Kevin’s Thoughts on Belfast

Here is another guest post, my son, Kevin’s observations on our visit to Belfast with a few of my  pictures.

Belfast is a city that looks to the past. The gigantic gantry cranes of Harland & Wolff have been still for a decade or more, but streetlights are still decorated with the names of the magnificent ships the company, and city, built. Celtic, Britannic, Athenic, Oceanic, and of course, a whole district and museum named for the Titanic.

This is a town where 15,000 people labored for years to build a magnificent ship, only to see her go down before completing her maiden voyage taking a disproportionate number of Belfast family and friends with her. Still, this is far from the greatest tragedy this town has endured.

Belfast is full of magnificent art that reaches back to the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, commemorating generations of people who died while carving tomorrow from a tombstone. It’s crisscrossed by “peace walls,” some 40 feet high, that separate loyalists from republicans, and Belfast buildings have murals and plaques that are monuments to injustice. This bar was attacked with RPGs here, and over there, a kid was killed by a stray bullet. Let us never forget.

The Good Friday Accords 25 years ago have brought peace, but there has not been reconciliation. This town reads like an open account book. West Belfast has murals showing unbalanced ledgers on every corner, and those of us from far away are invited to museums and buses to see it all.

Oddly, it was the Titanic museum that left me with hope. It ended with a series of stylized dominos, each with a critical element required to make the next one fall, and each with a countermeasure codified into the Safety Of Life At Sea treaties. Lessons learned, future disasters avoided.

This sort of analysis can only happen after an event, and we are still playing out the dominoes that started in 1690. We’ve had a pause, a hard-won pause, and the younger generation is voting for no90n-sectarian political parties.

Maybe, just maybe, they are the missing domino that breaks the chain. Maybe without the weight of the past pushing down, this city of art that builds magnificent things can look again to the future.

Of note to other Alaskans, the Starry Plough, an Irish Republican flag that predates our Alaska Flag as James Connolly used the predecessor of this flag in 1914 stating that the Irish would control Ireland from the plow up to the stars.

Rich’s Note.  The Starry Plough is a Celtic name for the constellation the Big Dipper.  I can see it more as a plough than a bear myself.  The flag was originally 7 stars on a field of green.  And adopted, as Kevin said, in 1914 for the Socialist Irish Citizen Army. The Socialist movement changed the field to blue in the 1930s.

2 thoughts on “Kevin’s Thoughts on Belfast

  1. I always enjoy your posts, but this was a particularly insightful piece. Please thank Kevin for Andy and me.

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