Northern Ireland – by Victoria Hansen. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
When someone says the word Ireland what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Is it the numerous fields of luscious green grass? Maybe the first thing that comes to mind is the countless number of sheep that could be found on the island that is Ireland. Or it could simply be a small island country close to the United Kingdom. What usually doesn’t come to mind when thinking about Ireland is its long and strenuous past. Ireland is a land that dealt with oppression for hundreds of years, from the Vikings to the norms and then eventually the British. Many people don’t even realize that the Island that holds Ireland is split between two countries, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
[One of the Cannons on top of the wall around the old city of Derry]
The Republic of Ireland is its own country but it fought long and hard to get to that point. Northern Ireland is still under British rule but for many that was by choice. I’m not here to give a history lesson so I won’t go too far back into the long and violent path between the Republic and Northern Ireland, but I do have to tell you that the past between these two countries has led to a very tense present. The Republic of Ireland wanted to be one United Ireland and many people living in the North didn’t, which is why they chose to stay within the United Kingdom.
This past weekend, fifteen other St. Scholastica students traveled from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland to stay in a small town. This town has two different names, to the unionist the town is known as Derry and to the loyalist it is known as Londonderry. Considering the fact that we were staying on the island of Ireland we assumed that the differences between the two countries couldn’t be that big, but we were very wrong. The small town of Derry and all of its inhabitants seemed to be waiting with baited breath for the next outbreak of violence to occur.
Being that we were still in Ireland, the people were still nice but not in the way that we are used to. We are used to being approached and engaged in conversation with random people throughout the Republic. That wasn’t how things worked in Northern Ireland. The locals only seemed to want to talk to you after you gave them a reason to and the conversation never seemed to be more than a few words long from either side. It is said that if we would have visited Derry about thirty years ago, we would have been constantly worried about our safety. Riots weren’t uncommon to that city.
[The famous statues depicting the beginning of the peace talks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland]
It also happens to be home to an event referred to as Bloody Sunday. January 30th, 1972 is the day that is referred to as bloody Sunday. The even refers to civil rights march that happened in Derry, it led to thirteen people being killed by the British Army. As we walked through the streets of the city there were countless murals of those who died during Bloody Sunday, or during the hunger strike. There were murals of others too, the most striking is of a little girl, still in her school uniform. She was only fourteen years old when she was shot in the back of the head by a British Soldier.
As we continued to walk with through the city, you could see the old wall that runs around the old part of the city. On top of the walls there are still cannons just waiting to be used again. Also from atop the walls you could see all the way out to the ocean. Our guide told us they could see threats arriving by water two hours before they would ever make it to the shore which seems almost ironic considering the fact that many times those that threatened the citizens of Derry were actually other Derry locals.
Would you be surprised to hear that the people living in Derry today are extremely proud of the current peace between Northern and Southern Ireland? Probably not. They even have a famous statue in the middle of one of the roundabouts, it depicts two men standing faces to face with hands out stretched towards each other but not yet touching. One of the men symbolizes Northern Ireland and the other symbolizes Southern Ireland. The statues stands in Derry because it is also the city where the peace talks between the North and South began. They also have a peace bridge for pedestrians to cross. Although they wear the word piece like a badge of honor, the wounds of the past are still fresh.
[One of the many murals found around the city of Derry]
The town has yet to heal from its war torn past. It was ripped apart because of the troubles and when thinking about it that way, you might see why the atmosphere is still bitter and untrusting. Everyone seems to walk around on eggshells waiting for the other shoe to drop. Derry is no longer a danger to people’s lives, but it is still very far off from being a tourist destination. From its history to the fact that everything seems to close down in a hurry after six o’clock, Derry is no vacation destination.
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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm
Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports. Eleni Birhane and Matthew Breeze, Assistant Managing Editors, The North Star Reports.
(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu