Conflict and Compromise

Derry monument

During our stay in Bundoran, we took a day excursion to Derry in Northern Ireland in order to learn about the conflict there and the peace process.

The name Derry is an Anglicization of the Irish name Daire or Doire meaning “oak grove”.  In 1613, the city was granted a Royal Charter by King James I and the “London” prefix was added, changing the name of the city to Londonderry.  While the city is called Derry by Irish citizens, Londonderry remains the legal name.  Just an FYI no self-respecting Irish-person calls it Londonderry.  As an anthropologist I have a duty to adhere to the cultural norms of the country, therefore, I shall respect their cultural history and refer to the city by its proper name, Derry.

Derry wall 3

Derry wall  Derry wall 2

Derry is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland.  The Walls were built during the period 1613-1619 by The Honourable The Irish Society as defences for early 17th century settlers from England and Scotland.   The Walls, which are approximately 1 mile (1.5 km) in circumference and which vary in height and width between 12 and 35 feet (4 to 12 metres), are completely intact and form a walkway around the inner city.

Derry was a focal point for the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland.  Catholics were discriminated against under Unionist government in Northern Ireland, both politically and economically.

I had read a book about Bloody Sunday and the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland several years ago, so I was familiar with the event.  That being said, it is completely different to ready information in a book than to visit the site and speak to people who lived through the event.  When you read a book thousands of miles away, it was a terrible event that happened decades ago to a group of unknown people.   Looking at the artifacts in the Free Derry Museum and speaking with people who lost family during Bloody Sunday, made it much more real and personal.  Forty years later the pain and even some anger are still present.

On Sunday January 30, 1972, 13 unarmed civilians were shot dead by British paratroopers during a civil rights march in the Bogside area. Another 13 were wounded and one further man later died of his wounds. This event came to be known as Bloody Sunday.

The English Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery, was appointed to investigate the events of Bloody Sunday.  Many people in Derry were angry that a British judge had been appointed to investigate the actions of the British Army. After Bloody Sunday in 1972 the British government conducted an investigation that labeled the murdered men and women as IRA bombers.  It took until 2010 for the wrong doing to be officially recognized.  In London, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the investigation – based on evidence from 921 witnesses, 2,500 written statements and 60 volumes of written evidence – demonstrated that the soldiers’ shooting into the crowd protesting the internment without trial of IRA suspects was “both unjustified and unjustifiable.”

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After our visit to the Museum we took a walking tour of the city.  There are many murals scattered around Bogside on the gables (ends) of buildings.  Before the peace process all the murals were dark in nature and portrayed scenes of conflict.  Since the peace process began, the murals are slowly being replaced with symbols of peace such as doves, and lilies.  The murals represent what the community is feeling, whether it be conflict or  peace.

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Repression of the Catholic Irish in Derry is still very fresh in the minds of the people there.  It all happened in their lifetime, they have achieved peace but have not forgiven or forgot what happened.

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Chair of Social Science, Humanities,
& Foreign Languages

Liberal Arts & University Transfer
Craven Community College

800 College Court
New Bern, NC 28562
Email: bellaceroc@cravencc.edu
Phone: 252.638.7328
Fax: 252.638.3231

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