Dark Tourism & Reconciliation Tourism
The subject matter of the tour may initially appear dark and quite controversial. But for hundreds of years tourists have visited sites associated with death, recent examples include The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Ground Zero in New York, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and of course, the Titanic Building in Belfast.
In 1996 Professor John Lennon and Malcolm Foley of Glasgow Caledonian University termed this ‘Dark Tourism’, an activity which presents us with particular moral and ethical dilemmas, and raised questions about the relationships between our society and the commodification of death, commemoration, memorialisation and secular pilgrimage.
“Despite its focus on historic events, reconciliation tourism is not about the past. It is a counter against exploitation of the past for political or personal purposes, and about taking control of the future. Sites devoted to the reconciliation objective require us to look into ourselves and to maintain our awareness of the extent to which a repetition of such evils remains a continuing possibility.” Ian Kelly, International Institute for Peace through Tourism, 2007
The aim of the tour in its simplest form is to connect the most important sites in Belfast City Centre’s history of the Troubles, explain how the conflict affected the daily lives of its citizens, and the pain and suffering they endured. But also, to examine how elements such as acceptance, forgiveness, honesty and reconciliation have combined to move the city so far from it’s traumatic past.
Our guides are amongst the most knowledgeable ‘conflict historians’ in Northern Ireland. Paul Donnelly is the lead guide, a lecturer in Political History and Belfast native who was born in the year the Troubles started. Paul is one of the most respected and experienced mediators and conflict resolution specialists in the country.