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Report - Northern Ireland, The Final Leg - Derry

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28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
OT and I are leaving the Falls Road area. Earlier we said we would head down to the docks in search of some more conventional exploring, but the sights of the day have perhaps made that seem a little - well, superficial perhaps.

OT suggests a dash to Derry (aka Londonderry), before heading back to the airport...

In 1972, the most notorious tragedy of the conflict occurred in Derry. 26 civil rights protestors were shot dead. It was dubbed "Bloody Sunday". Although the second investigation - the Saville Inquiry - has yet to report, the widely held perception is that the British army was responsible for the shootings.

When the army were deployed in 1969, they were brought in to protect catholic areas from a wave of protestant attacks, and were welcomed by the community they were defending. This however marked a turning point for republican opinion of the British army.

Although that more well known event in Derry may have galvanised opposition to the army, it was three years earlier, with the Battle of the Bogside, that the climate in the west bank of Derry changed. After the event, a local activist painted "You Are Now Entering Free Derry" on the gable end of a building on the corner of Columbs Street.

Although the building is long gone, the wall remains, as does the message:


In Belfast, the murals were different - many with bright colours and unsophisticated rendering. If you couldn't read the words, and squinted a bit, you could be forgiven, perhaps, for thinking they were something relatively innocent.

On the edge of the Bogside though, the murals are painted in grayscale, in more accomplished way, and unmistakenly have an air of death and misery. "Welcome to hell", almost.


Also close to the "Free Derry" wall:



In the sectarian areas we visited in Belfast, there were optimistic signs - regeneration, new housing. Not exactly middle class suburbia, what with the wall still there, but a few rays of light.

The Bogside though is something different. There's not going to be any tourists coming here anytime soon. It is a visibly menacing place. Broken glass litters the roads, reminding me of a visit to the Bronx some years ago. When we drove around, there wasn't going to be any question of getting out to grab a few snaps or take in the ambience of the street. There are less than a 1,000 loyalists left on the west bank now - the rest fled in fear. Derry is almost a divided city.

Looking down on the Bogside from the old city walls we pass the observation point, next to the site of the army base. Like other watchtowers, it's being dismantled.

There's little left to mark the spot of the base - one section of high steel fence. And also this sign:


Finally we take in the view over the Bogside.

At first glance, it seems unremarkable from up here. Then you take a closer look. The tricolours, the mural with the schoolgirl and the armalite rifle.

There is, apparently, regeneration in the bogside. I have to admit we saw none. Just a empty plot where they had demolished a tower. No Heras fencing or signs for a new development - just bits rubble and waste for the kids to play on. I think this the grimmest place I've seen in western europe.



Belfast, Part 1 - Crumlin & Shankhill Roads
Belfast, Part 2 - The Wall
Belfast, Part 3 - The Falls Road
Northern Ireland, The Final Leg - Derry
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