Wednesday July 2 ~ Belfast, Northern Ireland
The capital of Northern Ireland is Belfast and she welcomed us with a sunny day that quickly turned to gray. Belfast offered a complimentary shuttle service from the port into the center of town where we then chose to take a hop-on hop-off tour bus to get an overview of the city. They divide the town up into four distinct regions – The Titanic Quarter, The Queens Quarter, The Troubles (Shankill) and the Historic area.
The Titanic Quarter covers the old dock area that used to be alive with ship building. The most well know, Harland and Wolf, is where the ill-fated Titanic was built in 1909-1911. Today most of the shipbuilding industry has shut down or been replaced with other businesses. There is a huge Titanic Museum that sits on the spot today. If we return this way, I would love to visit, but since we went through the “Titanic Experience” just two days earlier in the town of Cobh, we chose to use our time elsewhere.
We hopped off at Stormont Estate to take a tour of the Parliament Buildings. Once again luck was on our side. With a brand new time schedule, evidently no one else knew that a tour was being offered at 1:00 in the afternoon, and Tim and I ended up with a private showing.
Here are a couple of pictures I took inside:
Back on the bus we continued toward the “Troubles” area. Northern Ireland especially in Belfast, has a history of violence between the Catholic and the Protestant population. I did not realize that this was still an issue here, but there are signs that indicate the hostilities are alive and smoldering under the surface. The section of Shankill still contains gates that close off walled-in areas after dark. The high walls look imposing and so out-of-place in a “free” society.
Just a few blocks further were walls not at high, but topped with curved barbed wire forming another border.
How can a peace wall be a fence that divides and separates people?
We pass a huge stack of pallets waiting to be lit on the night of July 11th. July 12th is a National Holiday in Northern Ireland.
Wall murals are more reminders that the IRA does not want to be forgotten.
More spectacular buildings are found in the Historic Section.
Gratitude Moment: Today I am grateful for unity, forgiveness and moving forward. It saddened me to see that there is resentment and an underlying lack of trust that still exists here in Belfast. I hope that over time the two sides will find common ground, let go of the past and be able to find a mutual understanding.