At DIS, there are two weeks of travel set aside: one for vacation and leisure and the other for your core course long study tour. From October 27th to November 1st, I took part in my long study tour which took my Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism course to Ireland and Northern Ireland.
In this post, I’ll be taking you through the week day by day, so feel free to skip around and read about what piques your interest, as this blog will NOT be a short one. Whether you are a prospective student, the DIS media faculty or my mom, I won’t be offended if you don’t read the entire thing. Maybe. Also, if you want to know what I’m talking about when I reference The Troubles or the Northern Ireland Conflict, click here.
Sunday, October 27th
At 6:30 in the morning, my class met up at the Copenhagen Airport, ready to embark on our tour. After a 3 hour plane ride in between Will and Zach (pictured below), we had made it to Dublin!
Visit to Glasnevin Cemetery
Our first academic stop on the tour was to Glasnevin Cemetery, a place where many victims of the Troubles now lie. There, we had a guide bring us around the cemetery, pointing out the graves of many of the people we have been studying for the past month and a half.
While walking around the cemetery, I realized just how extensive it was. The headstones seemed to go on for miles, revealing the true depth of the conflict. This was the first time (of many) on the trip that we realized how impactful the Troubles were on Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Here are some pictures of the cemetery:
1916 Rebellion Walking Tour
This tour took us all over central Dublin. We got to see remarkable architecture, culture and history. While all of this was very interesting, our tour guide showed us just how biased people can be discussing the tragedy of the conflict.
Our tour guide was very much a nationalist who truly believed that the IRA was justified in their actions and that one day, there will be a united Ireland. The tour, while informative, was very one-sided, and we were all made aware very quickly that we needed to take what he said with a grain of salt.
Nonetheless, he took us to sites of shootings, showing us the bullet holes leftover in walls and statues alike. The conflict is still very much alive in the hearts of many, and this walking tour showed us that.
Here are some pictures of the sights that we got to see:
End of the academic day
After a day full of traveling and learning, we went to a class dinner at a place called Millstone Restaurant and then had the rest of the evening to do whatever we wanted!
Monday, October 28th
We started out our morning with no agenda!
Free time in the morning
This morning, we had a few hours to do whatever we pleased, so I went with a few friends to explore the city!
We had the plan to go to St. Stephen’s Green (which we eventually made it to), but due to the navigation of a few people in the group, we ended up walking around a large part of Dublin, which retrospectively, was a good thing.
We wandered around through narrow alleys and huge walking streets, seeing the city for what it was!
When we made it to St. Stephen’s Green, we wandered around the park before we had to head to our next stop. Here are some pictures from our adventure!
Lunch at The Workshop Gastropub
To begin our day with the class, we met at The Workshop Gastropub in Dublin for lunch.
After talking about our mornings and indulging in burgers (pasta for me because I don’t eat meat), we were off to start the academic portion of the day.
Workshop with Peter Murtagh, Deaglán de Bréadún, and a man named Pat at the Little Museum of Dublin
Peter Murtagh, the former editor of the Irish Times was a familiar face to us in Dublin. The journalist had come to Copenhagen a few weeks before to discuss the Troubles, so seeing him again was like seeing an old friend.
He introduced us to Deaglán de Bréadún, who spoke to us about his time as a journalist during the Troubles. He also told us about the violence and how he believed that the only way forward during the conflict was through politics.
After that, a man named Pat came to talk with us about Brexit and the implications that Britain leaving the EU could have in terms of the Northern Ireland Conflict.
One thing that was special throughout the entire trip was that anytime we met a new person, we had the opportunity to ask them questions, giving us the chance to talk about our particular interests in the Troubles.
Visit to the Guinness Storehouse
While it was not included in our academic itinerary, all of our class, including Steen (who was one of the professors on the trip), made our way to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, which is THE thing to do, apparently.
We got to wander around, seeing the process of making Guinness (which is something that involves a whole lot of pride), getting to know the ingredients involved, and gaining a better understanding of what makes Guinness, Guinness.
The Irish stout is made up of four primary ingredients: barley, hops, yeast and water.
After we made it through the entire process, we were at the Galaxy Bar, where we were given a complimentary pint of Guinness (complimentary if you don’t include the $20 entrance ticket at the beginning). The Galaxy Bar is made up of only windows, so we got to look out over Dublin at night while sipping on the drink of Ireland.
End of the day
After this, we found dinner and had the rest of the night to ourselves!
Tuesday, October 29th
On this morning, we packed up our bags and started to head to Belfast, where we would spend the rest of the week!
Stop in Carlingford
Carlingford is a tiny little town in the Republic of Ireland that is home to about 1,000 people. It sits on the water and looks across the bay at Northern Ireland, sitting close to the border.
