Assignment: Food and Drink, Family Entertainment and Faded Memories of Violence

The La Mon hotel and restaurant is located at 41 Gransha road, Castlereagh on the fringes of Belfast, Northern Ireland. The hotel is large, holding 120 luxury rooms, gymnasiums, tennis courts, a putting green and swimming pool.slider-img1

The hotel’s two restaurants are identified on its website as a place for the ‘finest dining’. ‘The Mill’ restaurant serves mostly meat and seafood based dishes with locally sourced ingredients based on British traditional recipes. For dessert at ‘The Mill’ a guest could try a sla-mon-hotel-country-club-newtownards_240320101515443544ticky toffee pudding which originated in the 1970’s in the Lake District in Northern England.

 

At Jimmy’s Bistro the more traditional dishes of ‘The Mill’ are listed next to foreign dishes like curries, nachos and panini’s. At lunchtime the Bistro offers tea, scones and sandwiches. The website sells its five course carvery Sunday as a family affair, featuring children’s activities such as a jumping castle and face painting. Private functions and weddings are also available as well as dinner dances with Ireland’s 2006 Eurovision nominee Brian Kennedy or alongside a tribute act for Swedish band ‘ABBA.

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The Mill

The menu prices suggest middle class locals may visit occasionally for a private, romantic dinner in the countryside, or especially on family days, with family, and the hotel next door indicates that they probably dine alongside tourists and business-people.

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However, for all the emphasis on fine dining and carefree entertainment, there is nothing on the hotel website that indicates that this was the site of a 1978 IRA bombing that killed 12 people. The hotel does have a not unkempt memorial garden to those who died, but this looks just like a regular area for smokers, with only a small sign on a seat recognising the incident. For some, apparently the past is best left ignored

Bibliography

La Mon. (2016). Hotels in Northern Ireland | Hotels in Belfast | La Mon Hotel. [online] Available at: http://www.lamon.co.uk/ [Accessed 26 May 2016].

Little, I. (2013). La Mon bombing: A split second of evil… and then they were orphans – BelfastTelegraph.co.uk. [online] BelfastTelegraph.co.uk. Available at: http://m.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/life/features/la-mon-bombing-a-split-second-of-evil-and-then-they-were-orphans-29521441.html [Accessed 26 May 2016].

 

Assignment: Could Conflict Reemerge in Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland has experienced dramatic demographic change since the end of The Troubles. For centuries Northern Ireland has been a region of Protestant supremacy, however Catholicism’s number of adherents is rapidly overtaking Protestantism’s.

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement that led to 18 years of tense peace between Catholics and Protestants could unravel because a Catholic majority could lead to a renewed push for a united Ireland.

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Any ceding of territory to the Republic will be difficult when population geography isn’t uniform. Many Protestants would be displaced


It could still be a decade or more for serious talks about the political status of Northern Ireland to emerge. The 1998 agreement stipulated shared executive powers between the denominations, making change somewhat reliant on their unlikely cooperation. Furthermore, both communities benefit from UK public service jobs and welfare favourable to the area. Moreover, repartitioning Northern Ireland would be extremely difficult in that border changes would be difficult to enforce without displacing many Protestants who don’t want to in the republic.

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Even a simplified version of repartition is very hotchpotch. (Green – Catholic Majority, Orange – Protestant Majority)

My values are based around a consequentialist imperative to see the welfare of all people’s promoted as much as possible. A return to paramilitary violence would be terrible for Ireland,  socially and economically. Therefore, I believe that before the republican tide becomes overwhelmingly strong, politicians and community groups must work together to find a solution that can keep both groups from violence.

Possibilities could include building a national identity through cross-cultural institutions, devolving powers to subnational governments to calm republicans by allowing some self-determination, more cross-Ireland cooperation, or staggered border changes over time that would allow Protestants in Catholic majority areas to prepare for their area becoming part of the republic.

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Possible subnational devolved bodies


A critical evaluation of this response by an Irishman may find that my view may be too optimistic. It could be that cultural divisions are so strong that nothing but violence and significant repartition of areas into the republic is possible.  

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Possible devolved bodies with neutral Belfast

 

Bibliography

Jacobs, F. (2013). 619 – Is Ulster Doomed? Scenarios for Repartition. [online] Big Think. Available at: http://bigthink.com/strange-maps/619-is-ulster-doomed-scenarios-for-repartition [Accessed 12 May 2016].

