Well, having spent just under a week across the water, Northern Ireland/Ulster/the Six Counties (delete as appropriate) is a very different society from 1991, when I last visited.
I have posted a collection of photographs from my visit here. I rather avoided the political murals and 'terror tourism' that rather dominates Belfast, as it made me feel uneasy, on several levels. Anyone walking around Belfast city centre will struggle to avoid the city tours salesmen in their waterproof jackets, offering a variety of trips. Think charity muggers but with a sharper sales pitch, and you will get my drift.
I never cease to be amazed at how capitalism can recuperate and take over almost any struggle. Once black cabs formed the heart of the transport system in Republican Belfast. They may still do, but there is a nice little sideline of £20 per hour tours of former political hotspots. I think it might have been Bernadette McAliskey who commented that Bobby Sands did not die for Martin McGuinness to become Chairman of the Milk Marketing Board of Northern Ireland. Well, I doubt he died to comprise one quarter of a 'Political Murals' fridge magnet available for £2.50 in the tourist information shop, but that's how things seem to have ended up.
Of the pictures I took, perhaps my favourite is this long winded graffiti gem from the very smart Waterfront area. Clearly unwilling to write FTP (which must would take for Fuck The Police, but in Northern Ireland means Fuck The Pope) our tagger has had to write FTPSNI (Fuck the Police Service of Northern Ireland) which hardly rolls off the tongue. Perhaps this is the way forward for police forces across the world - the longer your title, the more difficult it is for people to express their contempt for you?