Today though, we'll be focusing mostly on the Political side of Belfast's history, with some other interesting bits in between.
|The Ring of Thanksgiving Statue, Queen's Bridge, Belfast|
The Ring of Thanksgiving, featuring a woman carrying, well..... a ring of course, is situated at Queen's Bridge & is symbolic of the renaissance of the city. It is known locally by several titles including, 'the angel of thanksgiving', 'the beacon of hope' & more comically as 'Nuala with the Hula', 'The Loop with the Hoop' & my personal favourite, 'The Thing with the Ring'.
I just love this scurrilous penchant the Irish have for renaming their public monuments! I do wonder however, what the sculptors of these magnificient creations must think about the comical use of rhyming slang to rename their masterpieces? I do hope they have a sense of humour.... surely they're not Irish if they don't. The sculptor of this statue though, is a Scotsman!
|St George's Market, Belfast|
We pass the St George's Market built between 1890 and 1896, it holds a weekly Friday Variety Market as well as the City Food and Craft Market on Saturdays. Today though, the gates were open, but the stalls were empty.
|Telephone House, Cromac St, Belfast|
|Photo of H-Blocks at 'The Maze', Long Kesh Prison - Ulster Museum, Belfast|
Other themes portrayed in the exhibition included the Internments without trial, Paramilitary organisations, Hunger Strikes & the Political Developments throughout this period. It was a sobering experience, but armed me with more knowledge of the Trouble's than I'd ever had previously. However, as I left the museum, I felt sure that this was just the beginning of my education about Northern Ireland's troubled past.
|Queen's University, Belfast|
Right next to the Ulster Museum is the stunning building of Belfast's Queen's University.
|Stained Glass window inside Queens University, Belfast|
|The Great Hall, Queen's University, Belfast|
As both of my cousin's daughters attended Queen's, she confidently walked us around the campus, something we probably would not have done had she not been with us to show us around. And so it was she was able to lead us straight into the Great Hall, a beautiful room with a high ceiling & panelled walls lined with impressive portrait paintings from the University's Art Collection.
|Art Collection, The Great Hall, Queens University, Belfast|
|Queens University, Belfast|
|City Hall, Belfast|
In the heart of Belfast is the City Hall, Belfast's City Council's civic building. Once a target for IRA bombers, this beautiful neo-classical building dominates Belfast’s old city center.
Did you know that green domes atop many of this style of building are made of copper? They start out looking a brown colour and over time they turn green because of a chemical process called oxidisation. The dome on Belfast City Hall is green for that reason.
|City Hall, Belfast|
|The Domed ceiling of the City Hall, Belfast|
|Part of a stained glass window celebrating the Dockers & Carters Strike of 1907, |
City Hall, Belfast
|City Hall, Belfast|
|Belfast City, Northern Ireland|
|Paddy Campbell's Famous Black Cab Tours at the Peace Wall, Belfast, Northern Ireland|
Image Credit Paddy Campbell's Black Cab Tours
|Shankill Road Murals, Belfast|
|Loyalist Paramilitary Mural, Shankill, Belfast|
Perhaps one of the more menacing Murals in the Shankill Road area is this one representing the UDA - Ulster Defence Association. The most striking aspect of this mural is the balaclava clad gunman in the centre taking careful aim down the barrel of his rifle, pointing directly at you no matter what angle you looked at it from!
|Loyalist Paramilitary Mural, Shankill Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland|
|King William III, Shankill Road, Belfast|
|Freedom 2000 - The Maze [H Block] Prison, Shankill, Belfast|
|Mythology figure of Cuchulainn, Shankill Rd Murals, West Belfast|
|Lt. Col. Bucky McCullough, Shankill Rd Murals, Belfast|
A native of the Shankill Road area, McCullough was a Loyalist paramilitary member, gangster & racketeer. He was killed by the INLA [Republican Irish National Liberation Army] in 1981 while preparing to drive one of his daughters to school. A motorcycle drove up and the pillion passenger opened fire as McCullough was getting into his car. This mural is situated within meters of where he lived.
