i may be back from Ireland, but never fear, dear readers, anecdotes are yet to come. and this time, with pictures! first up, Belfast.
murals became an opportunity to express political opinions, to vent frustration, and to honor those who died during The Troubles. they’re painted on the ends of buildings all along Falls Road (Republican), Shankill Road (Loyalist), and Sandy Row (Loyalist)
this first one, painted on the end of a row of houses that also hosts a Sinn Fein bookstore in Falls Road, honors the memory of Bobby Sands, an IRA activist and MP who died while on hunger strike in 1981. the protest arose from the end of Special Category Status–a policy wherein political prisoners were treated similar to those of war and not required to do certain chores or required to wear prison garb. ultimately, 10 people died while on hunger strike in 1981 and Thatcher was not moved.
this second photo, also along Falls Road, illustrates more contemporary political themes. whereas the murals in Derry are more artistic in nature (illustrating specific events and completed by artists), those in Belfast are more subject to change to address political issues, particularly those of disenfranchised or repressed peoples. the ones along this wall included one on Cuba, one on the Basque region in Spain, and a protest of racist treatment.
this final picture is as you enter Sandy Row, a unionist stronghold nearer the center of Belfast. (Shankill Road radiates west, Falls Road roughly southwest). it echos the mural in the Bogside proclaiming Free Derry (more on that to come).
finally, a mural from Shankill Road honoring members of the Ulster Volunteer Force. the hand in the middle (seen here in both red and gold) is the symbol of Ulster. you’ll often see flags depicting the red hand of Ulster on a white background with red cross as a symbol of unionist sentiments. all along Shankill Road this day, in addition to flags with the red hand of Ulster, there were Union Jack banners running between street lights.
there may be peace, but, as i mentioned in a previous post, that doesn’t mean that problems are solved or wounds are healed. there is still occassion to have the “peace wall”, which runs through the middle of neighborhoods along Falls Road and Shankill Road.
sport is big in Ireland. this weekend is the All-Ireland hurling final between Kilkenny and Tipperary and it’s been all over the radio and papers. Kilkenny has won the last three years but both teams are pretty intense.
in addition to hurling, there’s Gaelic football. teams are organized by counties–you can only play for your county and no trading from one to another, as with any of the other incarnations of football. the league also doesn’t distinguish between the counties north or south of the border, as the league benefits everyone of Gaelic extraction. it isn’t a professionalized sport the way football is in the States or elsewhere in Europe, and the money that the GAA comes by is used to promote Irish language and culture, to support local football teams for kids and the like. matches are played in Croke Park, an 80,000 seat stadium (also scene to a pretty terrible attack by the Black and Tans in November 1920 during the war for independence), which is the 4th largest venue in Europe.
i went from Belfast to Cork by way of Dublin on a Sunday afternoon. coming through town it seemed everyone was wearing the colors of their team, heading to watch the match at Croke Park. people hang banners in windows, on cars, wherever, and you can tell that you’ve left one county for another when the banners change.
today was one for comparisons. after exploring the city centre this morning and popping in to the St. George’s Market, i took the bus out to Milltown Cemetery in the Falls Road, or the heart of Republican West Belfast. there is a memorial to volunteers who have died in action, accidentally, however, as well as one to the people who died in 1981 while on hunger strike protesting the fact the classification as ‘terrorists’ rather than political prisoners. later in the day, i took a bus up Shankill Road, which is the heart of Loyalist West Belfast. murals all over the place in both areas, which are divided by a metal fence called the ‘Peace Wall.’ also took a rather comprehensive walking tour of historic Belfast.
and now i’m out of internet time.
more to come … eventually. 🙂