Day 10 - Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - Motor to Derry, Northern Ireland; City Guide Tour; Visit Free Derry Museum; Late Afternoon at Leisure
The clouds were high, the temperature was 55 degrees, but it was not raining at the moment we loaded the bus. The luck of the Irish is with us again today.
Every one was on time, smiling, and ready for our few days in Northern Ireland. This morning’s History According to Thomas began with a selection from the first Irish dancers who performed as an interval act Eurovision competition in 1994.
This was the beginning of popularity for The River Dance that swept Europe and then the world. Many of us agreed that we could listen to this music all day!
The rain continued as we drove and the streams were full and rushing forcefully from the hillsides. The sheep were getting very soggy. Locals have told us that when the sheep get so wet there is a danger that they get top heavy, tip over, cannot right themselves and die.
Back to the history lesson; Thomas discussed the origins of the European Union. Ireland received a huge bailout of 600 billion Euros that saved their economy. Even though many of the Irish people disagree with the EU, Thomas said there was no way Ireland could survive without the support.
The next chapter of our morning lesson was the Brexit Issue. The citizens of Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU. The majority of the people in the Republic, especially the Catholics were afraid of a hard border between the two areas.
If there were to be a hard border, there would need to be guards, if there were guards there would be guns, if there were guns there would be killing, and the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland would be thrown right back into The Troubles.
When we passed over the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland divided by the River Foyle, there were only a few differences that we noticed. The highway lines were white instead of yellow and the distance markers were in miles instead of kilometers.
Where the border check point once stood, there was an unification sculpture of two sets of dancers with a drummer bringing them together called Let the Dance Begin. Thomas began the discussion of the IRA, The Troubles, and the division of Catholic and Protestant religious groups.
When we got to Derry, officially called Londonderry, we went right to the Guildhall and met Ryan, our city guide. He explained that the river divided the Catholic and Protestant populations. He also gave us a detailed history of the conflict from the time of James II and William of Orange back in 1690. James was defeated in the Battle of Boyne and returned to France.
There have been disagreements and contention between Ireland and England ever since. Boiling up as a civil rights issue with the motto was “one man, one vote”, The Troubles were a modern display of the hatred between the two groups.
We walked along the ancient city walls for an excellent panoramic view of the Catholic neighborhood, Bogside. The neighborhood was located outside the city walls of Derry where in 1969 the Battle of the Bogs Site was fought. The locals tried to smooth relations but the government sent in the soldiers to police the marches.
On Bloody Sunday, January 30, 1972 fourteen protest marchers were killed by the British paratroopers and the conflict escalated from there. Ryan explained many of the murals we saw on the sides of the buildings that were inspired by the conflict.
After our light lunch on our own in the city center, we regrouped at 1:30 for a walk to the Museum of Free Derry. We met Jean, the sister of one of the young men killed on Bloody Sunday and she told us her personal story. Even after 46 years, the emotions were still raw and Jean continues grieving the loss of her brother and the 13 others that were murdered.
The museum houses exhibits of photographs, posters, film footage, newspapers, and personal artifacts from those days. Although it was very difficult to relive this recent history, we know that it could be repeated.
Peace was finally official with the signing of The Good Friday Agreement of 1998. There are still tensions and discord between the people on each side of the river. Both of the Irish government officials are concerned that the British Brexit could threaten the peace treaty.
Richard took us all back to our new hotel at 3:30. We had time to get our computers set up and our bags unpacked for the next two nights in Derry.
At 6:00 we met our group in the lobby of the hotel and went to the dining room for dinner. Service was unusually slow, but it gave us time for lively discussions about government and politics with a little religion thrown in to spice it up.
We were back in our room by 8:00 and able to turn in for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow is to be a strenuous day of hiking and visiting the rock formations on the north coast.
Accommodations: Maldron Hotel - Meals included: B & D
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What an emotional day for you. I imagine you learned a lot with the personal stories. I found out quite a bit about the drug problems in Colombia on the OAT trip. It is scary to think about what the future could bring with Brexit. Enjoy your hiking tomorrow and I wish for good weather for you!
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I visited Londenderry in 1990! That was during "The Troubles" and we were on a "Meet the Peacemakers" trip. Visited several centers of reconciliation. Wow, that was a long time ago!
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