Sunday, April 23, 2006


We did the Black Cab tour in Belfast and it is well worth doing - again by locals although they try to be neutral in telling you the stories. They take you out to the Protestant areas and show you their paramilitary areas. You hear a lot about the IRA on the BBC etc.. but you don't tend to hear so much about the Protestant military groups that were equally vicious but were loyal to the Crown. You see the IRA controlled territory and the murals that they paint. You hear a lot about the hunger strikers. Maggie (Thatcher) waited till ten or eleven had died under Bobby Sands before she agreed to treat the men who had been arrested without trial (some innocent and some guilty) as political prisoners and grant them the righ to civilian clothing, to post, to an education. I won't write up a lot about it as it can be accessed fairly easily online or in books. Hearing it there and seeing everything that we saw though, it was hard-hitting.

The defense walls are still up; the security gates are still monitored. Some of them are now open all the time but others are still opened and shut for business hours each day and don't open on the weekend at all. The police still travel in heavily armoured plated vehicles and the police station has a three storey high wall after a missile got launched at it.

The crime rate is now reasonably low and they tell us the streets are safe. Mind you, they tell us that's because pretty much every copper is aligned with one of the military wings of either the P. or C. factions and pass on information about callers and complaints. One example given to us was this -

Johnny is dealing crack to kids on the street. The appropriate people find out and he is kindly warned, as a brother, that this is a family city and that what he is doing is wrong. So Johnny stops for a few weeks. But he really needs the money so he starts up again. Shortly one of three things will happen -

Johnny receives a rubber bullet in the post. He has 24 hrs to get out of Ireland or is dead.

The lads come round, hold him down and smash up every bone in his legs so that he'll never walk again.

Or, they're in a good mood and only smash his kneecaps so that he can never stand fully straight again.

Listening to this as we drove around was pretty scary stuff for the Aussies & Kiwis on board, it was like something out of a movie but it's a daily reality there. An informant was killed just two weeks ago.


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