Over the past 10 days, we flew from Cardiff, Wales, and began our journey in island of Ireland. This is a place where had been split in two different countries: Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland which is belongs to United Kingdom. However, even they are so close to Great Britain, in fact Northern Ireland is even a part of UK, none of them made me feel like same comparing to the days I spent in London and Cardiff.
Once I came off the plane and passed the immigration check, I could feel that I was in a new country. The multilingual signs on the board, the people’s talking in different accent, and the Irish flags fluttering on the top of building, all of them were representing a different place with UK. On the other hand, when we drive north, passed the UK-Irish border, there were a different sense outside of bus. Unlike Dublin where people are proud of being Irish, Northern Ireland was seeming in the conflict between two ideologies.
In Dublin, the symbols of Ireland independence movement were everywhere, and people were loving to show me how unique their culture was. When I was having a tour in Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison in Kilmainham, Dublin where kept and executed most of Ireland independent movement leaders, the tour guide told us the story about how people fought for their liberty and freedom back in 1920s with full of enthusiasm. Moreover, when I was talking with people in the Temple Bar, they all loved to introduce their Irish culture about their culture, especially their symbol, the Clover. When I visited The Guinness and The Jameson factories, I could feel their pride of being Irish companies which are well known in world wide. Even though they speak English, which was originated in England, they still believe that Ireland is Ireland, it is an independent country and has equal status with United Kingdom.
However, in Northern Ireland, the situation is somewhat complicated. When I asked our tour guide on bus that where would we stay for that night. He said “Derry”. But there is not place on map called “Derry” except one city’s name: Londonderry. That was a miniature of past conflict between British and Irish. In order to minimize the influence from London, the Irish government changed the city name from Londonderry to Derry before, but it was not succeeded since the Northern Ireland was still under UK’s control. That was just a tip of iceberg of Northern Ireland problem. After the war between UK and Ireland in 1921, the conflict in the south has largely ended, but the fighting in the north continued until the summer of 1922. The unequal treatment of different religious, different races, cased the conflict continued until Belfast Agreement was signed in 1998.
While I was walking on the street in Derry and Belfast, from the Graffiti wall and different flags from everywhere, I still believe the gap is still exist. Especially after the Brexit since Ireland is part of European Union but UK is about leaving, people are holding different opinion about their identity and their future. On the other hand, when we cross the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, I did not see any check points or barbed wire. That was quite harmonious comparing to the Korean peninsula. Like the island of Ireland, Korean peninsula is a one ethnic place where was being divide in two different countries, South Korea and North Korea. After the Korean War, a Korean Demilitarized Zone was set up as the boundary of these two nations. Until now, the Military Demarcation Line is well-known as the most regulated border. Not to mention that the Berlin Wall even separated the entire city of Berlin. However, although they had war against each other back a hundred years ago, and although the island has been separated in two different part, the people from both side still live in peach without setting boundary.
And nowadays, People accepted the current situations which Ireland was part of British empire and now it is an independent country. As matter of fact, the relationship between Britain and Ireland is now in an unprecedented state of harmony. The United Kingdom is an important exporter of Ireland, while Ireland is also the fifth largest exporter in the UK. Moreover, As Ireland’s largest neighbor, Britain has been a destination for many Irish people since they left home. A recent survey showed that about 870,000 Irish people are currently living in the United Kingdom. Irish nationals, whether employed in the UK or self-employed, do not need a visa to visit the UK and do not need a residence permit. For the citizens of Britain and Ireland, it is equivalent to holding an absolute free pass. This is why many Britons and Irish people choose to marry. This kind of intermarriage has laid the foundation for the continued prosperity of Britain and Ireland in the future. And everything above was happened just in recent years, before that, they were enemies to each other, like most of separated nations.
That makes me think about the unity and division to a nation. As an international student from China, for my country, the most complicated relationship is between China and Taiwan. Before World War II, Taiwan was part of China until Japan took over it from Chinese government. After WWII, Taiwan was back to China with Japan’s surrender but only for few years. In the Chinese Civil war, Communist government won the war and took over the mainland China and established a new government, People’s republic of China. On the other hand, the previous Chinese government escaped to Taiwan. Recent years, Taiwan’s government always seeks to independence as another country, but the Chinese government believe Taiwan is part of China, and threatened that once Taiwan independence, the war will begin.
The tense atmosphere between the two government makes me wonder, what is the best solution for such circumstance. When south states declared independence in United States, Abraham Lincoln began the Civil war and won the south territory back. When the Irish people declared independence, the British government sent troops to recover the land, but it wasn’t succeeded. Moreover, back to the golden age of British empire, No one dared to say no again British, yet the independence movements swept around world with the decline of UK. Therefore, I guess, Power is the only key to solve the problem. Like a old saying, A country does not have permanent friends, only permanent interests.