The black cab tour of the Peace Walls and Shankill Road is definitely one of the major tourist attractions. But in reality it’s a lot more… It’s a shattering and important piece of history. Reveals nationalist war behind city walls and the background of escalating violence. I never imagined such a huge conflict still exists in Northern Ireland, I mean, I knew there was a problem, but the scale of it is intimidating.
The ever-present division of society
There’s nothing more interesting than getting a history facts from a passionate inhabitant, someone who lived those hard times and can tell story of his life. I was very lucky to go on the trip with my three native Irish friends to find out how Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland are still deeply divided society.
Just in the middle of the Norther Ireland capital city – Belfast, 6 metres metal wired fencing spreads across the city to imprison one religion from another. ‘The troubles’ – also known as the Northern Ireland conflict started in late 1960s.
It is an ongoing conflict between Unions, who are mostly Protestants. They always wanted Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom. On the other hand we have Irish nationalists (Republicans & mostly Catholics), who want Northern Ireland to join a united Ireland.
The peace process that has lasted over the last 20 years did bring some results, but those two communities still live apart and the tension between British and Irish identities remains unresolved.
Protestants and Catholic children have been thought in different schools. Religion segregation also reflected on work places for the parents. After introducing Charter of Human Rights it was no longer legal to ask a religious question during job interview. They asked about a school instead, as most of the Catholic school was named after a saint man, but none of the Protestants would. Job discrimination was omnipresent and none of the Catholics had a chance to work in best work places like shipyard. Only Protestants were employed there.
In one of the most powerful European Union country, with significant human right pillar, a huge wall in the middle of Belfast city centre segregates those two communities. Union flags are flutter all over Belfast street lights and windows. They remind you’re treading British paths. Every day a man on a bicycle circles across Belfast to close all 5 gates at 6 pm and the last 6th at 10.30 p.m. to reopen them for 6 am next day.
Although the fencing seems like taken from one of the most restricted prisons it still does not quiet the anger. Dirtiest rubbish and droppings are being thrown inside the internal wall. The streets on both sides of those internal walls are showing ethnic antagonism: flags, murals of paramilitary heroes, political graffiti, nationalist slogans.
The two communities have been fighting over each other for ages. The Grey part, where the two communities live together is located in the northern part of the city. Europa Hotel is the most bombed hotel in the world, suffered 36 bomb attacks during the Troubles. Shankill Road – one of the most famous streets in Belfast, located in the western part of the city, remained Unionist so IRA bomb attacks still happen.
Belfast cab tour
The black cab tour in Belfast is a great choice if you want to hear real stories behide this city. It takes 1h 30 min and a taxi takes up to 4 people for approx. £60. It’s possible to explore the city walls Belfast tour on your own but you will get much more from the tour if you do it with a local guide. And remember you might get two different versions depending on the driver origin. 🙂