Ireland Troubles

LondonDerry
The Derry Walls overlooking LondonDerry

I had always had it in my mind to go to Ireland, to fill in the blanks of knowledge I have about key things in recent history. I would ask my Irish American buddies but after some garbage answers from them, I quickly knew that they don’t know a goddamn thing about history in Ireland. Americans would say dumb things during St. Patrick’s day like “top of the morning to ya” but that’s completely made up by Americans (John Wayne). Yet many do that impression, including Irish Americans like those on the morning shows and news shows show how disconnected we are from reality. We don’t know crap about Ireland but dumb stereotypes. What I felt dumb for not knowing, was some serious stuff related to what was like a Civil War that happened there in recent times, which boiled down to otherism of people who look exactly equal to each other. Some of the issues Ireland has faced, I learned about from movies and TV, but the real issues were never talked about, and most only glorified the Irish Republican Army (IRA) without any context what so ever- which is part of the problem. Why did the IRA even exist? Movies didn’t answer that, they just showed rebels acting wild being gangsters- Cool! I would watch the TV show Sons of Anarchy and all I saw was gun smuggling thugs that the biker gang doesn’t need since we have enough easily obtainable guns in the USA already. The IRA was not needed in the plot, other than to say “look at these bad ass Irishmen”. No reference to them, no reference to which flavor of IRA was in the show, just very poor representation”. That’s all the general population knows, cool thugs of Belfast. Turns out, we completely over simplify what they stood for, why they even existed in the first place and what they turned into. I’d ask my Irish American friends about IRA and they would only say “badass killers and defenders” but they didn’t REALLY know the truth about the IRA, nor the backstories nor that they actually have a political party. And course, if there is an IRA, well who is the opposing force to the IRA? Most tell you “The British Military” and that’s not actually the true story, which I’ll walk down in this piece. That’s how misguided we are here, in America, about Ireland. There was a bunch at play that we were/are completely ignorant to.

LondonDerry so peaceful today

When I was young, I had a bucket-list item to go to Ireland and was infatuated with Ireland. Why? Because I had many Irish friends from School and they had the Irish flags in the rooms, and in the cars and in the homes and in the windows and in the bars… it was everywhere. I was in love with redheads, as I came up along Irish when I went off to school, as I professed here, years ago. And that’s really all anyone knew of Ireland, the flag. LOL The only thing I learned in school was the Potato Famine that ravaged Ireland, but I got a really good course in it, so I learned a lot of stuff that people claimed was propaganda by my Irish teacher at the time, which today we know is fully true and proven! Apparently that’s all most Americans people know of Irish history too, and not well detailed either. I used to frequent Boston, and Chicago, as a youth, and I had many racial/bigoted experiences, FORTUNATELY, because I learned a lot. Anyone from old school Boston can let you know the deal in this area and will openly tell you how racist it was. My first encounter with Neo NAZIs was in Boston and they wore Doc Martins and would jump you then curb stomp the back of your head with your mouth open on the curb to bust out your teeth, back then. It’s well documented, so don’t crybaby to me for discussing it, since I lived it. Boston’s historically been heavily racist, read any of these but especially “Black Bostonians”. I had to stop several people from using the “N-Word” in those two cities ONLY, in my whole life, and only because it got excessive and violent towards me, personally. The worst part of this was some of these people who talked such bigoted things were my friends* or people I want to school with, and when I we met in Boston, they turned out to be completely different and bigoted. They talked how people back home talked, they walked what they learned, and racial bigotry would roll off of their tongues without thought, because it was normalized. I even went with one Irish friend to his house in Boston, and he carried on with bigoted talk right in front of me, which I only experienced WHEN I GOT THERE. That was South Boston! And I would get in debates with his friends and family, or other people when I was in the area, after they spewed anti-Jewish/Black/Latin/Asian bigotry. It was like my favorite past time hobby. LOL But I was LEARNING when they spoke, learning all the things people are so shocked to learn that kids are saying today, on the Internet. It’s not new! They used to call me “Mr Monday” or “Monday”. I had no idea what the hell they were talking about until I learned that was slang for Blacks because “nobody likes Mondays”. LOL When it’s funny, you just have to laugh. A lot of the bigotry came in the form of joke-insults, which is what Boston is known for. Your more iconic, hardcore comics, to date, come from that racialized, hardened Boston (e.g., Burr, Louis C.K., Patrice O’neal, Denis Leary, Nick D’Palo, Don Gavin, Steven Wright). They handed out race-flavored jokes that were gut punching, but did it in very entertaining ways. It’s how life was then, people talked openly. I wasn’t funny then, so I had a different method to combat, I would SHAME them for not knowing their own history, which I was studying. All of these people seem to forget how USA treated Irish people when coming here, now they imitate how they were treated. Meanwhile, in IRELAND, Irish people loved the idea that they were related to Blacks like President Obama and then named a section “Barack Obama Plaza”, after he answered their call to visit his Irish roots, which brought him to the village of Moneygall. If you go to the EPIC Irish Emigration museum, they do an exhibit of Obama being Irish as well. You’ll find NOTHING like that in USA, there was no love in USA for Barack along that particular tribal bonding, and Obama had to stop using that side of his racial strategy when campaigning so just when went all Black. LOL It infuriated people, to wave the Irish flag left and right, get tats of it, and yet they couldn’t match me on the little bit of history I know about Ireland itself. It was effective than insult jokes. One guy yelled at me “shut the F*(k up” because “the Irish are the {N-words} of the British empire”—except they used the real derogatory term not my substitute. I’ve actually heard many Irish Americans say that same thing though, they they were like Black people when it came to British people.

