the location that I perhaps enjoyed the most in all of my travels in Ireland was Derry. which, legally, isn’t a part of the Republic at the moment, though most of the people I spoke to south of the border don’t think in those terms. in one place, we went through a brochure produced by the Northern Ireland tourism board and crossed the “London” that preceeded Derry wherever we could find it.
the city of Derry is known for its walls. i’ll talk about the old walls in a later post, but first, some on the “other” walls — those of the Bogside. as in Belfast, Derry has murals commemorating events of the Troubles. but whereas the murals of Belfast often change to reflect current political realities, the murals of Bogside were commissioned and created by a group of artists. there are twelve in all, taking up the ends of row houses throughout the Bogside. i didn’t take pictures of all of them, but i’ll share the ones that i have, beginning with my favorite:
this one, Bernadette, depicts the Battle of the Bogside and features Bernadette Devlin (more on the Battle later). Bernadette was a student at the university in 1968, when tensions in the North were growing exponentially. she became a prominent voice in the student movement and was elected to Parliament at the age of 21, the youngest woman ever elected MP. rather than follow the tradition of abstentionism in protest of the treatment of Catholics in the North, Bernadette chose to take her seat at Westminster and raised hell. as seen in the mural, she supported residents during the Battle of the Bogside and, following Bloody Sunday, was temporarily suspended from Parliament (she punched the Home Office Secretary for claiming the British Army fired in self-defense).
in the mural, there are a couple of things of note. first, the residents at this point were not heavily armed. they used stones and basic petrol bombs to attack the incoming forces. it seems that neither side was ever very well prepared for the confrontations; sometimes that meant a deficiency in weaponry, inadequate defensive material, or an abject lack of information about conditions. resistance was gritty and sprung from frustration and survival instincts. second, during confrontations, women would keep watch and bang trash can lids on the pavement to alert others of police or other troops. third (of which more later), the Free Derry Corner was the locus for much of the resistance to British incursion in Derry. though the row of houses that originally stood on the site has been demolished, residents requested that the end wall remain as a reminder of what has transpired.