It feels like we’ve taken a run-up through Belfast and Portrush to get a little bit more of a sense of life in Northern Ireland now in Derry. Or actually let go of the stories from the media and experience what it is like for yourself. And actually less and less to ‘know’.
We are staying in the Bogside, around the corner from the Free Derry Museum. Originally a Catholic neighborhood. The state of Free Derry was once proclaimed here. Derry is small and uncluttered. We walk to the walled city, which was originally protestant.
We visited two museums: the Siege, which sheds light on the history of Londonderry from a Protestant perspective. It’s in the walled city. And the Museum of Free Derry in the Bogside on the recent history of the troubles. Free Derry was originally about human rights. And people regardless of faith participated in that.
The museums receive many school classes, including from the Republic of Ireland. Each museum has a specific angle There is no integrated picture of Derry, but both museums would work together to tell a broader story.
Last Thursday there was a reunion of IVS reunion, the organization that was responsible for the international work camps, among other things. Impressive to see how many camps there have been. And how many teenagers have come into contact with it. “Our” camp was part of that.
Time and again I have been touched by the conversations with the people I met in 1975. It is special to have lived together 45 years ago. It matters so much that we met in the past to talk to each other now.
For people from Derry, it is very common to ‘just’ go to Donegal, the Irish province that borders Northern Ireland. We did the same, to Grianan or Aileach, a round fortress with a magnificent view all around. I received a message from my provider ‘Welcome to Ireland’. That’s how I knew we had crossed the border. Irish names are also listed on roadside signs in Ireland. And in the cafe you can pay in Euros again. So no checkpoint. It is located in the Irish Sea: the sea border. Which most Northern Irish don’t want either.