Shankill
Shankill Road Mural – Celebrating the UDU, UFF and UDA. Will all these murals, you’d have to wonder if they’re secretly still active and waiting…
Ireland
Derry / Londonderry: Bishops Street Gate

This was the tidbit that was the advantage of those kinds of insults, you learned what’s behind the talk. I would test these people on their knowledge of history in Ireland (thinking that I knew it all for my classes- lol) by asking questions to see how valid their claims were, and they didn’t know a damn thing, and I pointed out hypocrisy and factually incorrect things about Ireland. They would say Irish were enslaved like Blacks, but that is factually incorrect, but they did get used by British as the working class, that is very true, and that is what they really meant when they said this. Most debaters could not properly tell me why they felt like comparing Blacks to Irish but I was very curious about this link they all made, even in Chicago. Each would just say “uhm the Potato Famine” or “they worked us to the bone” and failed to make the point on why the British were to blame for that, so that they could equate themselves to treatment of Blacks. They felt something, but couldn’t describe it, it seemed so I knew there had to be something to this feeling they had and wanted to explore that. My friends were just too dumb to elaborate and didn’t know facts because they were American, not Irish from actual Ireland. Their families came in the 1850s to USA, they’re very divorced from Ireland entirely other than waving the Irish flag about. You know how you know? You can go into an Irish bar, in any place in the USA, and you can order an “IRISH CAR BOMB“. That drink is was created by Irish Americans in an Irish pub for St Patrick’s day, in Norwalk Connecticut. SMH That is how tone-deaf the USA people are/were, just like my buddies and their buddies I argued with. If you’re not familiar with the reference, I’m getting to that later in this blog entry, but it is rather insensitive considering how car bombs were used in Ireland / North Ireland. But the link to blaming the British for the Potato Famine, they should have known, it’s why so many Irish came to the USA from 1845 and 1852 and was why my friends’ families ended up in the USA.

To outsiders, it makes no sense that Irish couldn’t just go farm something else or go get fish since they lived on an island surrounded by ocean. The problem was, they were mostly cogs in a machine for the larger British society, selling their souls doing all the manual labor to produce all the good for the larger British society, going bankrupt on what they owned, made homeless because they couldn’t pay rent, and getting kicked off their land by British landlords during the worst time in their lives. They allowed the Brits too much control over resources in Ireland, and they were suffering by the time it came to being able to even make any boats, and they didn’t have any money to make boats, nor material, while starving. The Brits didn’t even HELP Ireland with this issue. This was a huge betrayal to Ireland. It was so bad that they were forced to rely on the Potato, which was easy to produce, but previously it was not the main part of any Irish meal by then! So there are legitimate anti-British sentiments but my buddies were to young and dumb to share. My detractors then also failed to elaborate on the issues of Irish immigration to the USA, which I knew because I was taught that in school as part of the famine course, there was a xenophobia towards them, and many cited that they were treated like Blacks because of this too. What I couldn’t understand was why the kinds of Irish bigotry toward Blacks existed considering what so many said they felt like they were being treated like Blacks? Didn’t make sense, then, and none of my friends could answer, but ultimately what they’re saying is “hey, why are you treating us like we are Black? We’re not Blacks” to ruling class people. This happened after undergoing the American version of anointing European descendants where you gain social acceptance then don’t want to speak about but is highlighted in this classic book. So I was in search for some real knowledge to fill in the gaps and I figured I could do that by going to Ireland and checking out a few key places to get some real information.

Northern Ireland
Remember, Respect, Resolution to try to remember to be peaceful

The first thing on my mind was this whole IRA thing, which according to Sons of Anarchy, would still exist today. Parents, don’t let your kids watch TV! LOL Back in the days, people used to threaten me by saying they would get their family from the IRA to car bomb my house, which I took seriously, although I didn’t live in a house, nor had a car… whatever the case, a car bomb seemed worse than someone shooting me while dressed dapper in a 3-piece suit, so IRA wins. None of us understood the IRA, we just knew they were badass and cool, as I said earlier. But was was the IRA really and what were they doing, why did they exist? The IRA originally formed in 1919 and they were not an army, but were a bunch of loosely connected paramilitary group of citizens who shared the dream that Ireland would not be under the thumb of British empire rule. They wanted Ireland united, self-governed and independent from anything related to the United Kingdom. But the IRA was not 1 group from a local town. The original IRA also included former military personnel who fought for Britain in World War I, and the reason this is important is that World War I was 1914 to 1918, and in 1916, the Irish Republicans (general population of all of Ireland) went on a revolutionary run (aka Easter Rising) against British control in Ireland. With Britain distracted by World War I, the rising went on, although it was crushed quickly, but not without about 2,000 injured or killed in conflicts with the British military in Dublin. That pissed Britain off considering the timing but also gained a lot of Irish attention, and the number of people hurt and killed in the Easter Uprising made Irish Republican support for the idea of Independence grow, but also alerted some to the fact that they were severely outmatched militarily due to not having proper arms. More conflicts with British military occurred here and there, at the time, and martial law was declared many times. In this process, people of Ireland realized that political power was the way forward. The Irish Republic created their socialist party Sinn Féin (pronounced ‘SHin FANE’ and means “We Ourselves” or “Ourselves Alone” in Irish), and won by a landslide. After establishing itself as a political party, Sinn Féin appointed the original IRA as its official military wing in 1919. More importantly, in 1919, an internal guerilla warfare styled war began, what is called the “Irish War of Independence” or the Anglo-Irish War and IRA was instrumental in bolstering Irish confidence.

