Belfast overcomes Troubles, serves as example of generational peace

Photo courtesy of Harper Leigh

By Cavan Burns | Guest Contributor

Generational trauma is a trouble that does not stop with one person. It is passed down from one family member to another, from parent to child.

In Belfast, the typical family dynamic has changed quite frequently in recent years. Those born in the 1950s and 1960s were born into a time of conflict. The Troubles, as this period was called, lasted from 1968 to 1998, ending with the Good Friday Agreement. Instead of passing down trauma and conflict to their children, though, these people passed on peace — generational peace.

In my own personal life, the Troubles would be around the time my parents were growing up. My brothers were born in 1994 and 1998, respectively, and I was born in 2001. If born in Northern Ireland, my brothers and I wouldn’t know conflict, but my parents would know it all too well. Such is the case with those in Northern Ireland, who were born around the same time periods.

When these people were growing up, they would go directly home after school, as danger was always present. One day, a young girl was shopping on Shankill Road with her mother when she heard a piercing sound down the road. This event became known as the Shankill Road Bombing. Now grown up with children of her own, when she walks down Shankill Road with her children, all that remains is a plaque in front of the building where the disaster once occurred.

When these people grew up, they would all gather at a friend’s house in their respective neighborhoods, never crossing into the local pubs of downtown Belfast. Now grown up with children of their own, they act as chauffeurs for their children, dropping them off in the city center or at a friend’s house — a house that may just be next door to that of a former leader of the Irish Republican Army.

Today, before they return to their homes, youth come together in the various pubs of downtown Belfast, and they have a good time together. At least for the evening, they are no longer separated by the peace walls that stand tall, still separating the “Catholic” and “Protestant” neighborhoods.

Let us learn from this change. Let us learn from the current generation — the generation that spray paints on walls that used to be for separation, the generation that remembers their parents’ history while choosing to move on in a better and healthier way. Let us learn from history and choose generational peace over generational trauma.