We're rounding out our stay in Derry, Northern Ireland, today with a tour of the Free Derry Museum and the Apprentice Boys Hall (I was told to get a helping of both sides of the conflict...you know, to be fair). So here's the short version of what's going on up here:
The island is made up of Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom) and the Republic of Ireland (free, self-governing state).
1960s through the 1990s in Derry--lots of fighting between Catholics (predominantly Nationalists, meaning they want a united Ireland) and Loyalists (predominantly Protestants, who want to remain under English rule). Bombings and shootings became an everyday reality for the residents of Derry. Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods were divided by "peace walls" to ease tensions. The River Foyle (cutting through the town) also served as a natural division between these two groups. It's peace time now, and Derry was even chosen as Europe's City of Culture for 2013. But as Aidan and I walked the city and talked with locals, we learned that "peace" is a relative term. The residents still aren't ready to tear down the peace wall surrounding the only Protestant neighborhood in the city center. There is definitely a tangible movement towards peace, but it's slow moving. Here are pictures to help you understand the conflict:
(This wall which overlooks the Bogside, a Catholic neighborhood, says it plainly:
"UK No Way. IRA")
(Peace wall segmenting the only Protestant neighborhood left in the city center. The city center is mainly Catholic. Residents say they're ready for it to be torn down....eventually. Not today.)
(Loyalist mural in a Prostestant neighborhood across the river. The bottom reads "For God and Ulster.")
(Mural of civil rights march in 1972 where British troops opened fired on unarmed civilians killing 14. The first victim is seen being carried to safety while a priest waves a white flag. This is the event sung about in U2's "Bloody Sunday.")
The reason I've done so much research into the political unrest in Derry is because my hero's family is from Derry. The events of Bloody Sunday play a key role in his upbringing and overall character development.
Off to Sligo today where my heroine's grandfather owns a small farm in the countryside. Sligo is "Yeats Country," and in addition to researching and familiarizing myself with the city center, I plan to take Aidan to many sites featured in Yeats' poetry: Benbulben, Glencar Waterfall, Connemara, Innisfree, and his gravesite at Drumcliffe church. More pictures to come.