By: Amara Tamborini
Before my plane even touched down on the tarmac in Belfast, the conflicting ideals we’re visible from hundreds of meters (Does anyone have a metric conversion chart?!) in the air. As I descended in to Belfast International Airport, I saw beautiful chateaus high atop of rolling hills overlooking the airport and…an IKEA? What business did an IKEA have there? I began to imagine a piece of IKEA’s very modern and basic furniture placed within the castle against it’s aged brick walls, and not in a trendy modern industrial way. I was perplexed by the drastic clash, but assumed it was just a fluke and I would arrive to a quaint village in the countryside of Northern Ireland. The architecture styles continued to contrast throughout the entire city. While roaming the cobblestone streets of Belfast, I came across what remains of centuries old Victorian structures. Neighboring these structures were sleek modern buildings that dramatically clashed with the original architecture of the city.
The architecture styles aren’t the only structures that represent the separation of lifestyles and culture in Belfast. Built in 1969, the Belfast Peace Wall was put up as a temporary method to separate the protestant and catholic populations. What was meant to stand for just six months has stood for over forty-seven years. Just one of forty-nine peace walls, the Peace Wall divides the city by neighborhoods and distances the nationalities in hopes of preventing violence. The turf war has been raging for hundreds of years over religious conflict and the country’s loyalty. The devotion, pride and hatred has been raised over generations. As an outsider, this wall seems to halt change and prevent the possibility of peace and unity. Contrary to my interpretation, a majority of the population on both sides are for the wall. They like the comfort of seclusion and reduced fear of an encounter. As our tour guide said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. No amount of murals or feet of concrete and barbed wire can settle the dispute. There must be an internal desire for a resolution and peace. As I signed my name on the peace wall, I wondered if peace will be achieved in my lifetime, or in the lifetime of the grandchildren of our tour guide who spoke of his fear for his prosperity and the state. What will it take for a nation to overcome such a deeply driven hatred?