Travel writer, Dervla Murphy is known for boldly flinging herself across the globe and opting for the most inconvenient transport forms to encounter cultures that pique her curiosity. In A Place Apart, Dervla takes her trusty bicycle Roz up to Northern Ireland. Written in the 1970s, when the “Troubles” or terrorism, if you’re not fond of euphemisms, was running high, Dervla examines the complexities of the conflict in Northern Ireland. The result is an encounter with a people who confound and amaze her as much as any.
I had oversimplified the issues of Northern Ireland and thought that it was simply a conflict over religion. Religion wasn’t the cause and the conflicts weren’t between just two groups. There weren’t two sides. There were several. Both Catholics and Protestants had several subsets.
I was impressed by Murphy’s chutzpah as she’ll enter a pub where she’s marked as an outsider and regarded with suspicion, yet she’ll tough it out to get people to open up and share their opinions and insights. I will note though that most people were welcoming and saw the value in sharing their point of view and experiences.
The violence people suffered was shocking. Fathers shot dead while watching TV in their living rooms. Children shot. Families on all sides suffered and no place was safe.
While things have changed for the better in Ireland, which gives hope for all conflict zones, our world still has spots where death and violence are an everyday occurrence.