This June Northern Ireland marks 100 years since its creation. We track it’s recent history from The Troubles to the present day, amid the fallout from Brexit. Led by the veteran reporter, William Graham.

The Northern Ireland and Scotland Tours can be booked back to back

DATESSunday 20 June – Saturday 26 June
DESTINATIONLondonderry/Derry, Belfast
DURATION6 nights
INCLUDED
All AccommodationSome Meals
Local TransportationExpert Guide
COSTCost: £2950.00
Single supplement: £350.00

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Our tour is both is an introduction to both The Troubles and what’s happened since. We come right upto the pressent day with the latest on Brexit’s impact on the province. The UK’s departure from the EU puts new pressures on the province. Unionists are angry about the deal struck by the UK’s government; it sets up a new customs border across the Irish Sea. At the same time nationalists see the deal as pushing them towards a United Ireland. Meetings with politicians, community leaders, former paramilitaries and ordinary people from both loyalist and nationalist communities: We ask what’s next for Northern Ireland?

Cost: £2950.00

Single supplement: £350.00

As with all of our expert-led tours, we ensure that our groups remain small and intimate, and will not exceed 14 people.

As with all of our tours the itinerary focuses on current affairs, and owing to the dynamic nature of politics means that local conditions may lead us adjust the final schedule.

Watch our recent webinars about the region

Disunited Kingdom?


The UK’s four home nations have all had differing approaches to the pandemic. Boris Johnson pushed for a more liberal approach, while Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have been more cautious. Magnus Llewellin, the editor of Scottish edition of The Times, argues that the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the differences between the four nations, and is a taste of things to come. There is, however, a different case to be made, one in which devolved power goes hand-in-hand with co-operation in a united and C21st kingdom. Joined by Melanie McDonagh, formerly a leader-writer on the Evening Standard.

Brexit – the final gambit


At midnight on 31 December 2020, the UK left the EU’s single market and customs union, and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Alex Pigman, a journalist with Agence France-Presse, has followed the UK-EU negotiations from the outset, and here takes a broad look at relations between the two sides, and how they might develop from January 1 under the terms of the trade deal struck on Christmas Eve. David Gavaghan, meanwhile, who is one of Northern Ireland’s best-known businessmen, joins us from Belfast to offer an Irish perspective on the situation.

Brexit & the Union


Brexit’s done and dusted and we can all move on. Think again. It’s far from clear what role Britain seeks for itself having left the EU and there is a looming constitutional crisis as Scotland pushes for independence. Northern Ireland too may follow. Professor Jennings, head of Political Theory, Social Science and Public Policy at King’s London is joined by Scottish Parliament Member, Murdo Fraser, and constitutional expert David Torrance for a discussion on where the UK goes next.

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Northern Ireland after Brexit

We trace the steps that led to the historic Good Friday Agreement and established more than two decades of peace. We also ask what now for Northern Ireland as the ripples of Brexit can also be felt from across the Irish Sea?

Northern Ireland has experienced a period of significant stability, almost two decades on from the end of “the troubles”. Once irreconcilable foes are all represented at Stormont, the region’s parliament, and the chance of a return to violence is remote. But significant differences between the province’s two main communities remain.

At meetings with politicians, community leaders, former paramilitaries and ordinary people we ask what’s next for Northern Ireland?  The UK’s departure from the EU puts new pressures on the province. Unionists are angry about the deal struck by the UK’s government; it sets up a new customs border across the Irish Sea. At the same time nationalists see the deal as pushing them towards a United Ireland.

The itinerary will be updated to reflect the latest events at the time.

This tour is led by Billy Graham, a veteran journalist who covered Northern Ireland throughout the Troubles.

Day 1

Sunday: Derry/Londonderry

We meet in the evening for an introductory briefing on Northern Ireland today Overnight Derry/Londonderry
Day 2

Monday: Stroke City

Derry/Londonderry (take your pick depending on your allegiance) as the city is called by locals is as good a place as any for an introduction to “The Troubles.” We get a guided tour of the city walls and Apprentice Boys Hall and the Bogside. This where some of the earliest clashes of the troubles took place, including the infamous shooting by the British Parachute Regiment of demonstrators on Bloody Sunday. While the bogside is now a venue for tourist its also the scene of turfwars between competing political groups, including renegade republicans.  Overnight Derry/Londonderry
”Day

”Tuesday:

Day 4

Wednesday: The Settlement and Challenge from Brexit

At Stormont we review the power-sharing agreement that apparently made the best of friends out of two men who were once the worst of enemies – Martin McGuiness of Sinn Fein and Ian Paisley – both now deceased. We’ll also review the challenges faced by the UK’s decisions to leave the European Union. Nowhere does the issue pose more problems than in Northern Ireland – both in practical and constitutional terms. Overnight Belfast
Day 5

Thursday: Brexit's Impact

We get the latest analsys on Brexit’s impact both in terms of business and trade and as well as its political impact. Added bureaucracy and costs are one factor; it’s also having ripples at a community level. We speak with former Loyalists angered by what they see as a step towards the break-up of the Union.   Overnight Belfast
Day 6

Friday: Out of Belfast

We meet with key politicians and journalists to address key questions from the week. Contributors for Dublin give us The Republic’s view. How do politicians in Dublin view a United Ireland, and how might that change Ireland itself. There are some surprising answers. Overnight Belfast
Day 7

Saturday

Tour ends

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Dates: Sun 20 June – Sat 26 June 2021

Note: Bespoke tours for families and friends are also possible- at dates of your choosing. Please contact to us if this is of interest.

