Northern Ireland’s Troubles Murals - In Photos

Posted on 14. Sep, 2012 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, Ireland, Photo Posts, Press Trips

It’s hard to believe that it was only a few years ago. And perhaps even harder to believe that despite the time that passed, and the efforts made, the issue isn’t entirely settled.

In terms of Irish history, the so-called “Troubles” are a major chapter, and is still very true in Northern Ireland, especially in Derry and Belfast. Two cities where history took tragic a turn of event just a few decades ago, killing several and permanently severing two groups:

The Queen-lovers, pro-Britain protestant Loyalists.
The Queen-haters, pro-Ireland catholic Nationalists.

What surprised me the most is that despite the almost 20 years that passed since the last uprisings, both cities are still divided. Loyalists on one side, nationalists on the other. They barely ever mix together, except in the downtown area during working hours, which is considered neutral and immune to attacks from either parties. In 2012.

A general view of Derry’s murals

The Derry murals

Derry’s murals are a bit more touristy than the others, perhaps because of their location, and the extremely iconic “You are now entering Free Derry“.

Free Derry was a self-declared autonomous nationalist area and ruled by the IRA between 1969 and 1972, when thousands of British troops moved in with armoured cars and bulldozers.

A mural dedicated to the violent 1968 March of the Civil Rights, that campained against discrimination in housing and the shortage of social housing in Derry, and later erupted into the infamous Battle of the Bogside - a three day riot between residents and police.

Bernadette Devlin actively engaged in the Nationalist movement in the Battle of the Bogside. At age 21, she became the youngest MP to be elected.

The Death of Innocence, depicting Annette McGavigan, a schoolgirl killed by a British soldier in 1971, shortly before Bloody Sunday.

The famous white dove, representing peace and the end of tensions.

But the guide explained what each mural meant, and what’s the history behind each of them - which is extremely important if you ask me, just so the murals don’t become yet another bucket list item that people simply tick off without taking the time to actually understand, or at least try to, the situation both cities were in.

Understand the hurt, the pain, the wrath, the need to be set free, and also, the need to be included.

The Belfast murals

While very touristy, there are black cabs tour that will take you to different murals, which is the best option really, because they are quite spread out. And you get to hear the stories straight from the horses’ mouth, from someone who actually lived through The Troubles, and wonder if that parson is a nationalist or loyalist.

“Nothing about us, without us, is for us…”

The most famous Loyalist mural in Belfast, and also the creepiest. The shooter is always pointing right at you, regardless of where you physically stand.

A loyalist mural depicting Cell Block H of the Maze Prison, which was used to house paramilitary prisoners at the time.

William McCullough was a Northern Irish loyalist Lieutenant-Colonel with the UDA until 1981, when he was killed by the republican Irish National Liberation Army.

A mural depicting Martin Luther and the Protestant reform.

The Peace Walls

In both Belfast and Derry, there is still a steel wall that splits the city in half, and very secure gates whose door close tightly after nightfall. Every night. In 2012. The walls were only meant to be a temporary measure to calm the riots in the 1960s, but due to their highly effective results, they have grown bigger, longer and higher throughout the years, with very little likelihood to be taken down in the foreseeable future.

The worst part? The houses on either side of the euphemistically called “Peace Walls” are protected by cages against the occasional missile, and have bulletproof windows. Same thing for the Nationalist remembrance garden nearby. Peace walls, you say?

Again. We’re in 2012. A relatively peaceful era, at least in the Western part of the globe.

And while I don’t judge the reasons nor the situation itself, I astonishes me to see such behaviors in this day and age. As a fundamentally liberal and pacifist person, war goes beyond my understanding, my rationalization, whatever the reasons. It truly has me at loss of words. And if you know me at all, you know that doesn’t happen very often.

The city may have donated parts of the wall to local artists and made it a true urban art gem, but its meaning nonetheless speaks louder than its state, despite how pretty and full of hope it is. Perhaps, one day, we can all live together, minding our own business instead of fussing over our neighbor’s, choosing freedom over territory or religion.

But maybe I’m also slightly delusional.

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Shamrocker Adventures on this trip. As always, all expressions are my own.

Have you been to either Belfast or Derry? How did you feel when you saw The Troubles murals - speechless, angry, sad?

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14 Responses to “Northern Ireland’s Troubles Murals - In Photos”

  1. Jeff @ GoTravelzing

    15. Sep, 2012

    I was recently in Belfast and did a tour of the murals. I had not planned on seeing them but I am glad that I did. I really did not know much about what was going there.

    It was interesting to see what the reality was vs. what I had read. I had read that the different sides were integrating more especially the younger people. The driver we had explained that was not the case and the sides were still very much divided.

    I was really surprised by the dividing walls and how they were still being used today.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      23. Sep, 2012

      Yes, both sides are still very much divided, much to my surprise. The international news tell us that all is well in N.I., when really it’s just peaceful at best.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Jenna

    15. Sep, 2012

    Wow, that is really crazy, and sad too. It’s so easy to forget that things like this still go on in Western countries, and I guess I never realized that there were actual physical walls splitting the towns. The fact that they still get locked up at night is kind of hard to imagine as well.

    The tours must have been interesting, especially coming from someone who has lived through the entire thing. And I agree, it definitely sounds like something you would want a guide to get the full effect of what went on and is still going on there today. I would like to check it out one day. Great post!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      23. Sep, 2012

      It was incredibly interesting. I loved getting the story straight from the horse’s mouth, especially when it comes to actual tensions.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Laurence

    15. Sep, 2012

    Sigh. People killing people. And for what exactly? So some set of people can rule over other people? I’ve never really understood it. But the paintings are good :)

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      23. Sep, 2012

      In this case it’s the British fighting the Irish to they can keep them under the crown ;) As a Québécois I understand particularly well the anger of the Irish, but I still think war is something that should always be avoided. Killing people has never solved any problem!

      Reply to this comment
  4. Adela @FourJandals

    19. Sep, 2012

    What an interesting article, I agree it is unbelievable this isort of thing still goes on today. I found the bit about the peace wall especially interesting. Great photos

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      23. Sep, 2012

      Thanks Adela. The peace wall is really interesting considering what happened on either side of it!

      Reply to this comment
  5. Katherina

    23. Sep, 2012

    Wow, Marie, this is a really good post. I haven’t been to Northern Ireland yet, but do want to go in the near future - I’ll make sure to visit the Murals.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      04. Oct, 2012

      You should - and get a guided tour, that’s the best way to learn more!

      Reply to this comment
  6. Abby

    24. Sep, 2012

    A beautiful post, in the most positive way. So happy you were brave enough to share!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      04. Oct, 2012

      Thanks Abby! It was a tough post to write but I thought it was important to spread the message.

      Reply to this comment
  7. Turtle

    02. Oct, 2012

    It’s important (but sad) to be reminded that these kind of conflicts are not consigned to the history books completely. Human nature will always have an ugly side. Even if the murals are quite pretty.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      04. Oct, 2012

      That’s what I was thinking too. Sadly I think that war will happen as long as there are two people remaining on the planet :(

      Reply to this comment

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