Assignment: Dark History, Divided Present

The Troubles was a period of violence between unionist and republican paramilitaries and the Northern Irish and British governments. From 1968 to 1998 3,582 people were killed and 47,000 injured.

To tourists Northern Ireland is presented as a place that has moved on from it’s dark tourist attractions. This tourist advertisements slogan is ‘Discover the People’. Those people are presented as smiling faces, proud of their country and keen to discuss history.

 

However, a shock that tourists may experience is that Protestants and Catholics overwhelmingly continue voluntary segregation. This may be shocking for those who know little of the history of Northern Ireland, believe that peace has eroded divisions over time or were fooled by the above video. This is also very different to the rest of the west where Christian denominations are mostly friendly.


In 2004, 92.5% of housing was segregated. In 2005, 1,500 people were forced to move because of intimidation based on their ethno-religious background. Sectarian schools mean school and university students can go decades without having serious relationships with people of another denomination.

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Work environments have now become largely neutral zones, but workers strongly avoid discussing contentious political issues and many still don’t apply for jobs in other communities.


Unionist and republican pride marches as well as flag flying  can lead to escalating tensions.

Tourists may feel disheartened to find such darkness exists among people that share significant cultural and religious heritage and this may cause them unpleasant musings on what it is to be human.

For tourists visiting Northern Ireland it may be a good idea to read into the history of the whole Island and The Troubles. By understanding the historical basis for entrenched tensions, tourists may have a more nuanced view of divisions today that would minimise culture shock. 

Bibliography


Hamilton, J., Hansson, U., Bell, J. and Toucas, S. (2008). Segregated Lives: Social Division, Sectarianism and Everyday Life in Northern Ireland. 1st ed. [ebook] Belfast: Institute for Conflict Research. Available at: https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://conflictresearch.org.uk/reports/sectarianism-segregation/Segregated-Lives.pdf&ved=0ahUKEwiGzvGArYbNAhUrDMAKHdslDLsQFggbMAA&usg=AFQjCNHn7xOIczSUdegX-KX_P71PJN1jrg [Accessed 10 May 2016].

Hara, M. (2004).Self-imposed apartheid. [online] the Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2004/apr/14/northernireland.societyhousing [Accessed 15 May 2016].

Jacobs, F. (2013). 619 – Is Ulster Doomed? Scenarios for Repartition. [online] Big Think. Available at: http://bigthink.com/strange-maps/619-is-ulster-doomed-scenarios-for-repartition [Accessed 12 May 2016].

The ‘Dark Side’ of Tourism

In 2015, the small, rocky, South-Western Irish outcrop of Skellig Michael was featured in the now third highest grossing film of all time: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’. The picturesque island and world heritage site is home to a series of 600 steps carved into the islands rock, leading to the somewhat intact remains of a Christian monastery that is over 1,200 years old. The island is also home to many birds such as the puffin.

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Rey, The Force Awakens protagonist, returns Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber to him on site at Skellig Michael

Conservation efforts mean that access is limited to 180 tourists a day, and Irish government tourism officers believe that only half manage the journey because it is dangerous to approach in poor weather. Very soon after the film’s premiere, however, tourism businesses began advertising the area internationally. The area has now been flooded with people expecting access to the island, when current restrictions mean they will likely be unable to visit.

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Perceptions among tourists are often that visiting the island will lead to more money being available to protect the island. However, whilst this may be true, the money itself is largely used to protect the island from tourists themselves, so this can be somewhat self-defeating if tourists don’t respect the island and its heritage, as well as native bird populations that breed on the island.

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It is the responsibility of citizens to hold their governments and the entertainment industry to account. As users of international entertainment, we can hold governments and corporations to ransom by threatening to boycott their products if they do not take steps to protect the sites they operate in. With my knowledge of international politics I could use social media to pressure the United Nations, film companies and the Irish government to take reasonable precautions against environmental damage.

Traditions Don’t Always Last

The Irish diet is misrepresented by foreigners as consisting of more traditional foods when in fact the Irish consume a wide variety of food and drink from all over the world.

Watch below as Irish participants try what Americans claim are ‘Irish dishes’. Whilst ‘corned beef and cabbage’ may be a traditional Irish dish, it isn’t a modern one. One of the participants remarked with disgust that it ‘looks like dog food’. White cabbage head did not get a much better response, and reactions to a pig’s trotter being served varied from repulsion to hilarity.

