Living in Syracuse, New York for four years, I’ve only known the “Orangemen” as the athletics program of Syracuse University. After today however I’ve come to realize that the name represents far more than a college sports team, and instead is a part of a long, and still partially ongoing battle of religious and political ideology in the northern end of Ireland. Standing in Belfast City Centre you would never guess that the city is home to a brutal and bloody history that has only recently subsided, but take a 10 minute taxi ride to the west and you’ll find neighborhoods walled off from each other, separating Protestant Unionists and Irish Nationalists.
The taxi driver quipped while driving there that what we were going to see is “what Mr. Trump wants to build”, but these walls weren’t built to stop immigration from one nation to another, instead to stop neighbors from attacking each other in the night. What surprised me most about the situation in Belfast is not necessarily that it still exists, which did come as a shock, but that it is almost not mentioned in American media or schools. Belfast is a city of over 500,000 people and a major manufacturing hub, yet its citizens have walled themselves off and its almost not even acknowledged outside of the UK and Ireland.
It’s not an entirely sad situation however, as both sides have definitely cooled in recent years, and the city is home to fantastic museums, a television studio that produces popular shows such as Game of Thrones, and is becoming a booming tourist destination. And while the walls persist, they’ve taken on an artistic theme, and have been visited by world politicians such as United States President Bill Clinton, and entertainers such as Justin Bieber and Rihanna. The walls even offer advice to those who visit it, such as this gem located on Cupar Way. Now it’s off to Rome, but Belfast did not disappoint and the remaining cities have a lot to live up to.