Ireland: A Divided Island?
The island of Ireland is home to one of the world’s most infamous borders. Not only does the border divide the island between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, but also between the euro and the pound sterling, between meters and miles, and (probably) soon, between the European Union and the United Kingdom. Yet, for the last 20 years, people only really encountered the border on a map whilst planning their cross-country trip.
The border’s ambiguous existence challenges us to ask how divided the people on the Irish island really are.
Historically, the divisions on the island go much deeper than the mere separation of states and currencies. They cross cultural, national, and religious identities and have been at the center of one of the most recent violent conflicts in Western Europe: the Northern Irish Conflict, most well known as ’The Troubles’. The conflict was settled in 1998 through the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, but the peace that followed only turned out to be the beginning.
The violence was gone, but the ‘us-versus-them’ narratives were not. Walls remained standing, and the new generations that grew up without the violence were very often still kept apart from one another. In many places, Northern Ireland remained segregated and the balance between peace and conflict turned out to be a fragile one.
Now, with the Brexit negotiations dominating the news, that fragile balance is in danger. Past tensions are coming to the surface and some even worry that the Troubles may make their return.
We went to Northern Ireland to not only see where the divisions are still being felt, but also to see where people have been able to come together, learn their lessons from the past, and overcome renewed challenges of polarisation.