The Peace Wall. Belfast Ireland
I’m in Ireland for a week. Belfast to be exact because I would need a different visa to get across to Dublin.
Of all the things I’ve heard about Ireland, it is “The Troubles” that stand out most. The Troubles took place during a period of ethno-nationalist conflict and political violence in Northern Ireland that lasted roughly from the late 1960s to the late 1990s. It was primarily fought between elements of the republican movement, who wanted Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom and join a united Ireland, and unionists, who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom.
As I stand in front of the Belfast Peace Wall, I cannot help but feel a mix of emotions, having faced a similar situation in my own country. The towering structures, covered in graffiti and murals, stand as a reminder of the violent past of this Northern Irish city. But it also symbolises the hope for peace and reconciliation that has taken root in the community.
The Peace Wall, also known as the “Peace Line,” was first erected in 1969 as a means of separating Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods during the height of the Troubles. The wall was meant to protect residents from the sectarian violence that plagued the city for decades.
During the Troubles, Belfast was one of the most heavily affected cities, with frequent bombings and shootings taking place in both Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods. The British government, in an effort to quell the violence, erected the Peace Wall as a physical barrier between the two communities.
But as I walked along the wall, I couldn’t help but notice the stark contrast between the two sides. On one side, the wall was covered in colourful murals and messages of hope and unity.
On the other side, the wall was covered in graffiti and political slogans. It’s clear that the Peace Wall continues to play a significant role in the lives of those living in Belfast. But it’s also a reminder of the progress that has been made towards peace and reconciliation in the community.
The peace process in Northern Ireland began in the 1990s and led to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which helped to bring an end to the majority of the violence and established the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland. However, the Peace Walls remain standing and maintained by the British government and is a physical reminder of the past and a symbol of the ongoing divide between the two communities.
And my message for the wall and for our own two countries: “We are more alike than different, let’s build bridges not walls”