Another glorious day in Derry, where we started with a walking tour of given by the top-rated tour company. Imagine how hard it would be to give an “objective” or at least non-incendiary tour of this town and an overview of its history. Our man John was totally up for it.He marched us around the walls and give both sides of the story very respectfully, humorously and optimistically. From his perspective, great progress has been made in making Derry safe and able to look forward to the future.
We saw much of what we had walked around yesterday, which helped put today’s version in a clearer perspective.
In contrast and by design, our last tour focused on The Troubles in the north of Ireland, in which Neil (a shy guy) walked us around Bogside, the traditionally Catholic area. This is the neighborhood directly beyond and under the walls of the city, the least desirable land, drained from the shifting river – and the scene of the Bloody Sunday events that catapulted Derry into civil war. Neil was very young at the time, but he did see several of his friends killed – as children.
The stories were sad; the wall paintings were dramatic, and being there was rather shivery.
In summary, if you ask a Unionist about the prospects for Derry today, they darkly project a very contentious and possibly violent future.
If you ask a Republican, you will find the picture to be much brighter. At this point, the majority Irish Catholic population (70% of Derry) now get to appoint every-other mayor (despite intense gerrymandering) and they are well represented in the government. Unemployment is still sky high, but since the moment when a fair board of inquiry, the Saville Report declared Bloody Sunday to be the fault of the British government, and David Cameron publicly apologized in 2010, there has been an enormous release of the feelings of anger and resentment.
Such an important moment, albeit much delayed.
So we leave Derry/Londonderry, hoping that Neil and his generation will take good care of this city, and that those faint new murmurs of a united Ireland might become stronger.
After all, if it could happen in Germany, why not here?