Thursday, 21 June 2012

Thu 21 Jun: 3 month countdown in #Derry

Delayed train from Holywood in Belfast to Derry meant I had two very interesting conversations with some Northern Irelanders. Lianne, a criminology student, gave me a young persons opinion on how far Northern Ireland has come. George Butler, a cattle farmer from Coleraine, at the other end of the age spectrum, who has seen more than Lianne, but concurred that things have changed dramatically.

Kevin Magee & Edelle Canning, my first friends in Derry
To my delight, I was met off the train by a local lady called Edelle Cannings. Via a short car tour of Derry, we headed off to lunch at Cafe del Mondo. Great food in part of the Craft Village. Edelle told me that six weeks previously she had an idea about finding some other parents with older children with autism. Her 12 year old son, Owen, has asbergers and up to six weeks ago there was very little support. In only six weeks, Edelle has taken the group from zero to over a 100 people. I am overwhelmed by her energy and impressed by her "just get on with" attitude.

I was also very happy for her to help me start asking around for somewhere to stay. In no time at all, through Connal in Mondos, then Barry in Sandidos, we met Kevin Magee. Kevin is in his final year studying law and plays in a local band. He very kindly offered his spare room for the night. I am so touched by his kindness and it highlights what this walk is all about.

After dropping my bag off, I took a wander around Derry which I have now decided to just call Derry. That is the original Irish name for the city. For loyalist Protestants, it is known as Londonderry. Apparently, the one you use can highlight which side you are from. But not much anymore. Everyone I spoke with just calls it Derry. I say "just", but I don't mean to devalue it because it is a great name for what appeared to me to be a great little city.

The new Peace Bridge connects the two parts of the city and I found out it is either the only or one of the only citys which is completely surrounded by city walls (need to check that, sounds like I may have misheard!). It was great to see the new Ebrington development where the POD concert is to be held. Word on the street is that opinion is divided on the project but hey, that happens in Tavistock so no surprises there.

I was very moved by my walk around the Bogside area where the focus of the Bloody Sunday troubles took place. From my understanding, it started when a man painted "Free Derry" on the end of his house. This single act of civil disobedience, although peaceful in itself, sparked tragedy. The murals still mark some of the differences and history. What was wonderful, was that I felt completely at ease walking around, taking photos. It had crossed my mind that this may have not been the case. Also, I felt a little odd taking photos of houses and communities. It was almost as if they had beome a tourist attraction which I thought felt slightly odd. However, that is surely better than feeling threatenned or in tension.

I am not going to pretend to understand the divisions and history in the depth it needs for an informed opinion and analysis. What I can say, is that from the people I have spoken with, it is clear that the new generations care less about division and using religious difference as a tool, than perhaps the older generations. This may or may not include the media and a separation from issues being a religious based issue rather than just a normal contention is perhaps an important step.

Some more pics from Derry...oh yeah, and there was a bit of concert too and a lovely lady called Orla bought me my first Guiness...oh gosh, that's how its meant to taste!!!...

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