Ireland Troubles was an ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland during the 20th century. The conflict began during a campaign to end discrimination against the Catholic (nationalist minority) by the Protestant (unionist government). When I took my Belfast tour and learned of this I couldn’t help but to compare it to USA. The only difference was the discrimination in USA was geared towards racism; blacks against whites.
On our tour we learned about Ireland’s Bloody Sunday, a day in history that no one could every forget. In the midst of Bloody Sunday, many innocent people lost their lives at the hands of armed forces. In January of 1972, British armies shot unarmed civilians during a peaceful protest. In total, fourteen people died. The Detroit Riot happened five years before Bloody Sunday. In July 1967, police men raided an unlicensed bar after hours and left a bloody massacre on the scene. A total of 43 people died. 14 were shot by police officers; 9 were shot by National Guardsmen; 6 were shot by store owners or security guards; and 1 was shot by a federal soldier. When I first learned of Bloody Sunday I was broken to hear that the people who we look for protection from were the same ones killing unarmed, innocent people. I instantly thought of home due to blacks still being discriminated against due to their skin color. In the last years we have lost so many black lives at the hands of police officers. What came as a surprise is that the people in Northern Ireland who were protestants looked at killers as heroes.
Pictured above is a man who was honored for killing the most Catholics in a period of time. He mural was painted on the Protestant “side” of the wall and is looked at as watching over the city. Painted next to him are the words “The Land Of The Free Because Of The Brave”, who are considered the brave in this case though? The people who marched for their human rights and fought for equality or the people who shot innocent people for voicing opinions, standing up for rights and were unarmed? That question remains a question still today. I wonder to myself everyday how some of these “heroes” are suppose to be protectors but now are feared by some. I guess it depends on what you believe in and the color of your skin.
In terms of segregation, Northern Ireland put up a peace wall to separate the Catholics from the Protestants, after more than 30 years this wall is still up. The gates of the walls opens up everyday at 7 am and closes every nigh at 8 pm. In the US, during the Civil Rights Era, segregation could be seen everywhere among blacks and whites. There were separate bathrooms, dining areas, water fountains, separate schools, separate everything to keep the two from intermingling and avoiding conflict. Though segregation has ended in the United States like it has in Northern Ireland, our wall my be down but inequality still exist.
Bobby Sands was an activist of Northern Ireland’s Troubles and Martin Luther King Jr. was an activist, political speaker and was very active in Civil Rights Movement. Bobby Sands fought for the rights and equality of Catholics, he was jailed for doing what he believed in and died while participating in the Hunger Strike to prove a point and bring awareness to the injustice. This is what I call bravery and a hero.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a stand-up guy. He was political, led peaceful protest and made it well-known that blacks and whites should be equal and have equal rights. Along with other Civil Rights Activist including Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela and more. All of these powerful people influenced the works and acts of the people who were involved in fighting for rights in Northern Ireland. The Civil Rights Movement in the United States influenced Ireland to stand up and be brave.
In the United States we celebrate July 4th. A day of Independence and a time for celebration. On July 4th, we spark fireworks and watch as they light up the sky and turned into colorful burst of fire. In Ireland, July 4th does not matter. July 12th which is known as July Belfast, due to William of Orange winning a crushing victory, which secured the Protestant ascendancy in Ireland for generations, towns and sides light up huge fires like the one pictured above for celebrating.
In competition with each other, Ireland towns stack wood frets up weeks before the July Belfast in hopes of having the largest fire. On July 12, the wood is lite and you must stand a nice distance away so that no one is harmed. From the mountains the city is lite up.
I found this to be close to the same celebration in the US. Both countries are celebrating Independence or a victory of some sort but in different ways.
Though two different countries, the troubles of each are closely related. Rather if segregation due to religion or segregation due to skin color, each country has battled with inequality, injustice, inhuman rights and lost innocent people at the hands of armed police force and each time police force were let go without consequences.
Both countries has faced separation to end violet measures when in reality everyone should just come together. In Ireland, I signed the Peace Wall. A wall of encouragement, that spreads positive messages and hope for the city. In Detroit, like Ireland it still may take years for full equality to exist. Catholics and Protestants may never ever full agree, same for blacks and whites but if for one generation we can do something different and end the life-long fight, Peace will be reigning over all.