Northern Ireland November 28th-December 1st: SLA Tim Bertucci led by Prof. James Stapleton
On 28 November – 1 December 2013, SLA Tim and faculty leader James Stapleton led 17 students on a Thanksgiving break study trip to Northern Ireland and Dublin. The group was fortunate to also be joined by Director of Student Life Alvin Mangosing and SLA Mitch.
The group met up Thursday in Dublin’s airport, from which they traveled by coach bus into Northern Ireland to the city of Armagh. There the students met Fr. Brian Lennon, a Jesuit priest and an author, who led a dialogue on the history of the Northern Irish conflict: Ireland and Great Britain, Catholics and Protestants, and nationalists and unionists. Students were pleased to also meet a local man who shared his strong beliefs in favor of a unified Ireland. All went out after the discussion for a delicious dinner in town. Before the night ended, the group traveled to Belfast and checked into their hostel. With a bit of free time, most students opted to experience some of the city’s nightlife.
The students began the next day in West Belfast at Divis Tower, where they met a guide who gave them a full walking tour of the Falls Road and its surrounding neighborhood. The area is predominantly republican and is separated by peace lines from neighboring loyalist areas. The group marveled at the road’s many famous murals and visited the Irish Republican History Museum. The tour ended at a restaurant for lunch where, before eating, the students were even able to meet with a member of Northern Ireland's Legislative Assembly from the Sinn Féin political party.
After a morning with the nationalist perspective, the group traveled to Queen's University Belfast, where a professor of Irish history gave a presentation on the Troubles with a unionist perspective. Students enjoyed seeing the campus and after their time at QUB, everyone had a few hours of free time before dinner. Many found their way to the Christmas market at Belfast City Hall or took a walk throughout town. At another fantastic dinner, students were even able to meet one of SLA Tim’s friends from Chicago who had been living in Belfast for a number of years.
Saturday was another big and exciting day which began with a trip up to the north coast. Just a few minutes from the city of Bushmills is the famous Giant’s Causeway, a natural occurrence of basalt rock columns jutting up to meet the sea. Refreshed by the gorgeous scenery and ocean air and having eaten some lunch, the students then went on a tour of Old Bushmills whiskey distillery. Quite pleased with their northern adventures, the group went forth from Northern Ireland and returned south to Dublin. Upon their arrival, they checked into their hostel and met with a friend of James Stapleton from the European Anti-Poverty Network. This discussion focused on a variety of economic and social concerns in the Republic of Ireland. The speaker and his wife joined the students for one last dinner and afterwards, the students went out to enjoy the nightlife of Dublin.
The last day in Ireland was a free day, but most of the group joined SLA Tim on a guided tour of the Guinness Storehouse. The tour ended on the storehouse’s skydeck, the highest view in Dublin which showcased its beautiful skyline. Some continued on with SLAs Tim and Mitch and Alvin Mangosing for an Irish breakfast at a wonderful café. After all of their adventures, the students and staff found their way to the airport and bid farewell to the gorgeous and storied island as they set