Walls of Shame: Northern Ireland’s Troubles

The modern history of Northern Ireland has been dominated by one thing, ‘The Troubles’ – a violent, bitter conflict, both political and religious, between those claiming to represent the predominantly Catholic nationalists and those claiming to represent the mainly Protestant unionists.

But what Northern Ireland has now is not so much ‘peace’ as ‘an absence of conflict’ after the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998. Far from disappearing, the walls have grown. Instead of reconciliation, there is partition – an ill-tempered stalemate of separate identities and separated lives.

Broadly speaking, the nationalists – also called ‘Republicans’ – want Northern Ireland to be unified with the Republic of Ireland while the unionists want it to remain part of the United Kingdom, along with England, Wales and Scotland.

This episode of the Walls of Shame series looks at life on both sides of the barriers between the warring communities.

Update: Al Jazeera returned to Belfast, almost a decade after this film first aired in 2007, to touch base with Catholic muralist Danny Devenny. As the walls of separation – or ‘protection’ as some view the barriers – start to come down, much of Danny and his muralist friends’ work is also being destroyed, with calls to ‘reimagine’ their art.

The government has vowed to destroy the walls but the community is reluctant, scared and not appreciative of attempts to gloss over a difficult past.

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