I have to say, probably one of my favorite things that we did this entire trip was the political mural tour in Belfast. Our driver was great and had a wealth of knowledge. You could just feel his pain when he told us about life on the Protestant side of the Peace Wall growing up.
It’s just amazing to think that it’s only 8 years after the Trouble’s ceasefire in 2000. According to him, the city is an entirely different place. Yet at the same time, the Peace Wall is still up and the gates are locked shut each night.
While there’s not too much fighting going on, it’s still not completely peaceful. There was talk in the news just yesterday of a pipe bomb going off that was meant for an IRA official. That will probably take generations before the hatred dissipates. So sad.
According to our tour guide, these murals take 2-3 weeks to go up. As the older, more discriminatory and threatening murals start to fade and peel, they’re being replace by the city with more friendly, cultural morals.
Here are a couple of photos from that tour. This first batch are taken from a Protestant housing project.
This one is creepy as all hell. That gun follows you as you walk by. The entire time it’s pointing at you. I must’ve been quite freaked since that’s actually the only shot I got of this mural and it’s not even a full-on shot.
One of the many myths depicting the story behind the red hand of Ulster.
This is the Peace Wall – it locks in the Catholics and keeps the Protestants out. You’ll notice that it’s built in three stages. Turns out, it was never quite tall enough to keep out the bombs and the rockets from the Protestant side.
This is one of the many sets of gates into the Catholic area. Each gated entrance actually consists of two sets of gates – one further in. The Peace Wall entirely surrounds and encloses the Catholic town and extends fully into the mountains beyond. They’re all locked down every night.
This is on the side of the IRA headquarters. It’s a mural of Bobby Sands, one of the first IRA prisoners to lead a hunger strike while imprisoned. I remember hearing about his when I was a kid.
On the Catholic side, they have an entire wall dedicated to the international causes that the IRA supports (in some cases, schools the local terrorists) and opposes. This is an example of what they oppose about the US and (soon to be former) President Bush. You’ll notice that he’s sucking the oil out of Iraq.
Fascinating stuff, all of it. I wish the tour could have been another hour longer still. But really, that alone made the drive into Belfast so worth it.