Although I had some prior knowledge about Northern Irish history and the religious conflicts which characterised the preceding centuries, I was surprised how deeply rooted religion was in everyday life in Northern Ireland. When I first arrived in Belfast, I did not pay much attention to people’s religion because it did not matter to me but I have learnt quickly that such affinities matter to locals. Not only does religion play an important part in building friendships but it is also important for communication in everyday life. If you know your counterparts’ religion, you can address him or her properly without uttering any provocations and it allows you to prevent misunderstandings, especially in regard to political affiliations. Thus, locals seem to have a very detailed knowledge about who has which religion and they acquire certain techniques to find out if they don’t know. The longer you live in Belfast, the faster you acquire these techniques by yourself as it makes your life easier.
Flags are omnipresent in Northern Ireland, and especially in West Belfast. Historically rooted, people identify with various flags depending on their political and religious background. Walking along the Falls and Shankill Road gives an impression of how present the history of the Northern Ireland conflict, locally called ‘The Troubles’, still is. Countless memorials, brasses and mural paintings line the roads, all of which are arranged in a very touching manner by the use of pictures, poppy wreaths, inscriptions, and most importantly, flags. Continue reading “Marker of Identity – Northern Ireland and its Sensitivity towards Flags”