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.
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.
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].