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Cross-Cultural Program: Ireland and Northern Ireland 2001
Group Journal Sept 25-Oct 7

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  Orientation Sept 4-10 MP Sept 11-17 MP Sept 18-24 MP ** Sept 25-Oct 7 MP **
  Oct 8-16 MP Oct 17-24 MP Oct 25-31 MP Nov 1-8 MP Nov 9-17 MP **
  Nov 18-Dec 4 MP (MP is the journal's "More Pictures" page, ** is a bonus page)

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

This morning's lecture was given by Mervyn, who explained the Good Friday Agreement (or the Belfast Agreement, if you're a Protestant), made in 1998, as an attempt to form a government uniting the North and the Republic. It's difficult for us as outsiders to really understand the difficulties that the politicians face. On the one hand, there are Catholics saying "All Brits out
Stream just past the Glencar waterfall
The Glencar waterfall
of Ireland!", which is like the Native Americans saying, "All non-Native Americans out of the US!". On the other hand, you have Protestants who wish to be governed by Britain and feel this is the only way. It's a highly frustrating situation for the countries, and the more we in the EMU group listen, the more we realize just how complex this issue has become over the years.

In the afternoon we had our final Irish language and dance lessons with Clare. Many of us feel quite confident to ask where things are - although she didn’t teach us how to ask for the toilets, a very important question! (They don't say bathroom or restroom here, so it's quite common to hear someone say, "Oh, he's in the toilet.") Now, if only the people we ask directions from will use the answers on our handouts...
Our last tin whistle lesson was held in the evening; the first class did indeed manage to learn their jig and play it for Gearald,
Mountains in Sligo
Mountain scene in Sligo

who was quite impressed. After both whistle classes had finished, a number of us joined him at The Phoenix, a pub where one of his relatives was playing that night. We got to hear some live music and to experience a very non-tourist situation by going to a local hangout. The regulars may not have been too thrilled to have a bunch of university students invading their favorite pub, but they were nice about it. They even applauded when several of us from the class played our whistles for them... Gearald's idea, not ours! It's probably a good thing he had family there!



Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Today the students had a village study. This involved going out in groups of three or four to small towns within an hour of Derry. They were to interview locals, visit businesses, take pictures, and find out as much as they could about their assigned town.

Results were varied. One group found the town closed to them and weren't able to do much of anything. Another group visited a primary school and spoke with the children there. Most of the towns assigned had had a serious bombing or disruption due to the Troubles, and several of the groups were able to hear these stories. The overall feeling was that these towns were very cautious of strangers coming in, even though we are obviously American students, and didn't want to open up too much about their pasts.



Thursday, September 27, 2001

This morning was spent visiting INCORE, an organization which specializes in ethnic conflict. Their representative introduced the students to INCORE's website, which is a valuable resource on the Northern Ireland conflict.

In the afternoon, Terry Boyle took us to visit the local RUC - Royal Ulster Constabulary - the Northern Ireland police force (now the Police Service of Northern Ireland). Policemen are predominantly Protestant and are attempting to integrate more Catholics into the ranks as part of the Good Friday Agreement. Two officers spoke to us about the difficulties the RUC have faced in the past and are continuing to undergo today. Interestingly, Officer Sheehy, a 20 years veteran, is Catholic; his colleague is Protestant.

When fighting broke out in 1969, there were only 3000 officers in the RUC, so troops from the British Army were brought in. With the increase in violence - shootings, bombings, beatings - the RUC was forced to use armored cars and riot gear, causing them to lose any social contact with the general public. We heard tales of policemen being singled out and marked for retribution, not by the Catholics but by their Protestant neighbors... all for doing their jobs and trying to prevent violence between the two sides. If an officer was standing between the Catholics and Protestants during a riot or a march, a Protestant could come up, say, "Right, I know this one and his family", and the family was threatened, the home was sometimes burned, or the officer could face a severe beating when off-duty. This was a new thought to most us; we'd assumed the violence was only against the opposite side. The thought of having those who were supposedly "on your side" attack you was a disturbing one.

We were also told that before the cease-fire on 1994, a foot-patrol through a neighborhood consisted of 20 soldiers, 6 constables and two Army Land Rovers, which are heavily armored. When the cease-fire was implemented, the British army left the streets and hasn't returned to Derry since. People who would have been afraid to ask the police for help before now felt secure in calling the station - calls increased by 70%!

