I arrived in Belfast today. To put it mildly, it’s a bit different than Dublin.
As we were arriving, our program liaison pointed out some of the neighborhood divides between Protestant and Catholic areas, but it was already pretty obvious which were which. The architecture is noticeably different between the neighborhoods, and social class can be seen in the style of the houses. Beyond this, each neighborhood is decorated with different flags. Protestant neighborhoods are still flying the Union Jack from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration from this past weekend and are looking forward to the upcoming Olympics. Catholic neighborhoods are right now rooting for Ireland in Euro 2012 (against Croatia), and quite a few Republic flags can be seen.
We arrived in time for the last day of the Belfast Film Festival, and we were able to sit in for a showing and discussion of Life as an Interface, a film about the Interface area between the Skegoneill and Glandore areas (and the Skegoneill Glandore Common Purpose project). For those who do not know what an Interface is, Belfast is comprised of segregated nationalist and unionist neighborhoods; an Interface is where these segregated neighborhoods meet. Many (but not all) Interfaces are separated by fences (most being built after the 1996 ceasefire(s) that led up to Good Friday), such as the famous Shankill/Falls Roads “peace line” (or peace wall). Skegoneill and Glandore, however, is unique in that no fence divides the communities, so their Interface actually lives up to the term.
Many of the people interviewed for the documentary were sitting in the audience, so it was very interesting to hear from these different figures after the film ended. A real focus of this film was on the idea of creating a public space for the two communities, something that Northern Ireland continues to struggle with even though the fighting has (mostly) ended. This segregation is reinforced by specific government policies, including past urban planning and road construction that has thoroughly isolated these groups from one another. So, while there have been some forays made into shared public expression, the different flag display I mentioned earlier seems more the norm.
As for the Ireland/Croatia game…
At the half, Ireland trails Croatia (2 to 1).