|The Red Hand of Ulster Mural, Shankill, Belfast|
|Mural in Loyalist area, Belfast|
|Bobby Sands Mural, Falls Road, Belfast|
Long-time activist against the British in Northern Ireland, Bobby Sands was an Irish volunteer of the Provisional IRA. He lead the hunger strike campaign for political status for IRA prisoners & gained international recognition, after being elected an MP of the UK Parliament at Westminister while in H-Block at Long Kesh Prison [The Maze]. His death from starvation, resulted in a new surge of IRA recruitment & sparked riots in many parts of Northern Ireland & in the Republic.
We stop next at the ‘International Wall’ on Divis Street, painted with colorful Republican murals with images alluding to human rights struggles here & around the world.
|Falls Curfew Mural, Divis St nr. Falls Rd, Belfast|
The Falls Curfew Mural depicts the search in July 1970, for paramilitary weapons in the Falls Road area which turned into rioting and gun fights after which, the British army imposed a curfew around the area during which 4 civilians were killed & 75 wounded. The curfew was broken on the Sunday morning, when 3,000 nationalist women marched through the area with food and groceries for the people residing there. Despite the soldiers trying to hold the crowd back, the women were eventually allowed to pass and the curfew was broken.
|Bombay Street Rememberance Plaque, Belfast|
|The Clonard Martyrs Memorial, Belfast|
|Paddy Campbell's Cab Tours, At the Peace Wall, Belfast|
Peace Lines or Peace walls as they're referred to like this one in Cupar Way, Belfast, are a series of separation barriers, this one ranging in length from a few hundred yards to over three miles, the purpose of which, was to minimize sectarian violence between Protestants and Catholics. Some have gatesways, occasionally manned by police, allowing passage by day but are closed at night.
The Peace lines are high, higher than I'd imagined them. With the added barbed fencing on top, they are well over twenty-five feet, high enough to stop most missiles from being thrown over. Whole streets were in effect halved by this wall, coming to an abrupt end where the wall towers.
|Gates in peace walls are locked at night separating Catholic areas from Protestant|
|Peace Wall, Cupar Way, Belfast|
In the end, all I could think of to write is 'Peace', my name & the date. In the end it is a record of my visit, to say 'I was here'. And in time it will be written over, like so many other messages on the wall. One day, it'll probably be washed down with paint, erased clean, perhaps to start again, but hopefully, oneday, it will all disappear for completely, when the wall comes down for good.
This was the end of our Mural tour. I'd learnt alot more & while this was another sobering experience, I'd recommend it as a 'must see' tour for anyone visiting Belfast.
The first thing you notice about the Crown Bar are the eclectic array of mosiacs, on the outside as well as the inside of the building, including a mosiac of a Crown inlaid into the concrete at the entrance way to the Bar.
|The Mosaic Entrance to the Crown Bar, Belfast|
|The Crown Bar, Belfast|
|Inside The Crown Bar, Belfast|
|The Grand Opera House, Belfast|
Right next door to the Europa Hotel is Belfast's beautiful Grand Opera House. Opened in 1895 as a theatre, it was converted into a Cinema around the early 50's but by 1972 during the height of 'The Troubles', the building was closed up. Looking certain to be demolished, it's future was assured when it was listed as being of historical & architectural importance. After a major restoration effort, it was reopened as a theatre in 1980.
In 1991 & again in 1993, the Opera House was badly damaged by bomb blasts but just as the Europa & the Crown had done, this Grand old lady picked herself up & carried on.
Our last stop on our 'political' tour was a visit to Stormont. Built in the 1920's as the seat of Parliament for Northern Ireland, it is now the Home of the restored Northern Ireland Assembly. This impressive building is situated in the vast grounds of Stormont Estate.
|Stormont Estate, Belfast, Northern Ireland|