Following the talk, we were invited to try on some of the riot gear and examine various weapons. Eloy Rodriguez and Lorin Bagwell were our volunteers, and it took almost 10 minutes to get them fully dressed in the jumpsuit, body armor, hoods and helmets. By the time they were standing there, holding their Plexiglas shields up, we could see just how much the police feel the need for protection. This visit was a real eye-opener for us and helped us understand a bit more about the situation in Northern Ireland.



Friday, September 28, 2001

Our last day in Derry! We have mixed feelings about this... we're ready to move on to other places, but for most of us, it will be sad leaving our host families. Some good bonds were formed with our hosts and it's hard to say goodbye.
The Glencar waterfall
The Glencar waterfall

The morning was spent in class with Anne and Gloria...the dreaded HISTORY TEST has finally happened. We've had a lot of information to process in the past three weeks, and this test was a difficult one. Sighs of relief were heard as people turned in their papers, along with "I don't remember hearing anything about that!"

In the afternoon Terry joined us to talk more about some of the poems he'd given us and about the novel Eureka Street by Robert McLiam Wilson. This was a brash no-holds-barred story of people living in Belfast during the Troubles... their stories and their views of life. The novel had its shocking moments and strong language, but it was funny and touching as well. Terry's explanations and questions for us helped us get more out of the book, and the majority of the group really enjoyed reading and discussing it.

The evening was free for one last look around the city, visits with host families and frantic "where did all this stuff come from?" packing.



Saturday, September 29, 2001

After some confusion about the bus we were to travel in - the driver showed up with a coach with NO luggage space, a bad mistake with this group!
Observing art
Students show varying levels of interest in Irish art
- we were off to Sligo. We stopped for lunch at Yeats Tavern, in the heart of the countryside loved by the writer William Butler Yeats. We met up with Eta, our guide for the day, and from lunch headed out to explore the area.

Our first stop was the church at Drumcliffe, where Yeats is buried with his wife, Georgie. This is a beautiful old building, complete with old monastic ruins and a high cross; during a sudden rainstorm, our group took time to sing a few hymns together in the church. The rector was thrilled and she invited us back the next day for services, but our plans were already made.

Next we went to the Niland Art Gallery in Sligo to see artworks by Jack and John B Yeats, WB's brother and father. There were
Pondering modern art... what does it mean?
Ryan explains modern art
also some wonderful contemporary photos of the sea and of cloud formations as well as other artists' sketches, oils and watercolors.

Back on the bus to go out into the countryside. We stopped at "Dolly's Cottage", a tiny traditional thatched-roof cottage, to see its typical interior and hear the sung/spoken story of Queen Maeve of Connaught... more of her tomorrow. Following the story, we went on to the stone circles and tombs of Carrrowmore (seen in passing) and to the Glencar waterfall. This was a lovely short walk up into the hills to see the falls, which empty into Glencar Lough at the foot of the mountains.

We proceeded on to a high hill from which we could see the tiny Lake Isle of Innisfree, of which Yeats was very fond and about which he wrote, "I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree... and I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow..."

Our final stop was the Holy Well at Tobernalt, overlooking Lough Gill. This was a holy site in Celtic times and later became a
Holy Well
The Holy Well at Tobernalt
Christian shrine. Priests celebrated Mass here in secret when it was illegal during the 18th century, and the Mass rock they used is still visible today.
Throughout the day, Eta quoted us Yeats' poetry having to do with the specific sites we visited. This made the trip much more interesting, and she had a true dramatic flair for the poems, all of which she'd memorized. It was a nice way to see the countryside around Sligo.

That evening we stayed in five different bed-and-breakfasts; for most of us, this was the first time in a B&B. These are much cheaper than hotels and are usually nicer; they're private homes opened to the public... sort of like staying with relatives you've never met and have to pay. It was a nice break from homestays, and the evening was spent finding dinner and exploring Sligo.



