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Northern Ireland Tour

The Road to Peace

Northern Ireland correspondents Mervyn Jess and Seamus Kelters trace the steps that led to the historic Good Friday Agreement. What now for Northern Ireland as former foes share power?


Tailor-made group tours available

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    Tour Itinerary

    After decades of sectarian violence, Northern Ireland is witnessing a period of significant political stability. The once irreconcilable forces of Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists, and Sinn Féin, the political wing of the IRA, are bound together in a coalition government. Yet even now, as the threat from dissident republicans re-emerges, the peace-agreement signed over a decade ago is still fragile.

    Our Northern Ireland Tour examines the steps that brought the peace agreement to a close, from the first secretive talks by church leaders and paramilitaries, to the ultimate signing of the agreement that paved the way to power sharing in the Northern Irish parliament Stormont.

    Two of Northern Ireland’s best-known journalists, Seamus Kelters and Mervyn Jess provide analysis as we meet with politicians, community leaders, former paramilitaries and ordinary people in both loyalist and nationalist communities. The visit examines the key challenges facing Northern Ireland today amid a tough economic climate and the threat from renegade paramilitaries.

    The tour is designed in a way that will benefit both experts and newcomers to current affairs in the region. Participants get to pose their own questions and make up their own minds. Like all of our tours the itinerary can also be used as the basis for a tailor made tour and adapted to suit a group’s specific needs.

    This tour will number between 8 and 18 persons. If we do not reach this minimum number we may cancel the tour and will give you a full refund.

    Day 1: Arrival in Belfast

    Introduction by Mervyn Jess and Seamus Kelters. Walk through city centre. Dinner and briefing on following days events.

    Day 2: Stroke City

    Exploring Derry/Londonderry. Grianan of Aileach, views of the city and an introduction to “The Troubles.” Guided tour of the city walls, the Apprentice Boys Hall, the Bloody Sunday Museum and the Bogside. Briefing on early contacts between nationalist and loyalist groups. Talk with community activists from the Catholic Bogside, and Protestant Waterside. Dinner at hotel, and briefing on the following day’s events.

    Day 3: Giant’s Causeway & Belfast

    Leave for Belfast via the Giant’s Causeway. Briefings on early British contacts with Republican groups. Lunch at Londonderry Arms Hotel, Carnlough. Drive to Belfast. Audio-visual presentation on pattern of the Troubles in Belfast, their geography and timeline. Briefings with representatives of Sinn Fein and the DUP, formerly opponents and now coalition partners. Dinner.

    Day 4: Belfast Tour & The Troubles Legacy.

    Mervyn Jess and Seamus Kelters lead a tour of the city, chronologically – east Belfast where the city’s prosperity has its foundation – including Parliament Buildings at Stormont – to west where the Troubles spilt on to the streets. Victims of the violence talk about the legacy of the conflict and their lives now. A former senior officer talks about the difficulty of policing in a divided society, the issues faced by the RUC and why policing was overhauled as part of the Good Friday Agreement. Dinner and night out in an historic Belfast pub.

    Day 5: Prisoners, Parades & Continued Divisions

    How the prisons became a battleground and sparked the political rise of Sinn Fein. Tour of Crumlin Road Prison close to Belfast city centre. Now closed to inmates, the Victorian-built jail served as a remand prison for much of the Troubles. Meet the prisoners – two men from very different backgrounds describe their personal experiences, the problems that now confront them and their hopes for the future. A representative from one of the many voluntary groups working directly in communities speaks about the difficulty they face on the ground in a divided society. Parading and protest – Mervyn Jess on the difficulties that have been posed and continue to be posed by the parading issue. Dinner.

    Day 6: Out of Belfast

    Visits to Craigavon, Portadown, Drumcree, Armagh, Crossmaglen and Newry. Lunch at Carlingford Lough, a local beauty spot. Walking tour of historic Newry. Briefings on the region’s immediate economic future with local leaders. Talk – Mervyn Jess and Seamus Kelters examine the media coverage of the Troubles. Overnight in Portadown.

    Day 7: Return to Belfast

    The day will be devoted to meetings with leading politicians and a review of the week’s events. There will be time off in the afternoon in Belfast before a farewell dinner.

    Day 8: Leave Northern Ireland

    Departures to airport.

    Essential Information

    How to make your Northern Ireland Tour booking

    You can make a booking by contacting Political Tours directly by phone on 0834 289 2349, email [email protected] or click here to fill in our booking form.

    To confirm your booking you need to send a non-refundable deposit of 15% of the total holiday cost or £250 per person (whichever is the greater) made payable to Political Tours Limited.

    If you are booking less than 8 weeks prior to departure the full cost of the tour is payable.

    If you would like to contact Political Tours’ Director, Nicholas Wood, he can be reached by email at [email protected] or by mobile phone on +44 7855 266 151.