We stopped here for a student presentation and for lunch, where we found ourselves a cute little tearoom.
Although it was the middle of the day, we all indulged in breakfast, ranging from eggs to scones to pancakes to beans.
After this quick but enjoyable stop, we set out for Belfast in Northern Ireland.
The border between Ireland and Northern Ireland is invisible. The only way to see that you are in a different country is by looking at the road signs, when they switch from kilometers per hour to miles per hour.
As soon as we saw the little blue dot on our phones cross the “border”, we pulled over to talk about what effect Brexit could have on this open border. When we did this, we saw the first sign with miles per hour, which had been vandalized, saying “IRA”.
Visit to Milltown Cemetery
At this cemetery, we met with Andrew Trimble, who came to Copenhagen with Peter Murtagh and is a former British soldier.
He showed us around the cemetery, which was largely for the Republican side of the Troubles, revealing the nuances within the conflict of Northern Ireland.
This was another situation in which the graves seemed to be countless, even leaving some spaces empty with the knowledge that the conflict is not over.
One little sidetone: it was FREEZING during the trip. Especially during this visit to the Milltown Cemetery, we were all shivering, even though we had at least 3 layers of clothes each.
After the cemetery, we made our way to the Europa Hotel, which is a popular place to stay in Belfast, so popular that Bill Clinton himself has stayed there. Along with this, it is also the most bombed hotel in Europe, so that was nice and comforting for us.
After a couple of hours of free time, in which my roommate and friend, Hannah, and I talked about politics over tea, we all headed to a restaurant called Stix & Stones for dinner. After dinner, we had the rest of the evening on our own.
Wednesday, October 30th
This day was focused on the politics of prison and violence during the conflict. We met many different political prisoners and had the opportunity to engage with them in everyday settings.
Guided Bus Tour
This tour was 2 hours of intense stories and questioning. For the first half, we met a man named Robert, who is an ex-prisoner, imprisoned for his work in the Ulster Volunteer Force (meaning he was a unionist). He joined the conflict when he saw what the IRA was doing and, ironically, started to engage in the same kind of violent behavior.
He told us that no one could justify their actions, as too many civilians died in the conflict. This was a common theme amongst the unionists that we met; they regretted what they had done.
For him, his time in prison has severe implications in his present day. Robert cannot get a job, get health insurance, or adopt a baby. He also isn’t allowed into the United States, Canada, or Australia.
His part of the tour ended at one of the 44 peace walls in Belfast. These walls were erected to divide Catholic and Protestant communities during the conflict and still have not been taken down. They stand tall, so people cannot throw bricks or petrol bombs over them to the houses that are on the other side. It was a sickening reality to see this wall. It really weighed on me and made me understand that this conflict is far from over.
After the stop at the wall, we met a nationalist, who was the polar opposite of Robert. He was arrested in 1977 for attempted murder and served 16 years of his life sentence. Unlike Robert, he didn’t feel much remorse for the lives he took or the people he hurt. I can still hear him saying “I absolutely regret nothing”, shutting all of us up on the bus.
Other than the lively chatter we shared with these two men, we also got to see a lot of Belfast. We made stops at memorial gardens, murals and sites of shootings and bombings.
Lunch at Little Mill Bistro
After the bus tour, we stopped for lunch at a cafe called Little Mill Bistro and reflected on the past two hours. Just outside of the restaurant, there were more murals that further solidified the liveliness of the conflict today.
Visit to Tar Anall
Our last academic stop of the day was to Tar Anall, which is essentially a place for dialogue in Belfast. There, we met three different men: Michael, Lee and Jim. Each of the men came from incredibly different backgrounds, so it was an amazing opportunity to get to meet with them.
Michael was an IRA operative for 7 years (nationalist), who was given a life sentence for the murder of a member of the force. Today, he works to help ex-IRA prisoners to adjust to normal life in Northern Ireland.
Lee is an ex-British solider, who just joined the military because it was what everyone else around him was doing. While he doesn’t have any blood on his hands, Lee’s experience in the military was enough to knock him down to rock bottom. After his military training completely reversed his socialization, adjusting to average civilian life seemed impossible, leading him to resort to heroin. Now, he attributes his recovery to education and his ability to get back in touch with his emotions.
Jim is an ex-member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (unionist) and was arrested after he was caught in a hijacked vehicle. Growing up, his family didn’t really discuss politics, so he was able to stay neutral in his beliefs, until the conflict that was happening around him forced him to form more specific views. Now, he states that he doesn’t have a problem with a united Ireland, so long as everyone is treated equally.
