My trip to Ireland and personal perception of the Conflict in Northern Ireland
The conflict in Northern Ireland is complex and difficult to define. By simply having a peace agreement between Protestant and Catholics there is no guarantee of peace or the end of conflict. In Belfast, the religious identity is a sensitive topic because people are identified as Protestant or Catholic and both have their own interpretation about history and the conflict. Also, people reflect their own history through paintings (murals), some of them very radical, and finally both perceive that violence was a need to addressed through human rights movement. This essay will discuss the complexity of the conflict in Belfast and Derry in Northern Ireland and the ethno nationality of protestant and Catholics, second the interpretation of the murals, and third, the human rights movement and the perceptions of the history of the conflict in Northern Ireland.
First, the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland is divided in two. There is a long wall that divided Protestants and Catholics. This division between Protestant and Catholics is not reflected because of their religious identity, it is related to their ethno nationality. The ethno nationality is explained by Dr. Bryan Dominc, who is a director of the Institute of Ireland Studies at Queen University, he said that to be a Protestant or Catholic is a cultural identity rather than a religious identity. There is no a Northern Ireland identity. Some of them do not identify as Irish or British. Their ethno nationality is identified as Protestant or Catholic. In addition, this identity is defined this way because they were born into a community. It is a perception and reflection of how they perceive themselves. As it is it is mentioned before, the peace agreement is actually a document that did not involve the people; the working class did not think that this peace agreement was a guarantee of safety. This peace agreement, as Dr. Bryan mentions, gives power to a majority of people. In this case geographically, the Catholics are majority and as a consequence, they feel more power to control Belfast. Furthermore, people in the area where the wall was built still feel that it is not the right time to put it down or remove it. People on the border of this wall feel that more work is needed before doing so, even though they know that a peace agreement is a guarantee to stop violence.
Second, murals surround the city of Belfast and Derry. Those murals represent the history of violence and the protest of independence, but perpetuate the conflict between Protestant and Catholics. For example, artists think that the murals are the reflection of a conflict in the city and the constant demand of independency. For some Catholics, they think that those murals are very aggressive. The murals remain a symbol of violence and death. There are some murals where men are holding rifles covering their faces wearing black cloths as a symbol of terror. Nevertheless, for artists, these murals are the memory of a conflict and that should not be forgiven or forgotten. This group of artists paints over and over to keep the murals alive. In my opinion, these murals are a manifestation of a conflict, but it is not right to perpetuate the conflict. New generations need to move on and focus on some other conflicts that are latent such as crime, unemployment, alcohol, low education, and poor access to services. These are legitimate conflicts that need to be solved.
Third, Dr. Bryan mentioned that violence calls the attention of human rights organizations. The people were protesting, but nobody was paying attention to them until the violence was used. Dr. Bryan explained it; when the police and military attack against the protest using pepper spread or physical violence and the media are present, they record it and make it public. When these documents became public is when people realized that their human rights are violated. This is the case of Northern Ireland. People were protesting; the police used violence, the TV made it public, and the conflict started. This conflict has not ended, but this conflict covers other human rights needs. People are unemployed; there is crime, poor access to basic services and along with low quality education. Unfortunately, it was difficult to identify what kinds of limited access people have, but for what was explained in a tour, it was mentioned that some houses do not have hot water, electricity and some schools are not safe from violence. Children need to attend separate schools one for protestant and other for Catholics and these schools need to be protected and monitored. The conflict after this agreement has not brought peace, and only helps to bury other human rights violation.
In conclusion, the conflict in Northern Ireland is complex. Catholics and Protestants try to legitimize their history back to the 17th century. The peace agreement is not a guarantee of safety and people feel that walls and murals reflect that conflict. A lot of work on common understanding is needed in Belfast and Derry. People feel that new generations need to understand and know what all the conflict is really about, but it is also true that new generations need to move on and create a new society in Northern Ireland. The conflict cannot be self-perpetuating because some groups or some majority think that it is right to do so. In a democracy, everybody has the right to decide and every single voice is important that is the freedom of that. The work is hard and addressing this issue is difficult but if people start thinking about some other solutions to this issue it will be a good start.