In 2011 I visited Derry in Northern Ireland. I wasn’t writing this blog yet, but I was keeping notes.
As we approached Derry, our guide gave us historical information about the 1916 Rebellion through the Civil War and into the Troubles that started back up in the 1960’s and continued until the Peace Treaty 1998, during which time it was essentially a war zone. Most of Northern Ireland is 70% Protestant, 25% Catholic, and 5% other religions, but Derry reverses the first two statistics – most people are Catholic. Back then, people had to own property to be eligible to vote. The Protestants controlled the property and businesses, so most Catholics did not have the right to vote. Therefore, while Derry was mostly Catholic, Protestants controlled the government as well as business. So it wasn’t just religious differences but also the subsequent economic and political inequities that led to the Troubles. Our guide in Derry, Ronan McNamara, talks about that at the beginning of this YouTube:.
By the way, when he first got on our bus, Ronan addressed his appearance immediately: his mother is a Chinese Buddhist, his father is Irish. He was brought up in Derry during the Troubles and did his best to stay out of conflict. He now has children and is happy that they do not hear gunfire or bombs. He was also excited that tourists are returning to Northern Ireland and making his work as a guide possible.
Ronan explained that most people were just trying to live their lives through the Troubles, but the violence was all around them. Historically, Derry was a walled city and despite the Troubles, much of the wall and many of the gates are intact. Now the city is investing in its heritage and its future – this started even before the Peace Treaty of 1998.
Whenever conflict/war/terrorism is pursued in the name of religion, it is wise to take a closer look at economic and political issues that may be addressed less emotionally and effectively to eliminate the basis for problems.