Destinations Magazine

Like A Prayer: Northern Ireland... Abortion Rights, Peace Lines & The Troubles!

By Josephharrison1990 @JTAH_1990

Even before the formation of Northern Ireland in 1921, the nine counties of Ulster have grappled with the issues regarding religion. A woman's right to an abortion shouldn't be judged by one communities ruling party, even after legalisation in 2019, ignorance dissuades those in need. To be Catholic or Protestant? Now, that is the question? Should the Peace Lines be brought down? 

Like A Prayer: Northern Ireland... Abortion Rights, Peace Lines & The Troubles!

A woman's reproductive rights should never have political limits or restraints, as for religion, that entity has also played a huge part. Northern Ireland has seen the most repressive and intolerant stance against the right to abortion during this modern time, even in the Republic of Ireland in 2018 it was finally legalised. Whereas in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party have been staunchly against it, such Protestant supports have upheld that abortion is a sin and that every pregnancy should be carried to full-term regardless. There have been many cases where women have had to fly or take ferries over to the U.K. Mainland to facilitate a safe abortion procedure in either England, Scotland or Wales. Because this act of rights for women in Northern Ireland has been linked to the church, I wanted to visit a 'Unionist' place of worship in Belfast to ask about their stance on abortion. Conveniently for them, Shankill's own West Kirk Presbyterian Church was closed. Legalised in 2019, sure it was a welcome change for Sinn Féin! 

Yes, Sinn Féin stood very much against the DUP's archaic view on the right to abortion. It has been a known secret that even after the legalisation, healthcare professionals in Northern Ireland have dissuaded women from having an abortion. BBC's 'Three Families' followed three abortion cases, each woman had to fight against the backward beliefs those in Northern Ireland had against 'a life for a life' approach. Now in 2022, we currently see the U.S Supreme Court have made abortion an illegal offence, barring women and pregnant people rights that the law previously allowed. We can look towards the Republican Party in the USA to marry the link between their hate against abortion when talking about Northern Ireland's longstanding DUP issue. Regardless, a religious factor from a book that we don't all believe in should not impact a woman's right to ending her pregnancy, regardless of her or their reason behind it. Northern Irish politics needs to get with the times, with also a shake up in the U.S.A. to secure freedoms!

Like A Prayer: Northern Ireland... Abortion Rights, Peace Lines & The Troubles!

Allow me to take things back to March 2013, I had known about the Troubles that had taken place across Northern Ireland but I was quite naive to think that complete harmony would be served. Yes, I had a shock when I first saw the Peace Line in Belfast, as it continued to separate the Catholic and Protestant parts of town from each other. That wall looked mighty high, from where I was standing, I did feel an air of intimidation and slight panic because it was an actual barricade of sorts! In 2013 and beyond, why on earth do these communities need to be so fiercely kept apart?! In one way, the Peace Line looked more like an art exhibit from the ground to the midway point, many graffiti artists had made their mark on the Protestant side of the Peace Line. It had become something of a tourist attraction, much like if the Berlin Wall had never been brought down! Money makes the words go round but surely progress made between these two communities should be more worthy than the British Pound? Love concurs all? Sure! 

Beyond those Belfast and other Northern Irish barricades, those iron gates and walls are being broken down by a little thing called 'love'. Love? Yes, a new generation of Northern Irish folks are ditching their beliefs in the name of love, coming together to form mixed religious households, this factor isn't new but after watching several documentaries it looks like this generation wants to breakaway in the best way! Even though the Peace Lines remain, this new kind of 'modern love' is helping to breakdown the barriers between Catholic and Protestant across the nine counties of Ulster. Integrated Schools have become a thing, so if children from both communities can learn in one classroom, why can't fully grown adults put their different aside? Bring the walls down, hun? Money? My airport driver said that the money made from tourists visiting the city to see the walls were keeping them in place. He expressed that those Taxi Tours were keeping the walls from being brought down, that was news to me! Enough now! 

Like A Prayer: Northern Ireland... Abortion Rights, Peace Lines & The Troubles!

As I enjoyed my pints of Guinness at McEnaney's on Glen Road, I found that another shared sentiment echoed from 2013. My Taxi Tour driver had expressed to me that as Catholics and Protestants in Belfast, each community have their own gyms and pubs in those respected neighbourhoods. He championed his community, saying that a pub within a Catholic area would be willing to welcome people from an opposing community and others from outside of Northern Ireland. I felt completely welcome at McEnaney's regardless of my nationality, I stand by the fact that my character was more than enough. Would my Britishness have gone against me if I had chosen Shankill's own Royal Bar? I had already had a situation arise from a possible Protestant, questioning the intent of my visit and claim of having Northern Irish heritage. I would 100% side with the Catholic community if I had to make a choice because I felt that side of town welcomed me warmly. It's not about religion, it's not about nationality, it is about your character! 100%! 

Prayers can be made universally, so when a political party places their beliefs over the reproductive rights of women and pregnant people, we must stand against that! I hope that progress is further made with abortive rights in Northern Ireland and that ignorance is stamped out. If school can be integrated, children from both sides of the religious divide can learn together without differences. Even though the economy booms along Belfast's Peace Line, let us hope that one day a new kind of community can be formed without a hardline border wall being in place. Make no mistake, I would go back to McEnaney's in Belfast's Gaeltacht Quarter because what is a pint of Guinness? £10 for 3 pints? Yes, I do think! Like A Prayer, one way or another as a human race we need to find a way to get along and if we just cannot, those will need to get over it! One prayer at a time, Northern Ireland showed me that some divides still remain. Bring down the walls, bid farewell to sectarian violence and allow abortion to be a universal right. Okay, N.I!

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