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Funded by Edge Hill’s Student Opportunity Fund, Politics and International Relations students recently visited Belfast to learn more about the politics, history, and culture of Northern Ireland.

Ella Weatherburn, a first year student studying LLB (Hons) Law with Politics tells us more about this exciting career-enhancing experience.

“At the heart of Belfast, the City Hall has stood as a historic landmark, enduring the complex conflicts within Northern Ireland as well as both World Wars. The building was our first port of call and we learned that it was also the first location of the Northern Ireland Parliament as Stormont, the current base, was purpose built and not ready for the first years of parliament sitting. We were guided around the building, exploring the impressive interior as well as the five domes contained within the building’s architecture. Our tour guide showed us the council chambers in which Belfast City Councillors meet as well as the robing room for the Mayor. We were able to sit and take in the environment in which local politics takes place. The grandeur of the council building was surprising.

We began the next day with a walking tour around West Belfast during which we saw a variety of murals displaying the messages of both the Unionists and the Nationalists. We were guided by two tour representatives, one from either side of the conflict. They shared with us their knowledge and experiences.

We had noticed that there continues to be a continuing division and tension between the two sides and that irrespective of the ‘troubles’ ending, the tension is still not over. We walked alongside the peace-wall on the Nationalist side, where the tour guide shared the idea that despite the fighting ending, the wall still remains to partly uphold the agreement made by the two sides. One of the more significant murals we saw was one of Bobby Sands. He was a member of the IRA who died in prison after a 66 day hunger strike in protest against the British government and in support of his cause. Sands was actually elected as an MP in a by-election during his time in jail.

On our final day we set off on a tour around the Stormont Parliament Buildings. The inside looks just as grand as the outside, with elements and designs inspired by the Palace of Westminster. We were able to sit in both the chamber for committees and the main plenary chamber where the Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) debate. Before this, our guide answered the many hypothetical questions students posed on the possibility of the change to the devolved system and what reform would look like in various forms. The tour of Stormont was overall the most anticipated part of the trip, with the unique opportunity to sit in the seats that MLAs currently use and to roam the halls where politics remains to be active and alive.

The trip was greatly enjoyed by everyone, seeing the complex and tense history of Belfast’s politics illustrated by the remaining reminders within the city through artwork and buildings. This showed us the continually evolving political nature of the city coming to life. What surprised me the most during this trip was the similarities between the Northern Ireland Parliament and Westminster architecturally, with some aspects being very similar to one another. I took away a lot more knowledge of how governments can be structured in order to promote power sharing and peace keeping and will continue to research and further understand the evolving system of Northern Ireland politics.”

Ella Weatherburn was assisted by second year BA (Hons) History and Politics student Caileigh Russell in producing this feature.

Networking opportunities. Plenty of lively debates. Field trips to party conferences and political events. Edge Hill gives you a real-world experience of the political landscape. You’ll learn about events happening right now. We focus our teaching on the real world and the current political landscape.

The Student Opportunity Fund is an exciting initiative which contributes financial support that helps you to take part in activities which enhance your employability, build your confidence and develop your transferable skills.

April 29, 2024