“The Troubles” is the name given to the violence that involved republican and loyalist paramilitaries, Northern Ireland police, the British military, and others in Northern Ireland from the 196os through 1998.
The conflict was between two camps:
Irish Republicans, who supported the unification of Northern Ireland (County Ulster) with Ireland as an Irish Republic with total independence from Great Britain and
British Loyalists, who supported allegiance of Northern Ireland to Great Britain as part of the United Kingdom. It is important to note that Northern Ireland remains part of the UK.
While the Troubles have been transformed into half a generation of relative peace, such peace can never be taken for granted. Here are a few thoughts on the subject:
While Sinn Fein has representation in British Parliament, the clearly-stated goal of Sinn Fein — a United Irish Republic — remains unrealized.
My sense is that most citizens of Northern Island simply want to move on with their lives in peace, but as you can see from the murals, strong and highly-visible Republican and Loyalist sentiments remain.
Peace is fragile in the sense that minority extremists have the power to derail the entire peace process in opposition to the wishes of the majority. A single isolated incident could reignite endless cycles of tit-for-tat violence.
Belfast still remains largely segregated. The peace walls still stand and the gates still close at night.
That said, this photo essay could never do justice to the complex history of and current political state of Irish-British relations. I will leave that task to you. My goal is simply to raise some awareness, to pose some questions with sincerity and concern, and to challenge all of us to contribute to peace-making in our daily lives. In summary, there are reasons for cautious optimism but there is still lots of courageous work to be done in the direction of reconciliation.