The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Thirty-Two — Northern Ireland, Lady Thatcher and Historical Memory
By Megan Hennen
During my time in Northern Ireland, Margaret Thatcher had passed away. Margaret Thatcher, as you may very well know, had been a prominent figure in the world but in Great Britain in particular. My impression of her prior to my semester abroad was based on the very few tidbits of Meryl Streep’s portrayal of her in the movie The Iron Lady, so I had viewed her as a strong woman and a tough politician. I knew essentially nothing about where she stood politically other than she and Ronald Reagan had been friends, but that all changed the day she died as I heard countless opinions from others about her.
Thatcher came into the position of Prime Minister in the midst of the Troubles and it is believed by many that she further divided political opinions in Northern Ireland. Unionists typically view her in a similar way as Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson as ‘one of the greatest political figures in post-war Britain’. The opinions of most nationalists is based off of Thatcher’s ‘shameful role during the epic hunger strikes of 1980 and 81’ (Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams). Irish nationalists view Margaret Thatcher as a murderer, holding her accountable for the ten deaths that occurred during the strikes.
Having been living in Derry (again, where the population is about 90% Catholic nationalists) at the time of her passing, it was reminiscent of the day Osama Bin Laden had been killed but times ten. It was like a week-long celebration for a lot of the locals which had meant an increase in sectarian activities. This included a party at the Free Derry corner in the Bogside that would serve free cake and milk following the burning of a Margaret Thatcher effigy as well as multiple attacks on the Fountain Estate (the tiny Protestant loyalist/unionist community). The attacks on the Fountain hadn’t been all that shocking, it had actually been anticipated and it was apparent as there was also an increase in the number of the armored police ‘cars’ (which look more like a storm chasers vehicle) rolling around. However, what was shocking who had been carrying out the attacks. Many of the bombs being thrown were being thrown by the hands of children as young as five years old, reinforcing the need for the organizations we had interned for.
The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Summer Reports.
Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:
This summer we will re-tool and re-design the collaborative program, drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This summer The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here throughout the summer, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.
Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, June, 2013
(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 6, Spring, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.