The Fragile State of Peace in Northern Ireland

Jim White, a 69-year-old man from Belfast, remembers the day when he lost his best friend because of an eight-meter high wall that separated Protestant north from Catholic west. He acknowledges that a lot has changed since the troubles, but he still values the Peace Wall gate on North Howard Street being closed overnight as a precaution.

Half a kilometer away from Jim White, Michael Culbert works with his association Coiste, offering political tours along the Peace Wall. Culbert, a former IRA member, has taken around 16,000 people to central points in Belfast to explore the history of the paramilitary. He aims to make things visible and stand up for politically condemned people like himself. Culbert joined the IRA at 23 after witnessing Bloody Sunday, a pivotal moment that led to his involvement in the conflict.

Tour guide James Ellison leads tours through the conflict hotspots of Belfast, sharing stories of pivotal events like the Abercorn Restaurant bombing and the emergence of spaces where young Protestants and Catholics could socialize together. Despite the city’s dark legacy, tourism in Belfast has thrived since 1998, surpassing a billion euros in revenue. However, Ellison emphasizes that peace remains fragile, as evidenced by recent incidents of violence related to Brexit concerns.

Younger residents like Gemma Gabbie and a group of teenagers are more focused on moving forward. Gabbie believes that the Good Friday Agreement has served its purpose while advocating for longer opening hours for Gates of Peace to bridge community divides in Belfast. The future of Northern Ireland rests on finding balance between its troubled past and hope for a peaceful future where walls no longer separate friends.

The legacy of Northern Ireland’s conflict is deeply ingrained in its society and history. While older generations remember their turbulent past more vividly than younger ones do, they all agree that peace must be maintained at all costs.

Michael Culbert’s association Coiste offers political tours along the Peace Wall to educate visitors about its history and significance in shaping Northern Ireland’s conflicted past.

Tour guide James Ellison takes tourists on guided tours through Belfast’s conflict hotspots such as central points where young Protestants and Catholics could socialize together.

Despite tourism booming since 1998 with over €1 billion in revenue annually,
James Ellison emphasizes that peace remains fragile due to recent incidents related to Brexit concerns.

Gemma Gabbie believes that Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement has served its purpose but advocates for Gates of Peace to remain open longer to bridge community divides.

As younger residents focus on moving forward towards a peaceful future where walls no longer separate friends

By Sophia Gonzalez

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