Live from Derry (well, sort of)

Today we took a day trip to Derry/Londonderry (as many things in Northern Ireland, which name you choose can be a bit controversial), the second largest city in Northern Ireland and a major flashpoint during Northern Ireland’s conflict.  While there are a couple neighborhoods that cross this divide, the Protestant and Catholic communities are largely divided by the River Foyle, with only a few bridges to connect the two sides (more on that in a minute).

Not sure which side of the city you are on? Look for the not so subtle hints…

In a short blog post, I really cannot do justice to the full complexity of community politics in Derry, so I will use this post mostly as a chance to share some cool pictures and add a liberal dose of links to more info.

The Magazine Gate.
A stained glass window in St. Columb’s Cathedral commemorating the end of the siege.

First, Derry (or part of the Londonderry section) is a walled city, and a major part of their history is Siege of Derry, a major event in 1689 that would ultimately pit King James II against King William III (of the William and Mary fame) and would be a sort of warm-up to the Battle of the Boyne.  This event plays a large part in the historical identity of the Protestant community, as seen by the bi-annual parades by the Apprentice Boys of Derry and by its commemoration in St. Colomb’s Cathedral.

For the Catholic community, a more recent “siege” looms a bit larger: the Battle of the Bogside.  Along with Bloody Sunday (same neighborhood), the Battle of the Bogside would be a defining event in the Troubles.

Murals as reminders of the history of Derry’s Bogside.

Tensions remain even in the current day, as seen in this mural from West Londonderry, the remaining Protestant neighborhood in Catholic Derry.

Look closely and you notice the IRA graffiti over the Hand of Ulster mural.

Even with these tensions and problems regarding dissident groups who seek to re-open the conflict, Derry has come a long way.  While the city remains largely segregated, projects like the Peace Bridge seek to re-connect the two communities.

Built with funds provided by the European Union, Derry’s Peace Bridge opened in 2011. It links the city centre to the former army barracks
When viewed from a certain angle, the bridge looks like two crossed swords.
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