What I Have Missed And What I Will Miss

Beside my friends and family, here’s a list of things I’m most looking forward to enjoying again when I’m stateside.

9. Dollars.
DOLLAH DOLLAH BILLZ! Counting Euros is no fun and too complicated.

8. Mustard.
Yup. No mustard to be found in Ireland. I’ll never take it for granted again!

7. The Accent.
Oh the Irish lilt is great, but I miss the Southern accent terribly! Howdy y’all.

6. Burgers.
I never thought making a burger took such talent, but after trying a few here, I’ve come to the realization that Americans are simply better cooks – or maybe Louisianans are better cooks. Yeah, that’s probably it.

5. Hair Straightener.
I haven’t straightened my hair for a month because there’s simply no point for putting in effort. It’s going to rain all day anyways! On the bright side, my hair is healthy again.

4. Ice.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, GIVE ME A GLASS FULL TO THE BRIM OF ICE. If you ask for ice here, you’ll get TWO ice cubes – and that’s if you’re lucky.

3. A Routine.
I’m a very particular person, and I will be so thankful when I can do my morning and evening routines the way they’re supposed to be, not jumping from hostel to hostel sharing a bathroom with 8 other girls.

2. Air Conditioning.
Yeah, yeah, they don’t really need it here because it’s so cold. But, if it gets just slightly warm outside, that means it’s stifling inside. No AC + no ceiling fans = a sweaty mess of tourists.

And the thing I’ve missed the most about the U.S. of A.?
1. TEX MEX. Yes, that savory, spicy, ooey gooey, cheesy, crunchy wonderful thing that is Mexican food. Give me chips and salsa, give me a burrito, an enchilada, empanada, flauta, chimichanga, anything! I’m sick of potatoes and just want something Mexican!

And here are a few things that I’ll miss about Ireland:

9. Bueno Bars
Okay, so this might be German and not Irish, but we should definitely bring these back to the US!

8. Walking Distance
I love driving, but it sure is nice only having to walk a block to the grocery from your hotel.

7. The Accent
I just said that I missed the Southern accent back home, but I’ll also miss the Irish accent! Won’t miss potatoes, though Niall. Think I’ve had my fair share… for life.

6. Adventure A Day
Something exciting happened every day here!

5. Bulmer’s
Delicious cider – enough said!

4. Gelato
I know it’s Italian, but IT’S EVERYWHERE IN EUROPE AND AMAZING.

3. Mountains
They’re BEAUTIFUL!

2. Cool Weather
No sweat, no problems.

1. Trad Music
I want to dance and sing and shout and cry all at the same time.

Thanks, Ireland for such great craic! You’ve treated me so kindly, but now is my time to go home.

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The Twelfth

The Twelfth

The island of Ireland has a rich history that defines its culture. For centuries, the people have divided themselves along religious and political reasons, like Catholics versus Protestants, and nationalists versus unionists. Almost everyone has lobbied for peaceful means to sort out differences in recent years, but one day of the year is almost always handled through contentious and sometimes violent means.

July 12 marks the anniversary of William of Orange’s defeat of dethroned James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. To remember the Protestant king’s victory, a secret society called the Orangemen parade through Northern Ireland on July 12 every year. Men in orange sashes, drum and fife bands, and supporters march down the streets of Belfast, and some lodges choose to march through particularly nationalist and Catholic neighborhoods. One such neighborhood is Ardoyne. It is an infamous flashpoint, where riots often break out between the unionist Orangemen, nationalist protesters, and police trying to separate the two.

But this year, the Parades Commission decided to ban return afternoon marches through Ardoyne to prevent violence; Orangemen were allowed to walk through the neighborhood only during its beginning morning route.

With few exceptions, Belfast remained calm and peaceful at first. Journalists even reported that the parades passed and finished without violence by yesterday afternoon. However, some reporters said they would continue to cover Ardoyne, as it was expected trouble might outbreak there when marches couldn’t pass through the neighborhood on their way home.

