in which i cover touchy, political stuff (of which i probably have no right to do so)
*Most likely the only post I'll ever do in relation to anything political.
I fell in love with Ireland in 2007 when I lived there for a year. Six months in Cork, four months in Galway. I loved everything about the country, especially the people and their lyrical accents (not so much the cold weather and near-constant rain, but oh, the craic. I especially loved the craic. The craic was good.)
Image by me
I was fortunate enough to travel to Northern Ireland while I was there: Belfast with its recent, bloody history and Derry - or Londonderry, depending on who you talk to.
While I was in Derry, I took a walking tour with one of the locals. He showed us the Bogside, the site of Bloody Sunday. (An Irish friend once told me her people aren't keen on others talking about The Troubles, so I won't go into the political aspects - I don't understand them anyway. The history is hundreds of years old and so complex.)
In the Bogside, painted on the sides some of the three-storey houses, are twelve murals which depict events in their local history. They are all sad, but two in particular stand out to me still.
This is fourteen-year old Annette McGavigan who, in 1971, was out on the street (wearing her school uniform) and shot in the back of the head by a British soldier. Forgive me if I'm wrong - it could be a case of Chinese Whispers - but from what I remember, the butterfly in the mural has been deliberately painted grey. Apparently, it won't be coloured until Annette's family has justice for her murder. (Iwon'tsayanythingaboutafourteenyearoldschoolgirlbeingshotinthebackoftheheadbyaBritishsoldier.iwon't.)
Perhaps the most heartbreaking mural (if this can be measured) is The Petrol Bomber.
A young boy, wearing a gas mark to protect himself from the tear gas used to break up riots. Note this child is holding a petrol bomb. He should be playing with toy trucks and riding bikes, not caught up in gassings and bombings and shootings. My heart hurts, just looking at this.
Seeing these murals moved me incredibly. I've never been in place that was once a war zone. Its history was so recent, still so raw. I don't know how to articulate this properly, so I'll just have a bash at it: The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland could have been home. They felt so familiar to me. I don't know if this was because my ancestors came from County Antrim in NI or if because the landscape looked liked it does less than an hour's drive from home, or if the people looked like people from home. I don't know what it was. There was no culture shock when I arrived, unlike Egypt, Greece, or even Italy to a small degree. I half expected to round a corner and see my parents. It all felt so normal.
And because of the normality, I couldn't comprehend such a violent and bloody history, just a few years prior. And I know it's no different to wars in Bosnia, Croatia, the former Yugoslavia, anywhere in Africa, etc, but maybe in some crude way, it hit closer to home because the language was the same? I don't know. All I know is I was deeply depressed and heavy of heart when I left Derry.
So today I was overjoyed when I heard Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron, had apologised for the Bloody Sunday massacre of fourteen unarmed men, seven of them teenagers.
I felt for the families of the victims and for the people of the Bogside. I felt for the rest of the Londonderry population.
And I felt for Annette McGavigan. She wasn't killed as part of Bloody Sunday, but was still an innocent victim of The Troubles. The apology is a step in the right direction for having her butterfly's wings finally painted in glorious colour.