Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Short Strand

From here on flickr.

I don't know about you, but every now and then, you see something that is - in some senses - quite commonplace. But seeing it shocks you to the quick, because it offers a glimpse into a hidden world of brutality of one kind or another. At various times, I've met people that I know to be victims of one sort or other. People who have been enslaved or mutilated in one way or other.
Every now and then, these encounters happen in banal ways. For example, after watching 'Behind the Veil' a few years ago, I saw a woman in the full Niqab on my street the next day. Obviously, not proof positive of any kind of subjection, but something that was a long way from the reality that I know. Something that immediately made me think of my daughter in a protective way.

A few weeks ago, I had another one of these. I've been driving around Belfast quite a bit on a small-p-political project that I'm working on, and I was with a friend who knows the whole Short Strand story very well. He'd told me plenty about it, and I've heard lots of other snippets from old friends who grew up in the area. And then, passing a gaily painted wall, he pointed to it saying 'Short Strand is behind there'.

The reason that it's so striking, is because of it's location in East Belfast. It nestles in a particularly chauvinistic-looking set of streets that are decked out with some of the more odious Loyalist murals such as this and this (and don't imagine that these are rare examples at the bottom of Newtownards Road - they are everywhere!). The wall and the play-park painting was simply camouflage for a small area that can only be described as an enclave.

The realisation of what sectarianism meant suddenly hits you. Or it hit me, a good deal more gently than it has repeatedly thumped the people of Short Strand - and undoubtedly the innocent residents of 'protestant' streets nearby who are not represented by this vile imagery.

Here is Short Strand's recent story (two videos over on Slugger from an Al Jazeera programme on the Robert McCartney murder). Here's Martin Rowson's take in it all as well - similar to me, he was in Belfast as a visitor working on the same event that I was involved in.

(Let's hope it's not Martin's last Tribune column either).

And on a slightly less po-faced note, East Belfast has a number of branches of this particular outlet (again, from Flickr):


Crushed said...

Have you seen that Rangers pub right by the Celtic ground? The Loudoun Taver, a painted blue billbox?

Some of the murals in Belfast are quite beautiful, I think. Though I think the best ones seem to be in Derry.

Niall Ó Donnghaile said...

Dia Duit,

I hope you are well, I came across this blog by accident I must admit.

I am from the Short Strand and found your piece interesting.

My own blog covers a deal about life in the area


Paulie said...


Thanks for that. I've just seen the Flickr pic I linked to has been removed. For the record, it's that 'For Cod and Ulster' chip shop (there are a few of them, aren't there? I saw one a bit further up in Ballyhackamore as well as the one nearer Short Strand).