So tomorrow we leave for Northern Ireland, and we won't be back until late March. We will be stopping briefly in Armagh which is on the border, to study issues surrounding this heavily Republican area of NI. After Armagh it's on to Belfast for a week and then to Derry for 2 weeks.
There have been a lot of things in the news recently concerning the North and I'm excited to be going there at this particular time. First there was the Hillsborough Agreement, dealing with changing the police force around and establishing a new justice ministry, and also dealing with contentious Orange Order parades. Recently there has been isolated incidents of "dissident Republicans" committing violent acts. These are people who have refused to move into the future and accept the peace process and instead prefer to bang their heads off a wall. Sinn Fein (a party who, a decade ago would be encouraging the armed struggle) has condemned these attacks and all the political parties remain fixated on peace and a shared future.
What I found to be telling about one of the recent events was that 4 men were arrested in connection with a planned bombing near the border; these men were all age 40-60. I say this is telling because looking at their ages, these men are probably all ex Provisional IRA members who split with the group after the Good Friday Agreement because they felt that the Provisional leadership sold out. The view of these men is most likely that without the gain of a united Republic on the entire island of Ireland there commrades will have died in vain, but they fail to realize that at this time the only way towards this goal is through the political arena rather than violence.
Since I think it is mostly my family who reads this blog I think it is important to say that this is not something to be the least bit worried about. The recent incidents are extremely isolated and SIT has brought groups to NI when the situation has been far more dangerous, without incident. I'm excited to have this opportunity to learn from both sides of the community in NI, and I'm very thankful I'm here.