Northern Ireland
What am I in the South Bronx or something?

During that war, the IRA battled multiple British/Pro-British paramilitary forces, including the real British military ultimately, and several guerilla factions (e.g., Royal Irish Constabulary and Ulster Special Constabulary). When the IRA started attacking British military in ambushes and attacked their barracks, that’s when the everything kicked into high gear and the full conflict was on, with IRA becoming high on the radar of the British military. This part I did know, from watching classic movies. In the Crying Game, the story centered on IRA in Northern Ireland. Forest Whitaker was the British soldier that was kidnapped by IRA to be exchanged for a high profile captured IRA member, but the plot went sideways (no spoilers). The movie, in classic American fashion, provided no context to the IRA at all, just threw them in the story as terrorists without calling them terrorists because they were cool… The 90s had many movies glorifying/centering on the IRA, like the one with Brad Pitt, The Devil’s Own, but you wouldn’t really know the full story from there either. The IRA was introduced to most of us by Hollywood and hood threats. What many didn’t know was that the IRA was officially labeled a terrorist group, but remember the political party they’re associated with, Sinn Féin? What about Sinn Féin? Are they a terrorist group? No, they’re not! Odd political stuff there. In fact, Sinn Féin have recently picked up steam politically. Why did I give you that all that reference prior? Because in that Pro-UK area of Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland’s most influential political party is now Sinn Féin! Remember, Sinn Féin is about removing British rule from all of Ireland, and that was not what the most of the people of Northern Ireland wanted to hear. After 1919 Irish War of Independence, the people and the land became divided, which most of us in USA don’t know. So, after seeing the promo for the movie “Belfast” on Bill Maher, I knew I had to get over to Ireland / Northern Ireland. I mean, the fact that I even had to specifically say “Northern Ireland” is part of the ignorance we have here in USA. There is a difference.

LondonDerry
The Derry Walls
Queen's Jubilee
Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebration ready to kick off

Many of my friends have been to “Ireland” and came back with Euros and the Irish flag and pictures of themselves at the Obama Plaza, in previous years. They went to Dublin, the west coast, and all south in Ireland, to the cliffs and such. They described a lot about Ireland and did not reference the things that I ended up seeing in “Ireland”, or what I thought was Ireland. They went SOUTH, I went west then NORTH and we all had very different experiences over there, given that. I was in Northern Ireland during the Queen’s Jubilee 2022, and was confused as to why everyone had British flags everywhere, on everything. I didn’t even see 1 Green/White/Orange flag ANYWHERE there. I was completely ignorant over there and this was revealed to me when I arrived at the Dublin airport. I was hella confused at the airport. I told the money exchange people that I wanted money to change to go throughout Ireland and the clerk rudely indicated that I need to go brush up on my Irish history, laughing. I didn’t understand, at first, but he told me that for the places I intended to go, I would need two different currencies, the “Euros” to spend in the “Irish Free States” and I would need “Pound Sterling” to spend when in Northern Ireland and Scotland. He warned me to not forget this rule. He told me that North Ireland, which included the Giant’s Causeway that I wanted to go to, only accepts Pound Sterling, not Euros, because North Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, which is Pro-Britain, and is not part of the Irish Free States or the Republic of Ireland. I felt dumb, I should have known this. Only UK decided to pull out of the European Union, not the Republic of Ireland, thus the split in currency. The clerk told me “you need Pound Sterling in Belfast too, and you need it on the boat ride to Scotland, and all of Scotland”. I don’t trust using my credit card so much, so I went the cash route with a Netcard to use whenever I needed to use a credit card! But that explained the reason my friends only had Euros was because after January 2020, right before Covid hit, BREXIT happened (although intended since 2016), thus Euros would not be used in Northern Ireland being that it is UK. So when people say they went to Ireland, I now have to ask “Northern Ireland or Ireland, Ireland?” You’re in little Britain basically. You see nothing but Coat of Arms and Flags that pertain to UK everywhere you turn, it just happens to have “Ireland” in its name, is how you have to look at it. Ireland was colonized by Protestants from Great Britain and they’re not letting go of that land. Irish people from Ireland have their own Irish language, which is taught in schools, but is NOT taught in Northern Ireland as it’s not Ireland. English is the only language to speak in Northern Ireland. I saw only 1 Irish Flag while in Northern Ireland, which was next to the Clonard Martyrs Memorial Garden location. I wondered if that was aggressive or not but my guide says it’s not a problem anymore but certainly would have been an issue prior calmer heads prevailing.

