This Saturday we got the chance to experience a bit more of all that Northern Ireland has to offer. Robin and Ama planned a great trip to Omagh for us, which allowed us to get a stronger sense of the history of Northern Ireland.
We met early in the morning and grabbed a bus from Europa Bus Station in Downtown Belfast. The trip to Omagh took about an hour and a half each way, but the scenery of rolling green hills, farmland, and small villages made the transportaiton for this trip far from boring. Our first stop in Omagh was the Ulster American Folk Park. Ebonie and Taylor had been to a similar park in Bangor, but the rest of us didn’t really know what to expect. The Folk Park reminded me a lot of colonial Williamsburg, with people in nearly every historical building reenacted what life would have been like when the village was in use at the turn of the twentieth century (and a little before too, I think).
A few things that I found surprising:
(1) The role of potatoes in the Irish diet—some families ate almost exclusively potatoes for every meal
(2) The use of peat to fuel fires— I only ever think of wood-burning fires, but apparently the Irish used peat extensively since it was so readily available
(3) The number of casualties on a typical journey from Ireland to the United States (discussed at length in the ship portion of the park, which was awesome!)
(4) The amount of time it takes a blacksmith to make a tool (between one and three hours, according to our resident expert)
All in all, the folk part was a great way for us to get a sense of Ireland’s past, and also further grasp the strength of the connection between Ireland and the United States, thanks to the substantial amount of immigration that occured during years of famine in Ireland.
After the visit to the park, we made a stop in Downtown Omagh to look at the city of the Omagh car bomb. The history of this particular event is especially striking because it occured in 1998 after the Good Friday agreements had been signed, seemingly ensuring a period of peace for the people of Northern Ireland. Because of miscomunication between the perpatrators of the bombing and the police over the location of the bomb (city hall vs. the bomb’s actual location on a main street of the downtown shopping area) the bombing had the most casualties of any event of the Troubles, with 31 casualties.
We all really enjoyed visiting the memorial, which we thought showed a lot of of careful reflection and creativity. Below are some pictures from the Omagh Bomb Memorial Website: http://www.omaghbombmemorial.com/
The first picture shows the reflecting pool with a small reflecting mirror representing each of the thirty-one victims. The second picture is a pillar located at the precise location of the bomb. The heart in the middle of this pillar is illuminated (on rare sunny days!) using a sytem of mirrors with transmit the light collected from the intial 31 mirrors commemorating the victims. The third image is a diagram of how the memorial functions as a whole. For me, the memorial’s design succeeds in respectfully and eloquently remembering the vicitms of the bombing and is well worth a visit!
Thanks to Robin and Ama for planning such a great day.