Trip to Ireland

April 3, 2013
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Last year during the spring of 2012 Mr. Holiday took some of the students that were in his Social Studies Seminar class to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland also called Ulster is part of the United Kingdom, it has a British police force that favors the Protestant population and represses the Catholic population. The Protestant population is the majority and the Catholics are the minority. The clash of these two classes began with William of Orange defeating the Catholics at the battle of Boyne, forcing the Irish Catholic population to retreat to the inhospitable area of Western Ireland.

In Modern Times it could be compared to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, these two groups hate one another. There is a minimal amount of mingling of the two groups, with violence breaking out when ever they come together. All of the history between them from the hunger strikes, Bloody Sunday, the IRA bombings of the Protestant neighborhoods and the U.D.F bombings of Catholic neighborhoods. The U.D.F (Ulster Defense Force) is the group that does battle with the IRA (Irish Republican Army). Neither of these groups wants to kill each other in the bombings so they give a warning shot, if you’re not out by this time you’re going to die as collateral damage.

The IRA or the Irish Republican Army is a “terrorist organization” that supports the Catholic population in Northern Ireland. With former members such as Bobby Sands, the first hunger striker who died in the H-block (prison).The hunger strike would have stopped if the British occupiers had met the demands of the IRA. Their demands were not out of this world, 1) The right not to wear a prison uniform, 2) The right not to do prison work 3) The right of free association with other prisoners, and to organize educational and recreational pursuits 4) The right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week 5) Full restoration of remission lost through the protest. The United Kingdom finally stepped in and said after ten prisoners died that their demands would be met. The IRA’s post hunger strike went back to the days of Michael Collins, the leader of the IRA during the Civil war of Ireland where the IRA kicked the British out of Southern Ireland and all the way up to Ulster. In Belfast they started to shoot RPG’s down RPG Avenue and every Catholic supported them causing the Police forces to build these monstrous police barracks that would protect them from RPG’s and small arms fire. In Belfast you can still see these impact marks nearly thirty years later. This was very unbelievable sight to see in a Country known for its Castles and beauty.

On the first day we went to the Mohawk Lodge which is like the American Legion. The Mohawk Lodge was very interesting but the curator of the lodge was something else, he was very short, bald and very plump. His name was Gorty or George he was a Protestant. He hated Catholics calling them Tieges which is like calling a black person a N*****. This was my first real shock of what the troubles in Northern Ireland were really about.
The Murals in Ulster are everywhere, depicting both sides of the conflict Catholic and Protestant. The Murals are beyond words they’re just truly amazing, ranging from Bobby Sands to William of Orange to the masked UDF member with gun drawn( it points at you no matter the way you look at it).The Catholic murals are more peaceful and tranquil and the Protestants depict a more violent nature. Sandy Row a Protestant neighborhood for example, at its entrance their is a mural with hooded men with AK-47’s ready to shot any Catholic trying to cross the Sandy Row.

Northern Ireland is also in extreme poverty especially the Catholic population. The major job is ship building, but they don’t hire Catholics only Protestants. This is called economic segregation. The difference between the Catholics and the Protestants is like when the immigrants from Europe and Asia were coming to America to find a better life than what they had in their home land. The majority of these immigrants had a rude awaking when no one would hire them, especially the Irish Catholics living in the slums of the cities. These immigrants had to live on less than a dollar with out work.

Segregation in Ulster is so obvious, the separation of wealth between the Catholics and Protestants. This is due to unequal opportunity of employment. The housing differential between the two is remarkable too While people get government subsidized housing the protestants get the better/newer houses while the Catholics get the old housing units that are out dated. The “Peace walls” that are in every neighborhood separate the two. These are about fifteen feet tall and with barbed wire at the top with huge metal doors that must way a ton to keep them segregated. It’s a police state at its finest, police everywhere, people being segregated on the basis of beliefs and separation of the people.

Neighborhood wars are when a single group invades another’s territory by moving into the neighborhood. Once one gets planted in the area it’s a never ending invasion until the neighborhood is captured. Another tactic the Protestants use every so often is that hold an entire area captive, barricading the area with armed men while the roads are blocked with cars and anything they can get their hands on. The police do nothing as they side with the Protestants. They only intervene when outside forces tell them to intervene and fix the problem.

Schools are segregated not by the government but by its people. The Catholics send their children to Catholic Schools and the Protestants send their kids to Protestant schools. These two groups hate each other so much that they don’t want their kids to mingle with the other side’s kids. This is similar to America in the 20th century the schools were segregated black and white until the civil rights movement and the Brown vs. the Board of Education which overturned Plessey V Ferguson which found it unconstitutional for public schools to be segregated.

As of now the troubles have stopped for the most part. People aren’t shooting RPG’s at or one. They’re trying to mend the fences, with some of the peace wall’s coming down and having mixed neighborhoods. This is similar to the Berlin wall in a way, keeping the two groups separated from one another. But when they come together the two ideologies, two separate ways of life, two separate religions, and two economic standings they resort to violence. Theses are the reasons for wars and everyone to hate each rather than getting along and live in a more peaceful world.

I feel the only way to solve this problem is to tear down the peace walls allow the two groups to figure it out peacefully with parliament as the matador and stop the hatred of one another and come together as a common people. The two groups need to put the differences behind them and look to the future as a single country not a divided country. They could also join the Republic of Ireland who has all ready has dealt with this problem and dealt with this obstacle and conquered the problem together as one nation.

On my trip to Ireland it has made me come to the realization that the world is not perfect. People fight over the simplest of things, many of them over religion and history. This trip has taught me so much about the world and how two viewpoints can tear a country apart or hold it together. The parallels of learning about something in a classroom, is so different than actually going there and witnessing it first hand. This was
an opportunity that has changed my way of thinking about the world in a more realistic view.

Join the Discussion

This article has 9 comments. Post your own now!

Conner E. said...
Apr. 9, 2013 at 11:42 am
I appreciated the background information, it transitiond well into the personal piece.
tildenr said...
Apr. 9, 2013 at 11:41 am
Very well thought out, and give a good idea of what he place is actulay like
Rebecca P. said...
Apr. 9, 2013 at 11:39 am
The concept of understanding how the world "is" is clearly part of societal and personal evolution.. I love how you address this while at the same time giving fact to support a thesis. 
Bailey W. said...
Apr. 9, 2013 at 11:38 am
Great background detail, and the personal notes really tie it together nicely.
EmilyBau said...
Apr. 9, 2013 at 11:24 am
I like the history
louisarstrothman said...
Apr. 9, 2013 at 11:23 am
There is so much evidence and detail to support your argument. The piece is very logical and the ending adds a good personal note to it.
ChrisMc33 said...
Apr. 9, 2013 at 11:22 am
Very descriptive and detailed throughout.
gilly1994 said...
Apr. 9, 2013 at 11:22 am
Needs more dialogue.
Hannah L. said...
Apr. 9, 2013 at 11:14 am
I think the way this paper gives details and background information about the history between the Protestants and Catholics makes this paper stronger and helps the reader. 
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