Northern Ireland Four // Stormont (Parliament Houses)

After passing through a security barrier, a long, steep driveway leads up a hill to Stormont, Northern Ireland's Houses of Parliament. The base of the driveway to the statue of Lord Craigavon in the main hall of Stormont measures exactly one mile. This is one of a number of peculiarities that Stormont has claim to.

Another oddity, if you spotted it in that opening paragraph, is that Stormont is not "the house of parliament", but "the houses of parliament". This is partly due to the Great Depression which stopped a set of three buildings being constructed on the site, to just one. For whatever reason, the plurality stuck and the houses were complete in 1932. Pretty Irish, hey?

The need for the building(s) arose after Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland (now the Republic of Ireland) split in the 1920s, with Southern Ireland quickly separating from the United Kingdom. With this fresh in their memories, the Stormont architects had just one thing in mind: to show off.

This, and their continual conflict with their Irish brethren led to a few other oddities in the building, and grounds. According to our tour guide (another tour I'd recommend, by the way), the building faces south towards Dublin while outside the building stands a famous Dubliner beckoning for the south to return to the United Kingdom.

Edward Carson, an Irish politician of the early 20th century.

Inside the place is immaculate, although fairly simple in its lay out. As you enter the Great Hall a staircase leads up to what I assume to be offices, while hallways to the right and left lead to the senate chamber and House of Commons, respectfully.

The senate chamber is now a committee room where a little bit of work is done, while the House of Commons is where even less work is done. I'm not having a go at the Irish, parliaments are generally places where very little is accomplished, at least if you listen to the media. Which we all do. The House of Commons in Ireland is somewhat unique since there is no opposition. It may look in the photo below like there are two separate bench, but the place actually curves around to form a u-shaped parliament. The floor in the centre is never tread on, since nobody actually 'crosses the floor'.

This lack of strong opposition has perhaps lead to a poor performance by the politicians, and has lead me to not mind as much whenever Bill Shorten and Tony Abbot don't agree. Which is always.

The chamber is also a blue instead of the normal red or green. The reason for this (and this is again according to the tour guide, and my poor memory) is that blue is the national colour of Northern Ireland. Not green. Blue. You learn something new everyday.

The House of Commons, which burnt down in 1995 and was subsequently rebuilt with a less confrontational seating arrangement.

The Great Hall. There was an exhibition on about Irish sporting heroes.

As soon as you enter the Great Hall and look up, you will notice several things: security guards watching you from balconies, a chandelier from Kaiser Wilhelm, and extremely bright paint making patterns across the roof. This paint can be added to the list of strange things curious in and around Stormont. Why? The roof hasn't been repainted. Eighty years later, the paint you see is the original coat. That's pretty crazy.

Eighty years later, the paint you see is still on its original coat.

The story behind it goes along the lines of: the man who made the paint and worked on the roof came up with a recipe to make paint that would never (or almost never) fade and lose its colour. Unfortunately, he died and took the secret of the paint to his grave. Trust British paints? More like trust Irish paints.

This is a SOOC (straight out of camera) JPEG. What I mean is, I haven't edited the colours at all, they were literally this bright.

The roof isn't the only part of the building that has been painted in a unique way. The outside saw its own paint job during world war two with the main ingredients of bitumen and manure. Perhaps that was the secret of the roof painter, after all it took years for the paint to be scrubbed off the exterior.

But instead of vibrant reds and blues the outside was black.

The aim of the paint job was to allow plants to grow on the building and thus allow the structure to blend in with the hillside during the Blitz. This didn't work, and the building stayed coal-black during and after the war. I'm sure it would have stunk too. Fortunately, though it didn't go exactly as planned, black is the predominant shade of night time and the German bombers never hit Stormont. It got through unscathed. Except it didn't. The building has never regained its pure white shade it had pre-war, and there are marks on the building where the "paint" was removed.

The tour of Stormont didn't take as long as the one of Titanic-Belfast, and we left the houses just after lunch. Via lunch at the town of Bangor, our next destination was one that no longer existed: Mum's Grandma's house.

Out of Stormont and into the storm.

Bangor is a tourist town just south of Belfast. Like most tourist towns in Northern Belfast (see Portstewart and Portrush) it is situated on the coast so that people can enjoy the hot summer weather at the beach. Needless to say, it was raining when we got there. Also needless to say, a lot of locals go to places like southern France and Portugal for their beach trips.

It didn't rain all the time we were there. When we were inside a cafe drinking coffee it decided to stop.

Lots of boats but everyone's at home, or in a cafe, drinking tea, or coffee. Or they're on the continent.

I kid about the rain, it wasn't consistently bad. It even stopped up at some stages, although the clouds never really went away.

After lunch at Bangor, we drove over to my Great-Grandma's house. We didn't expect to find it, especially since it had been demolished years ago. Even the street it had been on was a little difficult to find. We think we found it in the end and headed back to base.

We asked for directions, but they told us to "moooooooove on".

Northern Ireland Four complete. I'll have another one or two posts to conclude our trip before I do up some separate ones about the cities of London and Paris. If you stay tuned with what's happening with Proving Sunshine, Facebook and Instagram are great places to start.

Until next time.

JR

Joel Gibson

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Perth, Western Australia

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