The Belfast murals evoke controversy. During your travels in Ireland, its best to avoid discussing them with strangers. They have become symbols of Northern Ireland, depicting past and present religious and political divisions. Belfast and Derry are home to arguably the most famous political murals in Europe. Some 2,000 murals have been documented since the 1970s.
Tour the Belfast Murals Independently
I toured the Belfast murals with my father independently. It was an unforgettable experience. Trips like these can be great for bonding with parents – hopefully! It’s also compelling because of Belfast’s unique history. It was a rainy day, but that is pretty typical in Ireland.
History of Irish Independence
When the Republic of Ireland gained independence from the British in 1922, after centuries of English rule, Northern Ireland was not part of the deal. It was bitter sweet for Michael Collins but one he felt necessary to avoid further blood shed. He also hoped that one day in the future the north would be re-united with the rest of the Republic.
The “Troubles” which later ensued with ferocity during the 1970’s to 1990’s between protestant unionists, loyal to the United Kingdom and catholic republicans wishing to re-unite the island flared up. There was bloodshed and political imprisonment in the north and the occasional car bombing, even in Dublin.
The Good Friday Agreement
The “Troubles” effectively came to end in 1999 with the Good Friday Agreement. Under this deal, residents of Northern Ireland can choose to hold British or Irish passports. During the 2012 London Olympics, Paddy Barnes from Belfast won a bronze medal in boxing competing for Ireland.
Open Border Between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland
The border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is now totally open. No border guards or check points and no passport required. Though it is advised that if you are not European, you should still be traveling with your passport as random checks are possible.
The Peace Wall in Belfast
While there is peace, one wonders if this is merely just the quiet before another storm. Tensions are still evident with occasional flare-ups. The “peace wall” divides the catholic and protestant neighborhoods, and the political murals of Belfast that dominate the western half of the city. Lest we forget.
Belfast Murals Tour
You can easily travel to Belfast Independently. Either by train from Dublin, or by flying into Belfast. Visitors can also book a Belfast political murals tour. The Belfast political murals are among the best things to do in Belfast.
Northern Ireland Tours
I visited Northern Ireland multiple times. You can take a Highlights of Northern Ireland Tour with Paddywagon. It includes an hour of free time in Belfast. But that is not enough time to tour the Belfast murals. Maybe if you catch an Uber. But your time will be very tight.
Belfast Murals Recap
Exploring the political monuments and Belfast murals is a moving experience that my father and I will never forget. They are great works of art, and a touching testament to revolutionaries who fought for independence from the English crown.
Please don’t discuss the Belfast murals with a stranger in a pub. It’s a sensitive topic so it is considered in-polite in Ireland.
Money in Northern Ireland – British Pounds
The currency in Northern Ireland is noteworthy. While they use sterling pounds, like the rest of Britain, not euros like the Irish, they mint and dispense special sterling pounds that do not include the Queen of England. I was shocked when I visited the Ulster Bank ATM to literally receive sterling pounds issued by Ulster Bank themselves. I also received sterling pounds issued by Bank of Ireland. And I received change from a coffee shop featuring normal sterling pounds with the Queen, as they will still trade these.
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