On February 24, 1988, two members of the Ulster Defense Regiment were killed by a 200-lb IRA bomb detonated in the center of Belfast, where the Castlecourt Shopping Centre was under construction. A follow-up second bomb, intended for police and soldiers responding to the first blast, failed to go off and was defused by the army. Yesterday morning, 27 years after the event, an annual parade and memorial service effectively closed down access to the commercial center of the city for more than an hour.
That works pretty well for me, not so well for my luggage. Thanks to a nearly three hour delay leaving Detroit, I had to make like Hertz-era OJ (not bloody-glove era OJ) and sprint through Newark’s lovely airport to make my connection to Dublin last night.
Alas my suitcase lacked the legs to make the dash from one plane to another, and so while I get to enjoy my first day here in Belfast (having caught the bus up from Dublin), all my stuff gets to enjoy a day in Newark.
Meanwhile I’ve settled into my somewhat spartan apartment near Belfast’s city centre and have a list of chores to accomplish today while I get my internal time clock to sync with the local time zone. In no particular order: sim card so that I have a local mobile number; bus pass for the month; groceries and toiletries so I can both eat and bathe; a pint at my favorite pub.
Tomorrow afternoon I board a plane bound for Dublin, and from there a bus north to Belfast. I’m spending the next four and a half weeks, part of my sabbatical from Oakland University, continuing my research on the maintenance and stability of the Northern Ireland peace process. This will be my sixth trip since 2008 but the first time I’ve been able to stay for an extended period.
My hope is that having more time in the country will make it possible for me to make more contacts, talk to more people, to follow up on issues that I haven’t had the time to before, and to immerse myself in an environment that I’ve spent a large part of my professional life reading and occasionally teaching about.
I’ll be using this blog initially to comment on my travels and the research I am conducting. So stay tuned for future developments.