46 Years later

This time arriving in Belfast by boat. 46 years ago I flew to Dublin and traveled by bus to Belfast. Stopped several times along the way for checks by British soldiers.

Back in Northern Ireland after 46 years. Then the Troubles were in full swing. A grim city, lots of controls and British soldiers everywhere. Now the center is ‘just like other cities’. Just outside it are still neighborhoods separated from each other by walls. They should disappear in 2023 under the 1998 peace agreement, but that does not seem realistic. We made a Taxi Tour with the taxi driver as a guide. He does this job because he earns too little as a taxi driver.

There has been a lot of talk about the situation in recent days, especially about the consequences of Brexit and the elections in May. When I start to “get it”, another conversation confuses me again. What the media tell is only part of the story. Like the fierce murals, they seem to magnify the differences instead of attempting to build bridges.

We visited Glebe House, a house in the countryside where activities have been organized for children of different religions for the past 45 years. In 1975 it had just started and I also visited it. Helen Honeyman was one of the driving forces, followed by Diarmaid McGarrigle.

And meanwhile, the Northern Irish live on. The Paddies as all inhabitants of the island are called, whether they are British or not. Friday night we were in a pub with live music. I mainly remember old men who made music from ‘the old days’. Now young men and women playing irish music.

This is the second session of the evening. At the first session, the musicians were both men and women.