Belfast Shankill
Very Pro-Britain, this is definitely not “Ireland”

The reason for the difference in currency also stems back to what happened after 1921, with the Anglo-Irish Treaty being signed to end the War for Irish Independence. The result of the treaty was that MOST of Ireland being under control of the Irish Republicans, in what is often referred to as “the Irish Free State”; however, a portion of the north of Ireland would remain in control by Britain, and would not be surrendered to the Irish Republic, and you know this today as Northern Ireland, UK. If someone says they went to “Ireland” they’re talking about “the Free State” only, but don’t know it. British split up Ireland officially into Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland is not Ireland! That’s how the British did things, like with the Balfour Declaration that created “Israel” of former Palestine, which was authorized in 1922, and British military had to remain in place to enforce the split there too. MESS. The problem in the Ireland situation was that by that time, about 40% of people in Northern Ireland were Irish Catholics, and with this geographical split, that introduced major problems. The Irish people in Northern Ireland became identified by their sectarian affiliation, them being Catholics, while the majority British people in Northern Ireland were identified as Protestants, thus Protestants were the overwhelming majority. That distinction paved the way for sectarian otherism in Northern Ireland by Protestants against Catholics. In LondonDerry, which used to be known as “DERRY” prior to Northern Ireland existence, Catholics were/are referred to as “Nationalists” and Protestant referred to as “Loyalists”. Likely an attempt to distract from the religion war that was the hidden battle brewing, by rebranding the sides, as least politically. You’ll hear these terms thrown around a lot and that is why you don’t realize the problem is the sectarian discrimination when you hear Nationalists vs Loyalists. It doesn’t make you think of Catholics vs Protestants, which was the hidden battle. Northern Ireland, after Brexit, created checkpoints and British guards to enforce trade restrictions given that Northern Ireland is NOT part of the EU meaning you can’t transport many things to/from Northern Ireland anymore. Brexit put a lot of stress on that Northern Ireland separation, so imagine if you’re going back and forth between Northern Ireland and Ireland but now you cannot transport goods because you’re going to be searched! That might bring back visions of the past having those British troops/authorities and monitoring going on.

Northern Ireland
King Williams III Mural. It gets no more Pro-Brit than this!
Ireland
Very Pro-British even in sports. Notice the Orange banner, the LEFT Flag is interesting isn’t it?

Nobody wants to see British military in Ireland, that’s for sure. One major issue that most of us in America don’t know about, or aren’t well versed in is something called “The Troubles”. If you ask anyone what “The Troubles” are, they might reference a show called “Haven“, which was based on a Steven King book, but they wouldn’t know that The Troubles is widely known for a huge problem that took place in Ireland/Northern Ireland. What are “The Troubles”? I’ll admit, I didn’t know them by that name until I watched that episode of Bill Maher, and that was in March 2022, but I had an idea of what happened. I saw that Interview and HAD to finally get over there to Ireland / Northern Ireland. I didn’t know that named reference “The Troubles” before going to Ireland / Northern Ireland, but I heard it a lot when referring to my trip to Belfast and North Ireland destinations that I had planned. I started to read up more on this and was blown away. It was all connected, all this IRA stuff I mentioned, Sinn Féin, the division of Ireland, it all is not gone from the minds of older people who live in Ireland / Northern Ireland either, because The Troubles lasted for about 30 years! The Troubles are a result of sectarian difference, and that goes back centuries, between the Protestants (English version) and the Catholics, and took place in Northern Ireland. Most of Ireland is Catholic and those Protestants are mostly in Northern Ireland. Irish Catholics always wanted to be free of British rule, and British people are the majority of the Protestants in Northern Ireland. That is a directly conflict of existence. That split of the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland completely correlates with the country’s split of Catholics (Irish Free State) and the Protestants (Northern Ireland), so, The Troubles are normally painted as simple territorial disputes, which they were too, along the division of religious affiliation and that sectarian separation is the real problem. North Ireland has sizeable minority of Irish Catholics living there beside British+Irish Protestants, so you can’t just say it’s Brits vs Irish which is what we tend to say here in the USA, because we are very uninformed. It is Irish Catholics vs Irish+British Protestants that was the real concern, but when The Troubles is talked about you kept hearing terms to substitute for the religious affiliations. The Catholics had a sizeable population in Northern Ireland, but no where near as big as the Protestant population, historically, which lead to the problem given that size difference. That meant that politically, Protestants would dominate.

