Ireland 27 Dec 2014 18:39
Strolling through the ravines of cities like Belfast, in those hearths of belonging marked by barbed wire, murals celebrating local identity and waking flags speak to a past that continues to exert is presence on the everyday. The divisions between the Republican and Protestant communities are still deep, beyond the attempts at reconciliation have occurred over the years by members of the political institutions in Northern Ireland. Around here the time is marked by commemorations and celebrations, events that enliven the mind and strengthen the concept of identity. On the walls, the windows of fast food restaurants, inside the pubs, one may notice small posters affixed to convene the community to participate in a garrison rather than a procession to commemorate some topical event in local history or the sacrifice of a martyr to his cause. And so even the walls speak. They tell stories and consolidate memory. "The murals are used to transmit our historical legacy," says Jack Duffin, a former member of the Official Irish Republican Army (IRA). The Offical IRA came out of a split in the IRA that lead to the formation of two groups. The more nationalist group took on the name Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), while the Official IRA was often referred to as the ‘Red IRA’ or the ‘Marxist IRA.’ Duffin now works as a tour guide at the "Coiste Irish Political Tours,” an agency that organizes walking tours for tourists explaining the violence that their land has suffered. "Trading the past means transmitting our historical legacy to all people of the world who visit Belfast,” Duffin says, drinking his cup of black coffee on the way to Culturlann, a structure that works to promote the Gaelic language and culture located in the district nationalist Falls Road, Belfast. "I do not regret my past, I still want an Ireland free and sovereign. An Ireland free from the British and the European Union, but without violence. That's what we try to teach our young people.” "Many young people today are much less interested in the situation,” says Sean McHugh, a forty-year-old nationalist born and raised in Ardoyne, who lived through clashes between Irish Republicans and supporters of the Queen in the nineties. “They are estranged from reality by television, by drugs and alcohol. In the nineties there was a lot more anger and tension than there is today." This tension does not seem to have vanished completely and could re-ignite at any moment. In fact, according to informed sources, there are 200 to 500 volunteers for the New IRA in Belfast alone. The New IRA has been training a new cadre of Irish Republican Army since they were formed in 2012 by merging several active paramilitary cells. Despite this presence, local associations and political parties continue desire a peaceful way forward to achieve a free and sovereign Ireland.