Monday, October 27, 2014

Derry Bogside Walk

The standard method of communication in contentious Northern Ireland seems to be graffiti and outdoor murals. In the mostly-Catholic Bogside neighbourhood, the Republican (anti-British) artists have constructed a series of (mostly) peaceful symbolic messages.

This area was once a literal warzone, bullets and gas once flew down these streets. Today, tourists like us can walk the guided stroll through the murals- with materials interpreting each one.

Peace- A dove (symbol of peace) and oak leaf (symbol of Derry)
Peace- A dove (symbol of peace) and oak leaf (symbol of Derry) 

John Hume- Nationalist Leader Hume, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, and Nelson Mandela
John Hume- Nationalist Leader Hume, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother
Theresa, and Nelson Mandela

The Hunger Strikes- Two hunger strikers in a Belfast prison. Note the vandalism of the mural and the IRA on the nearby wall.
The Hunger Strikes- Two hunger strikers in a Belfast
prison. Note the vandalism of the mural and the IRA
on the nearby wall.

Saturday Matinee- A kid and an armored car
Saturday Matinee- A kid and an armored car

Civil Rights
Civil Rights

Operation Motorman (left) The Runners (right)  A soldier smashes a barricaded door with a sledgehammer and Bogside residents flee from a gas attack
Operation Motorman (left) The Runners (right)
A soldier smashes a barricaded door with a sledgehammer and Bogside
residents flee from a gas attack

Free Derry Corner, Petrol Bomber mural
Free Derry Corner, Petrol Bomber mural

Bloody Sunday- Residents carry a body from the fighting
Bloody Sunday- Residents carry a body from the fighting

Bernadette- Bernadette Devin McAliskey Nationalist leader
Bernadette- Bernadette Devin McAliskey
Nationalist leader

Death of Innocence- Annette McGavin, killed here in 1971 aged 14
Death of Innocence- Annette McGavin, killed here in 1971 aged 14

Bloody Sunday Commemoration- Faces of those killed on  Bloody Sunday in 1972
Bloody Sunday Commemoration- Faces of those killed on
Bloody Sunday in 1972

After looking at all these peaceful murals, one would think that we were feeling good and hopeful, right? Well, a little bit.

In addition to the murals, we saw a lot of other material that we haven't shared here. Someone had written a letter to the British military asking for an official apology for the attack on Bloody Sunday in 1972. The military actually wrote a return letter- telling them, "...After a thorough investigation, it has been determined that no wrongdoing was committed by..."

What the heck, UK? You can't throw them a bone after 40 years? The letter was posted clearly for all of us to see, and to stir the pot in this already hot neighborhood.

Other stickers and graffiti promoted Nationalist extremist groups like the Bogside Republican Youth and other very sinister-looking organizations threatening violence. It seems that even the young generation holds the old grudges in this part of town.

The Derry Marathon was taking place this morning, and volunteers and supporters lined the streets of the Bogside- the home stretch of the marathon route. Just around the corner (and not photographed), vans of police stormtroopers with full riot gear, batons, and machine guns waited ominously just out of sight of the celebration in the street. There had just been a hotel firebombing three days before, after all...

Thankfully, there was no violence on this particular day. The SWAT teams went home empty-handed. We toasted the peace process with some fine and inexpensive English cask ales. We hoped that these two embattled groups could one day really, truly, celebrate and embrace each other.

...Maybe over some of these fantastic beers!

Cask Ales
Cask Ales

2 comments:

  1. I recently stumbled on Adrian McKinty's "The Troubles Trilogy" (Cold, Cold Ground, I Hear Sirens, In the Morning I'll Be Gone) featuring an Irish Catholic cop in Northern Ireland in the very early 80's when the Troubles were really getting hot. The mysteries are all well and good, but it is the picture they paint of life during The Troubles that makes the books so compelling. I would also recommend Colin Broderick's "That's That: A Memoir" about growing up in County Tyrone during that time. It is a tremendous read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the tips! I will see if I can get my hands on them here.

      Delete

Please leave a comment, we'd love to hear what you think! Comments are word verified to prevent SPAM.