Getting the chance to talk with these men and pick their brains about the realities of war and the nuances involved was so interesting and was a great way to end the academic day.
Visit to the Titanic Museum
After we left Tar Anall, some of the people from our class went to the Titanic Museum in Belfast. There, we got to walk through the process of designing, building, and even living on the Titanic, giving us an idea just what an incredible feat the construction of the ship really was.
We were also taken through the crash and sinking of the Titanic, eventually leading to a display of the seafloor and the remnants of the ship.
It was devastating at the end, as there were so many deaths in this tragedy and it said “the coroner’s report and list of possessions reduced an individual’s life into a few lines”.
End of the day
After this, we headed back to the hotel, found dinner nearby, and had the rest of the night to ourselves.
Thursday, October 31st
We started out our morning with our first academic visit right in the lobby of our hotel.
Visit with a family deeply affected by the Troubles
This family consisted of Richard (the father), Bernadette (the mother), and Bernie (the daughter). During the Troubles, Richard was a member of the IRA, was interned twice, and then was sent to the H-Blocks (a prison). He was in prison when the hunger strikes began to happen, and as second-in-command, he helped to choose the people who were going to strike for the IRA cause.
Bernadette, his wife, was married to Richard for six months before he was arrested. At the time, she didn’t know that he was a member of the IRA and found out when her husband was gone and her house had been destroyed. She was pregnant with her first child (Bernie) at the time. She spoke to us about how much she hated Richard when he was gone, the 30 minutes a month that she got to see him for 8 years, and what it was like for her to raise Bernie on her own.
Bernie, who is now all grown up, talked with us about what it looked like to grow up with a prisoner for a dad and the implications that went along with it. She also told us about the organization that she and Bernadette started, which reaches out to the children of ex-prisoners, giving them a place to exist and talk.
This was the first time in the last month and a half that we have really considered the impact that this conflict had on families, and it was a huge opportunity to ask the family questions and try to understand the effect of the Northern Ireland Conflict.
For lunch, we had some free time, so we grabbed a bite to eat and then headed to our next visit.
Here are some pictures from our walk to the next visit!
“Lost Lives” Screening
For me, this was by FAR the hardest part of the trip. “Lost Lives” is a film based on the book Lost Lives, which recounts each of the almost 3,800 deaths that were direct results of the Troubles. We went to the Queens Film Theater for a screening of the film, as it hasn’t been fully released yet.
It was really difficult to sit through. The film went over 18 of the deaths, ranging from infants to people in their 60s.
We were forced to confront the hard truths of the Northern Ireland Conflict. After the film, I was at a loss for words and when I’m writing this post, I still am.
Meeting with one of the authors of Lost Lives and the directors of “Lost Lives”
After we finished the film, we made our way to a visit with one of the five authors of the book and with the two directors of the film. We had the opportunity to ask any question we wanted about the Troubles, the process of writing Lost Lives, and the choices made in the film. While it was an amazing chance for us to learn more, I had a really hard time conjuring up questions to ask the men, as I was overwhelmed with my emotions from the day.
End of the day and dinner
After our visit with those involved in the making of “Lost Lives”, we were given free time up until we met up for a class dinner at Acton and Sons. Once we were finished eating, the rest of the night was ours!
Friday, November 1st
To start off the day, my group gave our presentation on the importance of considering the demography of conflicts, which is very relevant when studying the Troubles.
Off to Derry/Londonderry
For our one and only academic visit of the day (also the last academic visit of the tour), we left Belfast and headed to Derry/Londonderry, a place where the name is still disputed between nationalists and unionists.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have too much time there due to traffic, but we were able to be there for a student presentation on Bloody Sunday and lunch. Bloody Sunday was one of the most devastating days of the Troubles and occurred right in Derry/Londonderry, giving the presentation even more meaning.
Here are some pictures of the town!
After lunch at The Exchange in Derry/Londonderry, we hopped on our bus which took us to the Dublin Airport, bringing an end to our Long Study Tour.
This tour provided me with opportunities that I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. While it was hard to breathe sometimes because of the heavy content, I was always grateful for the chances we were given by DIS to get so close to the conflict and learn so much.
Before coming to Copenhagen, I knew almost nothing about the Troubles. After studying it so intensely for so long and going to the places that still have bullet holes in the walls from the conflict, I left Ireland and Northern Ireland with a heavy heart, knowing how alive the hatred and problems still are.
I know this post was an incredibly long one and wasn’t necessarily happy, but I think being transparent about my experiences abroad is very important. Was last week hard? Yes. Am I grateful that it happened? Absolutely. Other than the academic opportunities we had, I also got to spend the week in two different countries with my friends. Not everyone can say that!
Thanks for sticking around for this long!