Cold, wet air greeted me as I made my way outside the airport in Dublin, Ireland. I boarded my bus bound for Derry, Northern Ireland with sleepy eyes, frozen toes and an excited sense of what was to come. Northern Ireland had been taboo the last time I was in Ireland in 1988. And although I knew the “Troubles” were over, I did not know what I would find.
Instead of the war torn pictures I had seen growing up, Derry proved to be a clean, vibrant city with festive lights, roaring laughter and music coming from the pubs. My experience over the last few days in Derry has been filled with wonderful energy, smiles, stories, laughs and respectful remembrance for the shared story of the Troubles and the shared energy being focused in bringing the two sides together in a peaceful, understanding way – bridging the gap, creating a cohesive community.
The stories I’ve heard in the pubs at night reinforce a generational understanding of the Troubles and what lies ahead. A group of us talked to two Irishmen our first night here who grew up during the Troubles. The strife and violence they experienced did not seem strange to them until it began to stop – it was all they had known. Our tour guide Garvin, was alive before the Troubles started. He knew his “beloved city” and saw what the Troubles did to his city. Garvin is passionately clear that Derry must never go back to the times of trouble.
On our tour, we saw signs of the youth marking their territories. They seem to have a naïve disrespect and ignorance of the violence, death and destruction from the troubles. Garvin had little tolerance for their bravado.