Thursday, May 17, 2007

Life in Derry, Northern Ireland

(London)Derry, Northern Ireland is where Bloody Sunday occurred in 1972, the place where the troubles began and continued in the 1990's, and its now the place of new hope. The Apprentice Boys (part of a Protestant minority with only one youth club, one school left in the Fountain estate--Protestants have moved out to other parts of the city) are launching a new Museum stressing preservation of the past and facing the future by remembering it. They have invited all groups to the opening of the Museum at the end of April and in so doing they are selling an image. But the past is no longer so destructive.

Marches through the city, always a marking of territory, are carefully negotiated. Cross community projects take years to bring about but around and outside the city walls new shopping centers have sprung up. Tourism is an industry.

In Bogside, the center of Nationalists in Derry, a mural known as "the death of innocence," a butterfly, once a single color, now is painted in full color. The murals have been a place of change and healing. As a quote (adapted from Archbishop Tutu) on the website says:-

"A wound must be cleaned out and examined before it will heal. It is the unexamined wound that festers and finally poisons. Our murals shows the wounds. It is true public art, an open book to be seen and read."

The Museum of Free Derry offers a different perspective on history but this diversity of museums is a good thing to remember a divided past. Lord Saville's Bloody Sunday Inquiry initiated under Tony Blair has yet to make its final report.

There's a new Polish community in Derry. 1000 have applied to join the new police force. A new ferry (2002) links Greencastle across the Foyle with Northern Ireland and it has brought a new connections. Protestants see the southern ecomony as impressive and they envy it. No longer is it seen as "a priest ridden banana republic" as Ian Paisley once described it. Families speak openly of their relatives in the republic.

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