Monday, 16 March 2009

The Province is full of visual reminders – from all sides of the troubles

The Province is full of visual reminders – from all sides of the troubles. With the tragic events unfolding last week in Ireland and my return to the province, I have been drawn to any news coverage of the recent atrocities. Whilst doing this I read in Slugger O’Toole's excellent blog that Crumlin Road Gaol was on fire. I then felt a sudden sadness as I had spent some considerable time both working from the jail and from the army camp behind it. On further investigation I found out it was the courthouse not the jail that had caught fire- arson is believed to be the cause, vandalism rather than some politically motivated act.
But the fear that the jail had been burnt down, did make me think about that where ever you go in Northern Ireland you have reminders of the troubles. But what can we do to these buildings and places that are reminders of the troubles? Simple solution- bulldoze them all! But some are buildings that have a far longer history than just being reminders of the troubles. Sir Charles Lanyon who also built Belfast Castle and Queens University built the Crumlin Road Courthouse.
It was to become a luxury boutique hotel- but many wanted it be kept as reminder of the troubles.
But the trouble is that there are very few places that both Loyalist and Republican sides can agree on that they want keeping. The Maze Prison being one example, the Government would like to see it as a home to a new national sports stadium but the Republican side would like part of the prison turned into a museum. Both side’s prisoners were kept in the Maze but it is the Republicans who hold it as a ‘holy’ place –thanks to the 1981 hunger strike.
One thing that bots sides can agree on is the keeping of the street murals. You can now take a bus ride of the Falls Road and the Shankhill, to see examples of this political/troubles inspired art.
But there are more than two sides involved here – not just the Republican/Nationalist and Loyalist sides, what about the soldiers and those who had no part in the troubles.
How many soldiers would like to see the observation Post on the top of Divis Flats re- built, as a military museum? Only joking but for many of my friends the now long gone North Howard Street Mill and Fort Whiterock in West Belfast are buildings and locations that they will never forget.
Then we have the Observation Towers now torn down in South Armagh and the famous Baruki Observation Post in Crossmaglen.

And if more police stations are knocked down, should part of the fences and walls with the British Army cap badges and dates of tours be kept- just as the murals in Belfast and the Free Derry wall are now accepted visual reminders of Ulster’s recent troubled times.I would like to see next to Crossmaglen GAA field the wall left which had the slogan – “Welcome to XMG” and the smiley face, for me that is as much part of my history as the Free Derry wall is to Martin McGuinness.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Totally agree, both sides of the argument should be kept for the record