RTE compiled an article, along with photographs and videos that give images to the words. Tens of thousands supported the marches peacefully during the day, but things turned sullen when police barricaded Crumlin Road in Ardoyne from any unionists from passing through. The police were enforcing an order ruled by the Parades Commission. Yesterday was the first time the Orangemen weren’t allowed through Ardoyne on July 12. Instead of choosing another route home, the unionists continued marching along the traditional route up until the police barricade of tanks and shields. Orangemen and their supporters threw “petrol bombs, fireworks, bricks and bottles” at the police officers. Some even climbed on top of the tanks to rally jeers and chants. By the end of the night, at least four men were arrested and four officers were injured. Another person who was injured was Democratic Unionist Party MP Nigel Dodds, who was knocked unconscious by a missile thrown presumably from a unionist, as it was not mentioned that any nationalists took up arms. To prepare for riots, Northern Ireland police requested in advance 600 extra officers to help from Scotland, Wales and England. A total of 4,000 officers were on duty yesterday. The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service received one call every 77 seconds for three hours last night, but most of the calls referred to the Eleventh Night bonfires and only 15 calls needed actual assistance.

Thanks to my POLI 2053 class, many details of this article made sense to me. For example, the Northern Ireland police is able to request extra forces from England, Wales and Scotland because all four are part of the United Kingdom. Even though Northern Ireland was granted devolution and slowly given control of its police force after the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, it is still connected to the other three countries under the United Kingdom. In theory, the four help one another out when needed, and yesterday was a prime example of Northern Ireland’s dependency on the United Kingdom. I also learned that during the Troubles, the Northern Ireland police were almost all staunch unionists. Instead of keeping the peace, the police would sometimes join in on the violent acts against nationalists. Thanks to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, nationalists were able to join the police force, and now the police force isn’t corrupt. Protestants still make up a majority of the police force, but more Catholics have joined the force since 1998. They no longer show favoritism toward unionist, as made evident yesterday when they stood up to the Orangemen. What’s ironic is many of those police officers who were blocking the nationalist area of Aydoyne were probably Protestant and unionist (about 70 percent of the police force is Protestant), yet were injured by other unionists. It’s comforting to know that the police are no longer corrupt and will protect nationalists from radical unionists, but it’s also disheartening to know that unionists will take out their anger of the Parades Commission’s ruling on the police. It’s also ironic that DUP MP Nigel Dodds was knocked unconscious in the midst of the clash between the Orangemen and the police. He is a member of the hardline unionist party and supports the Orangemen, yet was hit in the head – whether intentional or unintentional – by a missile thrown from the unionist crowd.

The journalist presents the story in a factual, straightforward manner. From what I can tell, the writer is not biased, and is not supporting the unionists, nationalists or police.

Devolution

Devolution

The Guardian’s Sharon Brennan argued in her op-ed that Wales made a huge step forward in medicine last week, and that the rest of the United Kingdom should follow Wales’ lead in organ transplants. Last week, the National Assembly of Wales passed an opt-out organ donation legislation. This new rule would assume that all Welsh adults of sound mind agree to be organ donors, unless they have specifically said otherwise. The rest of the United Kingdom has an opt-in system, meaning citizens must register to be organ donors. According to recent polls, two-thirds of the Welsh population is willing to donate organs, but only 31 percent of Welsh citizens are officially registered as organ donors on paper. It’s estimated that Wales’ organ donation count will rise anywhere from 25 to 35 percent when the legislation is enforced in 2015. The opt-out system will increase the number of organ transplants and will save countless lives. This has been proven already with countries like Spain that already has an opt-out system in place; Spain performs more than double the number of organ transplants than England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland combined. The great thing about Wales’ new system is that the organs could be given to anyone in the United Kingdom. Currently, there are 10,500 people on the United Kingdom’s transplant request list. Three of those people will die today because they didn’t receive an organ match. Brennan hopes Wales’ move will encourage other assemblies to follow its lead like Scotland did with smoking in 2006. Scotland was the first country in the United Kingdom to ban smoking in enclosed public areas. It was deemed controversial at the time, but soon after England, Northern Ireland and Wales all followed suit and banned enclosed public smoking as well. Since 2006, the number of heart attacks and pediatric asthma diagnoses have decreased in the United Kingdom. If the rest of the United Kingdom chooses an opt-out organ donation system like Wales, transplant surgeries will rise and lives will be saved.

