I just recently returned from an amazing 6 day holiday to the Emerald Isle.
Myself, and two of my housemates Mel and Tim, decided that we would embark on a P.I.Y (Plan It Yourself). And I must admit, Mel and I planned an awesome adventure!
for some cheap flights, we found an Aer Lingus and a return on EasyJet for £30 each.
One of the things we decided to do (after getting ourselves settled in the hostel) was a Black Taxi Tour.
Our hostel booked our tour for us and we were lucky enough to get Paddy Kane, who has been on 60 Minutes! (Claim to fame!)
Besides a brief interlude in Liverpool, Paddy has lived in West Belfast all of his life and lived through the Troubles
he gave a great insight as to what really went on.
The first stop we made was to see a fence.
This isn’t an ordinary fence. It is known as the Peace Line and it separates the Catholics from the Protestants. As an Australian who doesn’t practice religion (besides the obligatory Christmas and Easter church visits) it’s kind of like, Catholics/Protestants – pretty much the same thing! But the issues went well deeper than just a religious thing. The way it was explained to me, I found it to be more of an Irish/British thing (Catholics on the Irish side, and the Protestants on the British side).
What was interesting was that there was a linen factory built in the middle of the Peace Line, with entrances on both sides, and women working there who became the best of friends.
However if a Protestant woman came across a Catholic work colleague on the street, they would be ignored for fear of family or friends seeing them getting ‘friendly with the enemy’.
Next we stopped on the Falls Road to view some of the Catholic murals displayed.
This mural was my favourite. In July 1970, after a gun battle between the local youths and the British Army, the army imposed a curfew giving permission to shoot dead anyone who left their house.
Two days later the curfew was broken by 3000 women from another area of Belfast marching into the area, pushing strollers and carrying fresh milk and groceries.
In the ’70s the IRA (Irish Republican Army) decided that a better way to make change come about was through the political route. Probably one of the most famous IRA members to join British Parliament is Bobby Sands.
In 1977 Sands was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for his involvement in a gun battle with the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).
In prison Sands became Commander of the rest of the IRA jailbirds and they organised a series of protests to regain ‘Special Category Status’.
First the ‘Blanket Protest’, beginning in 1976 where prisoners refused to wear any prison clothes and went about in blankets instead.
This didn’t work so in 1978 the ‘Dirty Protest’ begun. The prisoners refused to empty their chamber pots or to wash AND they smeared all their poo on the walls.
Again, this didn’t work.
In 1981 the ‘Hunger Strike’ began.
During his time of starvation Sands was narrowly voted in to the House of Parliament. Unfortunately he died a month later of starvation.
Needless to say, the Brits quickly introduced the Representation of the People Act 1981 barring people who served prison time of more than 1 year in the UK or Ireland to be nominated as candidates for election.
Moving to the other side of the wall we saw more murals that had a definite Loyalist attachment.
This bloke, Stevie McKeag, was a member of the Ulster Defence Army (UDA) and the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF).
Stevie was the commander of a hit squad and he was responsible for at least 12 killings. Most were civillian Catholics, including one pharmacy-shop girl who he shot in the face 5 times, as well as Republicans.
The tour stopped at many more places, but for me, these were the highlights.
For anyone travelling to Belfast I would HIGHLY recommend doing a Black Taxi Tour.
|me, Paddy, Tim and Mel
All of the tour guides are very passionate about their jobs and Paddy threw in a couple of jokes to make you feel very comfortable.
If you are a little bit worried about getting caught up in any of the ongoing issues, Belfast is one of the safest cities in Europe!
Have you done the Black Taxi Tour? Would you recommend it?