live on this rock together, but too many people think the world is all about them. It's not. You don't matter. The only thing that matters is the communion of souls. The opposite is violence and destruction and death.

That's what happened in Derry. It started with police shooting mostly student protesters. It ended up with an entire oppressed community declaring itself independent of the state, barricading itself in to protect it from the oppressor police, until the British government called in troops. Once that happened, the IRA was inevitable, and The Troubles exploded.

It's hard to think of a place the British haven't oppressed throughout their imperial history.

Given that I worked at Glencree Center for Reconciliation seventeen years ago, where they focused on the peace process, I found it odd that I was still learning about what had happened here. I had been to Belfast several times in the past; I had never been to Derry so I had only Belfast to compare it to and it wasn't the same. The violence had moved to Belfast by the nineties after everyone had forgotten this was supposed to be about civil rights, and the lingering hatred was strong back then - you could feel the animosity in the air. I was in Belfast on Easter when the 1998 peace treaty had been signed. (I have misplaced my copy of the Belfast Times with the peace agreement printed inside, and this is upsetting to me.) On this, my first trip to Derry, the weather was sunny and perfect, and people were enjoying the weather and probably unconsciously the peace.

Sean Keenan spent 15 years in British jails without trial.

Monument to the hunger strikers who died in 1981.

Derry brigade monument

The British continue to jail people without trial.

Palestine, yes. Hezbollah? HELL NO.
Odd that there were so many support Palestine signs and flags, which is good, I guess. Something to focus their energy on instead of fighting at home. But the Hezbollah sign? May the person who put that up and all who don't take it down go to hell. Hezbollah are not freedom fighters. They are a terrorist organization holding the country of Lebanon hostage.

A tribute to the women who fought for Derry
Maltreatment of prisoners still a problem

The day the British sent in the Army

Roses instead of violence, please

Bloody Sunday

Operation Motorman, when the British Army came in with tanks and tore down the barricades.

The dove was my favorite mural.

The strange embrace of Palestine.

EU flags were prominent, too.

There's a lot of delusion going on in that mural.

The Bloody Sunday memorial at the site of the tragedy.

Look at those ages. They were kids. They shot kids.

One of the few blatant unite Ireland signs I saw.
Annette, a 14 year old girl killed while walking to the store to buy bread.

Real IRA graffiti. They're a bunch of criminal thugs.

More Mandela and Mother Theresa propaganda.

This seems pretty ridiculous.

Sniper alert...

People who can't let it go. For some lost souls, peace will never be a goal.

A lot of causes going on here.

Another IRA sign

Dedicated to the women of the fight.
I started to think about the average people who weren't part of the violence but who were part of the community. How many supported it even if they did not participate? How many said nothing, ensuring its continuation? How many spoke out against it? It doesn't even seem real now. I was walking around a neighborhood like that with a camera, and tourism is encouraged. I wonder how much time has to pass before a horror becomes an accepted tourist site. Like Auschwitz. The point is to remember so you don't do it again, right?

But people never remember.

The Bogside from above. You can see the murals.

No comments:

Post a Comment