A Black cab tour of Belfast is a must for any student of history or person seeking a better understanding of “The Troubles”.
Earlier today I wrote about the 20th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which marked the beginning of the end of conflict in Northern Ireland.
Even so, bitter division remains and the scars of the conflict are still undeniably visible.
In Belfast, taxis can be hired not only for transport, but for tourism. Near our guest house, we found a taxi office offering this service. There, we hired Paddy to take us around town.
Paddy was proudly a Republican (he wished to see Northern Ireland become part of Ireland) and quite keen to show us the city from his perspective.
Our tour included both Republican and Loyalist (those who wished to remain part of the United Kingdom) neighborhoods. We stopped at many sites of conflict and viewed many murals.
But what struck me most about this tour is how many “peace lines” remain, dividing Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods.
Although both sides have agreed on the need to have their own “tear down this wall” moment, almost 100 walls remain. Some of these walls stretch more than 20 feet high.
Doesn’t this street have an eerie resemblance of Berlin prior to the wall falling?
Even more sobering is that gates are still closed at night in many city neighborhoods. This is in the name of public safety, still 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement.
For more, read this excellent story in The Guardian.
Inside the Clonard Monastery, Paddy made a confession to us. He was an IRA member. He and other Republicans plotted in this very sanctuary to kill Loyalist forces. While Paddy did not say directly if he had ever killed someone, the implication was clear.
We visited the monastery cemetery on our way out. He shed a tear for his comrades, many of them buried there.
Belfast has many attractions, including the Ulster Museum, Botanic Gardens, and Titanic Museum. But the black cab tour retracing the political history of Belfast was one of the most memorable tours of my life. I highly recommend it.