    What is included in the Northern Ireland Tour?

    The price includes accommodation in 3-4 star hotels in Derry and Belfast as well as all meals during the visit. All the accommodation includes private bathrooms.

    Please be aware that Political Tours is a land only tour operator. Our clients travel from many countries and the costs of flights to and from the destination are not included in the price.

    How to Reach Northern Ireland?

    There are regular daily flights between Belfast International Airport and most British airports, including London (Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted) Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester as well several major international airports including Paris, Rome (Fiumicino), New York (Newark) and Geneva.

    Climate & Clothing Suggestions

    Northern Ireland has a temperate climate. In June the weather reaches 16-18 degrees on average. While the days are long, there is a good risk of rain. A waterproof is advisable.

    Passports, Visa & Health

    All clients are personally responsible for ensuring that they have a valid passport, relevant visa's and conform to the health regulations required by the country's that will be visited during the tour.

    No visas are required for citizens of the European Economic Area visiting Northern Ireland. UK visa regulation apply for others including citizens from the United States.

    Advice on health requirements may be obtained from your GP, or alternatively from the Department of Health leaflet Advice on Health for Travellers, which may be obtained from us, or the Dept of Health in the UK.

    Personal Safety

    Northern Ireland’s reputation for violence has often been exaggerated, particularly in recent years as the Troubles have receded. According to a recent study by the United Nations International Crime Victimisation Survey (ICVS) shows it has one of the lowest crime rates in the industrialised and developed world, only behind Japan. Tourists usually receive a warm welcome and instances of crime involving visitors are relatively scarce. In Belfast, for example, you should exercise the same precautions as would be sensible in any other city.

    Sectarian tensions can spill on to the streets and a sporadic dissident republican campaign continues. While street unrest, shootings and bombings still occur they are increasingly uncommon.

    Travel Insurance

    Appropriate and adequate travel insurance is essential and is a condition of travelling with us. Your policy must include comprehensive medical cover i.e. the costs of evacuation and repatriation from the remote destinations included in your tour in the event of illness or accident in addition to other medical requirements.

    Please provide us with confirmation of the name of your insurance company, the policy number and the insurers’ emergency contact telephone number for use in a medical emergency no later than 8 weeks prior to the tour departure. If you fail to do so, we are entitled to cancel your booking and apply the cancellation charges shown below.

    Hazards Inherent in Our Tours

    It is in the nature of the itineraries we offer to most of our destinations outside of the UK that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office may have issued advice against all travel or all but essential travel in relation to the country or parts of the country we are intending to visit prior to confirmation of your booking. Where the FCO issues such advice, we may as a result cancel your tour or make changes so as to avoid the area concerned (see clauses 10 and 12 of our Terms and Booking Conditions). Alternatively, we may ask you to sign a form confirming you wish to proceed with the tour notwithstanding the FCO advice.

    Our Cancellation Charges

    If you feel you need to cancel a tour before departure we reserve the right to make the following charges.

    Up to 56 days                                                             Deposit

    55 to 28 days                                                              50%

    27 to 15 days                                                               75%

    14 days or less                                                            100%

    On receipt of your booking form and deposit we will confirm your booking in writing, then approximately 8 weeks before departure we shall send you further information relevant to your tour together with a final invoice.

    Please pay the invoice within 10 days of the invoice date otherwise we reserve the right to treat the booking as cancelled and apply the cancellation conditions as set out below. Your travel documents are dispatched about 7/10 days before the tour departs.

    Booking Terms & Conditions

    Full details of our terms and conditions can be viewed by clicking this link.

    Further Reading

    Books on Northern Ireland

    The Northern Ireland Conflict: A Beginner's Guide

    Authors: Aaron Edwards and Cillian McGrattan
    Publisher: Oneworld Publications (1 May 2010)
    ISBN-10: 1851687297

    Northern Ireland and the Divided World: Post-Agreement Northern Ireland in Comparative Perspective

    Author: John McGarry
    Publisher: Oxford University Press
    ISBN-10: 0199244340


    The Northern Ireland Conflict: Consociational Engagements

    Author: John McGarry
    Publisher: Oxford University Press (18 Mar 2004)
    ISBN-10: 0199266573


    A Farewell to Arms?: Beyond the Good Friday Agreement

    Authors: Michael Cox, Adrian Guelke, and Fiona Stephen
    Publisher: Manchester University Press; 2Rev Ed edition (12 Jan 2006)
    ISBN-10: 0719071151


    Websites on Northern Ireland

    CAIN Web Service (Conflict Archive on the Internet): Conflict and Politics in Northern Ireland (1968 to the Present)


    Guide to Peacebuilding in Northern Ireland: New Trends, Opportunities & Challenges

    INCORE (International Conflict Research Institute), University of Ulster