Ireland
H & W has a murky past with handling of Irish Catholics
Titanic
Titanic Belfast life at the shipyard

That has nothing to do with territory, that’s all bias by religious affiliation. After this discriminatory treatment, Irish Catholics in Ireland had their eyes on the plights of African Americans in the USA, during the Civil Rights era (1954 -1968), and Irish Catholics saw similarities with African Americans, which motivated them in their own plight for freedom from Britain, back in Ireland. So it is true, Irish people did see similarities to how Blacks were treated, but only people IN Ireland / Northern Ireland understood that well. This discrimination even affected employment and an Irish Catholic wouldn’t be given a job because they were not Protestant, in Northern Ireland. For example, shipping was huge in Belfast due to the ports there, and almost entirely all jobs went to British Protestants, due to official British policies in Northern Ireland. The Titanic was built in Belfast, and there were huge discriminatory and religious insults by Protestants to Catholics when building it and even when having to evacuate it. There was always harassment at Belfast’s Harland & Wolff shipyard. 1920, the shipyard banished all Catholics, hurting them financially and demoralizing them. Stories has it that “No Pope” was carved or painted everywhere, even on the Titanic, and is rumored that the code of the hull number was 3909-04 which backward read “No Pope” which Protestants don’t have in their religion, to taunt Catholics. You think they let Catholics off of the boat first when it was sinking? You think the sectarian differences stopped in the streets? NO! Housing had discrimination too, and where you lived would be determined by your religion affiliation, which if you were not Protestant, you were on the losing side of any arrangement. It was systematic oppression, backed by legislation, which is why Irish Catholics likened it to the American Civil Rights issues experienced by African Americans living in the Jim Crow era in America. Ireland can be seen as having 9 counties with 3 being part of the Republic of Ireland, and 6 being part of Northern Ireland. Everything in Northern Ireland does not belong to Ireland, it belongs to UK, and that was heavily felt and made known back then.

Northern Ireland
Peace Wall Belfast has Rosa Parks on it, a nod to an African American pioneer of Civil Rights
Ireland
Working class folk you didn’t want smoke with

Irish Catholics mimicked the peaceful American Civil Rights protests tactics. The Irish Catholics formed the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA), and a few other Civil Rights organizations, taking cue from African Americans back in the USA, wishing to protest peacefully to bring attention to the problems of Northern Ireland. Segregation was in full effect in Northern Ireland, it was clear, and Irish Catholics were suffering from it. The scheduled marches were planned to bring awareness to this problem, but the Northern Ireland government banned it, although the Catholics still went and protested. The protest was met with police action and thankfully there were TV cameras, because the Royal Ulster Constabulary (Protestant paramilitary / police) were caught beating protesters senseless, as they just went on the offensive against the peaceful protestors, October 5, 1968! Then a year later, January 1969, Martin Luther King Jr’s philosophy and tactics were used again, as Irish Catholics did a march similar to MLK’s 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery. Irish Catholics marched from Belfast to Derry (LondonDerry), crossing many working class Protestant areas, which brought a lot of attacks, and when the Catholics reached just shy of Derry, there was this Burntollet Bridge incident, where they were cut off and ambushed, which was eerily similar to MLK and Edmund Pettus Bridge crossing in 1965! Yet another similarity pointed out. Officially, the first Irish Civil Rights marches occurred on 24 August 1968, but the 1969 march took the cake, and set the pace for The Troubles, and is regarded as the official incident that was the start of The Troubles because many Irish Catholics were too scared to do the marches for their rights, while many others felt this peaceful method wasn’t working, that it was time for action. Derry has a majority Irish Catholic occupation but was a clear example of discrimination they faced despite that fact, so Derry was the center of the marches as destinations for the marshes.  The Civil Rights people felt that if they could get media attention to go to Derry to see the conditions, it would be as effective as the word seeing the Civil Rights marches in the USA, which obviously inspired Irish people.

Ireland
Shipquay Gate Derry City Walls where attacks on the initial Civil Rights protests kicked off from people throwing objects at Catholics
Clonard Martyrs Memorial Garden

3 years later (1972), another march for peace was interrupted similarly, however, the Irish Catholics Nationalist showed out in full force this time, unlike before, 15,000 strong. Anyone on the streets were subject to violence at any moment, during this time, as tensions were at an all-time high. Anyone could be coming for you too, because the enemy is someone who looks exactly like you! How do you know who to trust or be around? So much killing happened, and the IRA was very active at this time, especially younger factions that forked from the traditional IRA, and extremely violent, such as the Provisional IRA. Because of the IRA activities, British authorities started to abduct Nationalists without any trial if suspected of being with the IRA, or for participating in violence, and would jail them in internment camps without any proof, per the law. The jailed innocent people too, most famously, the GuildFord Four in 1975. The British Protestant Loyalists had the control and all of power in North Ireland, so what were they doing all this time? Nobody asks this. The problem with the telling of Irish history is nobody talks about what the Loyalists were doing at this time. They came off like innocent people being attacked when you heard of any stories out of Ireland/North Ireland, 30 years ago. Since the Nationalist and Loyalists were both protesting and marching, and violence normally followed, protesting was banned for all people in 1972, to stop the agitation, but that didn’t stop Catholic protestors. The Catholic Civil Rights groups tried again to protest peacefully throughout Derry, ignoring the ban, but they protested the British internment camp policies now, the authorities let the protest go at first, but didn’t want it to reach Derry due to the turmoil they knew would occur, in addition to rioting that would destroy Derry, so they stopped it short of Derry. British military was sent in to stop the protestors, at that point, and it sent the most brutal of the military factions, the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment which was known for being exceptionally brutal, and was well documented in the Saville Reports. The protesters were ambushed just before Derry and were fired upon with rubber bullets, gas and water cannons… and real bullets soon after, ultimately killing 13 and injuring 15, none of whom were threats, but the Brits lied and claimed they were attacking. That was proven to be a lie, which made a dent in relationship. When this happened, this is officially when Irish Catholics turned their backs on the British military itself, which used to be neutral and welcomed prior. You can witness this in the movie “ ’71”, and also the Crying Game, both on HBO Max. Also, the backdrop to the movie, “Bloody Sunday” depicts this event known as “Bloody Sunday” of 1972, aka the Bogside Massacre.

