Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Discovering Northern Ireland (1950 and 1971)

Here's an advertisement for the Ulster Tourist Development Association from 1950. It featured in a guide book to Dublin and environs published in Britain. It's probably obvious why I posted this advertisement, but in case it isn't, I shall explain. The slogan "Ulster opens her doors to all" is replete with irony as the Northern Irish state at the time, while perhaps welcoming to tourists, wasn't all for opening doors to a substantial swath of its population. Catholics, who comprised around 1/3 of the population at the time, were in many significant ways treated as second class citizens. Similarly, a generation later nobody was describing the "quiet serenity" of the place.

Since the Troubles commenced in the late 1960s, promoters of tourism in the north have had a uniquely difficult job. Even today, fifteen years after the Good Friday Agreement, there's a stigma with some potential visitors associating the north, and in particular Belfast, with sectarian division and violence. Indeed, Belfast exploits its dark tourist potential with black taxi tours of political murals on both sides of the divide being a popular tourist activity.

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