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Uffish Thoughts: There’s Hope in the Londonderry Air October 29, 2011

Posted by klondykewriter in Uffish Thoughts.

Uffish Thoughts: There’s Hope in the Londonderry Air

By Dan Davidson

September 27, 2011

Star, Sept. 29/11

Klondike Sun, Oct. 19/11

– 675 words –

There was a bomb scare in Londonderry last night (Sept. 26). As such things go, it wasn’t much of a scare. The Belfast Telegraph reported that three men, aged 46, 49 and 56, had been detained in the matter after what was referred to by PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) representatives as a “viable device” was found in a vehicle.

It didn’t go off.

The same edition of the paper reported that there were two other security alerts in a couple of other towns, both involving what were nebulously described as “suspicious objects”.

Having things thrown at houses and Ulster flags pinned to a Catholic chapel might be ominous reminders of a recently disturbing past, but there were no explosions, so this was minor stuff.

My personal interest in this is that we spent that night in a hotel in downtown Derry (as the city seems to be more regularly known) and were unaware of any of this until someone in our tour group mentioned it at breakfast.

Tourists are a relatively new thing in Northern Ireland, according to our bus driver and the two city guides who have taken us around Belfast and Derry. For many years, through most of what people refer to as “the Troubles”, no one wanted to come here. Who would, when bombs that did go off were daily occurrences and churches were researching ways to protect their stained glass windows without losing all the light that such windows thrive on?

An increase in tourism then, is viewed, along with the demilitarization of the various paramilitary groups. and the increase in investment in the state from other countries, as a sign that the Troubles are over and the sentiments that fed them are on the wane.

That we are here, and spending nearly half of an Irish Tour in the North, is taken as a very encouraging sign.

We have been warned by our tour guides that locals may stop to take pictures of us, as we are still a relatively rare species in the North, unlike in the Republic to the south (and northwest –it’s complicated …) where the tourist industry has been alive and well for years and is one of the big three economic engines.

There are reminders of the Troubles. The PSNI, which replaced the despised old police force, still works out of precinct stations that look like small forts. There is still one gated, heavily fenced Protestant enclave in the Bogside (so-called because it was once a marsh) area of Derry. The massive stone wall that surrounds the historic core of the city is a sign of its military past.

Indeed the very confusion over what to call the city, Derry or Londonderry, is a reflection of the confusion its residents feel. The guide books note there was once a fashion in calling the city Londonderry/Derry, just to keep everyone happy, but our guide, who was a teenager during the height of the Troubles, notes that her age group tended to call it Stroke City in those days, a joking reference which combined the overcautious nomenclature with the real tension felt in the place.

Much of that seems to have passed away, and the people we are meeting seem anxious to keep it that way. The uplifting video about the town’s history at the Tower Museum does not shy away from the Troubles, but advances the notion that the city and its people are moving beyond such things.

There remain a relatively few disaffected souls, and perhaps it is significant that those arrested the other night were of a certain age rather than younger, as is more often the case in serious paramilitary actions elsewhere.



* Free Derry – Signs are wall murals such as these are still to be seen in Bogside, reminders of a troubled past.



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