This historic city, in the county of Londonderry, is now officially known by its original name of Derry, although its Loyalist population still refers to it as Londonderry (an allusion to James I’s gift of the city to the livery companies of London). Derry’s notorious Bogside district has seen much unrest, for it is here that Catholic/Protestant tribalism is most sharply polarised. Catholics, unwillingly stranded right on the Republic’s border, have suffered much discrimination under gerrymandered Protestant control, while Loyalists find it impossible to cast off their atavistic siege mentality. On a free-standing gable-end near the Bogside (once IRA no-go area and the scene of ‘Bloody Sunday’, when 13 Catholic civilians were killed in 1972 during a civil rights march) are the giant words ‘You are now entering Free Derry’. Protestants reply a few streets away with the defiant slogan ‘No Surrender’.
for all its political ill-feelings, Derry is a fascinating city, retaining intact the 17th century walls that have played such a significant role in its history. These sturdy ramparts, 8m high and up to 9m thick, have never been breached. Five of the cannons that defended the city during its long siege stand above Shipgate Quay. Walkways lead along parts of the city walls, giving excellent views of both the inner city and the lower city with its great modern bridge spanning the Foyle.
Within the walls are an extraordinary little enclave of old-fashioned shops and bars, the Protestant cathedral of St Columb in’ Planters’ Gothic style and a typical Ulster central square known as the Diamond. A hopeful sign of constructive community spirit is the Derry Craft Village where modern artisanry burgeons in a village-like complex, and a pleasant coffee shop called The Boston Tea Party provides and excuse for a sit down.