Ireland Troubles UVF
UVF Fighter Murals to remind you who found and “defended” this area. Lot of this spread about.
Belfast
Red hand of Ulster in the Coat of Arms at Queen’s University Belfast

The IRA factions, and Pro-British forces, battled heavily, and as said, it was guerilla warfare in the streets, using Molotov cocktails, blatant assassination with Russian and other foreign guns, and using car bombs as effective means of attacks. In the past, the IRA only was stereotyped as the only group that was doing any of that, thus got labeled as terrorists. In modern times, we know now that both Nationalist and Loyalist paramilitary groups were “terrorists” using guerilla tactics in the streets. It is estimated that around 3,500 people were killed by violence due to The Troubles. From there, everything went south, and Protestants went on many violent marches and raids on Catholic neighborhoods, burning them down to the ground, marking people for death, chasing Catholics out of Belfast, chasing them out of the shipyards, it was completely out of control with no authorities preventing it. The IRA takes most of the flak being the aggressors inside North Ireland and coming from the Ireland Free State too, to attack North Ireland but also went on in the mid-1970s to attack neighborhoods in England, not just in North Ireland and after Bloody Sunday. Again, not the original IRA, but the younger, newer factions. The IRA did not let up until July 28, 2005, when they disbanded and disarmed. Everyone seems to forget that the Loyalists had powerful hitters too, Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), with the UVF existing since 1966 and their aim was to represent Britain at all cost, and kill as many IRA members as possible! IRA was not alone in deadly street retaliation. I pay attention to things and something I would notice here and there was a red hand, palm facing out. The Red Hand is the Red Hand of Ulster, Ulster being the province in Belfast, which you’ll see in the original Coat of Arms such as that seen at Queen’s University Belfast! Its origin is Gaelic to symbolize the “ELITE WARRIOR” and it a right hand specifically. However, look carefully enough, if you see this hand, then you know it’s a nod to UVF Red Hand Commandos (Shankill), and elite faction of fighters who were active during The Troubles, and other affiliated Pro-Britain Loyalists paramilitary groups like UDA and junior squads (red hand made a fist). The “U” in their names of course is Ulster, and they are there to defend it by any means necessary.

It’s the red hand you also see in the parliament flag for Northern Ireland DURING THE TIME OF THE TROUBLES, and still exists today which you can see hung from many homes because it’s their Coat of Arms. There is also another red hand making a thumbs up. If you see them, that’s a nod to the Loyalist paramilitary forces. I saw it in a lot of places and just snapped pictures to go investigate later. They are for sure behind their paramilitary groups that formed during The Troubles, so I’m sure these groups must still exist, in Northern Ireland. It cannot be that this sentiment only is represented in graffiti, murals and street art. I went down Shankill Road, the main area through West Belfast and is historically the Protestant working class area to check out the area and it’s definitely the Bronx of Northern Ireland. That’s where you’ll see a lot of murals and commemorative works for the Loyalist fighters who fought during the Troubles. There are murals all over the place and a map of these, in case you are in the area and want to see them, I provide you with a map (below). Follow me for updates. BBC did a review of a community group called LSCA (Lower Shankill Community Association) and claim that UDA used their store front at an HQ, but if you go to Shankill, you’ll see LSCA signs saying it is trying to create a safe environment in Shankill. Clearly, that means that there are still paramilitary Loyalist people laying in wait. This group was suspected of money laundering too. So it is a group trying to get people away from Loyalist paramilitary leaning or is supporting it? They claim that they are going around and removing the Loyalist murals though so clearly, these groups are still active!

Northern Ireland
Shankill Road Mural – Celebrating the UDU, UFF and UDA
These RED HANDS murals are for the Protestant paramilitary groups!

Just like street gangs, factions from factions form out of disagreements in levels of violence to commit (stop or persist), and it can spiral out of control, and this is what happened with the “IRA”. You know how we append “the real” to a social media account when a name is already taken? Well, the IRA did that when a faction did not want ceasefires, creating “The REAL IRA” for the people who decided to continue violence after ceasefires and agreements. The thing is that each paramilitary had the backing of political groups too. IRA had Sinn Féin as their political party, the UVF had the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) as theirs. The PUP opposed sharing power with Nationalists and wants the Irish Free States/Republicans to stay out of Northern Ireland’s business! You’ll not find the PUP anywhere in politics by that name today, but if you noticed that there was a DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) in Ireland politics, Unionists, which lost to Sinn Féin recently. The DUP today is the PUP reformed- they removed the “PROTESTANT” word, just like Nationalists vs Loyalist removed the sectarian affiliation. The DUP wanted to remain with UK, not to prosecute any British officers for the Troubles, not participate in EU, don’t want Irish/Gaelic language or culture to influence Northern Ireland, want to uphold Protestant values and want to wave the British Union Flag proudly, not the Irish flag you’re used to seeing when thinking of Ireland. Northern Ireland is no different than England or Scotland to them. Nobody outside of UK/Ireland really knows this. So, the IRA took all the heat in the media, that’s all we ever heard of in the USA, in movies glorifying them for decades in the 90s, but nobody pointed out the UVF and their political leanings ever. Nobody also notes that the UVF killed 33 people in Dublin and Monaghan with synced car bombs, which was the largest death toll in 1 coordinated attack during the whole Troubles time- and if you noticed, those cities are not in Northern Ireland, they’re in the Irish Free States! Nobody talking about the wrongs of the Protestant side of this at all, and don’t even know that they have the DUP as their political force. I tested this theory too, I asked many people in USA, they had no idea nor ever heard of any paramilitary force but IRA. To them it was IRA vs British military only. That’s how I learned it initially, as well.

