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BACK Playwright, Author, Screenwriter Tom DeTitta      

Belfast, Northern Ireland

The play: "Darkness Lifting"

The Place:

Belfast is a beautiful city in Northern Ireland which has historically been torn apart by fighting between Catholics, who want the area made a part the Republic of Ireland, and Protestants, who want it to remain a part of Great Britain. Like so many of the world's current problems, this one, too, stems largely from an historic inability of imperialists to draw maps as they leave. The British initially created Northern Ireland by moving a large numbers of Brits into Ireland in order to maintain domination of this area while all of Ireland was under British rule. When Ireland received its independence from Britain in the early part of the 20th Century, the issue of what to do with this section of Northern Ireland was more or less, "to be settled at a future date." The years of violence that have occurred since have been an effort to resolve this issue.. (Note: Other political boundaries developed by the British that have led to unrest include India/Pakistan, Cyprus, and Israel/Palestine, which, of course, the U.S. had something to do with, as well)

Now, Belfast is mostly free of the violence that has plagued the city for years. Different parts of the city remain divided as evidenced by large murals painted on the sides buildings: "No Surrender" often appearing in the Protestant, such as the Shankill Road area, and "Sagirse zo ceo" or "Freedom forever," appearing all along the Falls Road, Catholic area. However, the city center has become one lively and wonderful ‘dmz', where years of pent-up frustration is exorcized nightly with good food and drink. Belfast is among the world's most lively and exciting cities where one gets the feeling of true celebration after so many years of pain.

The Process:

I conducted a series of interviews on both sides of the religious divide, in homes, pubs, and throughout the city. Some interviews were arranged, some came about through my meeting people in various places. Some people were very reluctant to say anything and some welcomed the opportunity to let out what was bottled up inside.

One woman I talked with a great deal I had met on the street as she was trying to save souls for Christ. Neither Catholic nor Protestant, the Evangelical movement seemed to provide the same sort of solace that the downtown drinking establishments afforded: a separate place removed from the struggle that had killed people and destroyed lives. Her church, on the outskirts of town, was to churches as the Superdome was to high school football stadiums, and it drew a huge, enthusiastic following.
One of the interesting discoveries that came out of my research was how much the appreciation of Elvis Presley cut across the religious divide. I often ask people who their favorite singer is or what their favorite movie might be, generally as a way of breaking the ice and getting people to talk about things. Usually, the answer to these sorts of questions is not that important. But when so many people with whom I spoke pointed to Elvis Presley as their favorite singer, that struck me as significant.

In probing a little further, I found that a very popular modern singer in Northern Ireland penned the song whose point was, "When you say something, say nothing at all." In a place where words and ideas killed people, it seemed many sought the solace of insignificance. Of course, who says less with his songs than Elvis Presley? "You ain't nothing but a hound dog" isn't the sort of thing likely to cause a fight among friends or even among enemies for that matter.

The main character in this section is a grandmother who sees the stupidity of the religious divide and attacks it straight on. She refuses to allow herself to become a part of the incessant argument no matter how much she is hurt by it. By not joining up with the prevalent mentality of her neighborhood, she found that she and her family were hurt almost as much by their supposed friends as they were by their enemies. This further strengthened her belief in what she stood for, and in this commitment she found her own separate peace.

 

The Play: Darkness Lifting

© 2003 Tom DeTitta