3.2 Exploring different perspectives
In Belfast and across Northern Ireland, community groups have been working together to gather people’s memories and stories from different sides of the conflict mostly from the years before the walls were built, as one way to foster connections today. One of these projects in Belfast is called Dúchas. It was set up by people in the Falls community (who live on the other side of the wall to Matty and Dylan in the Shankill) to record experiences of the conflict. Members of the Shankill community are also working with Dúchas to include some of their stories in this community-led archive.
Activity 9: ‘Pieces of the Past’
Part 1: I was born
Listen to these audios (or you can read the transcript) from the oral history project Dúchas, called Pieces of the Past, before answering the questions below. These are just two women’s stories which capture life in these communities from the perspective of Beatrice and Rosemary who were born in the late 1940s. Beatrice was born and grew up in the Shankill and Rosemary was born in the Falls and then moved between Ballymurphy [a mainly CNR area] and Donegall Pass [a mainly PUL area]. In their first stories, Rosemary and Beatrice describe life in these areas in the 1960s, before communities were segregated and the walls were built.
- Was there anything that surprised you by listening to these women’s stories?
- What similarities and differences did you notice between these women’s experiences growing up?
You might have noticed how these two women, Beatrice and Rosemary, have different perspectives and identities, but they also have things in common. They were born into working-class communities in the Falls and Shankill and grew up with Catholic and Protestant neighbours. As teenagers in the early 1960s they shared a love of music and dancing including going to the same dance halls – The Jig and The Plaza. They comment on how as young people they joined in events with their neighbours such as getting dressed up for The 12th of July. But they also describe different experiences, for example with the police.
Part 2: 1969
In their second stories, Beatrice and Rosemary describe the changes that happened in their communities with the outbreak of violence in 1969.
- What were some of the changes that happened in their lives as the conflict unfolded in1969?
- Does hearing these two women’s stories raise any questions for you?
From 1969 onwards they both describe seeing their own communities close in, and how neighbours and friends moved or were driven out of their homes, and their areas became more and more segregated. As tensions, violence, fear and mistrust between their communities grew, opportunities to meet and talk to each other also broke down.
It’s important to remember these are just two people’s personal stories and memories and other people will have different experiences.
Hearing different perspectives can often raise new questions that you may not have thought of and different ways of looking at things. In times of conflict or times of hardship, however, community can become particularly important to a sense of identity and feelings of togetherness as well as a sense of safety in face of danger. People within these communities may choose to stay together for example, because of violence or the fear of violence from others. But over time this can also lead to barriers forming between communities (physical or otherwise), that are hard to break down and this can fuel more violence and mistrust when tensions rise.
This is one explanation given for the recent riots at the interface areas (locations where two different communities meet) in Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland. This is something you might have experienced yourself in your communities or amongst groups of young people in your area.
Activity 10: Time to reflect
Take a few minutes to reflect on the following question:
- How might hearing more than one perspective help your understanding of a conflict situation?
In situations of conflict community members tend to have a strong sense of their existence in relation to other communities and so their awareness of particular social identities (or group memberships) becomes particularly important or significant. This can lead people to make comparisons with other groups and even feel that there is a sense of competition between groups or communities.
Sometimes it can be helpful to remember that you don’t have to be completely defined by your group membership or community, but rather that you have diverse identities, made up from a wide range of group memberships and your personal qualities.