Page last updated at 10:24 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 11:24 UK
Forty years of peace lines



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Peter Burns, a Belfast City tourguide, gives visitors a glimpse of the city's peace line, and tells the story behind the first wall.

The Troubles have never been part of the official face of Belfast tourism, but it is hard to imagine a tour that does not touch on them.

In the city centre every day in the summer hundreds of tourists pile aboard buses and taxis to get a glimpse of modern Belfast mixed in with talks about its history.

Tourists can opt for literary tours, political tours or even ghost-hunting should the mood take them.

Every day Peter Burns boards a bus to regale tourists of tales of his city.

A former taxi-tour guide he is now the chief guide for Belfast City Sightseeing's open top bus tour.

His nearly two-hour long tour takes visitors across the city from the birthplace of the Titanic to the invention of the portable defibrillator.

Only a small section of the commentary relates to the troubles, but the depiction draws the listener from industrial glories to the sectarian topography of a city where people out walking in certain area after 1800 GMT were taking their lives in their hands.

Mr Burns said that the Troubles seemed closer in time to visitors than other events.

"They see them as part of a living history it's closer to most of them, in time and connections, in a way that WWII isn't," he said.

Tourists aged in their 30s are likely to have grown up with television news reports of Troubles era bombing and shootings.

How areas and history is marked is also unique to Northern Ireland and wall murals fascinate some tourists.

"We are unique in how murals have been used as a way of expressing political and community separation," he said.

"They have changed though, over the last few years they have been softened and try to give a more positive version of the areas, focussing on aspects of the area that are not related to the Trouble.

"There are murals on the peace walls as well now expressing hopes for a better future."

He said that he believed that interest in the recent past of the Troubles is waning among tourists.

"In 20 years people visiting won't be as interested and we will have to move how we market Northern Ireland.

"There is so much more that is better and with the Titanic link it could be a massive draw," he said.

"It's just my opinion but there should be a dedicated department for tourism with a minister in charge of it here to get things done."



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