Travelling to Belfast
The Great Famine, also known as the Great Hunger or the Great Starvation and sometimes referred to as the Irish Potato Famine mostly outside Ireland, was a period of mass starvation and disease in Ireland from 1845 to 1849.
Most of the Irish tenant farmers had nothing else to eat than potatoes, so the potato blight, which infected potato crops throughout Europe during the 1840s, caused about one million deaths among the Irish people and a million more emigrated, causing Ireland’s population to fall by 20-25%.
From 1846, the impact of the blight was dramatically worsened by the Whig government’s economic policy of laissez-faire capitalism. For instance, the British landowners exported cereals on a large scale to England at good prices at the same time as their peasants died of hunger.
This famine became part of the long story of betrayal and exploitation which led to the growing movement in Ireland for independence.
“The Troubles” refers to the three-decade conflict between nationalists (mainly self-identified as Irish or Roman Catholic) and unionists (mainly self-identified as British or Protestant).
The word “troubles” refers to the escalating violence in Northern Ireland after 1969.
The violence was characterised by the armed campaigns of Irish republican and Ulster loyalist paramilitary groups and British state security forces (the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)).
The British government’s position is that its forces were neutral in the conflict, trying to uphold law and order in Northern Ireland and the right of the people of Northern Ireland to democratic self-determination.
Nationalists regarded the state forces as forces of occupation or partisan combatants in the conflict, while Unionists tended to support the locally recruited RUC.
The Troubles were brought to an uneasy end by a peace process that included the declaration of ceasefires by most paramilitary organisations, the complete decommissioning of the IRA’s weapons, the reform of the police, and the withdrawal of the British Army from the streets and sensitive Irish border areas such as South Armagh and County Fermanagh, as agreed by the signatories to the Belfast Agreement (commonly known as the “Good Friday Agreement”).
One part of the Agreement is that Northern Ireland will remain within the United Kingdom unless a majority of the Northern Irish electorate vote otherwise.
The Nationalist neighbourhoods
I went to Falls Road 53, where Sinn Féin has there office and a small shop where you can buy books, t-shirts, posters – you name it.
Visit at Shankill Road
When I visited the shop at 53 Falls Road I was told that I could buy a guided tour where a man, who was working as a taxi driver and had been active during the troubles would take me (and 2 Irish gentlemen) on a 2½-3 hours long trip in both the nationalist and the loyalist neighbourhoods and give us an insight in what happened during the troubles.
I thought I knew a lot about what happened in Norhtern Ireland (I was told that it was called Northern part of Ireland) in the 3 decades, but during the tour I realized that I knew NOTHING about what happened.