Norther Ireland
Peace Wall Belfast: Try to look past the Troubles and crime’s fallout since, to improve your life with Restorative Justice
Northern Ireland
Shankill Road Mural – Celebrating the UDU, UFF and UDA

When I went to Belfast and LondonDerry/Derry, I went around the areas that were out of control back during the times of The Troubles. You’ll see in the movies and documentaries, something else I didn’t know was happening there. How could you keep these Nationalists, who were mostly Irish and want Ireland to be rid of British rule, from the Protestant people who were mostly British, but also had some Irish people, and Unionists (pro united UK) after all this street fighting? Like physically, how could you really keep them from each other? There was a lot of gerrymandering done in Northern Ireland, which paved the way for physical separation. In Northern Ireland, if you go there, you’ll see these gates and WALLS everywhere, to literarily segregate people from Catholics from Protestants. It is NUTS to see, but good fences makes good neighbors. There were gates erected to funnel people or repel people here and there throughout towns, to create barriers so people would not throw harmful objects over the walls too, and all of that is still in place today. None of that has been torn down, 30 years later. What do they know that WE don’t know?  It was really eerie to look at when I went there, although people have been allowed to spray paint graffiti on the wall to try to pretty them up, the walls remain a cold reminder of the bloodshed in the area. There is a lot of reference to keeping the peace in graffiti on walls, but there is also reference to people not forgetting the people killed in that 30 year period. The troubles lasted 30 years, that’s 1,100+ people every decade to sectarian violence alone. That’s Chicago, USA gang killing rates. Given that Northern Ireland is so small, as part of the Good Friday Agreement, there was foresight put into that agreement that put in a section about something people will see in Northern Ireland written in graffiti and pamphlets as “Restorative Justice”. That is not a new term, which today it to try to address needs of victims and offenders of crime today, it comes from the fallout of The Troubles, and how to re-integrate offenders into society, while also making victims feel more secure about staying in Northern Ireland- remember, many Irish Catholics had to flee, in fear, during the Troubles. Remember, if you participated in the in-fighting, you were a vigilante, and you were subject to penalty. You didn’t have to be from one of the paramilitary groups, and this is another forgotten group of people who participated in the Troubles, regular citizens of Northern Ireland. Restorative Justice would deal with conferencing between offenders and victims talking through offenses, to gain forgiveness and acceptance, which is mediated and monitored. That practice continues today, but is a nod to The Troubles.

Street Art
Street art to promote Restorative Justice
Northern Ireland
Restorative Society is to remind people to chill

When I was there, I saw all these British flags all about because it was the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee that week, and clearly North Ireland was heavily rolling with the Queen. However, you will see a lot of signs and art work and graffiti asking people to forgive and forget, and it all is reference to The Troubles. They doubled down on the Pro-British vibe there in Northern Ireland. You know where you are immediately, when you see nods to the historic British Kings/Queens, fallen soldiers of British forces or Loyalist paramilitary during Troubles and more. That area is NEVER going to back down from the Pro-British stance, they just made less discriminatory laws to try to create equality for Irish Catholics. So now with Sinn Féin taking the political lead, what does that do for that Pro-British Democratic Unionist Party control and pride in Northern Ireland? The Good Friday Agreement was signed by all parties involved on April 10th, 1998 involving political parties of all paramilitary fighters and the British Government to share power in Northern Ireland, which got everyone to relax on their strict stances against each other, but it was accomplished by both sides, to restructure relationships between Ireland and Britain. And no more than 4 months after this peace was reached in 1998, the splinter cell THE REAL IRA group went on the attack despite the agreement, with a devastating attack killing 29 people in a car bomb attack in Omagh. All on the Irish Republican side denounced it though, and wanted nothing to do with the rogue factions of the IRA. So, when you hear about the IRA, which version are you hearing about or seeing on screen? And will you see this wild IRA faction again, at some point? Luckily, nothing has happened since that time, but that doesn’t mean people are going to forget this ever happened, and with each group have these political parties, it will be an interesting subject to keep tabs of, going forward. Remember, many people lost family, that’s not very easy to forget, and many of these people who are 30+ years old lost their brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers due to The Troubles. People says “oh they’ll get over it” but how do you know that people just let go like that? Why are there so many memorials asking people to let it go there? It means people still remember. You think they don’t know because the youth is too young? I thought that, until I saw those Peace walls and graffiti reminding people to chill out! Those walls are the hardest reminder, and a curious mind will want to know, just like I went all the way over there to find out about. And if the Irish Catholic expand in numbers and political power in Northern Ireland, what’s going to happen to Loyalists sentiments? The political parties have not changed their stances, they’re just not physically violent to each other anymore via paramilitaries. Will the paramilitaries come back? That is a question on many people’s minds especially after Brexit further highlighted the problem of the existence of Northern Ireland in Ireland.

