Remembering History

This month I had the opportunity to go Ireland for two weeks to study abroad. We visited various locations and I thought about how different parties actively remembered or forget incidents from the past. With the locals, we meet everyone had a general statement about facts that had happened in their history. For example, in the United States, if you asked someone to tell you about the civil war, most people would know it was fought between the Union and Confederate. They’d tell you the union was trying to abolish slavery and the Confederate states weren’t. This caused a huge conflict. Here in Ireland, their huge conflict, many would agree started in part because of religion. Most people will tell you this, but what’s different is their side of the story. We took a trip to Belfast and our first tour guide showed us the peace walls meant to keep Protestants and Catholics separated. “To keep the peace” these individuals lived right next to each other, yet would never see each other or know one another. They were very segregated and to this day in some parts still are. Our guide spoke about how if you are going to an interview for a job the first few questions someone will ask you is “what’s your name” and the second, “what school did you go to?” They ask these questions to determine your religion because if you’re Catholic in a Protestant majority county, like Belfast they’ll most likely not hire you.

Mural in Derry depicting the Civil Rights March

It’s interesting because our second tour guide in Derry said the same thing except he made it clear which religion he was as compared to the first, who didn’t. The first tour guide could have been any religion or no religion, he gave away nothing. I felt he had to be more protective of it or he felt he had to given the circumstances he lived through. He brought us to a neighborhood with murals on buildings of residence homes that stood as reminders to the community. Most of them positive like woman’s rights or Bobby Sands painted as a mural, but one that stood out and wasn’t so positive caught my eye was a guy some honored and called “Top Gun” an UDA gunman named Stephen McKeag. This mural honors one of the Troubles most notorious gunmen said to have murdered at least 12 people before he died of a drug overdose in 2000. What’s even more shocking is if you see the mural of him, McKeag is photoshopped with beret in uniform with a blue sky background. They do this so the mural has a positive effect on the community, but if you know anything about this man you know having him painted on a wall as a community hero isn’t positive. According to Belfast Telegraph, an NIHE spokesman confirmed the mural is on its property and that they had not given permission for it to be painted, but they suspect that the family is behind it’s repainting, yet no plans to take it down anytime soon has been scheduled.

Photo by Alexa Templeton — Mural in Belfast of Stephen McKeag

Our tour guide in Belfast remembered Top Gun, like many others as a terrorist. Therefore, the mural stood as a negative reminder of the past for him. Our next tour guide in Derry took a different approach when remembering history and was more open about religion. His father, Patrick Doherty actually participated in the march on Bloody Sunday and was shot and murdered by one of the Para Soldiers. Doherty mirrored the tour guide in Belfast first explanation of religion, but unlike our first he let us know he was Catholic. His story on the conflict in Ireland felt more personal because his family was directly affected. He remembered the facts of history, but he took a stand on them. He told us exactly how he felt and his views, although strong were moving because of his family being directly affected.

Monument for those fallen on Bloody Sunday

The last photo I’m using is the last stop Doherty took us to. It’s a monument with his father’s name right at the top, one of the oldest men to have fallen that day. He finished his tour, but since it was a personal matter for him he let us know of the ongoing investigation that’s to happen with the other families looking into those tragic events on Bloody Sunday. It’s reasonable a lot of the families want apologies. Doherty remembered the events of that day as planned. To him, those soldiers went in with goals to kill, not to arrest those rioting. However, despite knowing this Doherty and his family won’t be participating in the investigation. They believe since the soldier who murdered his father and many others was promoted and then honored by the queen for the events that took place that day, there could be no justice. The only justice they’ll get is knowing one day the man who committed those crimes will have to meet his maker.

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