We woke up with snow on the ground. The pink dawn caught my eyes from the Wellington Park Plaza Hotel, just past Queen’s College in Belfast.
That morning we had much in store. We were to tour the murals of Belfast. Belfast is known for its separatist viewpoints; actual communities living apart from one another, next to one another – separated by what is essentially a wall and ideology. The difference is The UK’s influence vs. Irish influence in Ireland proper (the continent), but rather a UK providence (ownership). Our tour guide, a man removed from Belfast years ago, and the struggles (The Troubles), a professor of Queen’s took us around and spoke on sites. Our bus driver Paul came in with adage as well, as he was from the area himself. We pulled out of the lot and the tour began.
Along the way one takes note of the churches, the pubs, and the ubiquitous barbwire. The stuff was everywhere, hung on fences, adorning walls, sharp and varied. Most of the time it was razor-wire, or these brush type spindles – it would have fabric, torn, attached to it, blowing in the wind. Next to that I saw a fat bird on a stone ledge; it sat there flapping its wings just as our speaker’s mic went out and then some electrical engineering took place. Things were resolved.
In the narrow streets multitudes of repetitive red brick buildings, what seemed most prevalent crowded the road, these narrow passageways. Our tour came to a wall, a solid block of political writing, rich color with bold letters. The images shed light on things which were taking place around the world, not just in Ireland. Murals begged the question, asked about the truth and justice, and called out for help to those in power: “Obama holds the key” one mural said.
Freedom was a topic of most, others were messages of remembrance; remember this event, never forget, and do not repeat history. The messages in Belfast were eerily poignant to me, coming from the land of the free, America. I took in murals asking our country to free our imprisoned volunteers, they asked to let go our political prisoners. When I am stateside they are considered local, neighbors. I read about it here, abroad.
Now seeing this, and the strife and static nature which is the separation of those with money and those lacking, differences, and the comparison of this Northern Ireland to Palestine or Israel, one can take the gravity of their concern with our political prisoners, this Native American: Leonard Peltier. Why should they care? Why is this important? How have I never heard of this person? Why do we in America still have political prisoners? Why is this mural?
These installments of art, these messages struck me deep. They asked me and those with me to look at things a little harder, a little closer, to see what is really important: freedom, truth and justice. Now I sit back in Dublin, in flat 43, I know nothing of Leonard Peltier but what I saw in Belfast, on a mural, and I think, I must do some research because Belfast knows more about my country than I do.