NORTHERN IRELAND 2018
When I was a child, the conflict between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland was very much reported in the news. A low-level war between loyalists who were Protestants and wished to remain with Britain and nationalists, who were Catholic and wanted a unified Ireland, The Troubles started in the late 1960s and extended through to 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement was ratified.
Friends travelling in Ireland at the same time as me reported from their respective tours that peace had arrived in Northern Ireland, and everything was hunky dory. But tours and their leaders tend to gloss over the facts to provide a rosy view of a place, as that is their job.
Our experience was very different. Our plan was to drive to Fivemiletown in Fermanagh, where we stopped for the night before visiting The Dark Hedges and The Giants Causeway. We had planned to visit the Beleek factory on our return journey. My first encounter was to ask directions as our GPS delivered us to the wrong address. I don't believe I've ever been so close to being spat at. Racism and segregation are very much alive in this part of the country, particularly in the rural areas.
The cities we drove through were highly industrialised, grey, bleak; somewhat similar to Manchester and Liverpool in England, but on a smaller scale. Perhaps I had expected to see the pretty, well-kept villages of the south extended through the border and into the northern counties. Sadly, despite being part of mainland Ireland geographically and politically being a member of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland seems to belong to nobody. It is a lovely and lush country and yet it has an atmosphere of abandonment. We can still hope that common sense will finally prevail and this beautiful part of the world will eventually enjoy true peace.
These are my stories: