When you think of Ireland ,what is the first thing that pops into your head? Is it a pub? A little leprechaun dressed in green? Maybe you see infamous river dancers stepping in perfect harmony.
In my first post, I mentioned that what I imagined seeing was men and women dancing in the pub and clinking their glasses together whilst having a jolly good time. Now that I’ve been here for about 2 months, I can say otherwise.
Most Americans have preconceived notions of what Ireland really is and they fail to realize that this little island is full of culture and art. But now that the country has fallen into a massive recession, the arts have been cut from funding. This has sparked a tremendous backlash in the community. Many Irish people identify Ireland as a place for the arts, and they feel that cutting funding will make the country “lose its identity” in a sense. They also want to use the arts to pull tourists in and show the world that there is more to Ireland than pubs and playing the fiddle.
Not only is Ireland a hub for creativity, it’s a place that has a deeply troubled past. I had heard about the IRA, or the Irish Republican Army, but I had no idea why they had formed or when. I’ve been learning a lot about the IRA, as well as the UVF, or the Ulster Volunteer Force. Simply put, the IRA and the UVF were fighting against each other. Northern Ireland is not a part of the Republic of Ireland (where I’m living now). England still technically “owns” Northern Ireland and this has been the source of decades of conflict in the north, and sometimes the south. In Belfast, a “peace” wall runs along two separate sides: the Protestant side and the Catholic side. There’s still tension in the north, but things have settled down after the Peace Process in the 90’s.
Yes, I still see dancing in pubs and people playing the fiddle, but I’ve come to realize that Ireland is so much more than that. All in all, I have a deep respect for the people who live here and I now see them in a completely different light. They persevere. They’re strong. And I’m proud to say I’m one of them.