Waking up it was time to say goodbye to Dublin. It marked the end of studying the Republic Ireland and moving on to the next major subject matter: The Troubles. On our way out of the city, we made a final stop at Glasnevin Cemetery in which many figures we had learned about in our reading were buried there. Daniel O’Connell, Michal Collins, Eamon de Valera, and much more. This is also where a handful of graves for the 1916 rebels were. Many of the executed leaders were placed in a mass grave near Collins Barracks, but still a handful of rebels were buried in basic plots. By basic it simply meant a stone layer flat upon the ground with a name carved in it. Compared to the almost all the other graves in that part of the cemetery, which were tall stones with statues and words, the uniform empty looking plots made a statement. At the time that these men and women were buried there was a lack of commemoration of life. A recent installment in the cemetery, writing and on a giant wall in front of the visitor center, was added for the commemoration of 1916. The wall is a list of all lives lost during the 1916 rebellion. All British soldiers, rebels, and civilians who died during the week-long rebellion and following executions.
Walking around Glasnevin really made everything about the Republic of Ireland feel final. The deaths of so many great men and women, final. The fact that we were leaving the Republic of Ireland and would no longer be exclusively talking about the civil war, the Famine, or 1916 was all final. Reading the list of lives lost in the Easter Rising, brought me to tears because all those people were innocent of something and yet their lives will forever be linked to the Rising. Some were fighting and dying for what they believed in, while others were just innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire. I left Dublin with a heavy heart, but also a better understanding of how those executed could become martyrs. The mass number of deaths in general at the time, compounded by the destruction of the core of Dublin was enough to enrage people. It was a senseless killing, which is why it was easy to see how the Irish could come together so quickly to fight the war of Independence following the Easter Rising.
On our way to Northern Ireland that class reflected on Glasnevin and an interesting tad bit for me was the fact that people didn’t know how they felt about the wall. Not just because that was the only place commemorating the lives of civilians lost, but also the fact that it was used to cover the visitor center. It was a heated discussion because they felt the wall was disrespectful. In my opinion, which some people later agreed with was that it was not the wall they had an issue with, it was the visitor center. This is the first cemetery I have ever been to that had a visitor center. The cemetery is still a working cemetery and the visitor center comes off as tacky. To have tables and chairs to eat ate so close to Michael Collin’s resting place seemed extremely disrespectful. I pointed out that maybe the wall was there to further separate the visitor center from the cemetery because the group running the site realized the problem. Glasnevin was a place that tried everything we had been focusing on in the Republic of Ireland together. It also concluded it.
On our way up, we stopped at the Battle of Boyne. At the time, this seemed really confusing, but it was a conflict between William of Orange and King James II. The results of this battle determined who controlled Ireland. I wish we could have spent more time at the sight. The museum used a light show to demonstrate the play by play of the battle.
When crossed the border into Northern Ireland, the only thing we noticed was the signs change from Kilometers to miles. There was no sign welcoming us to Northern Ireland like you would see in the States. Most this day was spent traveling and gave us time to think about what we had been talking about. We had many discussions on the bus, but something Margret said on the way to Derry changed my outlook on what we were studying. She said: “It is important to learn from the past, but you cannot judge because you weren’t there and you know the end of the story.” It is something we have heard a thousand times, but at this midpoint in the trip, I needed to hear it. We had gotten to a point where we were judging what we were hearing and seeing and comparing, but this statement really made me reflect on the fact that this story is more complicated than I could ever imagine it to be.
The focus of our Northern Ireland part of our trip was to be on the Troubles. Many people in the United States remembered the Troubles. I asked my dad what he knew about it and he just said it was a conflict in Northern Ireland and he remembered seeing it on the news growing up. Although he did not know much about the conflict itself, it was just a reminder that what we are studying is recent history.
After the Anglo-Irish treaty gave 26 of the 32 counties in Ireland the freedom to self-govern, the history Northern Ireland did not reflect the same struggles found in the south. The main issue was the Protestants, who were British felt threatened by the Catholic presence in Northern Ireland. As a result, they made it nearly impossible for the Catholics to have a say in the government. As a result, in the 1960s the Catholic communities across Northern Ireland conducting their own civil rights protest. The protestors tried to follow in Martin Luther King’s footsteps and keep it peaceful. Yet, on January 30, 1972, and the event caused Bloody Sunday took place which forever altered the hope of peaceful protest. In Derry/Londonderry, during a protest, British soldiers shot into the crowd killing several people. This sparked the already growing need for revolutionary action. 1972 was the bloodiest year of the Troubles, but the Troubles would not come to an end until the seize fire in 1994 and the peace agreement of 1998.
As the troubles went on, the republicans/Catholics saw a shift in their goals. It went from attaining the right to vote to try to separate from Britain. Both Protestants and Catholics picked up arms for their community, while the British soldiers were supposed to keep the peace. A lot of the literature we read seems to be heavily focused on the British soldier’s miss treatment of Catholics, so it seems like it was two forces against the Republicans.
Once we got into Derry, we had 20 minutes until our next tour started. Some of the class went to the Peace Bridge that brought together the protestant community and the Catholic community literally with a bridge. It was nice and the construction of the bridge was really symbolic. The bridge was twisted and the way it was a tension bridge. The bridge visual symbolized the struggle and how the struggle did not destroy this community.
Our walking tour was given to us by a man named Ronan Malk Navara. He focuses on the history of Derry since he knew the person we would have a tour with the next day would talk about Bloody Sunday and the Bogside. Ronan gave great insight into how the divisions in Derry Started. Following the Battle of the Boyne, Protestant communities became abundant. The city centers were walled in and Derry is called the walled city because its walls are the only ones left intact. We walked around the walls as a part of the tour and it really gave perspective on the conflict. The Bogside is where the Catholics were for the most part. The Protestants would march through the communities in July and it causes a lot of tension and issues. From the City Center, a protestant area, you were looking down at the bog side. Geographically, it made a statement that the Protestants were looking down on the Catholics. It was one thing to see how geography played a role, but on top of the walls, you could feel how geography mattered.
Then we went back to the hotel and had a class discussion. We talked a bit more about Dublin, but the focus was Derry. We mainly talked about out impression of the Bogside and the marches. We also talked about what the class thought about the kids making peace. It was such a wonderful sentiment to know what the children were being brought together but was it enough. At the end of this discussion, the entire class seemed to think Derry was on the right track for reconciliation.
-Stephanie UnderhillThis entry was posted in 2016, General, Ireland-Summer
- Battle of the Boyne
- King James II
- London Derry
- Northern Ireland
- William of Orange
- written by Stephanie Underhill