Belfast is a city that is almost incomprehensible to an outsider. It is a beautiful city, and superficially it resembles many middle-sized European cities. Yet once delving below the sociological surface levels and getting past the city’s architectural façades, visitors enter into a hidden realm.
Belfast is a city deeply divided between Protestants and Catholics – those loyal to the crown and those who see the crown as a sign of occupation. Both groups see the other side as terrorists. The British have pretty much given up, allowing each side to do its own thing as long as the violence is held to a minimum.
Making tourism safer
Dr. Peter Tarlow is in Belfast right now working with the police and conducting meetings on safety and security. He has been working for over 2 decades with hotels, tourism-oriented cities and countries, and both public and private security officers and police in the field of tourism security.
One of his topics of conversation was the importance of matching the right personality with the appropriate job. Careers such as policing are so dispersed with so many sub parts, all too often when an officer receives a raise in rank, that raise means taking the officer, who is a perfect fit in one area of policing and moving him or her into a new and unsuitable position for his or her personality. Often this leads to good police officers being both unhappy and unsuited for (and in) their new assignments.
In a country so divided and with such a history for violence, keeping police in the positions they are most well-suited for is of great importance. The foundation of the team must be the first step in providing safer tourism as well as day-to-day life for the country’s citizens.
When he asked someone what happens if a person is an atheist, the answer tells it all. Here, one is either a Protestant atheist or a Catholic atheist! Hearing answers like this helps an outsider to better understand the reason that there are 42 interconnecting walls that divide Protestants from Catholics.
Walls in the city
These walls, although not pretty, have saved hundreds of lives. They are a testimony to the fact that each situation in the world is unique, and what is reasonable in one place or time might be illogical in another place or time. For example, Dr. Tarlow’s hotel “The Europa” has been bombed some 36 times making it the most bombed hotel in history. During the “troubles,” it averaged about a bombing a week.
All this potential for violence leaves visitors in a state of cognitive dissonance. Individually, the Irish are an extremely good-looking and jovial people. They have a great senses of humor, are fun to be with,and are kind and helpful. Perhaps ironically, when people discovered that Dr. Tarlow is Jewish, universally he received a warm smile or embrace. He assured everyone that he is neither Protestant nor Catholic but Jewish. In fact, the Irish who are a very hospitable people became even more hospitable once it was clear that he was not a part of any Christian religion.
Adding to the confusion
To add to the confusion, Protestants and Catholics are fighting a proxy Middle East war. Protestants support Israel and at times Britain or even the US, while the IRA (Catholic) supports the PLO, Castro, and Maduro (in Venezuela). So, if the Irish do not have enough problems, they are also psychologically or physically taking sides in conflicts around the world that have absolutely nothing to do with them.
In reality, Ireland and Northern Ireland are so complicated that perhaps no outsider is, or will ever be, capable of understanding the political nuances that divide this city, this land, and its people. Many blame the British and their occupation, others blame the medieval popes or other European nations, and some even blame the Americans. Perhaps the answer, if there is one, is that all have some blame but no one has all of the blame. In the end it is the people of Ireland who need to find the wisdom to put the past to bed and wake up to a brighter future.
There’s always the pub
Until that day comes, perhaps it can be understood why whiskey and beer are the real kings here. Having a “pint” solves nothing, but on a cold winter’s night, it warms the soul and helps one to forget what might simply be unsolvable. Ireland teaches that humans and the world they inhabit are complex, and that simple answers take us down dead-end roads.
Dr. Peter Tarlow is leading the SaferTourism program by eTN Corporation. He is a world-renowned expert in the field of tourism security and safety. For more information, visit safertourism.com.