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3 posts from May 2012

05/11/2012

real castles and titanic ships on belfast lough

by Brittany Collins (addtional photos Jack Wynes)

On some of our downtime from the less intense aspects of Belfast we did visit some sights which
feature le DSCN6438ss of the obvious division but still with links to the history of Northern Ireland. Firslty we we made our way to Carrickfergus Castle, just outside of Belfast. At the top of the castle, we played with medieval toys. The Castle was the launching point for British Royal forces during the 1600's when the island was beginning to see a growing ethno-British population. It has been a working castle until the 1920s and handed over as tourist attraction afterwards to it is a wonderfully preserved building.

 

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Despite being the place of the most successful peace process in recent years, the conflict is  still obviously a sore subject for Belfast. So they choose to celebrate the other big thing associated with the city... the Titanic. Again underneath the surface it still marked some division, the Belfast DSCN6578ship-yard was a source of employment for many in the city but only of a certain backgorund.

It sank a century ago, soIMG_4291 it's time to embrace it. The Titanic set out for her maiden voyage on 10 April 1912. We went to Titanic Belfast, a brand new visitor attraction and monument to the Titanic that opened on 31 March 2012, on 13 April 2012. Yes, it was Friday the 13th. It was also the week of the hundredth anniversary of the Titanic.

I must say it's the most incredible museum I've been IMG_4368in. It's interactive at parts, and there's even a ride inside that takes you through the construction of the Titanic, with audio telling you exactly what's going on. I'd definitely go to a lot more museums if they were all designed like that.

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Belfast is an extremely fascinating city, being a really interesting hybrid of Ireland and the UK. I would definitely be interested in exploring it further.

05/08/2012

Northern Ireland

by Brittany Collins

We went on our second and final overnight field trip included in our program.  Our time in DSCN6354Northern Ireland started on Falls Road in Belfast.  For those of you who are not familiar with the situation, the island of Ireland is composed of the Republic of Ireland, an independent country, and Northern Ireland, which remains part of the United Kingdom. 


There's a lot of fascinating history behind all of this, which is definitely worth looking into. Basically, partition occurred in the early 1920s, and ever since then, there has been conflict between the ethno-Irish and ethno-British populations in Northern IrelanIMG_4069d.  The ethno-Irish are primarily Catholic and are generally Republicans/Nationalists politically.  The ethno-British are primarily Protestant and Loyalists/Unionists politically.  Broadly speaking, the ethno-Irish want to be part of the Republic of Ireland, while the ethno-British want to be part of the United Kingdom. 

Catholics have long felt poorly treated and modeled their own civil rights movement in the late IMG_4042
1960s after the American one.  This spawned the period known as the Troubles, which lasted until the Belfast "Good Friday" Agreement in 1998.  This was a terribly violent period in Northern Ireland and beyond.  "Zombie" by the Cranberries is actually about the conflict.  The Northern Ireland peace process, although imperfect, has been lauded as the most successful modern day peace process. Northern Ireland, though, is still divided physically into ethno-Irish and ethno-British areas.  Falls Road is a Catholic section of West Belfast and the Shankill Road the Protestant side.  The first thing we saw was the world famous Bobby Sands mural.

Bobby Sands is a hero to the Catholics.  He was the leader of the 1981 hunger strikes.  Republican prisoners were fightingIMG_4010 to be treated as political prisoners rather than common criminals.  Bobby Sands was the first of what would be ten to die on the hunger strike.  The movie Hunger gruesomely illustrates his death by hunger.  The right side of  the mural reads "...our revenge will be the laughter of our children." We then made our way to Shankill Road, which was quite obviously an ethno-British, Protestant area. Symbols and flags represented Britain much of the area decorated red, white and blue for the Union Flag.

Belfast has a long history of murals.  I forget exactly how Don explained it to us, but there was a IMG_4028
group of dock workers perhaps being mistreated, but their superiors had control over the newspapers.  So they took to the walls of the city to get their side of the story out. Falls Road is covered with murals. Amongst the ethno-Irish, there is great sympathy for Palestine, the Basque country, and Cuba. 

As mentioned previously, the Catholics drew inspiration from the ADSCN6512merican civil rights movement.
On our second day IMG_4224in Northern Ireland, we made the hour and half long drive to Derry /Londonderry.  (The city is referred to as Londonderry by the ethno-British and as Derry by the ethno-Irish.)  This is where the 1972 Bloody Sunday occurred.  Basically, Catholics wanted to have a civil rights march, despite a ban IMG_4193on marches and parades.  They went on with the march, which was a peaceful one (IRA members agreed to not get involved), but they were fired upon by the British Army's Parachute Regiment.  26 unarmed protesters and bystanders were shot, 13 of whom died. We went to the Museum of Free Derry, where we heard from John Kelly, wIMG_4162hose younger brother Michael was killed on Bloody Sunday.  I had tears in my eyes hearing him speak.

We also walked the walls of Derry and heard the about issues of the ethno-British population, the significance of the Walls as not only a defensive fortification but also as a symbol of Ulster for those of an ethno-British identity.

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The trip is important as it brings the class to life but we also looked at some aspects of more popular culture including a castle and the Titanic more on that soon!

05/04/2012

Kilmainham jail and 1916 Walking Tour

by Brittany Collins

Last month, we took a field trip to Kilmainham Gaol, a prison that played an integral rolIMG_3422e in Irish history. We learned on our tour that children as young as five were sent to Kilmainham and that it was extremely overcrowded during the Great Hunger in the mid-nineteenth century as people would get arrested on purpose because the jail had to feed its inmates. IMG_3446Many Irish nationalists were imprisoned and/or executed in Kilmainham, including Pádraig Pearse, James Connolly, Éamon de Valera, and Joseph Plunkett, who all played important roles in 1916’s Easter Rising.

I was particularly struck by the appearance of the prison, as I felt like I had stepped onto a movie set. Among the films I watched before coming here were In the Name of the Father and Michael IMG_3428
Collins
, which both had scenes inside of Kilmainham (In the Name of the Father was largely set in the prison, although it was not Kilmainham in the film). The original 1969 Italian Job was also filmed there.

The distinct design of the prison allowed for complete control over prisoners. Guards could easily keep an eye on them and could peek into each cell whenever they so pleased, which definitely had profound psychological effects on the prisoners.

It’s really nice to be in Dublin city and easily be able to visit such historically significant locations that we learn about in class. It definitely helps to put things into context! Having now traveled to a few other cities in Europe, I am very grateful for the historical understanding I have of Ireland-- definitely makes me appreciate everything much more. When I was walking around the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles in Paris, I kept thinking about how I could appreciate them much more if I understood the historical significance of everything inside them. Having audio guides and tour guides is nice, but having really studied the history behind Irish independence is even more valuable.

IMG_3976While the CIEE Belfast program was down here in Dublin for their field trip, some of us went on a 1916 walking tour of the city centre. Of course the weather decided hail was a good idea that day, so the tour was slightly abbreviated. Just like with the Kilmainham Gaol visit, it really put things in perIMG_3975spective. I had flashbacks to our second day here when Martin was leading my group around the city for a “chin-up orientation.” The names O’Connell and Larkin didn’t mean much to us then, but now we understand the significance behind such streets and statues  found in the city. Dublin really is a city of statues-- I think I might use one of my days here in May without classes to see how many I can get photos with. We have all become so accustomed to the city centre, so it was really cool to walk around it from an Easter Rising perspective.