Import this map (below) into your Google My Maps if you want to do an excellent Ireland / Northern Ireland tour for yourself, but to the NORTH to get Ireland and North Ireland experiences.

/

BONUS ROUND OF HISTORY THAT MAY HAVE AVOIDED ALL OF THIS

Belfast
Red Hand Commando sign at Queen’s University Belfast

This whole issue is a difference of religious ideology that isn’t that different after all and the religious persecution that led to The Troubles all because one King wanted to get a new lady. You see, after Martin Luther opened a pandoras box on the Catholic church and allowed everyone to get a translation for themselves of the bible, everything went chaotic. Martin Luther exposed Catholicism badly, and one of these combatants was the King Henry the 8th. The Pope gives Henry the title of Defender of the Faith for turning away Martin Luther. 1527, Henry and FIRST WIFE Catherin of Aragon couldn’t produce healthy babies and lost 5 of 6 kids in infancy, with only 1 daughter (Mary) surviving. Anne was 40 years old by the time and Henry couldn’t stand for this anymore, because what he wanted was a male heir to the throne, thus at that time, his marriage could be considered a complete failure. So, Henry takes one of his wife’s friends (Anne) and starts messing with her, when previously he had been sexually involved with that Anne’s sister. MESS. Anne refused to be a side chick, and told him to do something about it, so Henry went to the pope to demand a divorce from Catherine. MESS. Henry went to the Pope with more drama, saying that Catherine married and banged Henry’s brother, prior, thus the marriage should be annulled in God’s eyes. Due to political/military issues at the time, and because divorcing a 1st wife was a big no-no, the Pope was indisposed (running for his life in the Vatican) and couldn’t say yes or no, so stalled Henry as much as possible, for years- big mistake. Henry was done with the pope; he was going to find a way out of that divorce so that he could get his new lady, Anne. Henry determined that the pope controls too much and that Protestants don’t need the Pope’s jurisdiction (so that he could get his divorce decision without the Pope). Henry goes ahead and appoints his clergyman Thomas Cranmer to role of Archbishop of Canterbury, so that Thomas could approve Henry’s divorce from Catherine. Anne gets pregnant, proving that Henry was not infertile, and Anne became Queen of England. Per the “Act of Supremacy”. King Henry the 8th would then go on to give himself the role of Supreme Head of the Church of England, which allowed him power to deconstruct any of the British empire’s monasteries and to do whatever he wished with that property or riches. This is how many monasteries disappeared in the British empire and all the wealth went to the crown. This is also why you get your Bible in English today, because as Protestants then ruled England, they ensured the bible would be translated to English for all to read. So, he was against what Martin Luther was about 10 years before, which, in part, was taking the bible text out of the sole control of only by the Catholic church/Pope and putting it in languages so that all could read. That was a Martin Luther staple, and now Henry the 8th was suddenly for it. That marked the official split from the Catholic church, and lines were drawn in the sand after that.  And Henry was pure drama so you knew this wasn’t going to end well. Anne didn’t produce a boy for him either, but they did make a daughter, Elizabeth. Henry was off again chasing another lady, Jane, but he has to get free from Anne to be with Jane, like he did with Catherine and Anne. Henry organized a fake plot to have Anne executed for the adultery, incest and crimes against the king so that they could get rid of Anne, and Henry could move on to his new boo, Jane. Jane gave Henry his first son, future King Edward VI, then Jane mysteriously died shortly after. Edward didn’t last long, as he died, and power with the Mary (who was half Catholic) and she started to undo many strict Protestant policies but then she died. Ultimately to the daughter of Henry and Anne, Queen Elizabeth I, who ruled for 50 years and set forth this current version of English Protestants that exist in Northern Ireland.

If Henry had only been allowed his divorce, in 1527, and in a timely manner, the Protestant Church of England would not have forked off from the Catholic Church, and the sectarian violence of Ireland, which produced The Troubles, would have been avoided. The terrible segregation and discrimination practices were done because there was a way to “otherize” one group to another, which humans just simply cannot seem not to do to each other. When you otherize someone, you make them less than a human, and at that point, you can be convinced that those people need to die. I hope others can understand how silly this conflict was, yet how important this conflict was. People point to gang culture in the USA and say, “why would they do that, they all look the same to me”. Well, take a look at The Troubles and tell me if that applies here too. This whole ordeal is known in history books as the great “English Reformation” which Queen Elizabeth I helped put the final seal of approval on, completing Henry VIII’s work.

WATCH LIST

  • Hunger (Fassbender’s premier, along with great director Steve McQueen)
  • Belfast (must watch)
  • Bloody Sunday (must watch)
  • ’71 (must watch)
  • Maeve (for feminists)
  • The Outsider (1979 movie)
  • The Crying Game (must watch)