By Ryan Gilbert
People often pass down stories from generation to generation to celebrate an accomplishment, or remember an event that shaped their life. But for the people in Belfast Ireland, they have stories of a troubling time in Irelands history. Stories of a wound that hasn’t quite healed yet. The story, like many, has two sides and depending on where you are in the city you’ll hear one or the other. But both accounts have heartbreak, and neither have innocence.
The stories passed down in this city won’t be soon forgotten, and the residents of Belfast have made sure of it. In both the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods they have raised memorials, painted murals, and left small reminders all over the streets of the war these two groups had from 1970 to 1998. To a visitor on a famous Black Cab Tour, these give a cold and eerie impression of the city, but to the people here who went through the troubles it’s a way to honor the dead, look to the future, and hopefully learn from past mistakes.
But the biggest story teller of the whole city, is the same thing that keeps these two communities living in harmony since 1998, the Belfast Peace Wall. The wall runs mile after mile through the city, only opening when it’s time for the two communities to go to work at the city center. Walking along the towering wall and reading all the pleas for peace written by residents and tourists shows the hurt that the structure represents. The wall was built to end years of hurt and suffering at the hands of both Catholic and Protestant, whenever people pass through it they think of the troubles of the past, and for many, it reminds them of their own personal tale of loss.
Belfast is full of stories. But it is such a tragedy that they will be stories of pain for many years to come.