Trip Start Jun 10, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Thursday, August 2, 2007

We headed for Derry via the slieve league which is yet another beautiful area of western Ireland. It proved to be a gorgeous drive on the way to northern Ireland.
Derry or londonderry depending on your allegiance is definitely the most tumultuous place that we have visited. Something hard to believe considering the history we have scratched the surface of elsewhere.
we must claim to have been na´ve about the strife the region has seen for centuries. Derry is the site of much conflict and best known for the site of "Bloody Sunday" January 30 1972.
This is where 14 people were killed and a further 14 wounded by british forces during a civil rights protest. We took a tour of the 'bogside' (the area where the Irish unrest was loudest). The guide was actually active at the time and was obviously well versed and passionate about the experience.  We toured some of the sights and the famous murals painted on homes in the area. (see the pictures with their details on this part). What the Irish Catholics of Derry went through is truly astonishing.  Today actually marked the first day in almost 40 years that there has not been a British military presence in Derry. As of midnight they officially withdrew their peacekeeping force. Up until 2 months ago the "bogside" was surrounded with watch towers and a constant presence of British soldiers. As we were told you could not walk down the street
without bumping into a soldier. Our guide pointed and said "you were raised in peaceful times" to each and every one of us in the group. Sure we can learn about what he, and many others went through, but we will never be able to fully understand.  Our guide was asked if he thought this new peace would last and he quickly retorted that he was convinced it would as the positive feeling that he has now is more powerful than the hateful ones he had for so long.
After the tour they have a museum of free Derry. The museum was established by the bloody Sunday trust to tell the story of the civil rights movement. The gentleman running the museum had the experience of watching his brother die in his arms on Bloody Sunday shortly after being shot by a soldier. Being passionate about keeping their memories alive is an understatement for them.  Some of the pictures are of various murals depicting scenes from the struggles. One is a shot of a memorial shaped like an H as that was the shape of the internment camp that many of the Irish rebels were sent to and died. Through the H you can see the side of a painted building with the words "you are now entering free Derry".  This building has been preserved since the struggle as this was the declaration that started it all painted on that very same building. (on a lighter note, it is painted pink for gay pride week next week. It goes back to the regular white on the weekend. The guide was a little uncomfortable about the idea).
After that experience we wanted to see the londonderry side of things. Derry was changed to londonderry by the British investors that ran the place back in the day much to the dismay of the Irish.
We had heard that there were murals on the other side of the river with a unionist message. So we left the area with the curbs painted like Irish flags for the area with curbs painted in union jack colours. We found the murals and were shocked once again by their intensity. (please see pictures). The most powerful mural we saw on the other side was of a fighting skeleton holding a tattered British flag with a dead Irishman with a stake through his heart to his right and a destroyed building with half of the "you are now entering free Derry" toppled. The inscription above the mural says "there must be no retirement with our backs to the wall, and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end. We determine the guilty. We decide the punishment".
Truly a sobering experience we will never forget.
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