Brennan has cystic fibrosis, meaning she needs a lung transplant or she will most likely die before 40. Her column applauds Wales’ legislation, and encourages the rest of the United Kingdom to do the same and install an opt-out system. To those who protest the new system, she argues that it’s “not about the state owning someone’s body,” but about saving lives, while giving everyone the opportunity to opt-out if they don’t want their organs to go to another after death.

I’ve learned a lot about the United Kingdom’s politics while in POLI 2053. In 1997, Tony Blair and the New Labour Party ran on a platform which included devolution, meaning more power should be transferred from the United Kingdom Parliament to the individual countries. The party was elected, and soon after Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England were granted reserved powers to make decisions on regional matters. Constitutionally, the United Kingdom has all power, but with devolution, Parliament has the power to ironically give power away. Big issues like taxation and defense are still left to the United Kingdom Parliament; those issues are considered to be excepted powers. But, smaller, regional matters like agriculture and healthcare can be decided by each country’s assembly. Because of reserved powers and devolution, Wales has the legitimacy to enforce this opt-out system. The Welsh Assembly passed this legislation, and Brennan hopes the other assemblies in the United Kingdom will draft and pass similar bills.

The Partition

I am now in Northern Ireland, which is separate from the Republic of Ireland and part of the United Kingdom.

Thanks to my professors, I FINALLY understand the difference between England, Britain and the UK. Ready for a quick lesson? England is a country. England with Scotland and Wales is Great Britain. Great Britain with Northern Ireland is the United Kingdom. And the British Isles is the geographic area that encompasses England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The UK is the main law making body, and the UK gives power to the countries, even though Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have no constitutional power. It’s so different from American politics, but very interesting. Scotland is voting on becoming independent from Great Britain next year, and many think Northern Ireland might follow suit in hopes of joining the Republic of Ireland. History is in the making!

I’ve noticed some huge differences between Northern Ireland and the Republic with just two days of being in Belfast. Back in the Republic, people all over made comments about their wish for a united Ireland, and their hatred of the British. But here, part of the population is overly loyal to the Crown, and the other part hates the British, much like their friends in the Republic. This is because of centuries of history and cultural and religious differences between Catholics and Protestants, English and Irish, and Unionists and Nationalists. A big event in Belfast is the Orangemen March, held on July 12. It’s a big parade held on by a secret society called the Orangemen, who celebrate William of Orange’s defeat over James in 1688 at the Battle of the Boyne. It always turns into violence and riots, as Catholic Nationalists protest, and Protestant Unionists counter-protest. Our professors made sure when they planned the trip we would be out of the north by that date. However, there are all these smaller parades being held right now, leading up to July 12. It’s kind of like Mardi Gras, where many parades are held weeks before Fat Tuesday, but the biggest is on the actual holiday. I’ve already heard three parades, and I had to stop on a sidewalk and watch one pass by yesterday. There are many krewes (I don’t know the proper term, only Mardi Gras terms!) of bands and marchers. Each marching band has all kinds of drums and dozens of fife players. They beat their drums as loudly as possible, and the bands can be heard all over the city. The Orangemen themselves dress in 1910s garb, with old-style suits and bowler hats, complete with an orange sash, representing their loyalty to William of Orange, and the United Kingdom. The supporters are very loud and obnoxious – they drape Union Jacks on every street corner, paint the sidewalks red, white and blue, wear the flags as clothes, and shout and chant British songs. It’s almost as if they are asking for a fight from the Nationalists. Our professors warned us before we even stepped of the bus of forbidden things to say. “Don’t ask about Northern Irish independence. Don’t ask about Scottish independence. Don’t talk about the Troubles. Don’t talk about the IRA. Don’t ask about a united Ireland. Don’t talk about Kate Middleton’s baby. And whatever you do, do not say anything about these divisive subjects in a pub, especially The Royal Pub. Better yet, don’t even enter The Royal Pub,” they pointed to a tiny building with dozens of Union Jacks flying across from our hostel.

It’s pretty intense here. Police dressed like Iron Man guard the parades, in hopes of putting out any thoughts of riots. I know I’m safe, but I’ve never been to a place where the entire population was divided so violently for decades, even centuries at a time. Northern Ireland has progressed greatly, and it’s so interesting to witness these events and this culture I’ve been learning about in class. But, I am very thankful I won’t be in Belfast on July 12.