On to the city of Derry (or Londonderry if you're a Protestant). Derry is famous for its turbulent political history, particularly The Troubles (1968-1998) - open street warfare between the Catholic nationalists and the Protestant Unionists. Ronan, our local guide led us on a walk through Derry’s old city. This amazing Buddhist, half-Chinese, half-Irish scholar spoke from personal experience of growing up in a city in strife, now at peace. He gave us hope with a reminder that today's 18 year-olds can vote and they never experienced "the troubles", having been born after the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
There have always been ill feelings between the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland and after 2 weeks here I think I'm finally beginning to understand why. It all started with English rule in Ireland beginning in 1171. After years of struggles with the rebellious Irish, England decided it would be easier and cheaper to colonize Ireland rather than continue battles. They implemented a policy of plantations, introducing English settlers to Ireland, confiscating Irish land, prohibiting Irish from owning land, obtaining education, practicing their culture or faith. Though effective everywhere, the British loyalists became a majority in six fertile northern counties in Ulster. So, when Ireland gained it's independence in 1921 only 26 of the 32 Irish counties became The Republic of Ireland. The remaining six (all in Ulster) remained part of Britain. Today the island of Ireland has two nations - The Republic of Ireland (independent and a member of the EU) and Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom and currently part of the EU, however that will change with BREXIT.)