Sunday, September 30, 2001

Knocknarea is a very tall hill, or a small mountain, depending on your definition of a mountain. At the top there is a huge,
Climbing Knocknarea
Students hiking up Knocknarea
unexcavated cairn which dates back about 5,000 years and is said to contain the tomb of the legendary Queen Maeve of Connaught. Legend says that Maeve was a mighty, fierce woman, whose greed and desire to own the prize bull of Ulster led her into battle with Cuchulainn, the most famous warrior of Irish history. He won the "Cattle Raid of Cooley" (the story which we heard Eta sing and tell yesterday) single-handedly, but Maeve lured him to his death by using sorcerers.

On this cool, misty... okay, rainy... morning, the majority of our group climbed this mountain. Those who were first to reach the top had no view through the fog, but the more leisurely climbers saw the sun break though on the trip down and were rewarded with stunning views of the hills and loughs surrounding Sligo. It is the country one thinks of when one thinks of Ireland - lush green grass, stone fences, rolling hills and blue water - and it is truly lovely.
View from Knocknarea
View from the top of Knocknarea (after the fog cleared)

Of course, after this spell of glory, the rain came back, and we rode the bus all the way to Galway in the pouring rain. Upon arrival in Knocknacarra, the Galway suburb where we stayed, our host families were there to meet us. By this time it was so windy that the rain was falling sideways, and it was a quick "hello, nice to meet you, where's the car" as we hauled our luggage through the downpour. This was NOT a "soft day", as the Irish say! Most of us spent the evening with our hosts, in the nice dry houses.



Monday, October 1, 2001

Today we heard more about the lives of the Travellers in Ireland. (Travellers are what we in America call gypsies.) Margaret O'Riada, a representative from the Galway Travellers' Support Group, introduced her organization and community development.
A Dolmen in the Burren
She divided the students into small groups to explore housing/accommodation, education, health and other issues important to Travellers.

After a lunch break, we met with Peadar O'Dowd, a local historian and writer who gave us a whirlwind walking tour of Galway. This city is a curious mix of big city bustle and small town atmosphere. Under the Anglo-Normans it was a flourishing trading post and gained its Royal Charter in 1396. The city prospered under the English until Cromwell came through in 1652 and destroyed much of the region surrounding the city. Galway fell into decline until the 20th century and is now a haven for hundreds of university students and thousands of tourists every year.

Galway is famous for several things, one of which is the Claddagh. This was a close-knit, Gaelic-speaking fishing community dating from medieval times which was built on the banks of the Corrib River running through the city. Now the only reminders of this village, which disappeared in the mid-20th century, are the local pubs and the Claddagh ring. This ring consists of two hands holding a heart topped by a crown; it symbolizes love, loyalty and friendship and was traditionally handed down from mother to daughter as a betrothal ring. The legend say that if the ring is worn with the heart facing in towards the hand, the wearer is not free; then the heart faces outward, the wearer is available. (Several of our group have since been seen wearing them, available and non!)

Galway is also known for its hookers... traditional wooden sailing boats with broad black hulls and white or rust-colored sails. They were once common in this area, hauling peat, cattle and beer along the Atlantic coast.

Another legend of Galway is that Christopher Columbus stopped here on one of his voyages. This is apparently true, based on a letter he wrote saying how delightful a town it was. We still think that today!



Tuesday, October 2, 2001

Today we had a scenic bus ride through the Burren. The Burren, as our knowledgeable and witty bus driver and tour guide
Braving the waves for a photo op

The men unite for a photo at Doolin Beach

informed us, is an area of expansive fields of limestone rocks. We made a short stop at Aillwee Cave, which stretches over a mile into the limestone beds. We concluded the Burren tour at the Cliffs of Moher. These amazing
Cliffs of Moher
At the Cliffs of Moher
cliffs tower over 700 feet above the crashing waves below. Probably, for the majority of the group, the cliffs were the highlight of the day. They provided us with the opportunity to run around, take photos and contemplate the idea of what would happen if we were to "spit into the wind."
--Heather Horst

On the way home we drove through Doolin, a tiny village renowned for its music making. We stopped at the Doolin Pier, a wonderful stone jetty that juts out into the ocean. This was the closest we'd gotten to crashing waves, and several people were surprised by the waves sneaking up from behind and spraying them. It was a beautiful way to end a glorious, sunny (for the most part!) day spent admiring nature.



Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Today was our second village study, so we were divided into groups of three or four again and sent off to small towns in this
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher
area. My group went to Kinvarra, which is about a half hour's drive (going by Ireland roads, which is considerably slower and longer than driving in the U.S.) south of Galway. Probably the most important thing about the town was Dunguaire Castle. The king of Connaught lived there in the 6th century, but now it has been restored as a tourist stop where you can go to have a medieval banquet. There isn't much in this town besides the castle, no major industries or such, so Kinvarra is popular mainly because it's close to Galway.

Our first village study was in Northern Ireland, and this one was purposefully done in this southern area, so that we can compare the two. One of the main differences is that the Northern towns have some history with the conflict (the Troubles), whereas that's not really an issue on the South, and we didn't even talk about it with people here. Overall though, my two village experiences were fairly similar. They both had the classic "small town" feel, and it was fun just talking with people in little shops and with anyone we met on the street.
--Tim Shoemaker



Thursday, October 4, 2001

After a free morning to catch up on sleep, assignments, and e-mail, the group met with
We do not recommend falling off the Cliffs of Moher
Students at the Cliffs of Moher
Dr. Anne Byrne in the afternoon. A professor in the Department of Political Science and Sociology at the university in Galway, Dr. Byrne spoke to us about recent and current social issues in the Republic of Ireland. We learned that the Constitution, drafted in 1937, was heavily influenced by the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic church's influence on the governing bodies meant that divorce was not permitted until 1995, and from 1935 to 1985 the sale of contraceptives was banned (1979 saw a law permitting married couples to buy them). Abortion is also illegal, and until 1992, travel to Britain to obtain an abortion was not permitted. Homosexuality was a criminal offense until 1993. These are just a few of the many issues in which the Church, through the State, controlled the people of the Irish Republic for many years.

In the 1970's, however, the Church's power began to erode, and Ireland saw economic growth, educational reform - schools were established which weren't run by the Church - and urbanization.

Currently Ireland is dealing with the issues of educational inequality, poverty, racism (against refugees, asylum seekers and Travellers), and inequality in health care. This being said, however, Dr. Byrne asked us not think harshly of her native country, as all countries have similar issues with which to deal. There is so much beauty and warmth in Ireland that these issues, while extremely important, shouldn't be the main focus of a visitor here. Whew, there's your social issues lesson for today.

In the evening, the group met together for the all-important processing time. These weekly sessions enable students and Anne & Gloria to voice concerns, share stories and keep in touch with each others' feelings and needs.



Friday, October 5, 2001

The vow of poverty doesn't look so bad these days! Today we visited Kylemore Abbey; it is a convent still in use in Connemara (we even saw real nuns, habit and all!). The setting was like a postcard and the weather couldn't have been better. The main
Pretty as a poster... Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey
Abbey building is furnished with period pieces and looks more like the home of a Grand Duke or Prince than that of a flock of elderly nuns. We all agree that we could handle staying in a hostel like Kylemore Abbey.

We also went to the Roundstone Bodhrán factory. The bodhrán is the traditional Celtic drum, made by stretching a goat hide over a round wooden frame. One of the craftsmen explained the process and we could see the other workers making drums behind a big glass window. The craftsman (Niall) also gave us some pointers on playing, which Derek King took to heart, volunteering to be the guinea pig, showing us all that it's not as easy as it looks.

Thank you so much for all of your thoughts and prayers... blessings!
--Erica Passmore



Saturday, October 6/Sunday, October 7, 2001

These were two glorious FREE DAYS for each of us to explore Galway. Various pursuits reported were listening to live music, shopping, going to the cinema (there's a wonderful film about the 1970's Hunger Strikers of Northern Ireland called H3), shopping, catching up on sleep, shopping, walking through the city, shopping... you get the idea.


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HomeJournalsLinksWebteamMapsOld Site
  Orientation Sept 4-10 MP Sept 11-17 MP Sept 18-24 MP ** Sept 25-Oct 7 MP **
  Oct 8-16 MP Oct 17-24 MP Oct 25-31 MP Nov 1-8 MP Nov 9-17 MP **
  Nov 18-Dec 4 MP (MP is the journal's "More Pictures" page, ** is a bonus page)