Friday, May 21, 2010

Touring West Belfast: Sectarian Murals

In a few hours, I might be enjoying (surviving) my first authentic Guinness, but first I will mention some highlights of my first few days in Belfast. For the past two days, our DukeEngage group has been learning about the history of the Troubles from those who witnessed and experienced the violence over the past 30-40 years. Gordon Gillespie is the man who led our first tour of West Belfast, which highlighted areas of significant conflict and the renowned murals (both Loyalist and Republican; brief terminology lesson to follow).
An example of a Republican mural on Whiterock Rd. (a Catholic "estate," or neighborhood):
...And this is a Loyalist mural on Albertbridge Road (one of the Protestant areas of W. Belfast):

(photo by Mike Fritz)

Because the terminology is a wee bit confusing at first, I will explain/define a few terms to the best of my knowledge.

  • Republican and Loyalist are terms used exclusively in the context of paramilitary groups, who were active during the years of the Troubles. Most of these paramilitary organizations decommisioned after the peace aggreement was signed in 1998 (Good Friday Agreement), but some only recently handed over their arms -- even within the past year. Bascially, you only use Republican/Loyalist in relation to those who support armed struggle as a means to their end.

  • Nationalist and Unionist are related to political agendas/persuasions. Nationalists tend to support the complete independence of the state of Ireland from the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland), while Unionists want N. Ireland to remain a part of the UK and separate from the Republic of Ireland.

Hmm...I set out to describe the past two days in Belfast and managed only to cover approximately 3 hours. Thus, I will be posting frequently over the weekend to update you more... Expect many more photos!


  1. Wow! Glad that you guys are getting right to it and learning the vital issues about N.I. history, since, it's something that we briefly hear about, but don't really know what the actual conflict is! That Loyalist mural was insane! <3

  2. Great info, Lindsay! Keep it coming! Sounds like you are getting a lot of great background before you dive into the work-a-day life. Campus is quiet and a little sad without all of you there...the summer is completely different at Duke. Thinking of you as you settle in there!