Derry. Londonderry. Derry / Londonderry. Even your name brings conflict.
We started another sunny day by meeting our facilitator / discussion leader for a “brief overview” of the history of the conflicts of the city. Our facilitator is a well-respected mediator and peace builder, in Northern Ireland and other international conflicts. Our meeting turned into a really interesting and challenging three hour discussion about the history of the city, the culture of the city, the current political spectrum and the nuances of conflict. There is a lot of challenging sectarian history in this city and I neither know or understand all of it.
After a quick lunch, we set out to walk the walls. The walls of the city were built in the early 1600s after the timber built city was burned down. The walk was fascinating from a historical viewpoint. This is what I love – to walk in the steps of thousands before me. And yet I was jarred by some of the stories we heard about 350 years of conflict on the walls. About the continuing conflicts around the walls.
We walked down the Bogside, along the route where Bloody Sunday occurred. I was disturbed and uncomfortable, interested and heartbroken. I am conflicted about how much or how little detail to include. Volumes have been written about Bloody Sunday and I don’t feel qualified enough to provide even a short overview. If you are interested, there is plenty available to give you some background and analysis.
Stroke City today is still a city in conflict, but there seem to be glimpses of recovery and reconciliation. The Peace Bridge spans the two neighbourhoods on opposite sides of the River Foyle. It is both a literal bridge and a metaphorical one.
I am conflicted. I am fascinated and heartbroken. I am interested and saddened. I am engaged and distant. I am discouraged and hopeful. I am conflicted.