What’s Included

All of your accommodation and meals with water are included, as well as local transport (except during your free time).

Flights are not included in the price and need to be arranged by customers themselves or with an agent.

Following the news

Like all our tours the itinerary is focused on current affairs. Events on the ground may change and the final schedule may be adjusted accordingly.

This tour starts on Sunday evening in Londonderry/Derry and ends on the following Saturday morning in Belfast..

COVID-19: We won’t go to a country unless it is safe to do so- we remain guided by the UK Foreign Office travel advice.  For this reason some dates may change depending on the situation on the ground.

We follow local Covid-19 safety measures and guidelines.

Group size

As on all our expert-led tours the groups are deliberately small and will not exceed 14 people. Frequently we travel with 10-12 people. Limited spaces are available.

Visa

UK passport holders do not need a visa. Other passport holders may require a visa. It is always good to check with the embassy in your country for latest advice regarding visa requirements.

 

Weather

The tour is mid-summer.  Days can be hot and evenings cooler.  Some rain is to be expected.

Sunblock and rain gear are essential.

What to Wear

Dress is generally relaxed and casual. We suggest taking layers as the weather is different in the various regions. Rain showers are not uncommon too so please ensure you pack a rain jacket.  Most important is to have comfortable shoes for walking.

Men: Will need a jacket and tie for some of the meetings.

Women: You will need smarter dress for one or two meetings.

FCO Website

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office publishes regularly updated travel information on its website www.fco.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo which you are recommended to consult before booking and in good time before departure. Where it considers it appropriate to do so, the FCO may advise against all travel or all but essential travel to particular countries or parts of particular countries. Similarly, the FCO may withdraw any such previously given advice. 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 clause 10). Alternatively, we may ask you to sign a form confirming you wish to proceed with the tour notwithstanding the FCO advice. It is in the nature of the itineraries we offer that the FCO may have issued such advice in relation to the country or parts of the country we are intending to visit prior to confirmation of your booking. In this case, you will be asked to sign the above form before we confirm your booking.

Medical Requirements

Advice on health requirements may be obtained from your GP, or alternatively from the Department of Health leaflet Advice on Health for Travelers, or the Department of Health in the UK. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit http://www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk/destinations.aspx

 We suggest you visit your own doctor or local travel clinic who will have the most up-to-date travel advice, and be able to recommend any vaccinations prior to travel based on your medical history.

Currency

Great British Pounds.

Electricity

Plugs are 3 pin UK.

Internet access

Wifi is available in all hotels as well as many coffee shops and restaurants.

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William Graham

William Graham is a political journalist based in Rostrevor, Northern Ireland and a member of Arts a Wonder Collective committee. He is a former political correspondent for the Belfast Telegraph and Irish News and was a special correspondent for the LA Times (in Ireland) and for the London Times.

Currently he devotes most of his time to voluntary community work and is chairman of Light 2000 community group which relates to environment issues; and is a member of Kilbroney Community Association. He occasionally writes for daily newspapers on the ongoing political situation in the north of Ireland.

Graham entered journalism in 1968 and covered the early civil rights movement, the troubles, and all negotiations leading up to the Good Friday agreement as well as the establishment of devolved government in Northern Ireland. He covered the political talks in Belfast, London, Dublin, Brussels, and Washington.

In 2003 Graham was the only UK or Irish journalist selected to take part in a United States State Department study programme on foreign affairs which related to the middle East, Northern Ireland and other issues and included a private meeting with Henry Kissinger.

Graham’s reporting is mentioned in a book by George J. Mitchell entitled `Making Peace.’ Mitchell was President Clinton’s special envoy to NI and chaired the all party talks at Stormont which led to the 1998 Good Friday agreement.

In a personal letter to Graham, Senator Mitchell praised his “fairmindedness” when reporting on “a complicated story” and “in laying the groundwork for voters to make an informed choice.”

Over the past three decades Graham has been involved not only in reporting political developments but also has engaged in behind the scenes private discussions on these topics with British, Irish and American diplomats and politicians.

He has been interviewed by radio and television on the Northern Ireland situation including BBC, UTV and NPR America.

Graham has over the past few years been involved in a number of initiatives including bringing together Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders from NI, the Republic of Ireland, and England for
dialogue and sharing thoughts.

