While strolling through the centre of Belfast, the Titanic Quarter and the area around my Airbnb the Queens Quarter I didn´t think much about Belfast troubled past. There used to be barriers around the city centre to keep car bombs out, but nothing reminds of them today. Except for those memorial plates on places where bombings happened. More than 3500 people were killed and more than 50.000 injured during “The Troubles”.
But there are still more than 100 so-called “Peace Walls” in Belfast, up to six metres high they range in length from a few hundred metres to over five kilometres and up to almost 8 metres high, keeping the predominately Republican and Nationalist Catholic neighbourhoods apart from the predominantly Loyalist and Unionist Protestant.
The first Peace lines were built in 1969 and still stand. The first one was taken down last year and another one this year in September – but according to some interviews with people living in the area of Shankill Road and Falls Road I read while researching for this trip, they fear another civil war when the walls would come down.
It was already late in the afternoon when I stepped out of the Titanic Experience and the area of Shankill Road and Falls Road was kind of the other side of the city, so I decided to hop on a bus and do kind of “drive-through” tour – better than nothing. It´s quite easy to recognize the Unionist and the Nationalist areas – one of them is full of Union Jacks and other British symbols – the other one is defined by green/white/orange – the Irish colours. The hate goes way back and everyone stayed in “their quarters” doing their sports, their schools, their religion, their food and not having any contact at all with the other side. Supposedly it got better since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 but there is still a very long way to go.
The Peace Wall dividing the Falls and Shankill Roads is one the most “famous” and runs for several kilometres and has enormous gates at junctions which served as security checkpoints and are still locked at night. The murals get overpainted often to show current events all over the world.
Murals also serve as memorials. When one shows the face of a fighter it´s a sign that he or she was killed.
If the millions and millions of Union Jacks haven´t already made clear the dedication of the area let´s show a little bit of the Queen.
While driving around the Causeway Coast the following days I saw some other villages overloaded with Union Jacks (once even the sidewalks were painted in blue, white and red. I also saw quite a few Irish flags but they don´t seem to get so overboard with the flags – just very superficially speaking after spending only a few days in Northern Ireland. But I have to say I was really confused by seeing nothing written in Irish (or Gaelic) – it´s everywhere in Scotland and I also think in Wales, why not in Northern Ireland? It still seems to be a very hot topic regarding to some news I found.