Although the participants liked Lucky Charms cereal, this was the first time most had tried it, and some thought it humorous that simply having a leprechaun on the box signified to some that the cereal itself was Irish.


Although this may be a mostly harmless example of place essentialism, such a generalisation about the place may lead a tourist to romanticise the difference between their culture and the Irish one. They may contrast this false tradition with a globalisation they dislike and then find themselves disappointed in their travels.

Their misconceptions could also mean they become embarrassed in a social situation where their beliefs are shown to be mistaken. Some Irish people could even be offended by this misrepresentation, thinking that a tourist sees them as outdated. As shown in the video, however, drinking culture is strong in Ireland, and Guinness is a faguinnessvourite. Ireland is the country with the second highest per capita rates of ‘Heavy Episodic’ or ‘binge’ drinking at 39% of the population reporting drinking heavily recently. Place essentialist conceptions of Ireland as a land of drunkards still needs to be treated with scepticism, however, because this ignores the 61% of the population who did not drink heavily. 


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/10825449/Britains-binge-drinking-levels-are-among-the-highest-in-the-world.html

Guerrilla Art in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has been plagued for decades by political and religious conflict between the mostly Catholic, Celtic republicans who wanted an independent Irish state, and the mostly Protestant, Anglo Saxon British unionists who wanted Ireland to remain a part of the United Kingdom.


The ‘Britain’s Genocide by Starvation’ mural on Whiterock Road, Ballymurphy, was painted in 1999 to depict the Great Famine. This is Irish Republican propaganda that attempts to sow more hostility to Britain.

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It features bleak, monochrome colouring of the Irish peasants, whose clothes are damaged and dirty and faces forlorn. The piece falsely claims that 1.5 million or more died in the famine. The real total is much closer to 1 million. The exaggerated figure, the tragically evocative imagery and the strong language like ‘holocaust’ are all used to portray Britain negatively for failing to aid Ireland, thus undermining the union with Britain which they rally against.

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Tourists pass a memorial mural of Bobby Sands, a republican political prisoner and MP who died on hunger strike

The mural has become part of a broader ‘conflict tourism’ in Northern Ireland and particularly Belfast where sites that were never officially tourist sites now attract tourists. Some have criticised this unofficial tourism because they see it as trivialising existing tensions as relics of the past, and also criticise tourism campaigns exaggerating how safe Ireland is from conflict returning. However, others believe that conflict tourism allows Irishmen to find closure in telling their stories, encourages self-expression through art rather than violence, boosts Ireland’s economy and encourages peace by allowing tourists to gain a warning of the dangers of conflict from people who lived through it.



http://edition.cnn.com/2011/TRAVEL/04/14/belfast.troubles.tourism/
http://researchrepository.ucd.ie/bitstream/handle/10197/401/ogradac_article_pub_096.pdf?sequence=3
http://ccdl.libraries.claremont.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/mni/id/36

The Irish Flag as a Political Symbol

The tricolour green, white and orange flag of the Republic of Ireland was adopted in the Irish constitution in 1937.

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The flag’s orange stripe pays respect to the Protestant population of Ireland by representing the ‘Order of the Orange.’ The order is a Northern Ireland-based Protestant-only fraternal organisation that celebrated the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688 where the Protestant Dutchmen William of Orange overthrew King James II of England, a Catholic, and established Protestant ascendancy to the throne and an end to absolute rule. Today the organisation continues to represent Protestant political views and perform marches celebrating Protestant culture and the union with great Britain.

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The flag’s green stripe represents revolution and particularly Catholic struggles for civil rights. The ‘Society of the United Irish’ was a group for liberals formed in the 1780’s by elite Protestants who initially wanted a lessening of British influence in Ireland, parliamentary reforms and controversially amongst the group, more rights for Catholics. The group’s symbol was a green flag with a harp in the center, hence the gr218px-unitedirishbannereen used in the Republic flag today. The society grew by including the much poorer Catholic population and in 1798 held a rebellion that was brutally crushed because of lack of leadership after British purges and because French aid (France was then enemies with Britain) failed to make it to Ireland.


The colour White is used in the middle of the flag to symbolise a desire for peace between Protestants and Catholics, republicans and unionists.

Despite the original unifying spirit of the flag, it is now seen as representing Catholics and the Republic and is seen as divisive by Protestants and is rarely flown by them.