This afternoon, we flew on a new airline for us, FlyBE. The Glasgow to Belfast route took less than 30 minutes, I think. We arrived in Belfast, had coffee at a local chain (and one of the workers was the spitting image of Kellie’s brother) and then took a taxi to the private residence where we were staying. We were met by the owner, Mary, and an adorable baby kitten which we played with for a while. Then it was time to use the rest of our daylight productively. We were staying near the “sectarian” area and decided to walk along the two roads which, up until fairly recently, would have been considered dangerous to be near, because of the threat of bombing and violence.
You may have heard of The Troubles. Basically, Northern Ireland (and especially this area of Belfast) are divided among whether they want to be part of the UK, as they are. These are the Unionists (extremists are called Loyalists). Others believe N. Ireland’s rightful position is bound with the Republic of Ireland, as they are geographically. These are the Nationalists (extremists are called Republicans). This is the source of the violence, random bombings, and the Troubles that have existed in history (especially in the 1970s-1990s) here.
Shankill Road is the main thoroughfare of a heavily Loyalist area…I have never seen so many British flags on one street. Just a five minute walk away, parallel to this is the Falls Road, the main thoroughfare of the Republican neighborhood. No British flags! Lots of murals of being oppressed by the British. Even to this day, the sections of the city are separated by peace walls (think Berlin Wall) which the police close every night around 6 or 7pm in hope of prevented warring among the two sides.