Where is Northern Ireland, 20 years later?

Where is Northern Ireland, 20 years later?
From Al Jazeera - April 9, 2018

The new Northern Ireland is a surprising place. An hour's drive north of Belfast, we find hundreds of tourists - from the US, China and elsewhere, taking selfies in an avenue of beech trees.

This place is known as "the Dark Hedges", and the trees, with their twisting silvery branches, are indeed striking. But the reason the tourists have come here is because the Dark Hedges featured in the hit TV series, Game of Thrones.

Northern Ireland's film industry is one of the successes of the past 20 years. Its scenery, affordability, abundant talent, and even its divisive history, all make it attractive.

We meet location manager Andrew Wilson on a film set on the edge of Belfast.

"I have had four discussions this week alone about major film projects," Wilson says.

"Huge companies who would never have thought of this place 20 years ago. It's like night and day."

So, the 1998 Good Friday agreement's peace dividend is tangible.

Entrenched divisions

Walk around central Belfast, with its stylish restaurants and refurbished Victorian buildings, and it is difficult to imagine the bombings and shooting which were once a feature of life here.

But you do not need to go very far to see how entrenched divisions still are.

The first residential street we stop at outside the city centre is a Protestant enclave, surrounded by Catholic streets.

Yes, many people still define their neighbourhoods in those terms.

This particular enclave has a high so-called peace wall around it, intended to prevent the two sides from throwing missiles at each other.

Golf balls, bricks and bottles are the weapons of choice, I am told.

There is a mural on a terrace wall that boasts of defiance and unwavering loyalty to Britain.

Ambitious plans


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