He also shaped and founded the Rostrevor Literary Festival now in its fourth year which brought together former hostages in Lebanon to share their experiences. The Festival has also included listening to refugees from many parts of the world including Rwanda.

We have run this tour with great reviews for families, individuals as well as students over a number of years.

The initial itinerary was designed by Seamus Kelters, a BBC journalist who sadly died in 2017.

Seamus Kelters started as a senior reporter for the Irish News more than 20 years ago specialising in security, fair employment and the case of the Birmingham Six. Working for BBC Northern Ireland for almost two decades, he produced for its investigative strand and political unit and, as well as the evening news programme. His programmes on the IRA’s ‘stand down’ order and the Omagh trial verdict won separate Irish Film and Television Awards.

As a co-author of Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles, in 2001 he was awarded the Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize for the promotion of peace and reconciliation in Ireland. He addressed both the European and International Societies for Traumatic Stress Studies and a conference at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard on the book.

Having been a Dart Fellow in 2002 and Senior Fellow in 2003, he served on the organisation’s executive committee. The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma aims to educate and support journalists who encounter trauma in the course of their work. Kelters helped design workshops for journalists in Ireland and post-Katrina New Orleans.

Seamus is survived by his wife and two sons.

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Northern Ireland

The impact of this tour was immense. We all were immersed in the culture and politics of Northern Ireland completely. The complexity of the political and social situation was palpable. At the same time, we felt the depth of the kindness and openness of the people of Northern Ireland in all of our interactions. It has built a permanent and life changing connection to Northern Ireland in all of us.  Bespoke group tour 2019
Our group felt that we had VIP access to the people and places of Northern Ireland, especially due to our incredible guide, Billy.  At every turn, we were exposed to amazing aspects of the culture and politics that we had not anticipated and would not have had without Political Tours.  CZ

“I learned a lot – from the places we visited, from the fascinating group of people we met – and, not least, from Seamus.  I couldn’t have asked for a more varied programme in a whirlwind tour.  I now need some time to digest what I have heard and seen, and will do so in the coming weeks.

Everyone promised on the programme showed up;  and everyone, without exception, was fascinating.  Some of what I heard reinforced my thinking, some of what I heard challenged my beliefs, and some things were completely new or left field.”
HG

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Brexit & Northern Ireland

The peace process that saw an end to The Troubles is over two decades old, but faces a new threat in the wake of the result of the British referendum to leave the European Union. That sectarian conflict, fought between state security forces, Irish republican paramilitaries and Ulster loyalist paramilitaries, killed over 3500 people including 1800 civilians, and injured nearly 50,000. The violence looked to be relegated to the past following the Good Friday Agreement, which ushered in a cessation of hostilities and political representation for combatants. However, it now looks in doubt with one of the most contentious issues – the Northern Irish border with the Republic of Ireland – uncertain following Brexit.

As The Economist ominously wrote in the early stages of Brexit negotiations, “British voters forgot that the peace deal depended on both sides [UK and Republic of Ireland] being part of the European Union”.

The border, as per European Union policy, had been open, allowing citizens of either country to work and move freely across it. Now, with uncertainty over the border’s future abounding, many worry about how it will affect their lives and broader peace and stability in the region.

In Londonderry – or Derry as it is known to Catholics (who make up 75% of its population – some worry that a botched divorce from the European Union could flare up sectarian tensions that exist today, though have not yet manifested themselves in violence. EU policies allowed Northern Irish republicans to feel connected to their southern neighbours. Meanwhile, unionists felt they were a part of the United Kingdon. A hard border would draw a literal line between the two countries, with Sinn Fein, the republican political party formed from the ashes of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) paramilitary group, have indicated they would seek an island-wide vote to unify in such an event. Meanwhile, the chief constable of the Northern Irish police force warned that checkpoints on a hard border would be considered legitimate targets by insurgent armed groups.

Brexit could also greatly disrupt trade between Ireland and the UK, with nearly 3400 Irish exporting businesses trading exclusively with the UK in 2016, according to official statistics. Brexit could greatly expose Irish business, as free trade between Ireland, which will remain in the EU, and the UK is a non-certainty. As a result of the European single market, cross border business had boomed in the 1990s and 2000s.

Michael Cox, a leading academic on Northern Ireland, argues that Brexit has also exposed the myth that “ the British government is some kind of fair minded referee mediating between the different sides in the North,” adding that any stance as such is undercut by the Conservative government’s choice of coalition partners, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which has historical links to unionist paramilitary groups during the conflict. Some unionists remain skeptical of the Good Friday Agreement, and Brexit could provide a way to undermine it.

It will also complicate the relationship between Westminster and Dublin, which had traditionally been centred on a Europe-friendly approach. If the two jostling parties in Belfast (Sinn Fein and the DUP) are able to manoeuvre a wedge between the two, it cannot bode well for stability in the region.

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