An American tourist has spoken out about the “anti-Protestant bigotry” he experienced during a black taxi tour around Belfast, saying his guide gave him a very one-sided and distorted version of historical events.
Drew Liquerman, from Virginia, was on a day trip to Northern Ireland with his parents on Friday when they decided to take a black taxi tour around some of the city’s murals, expecting a fair tour.
“The next thing we drive down a street with a lot of Union Jacks, Scottish saltires and Red Hand of Ulster flags and he said ‘the reason the Protestants fly all these flags is because they have no culture of their own’,” Mr Liquerman explained.
“I looked over at my parents and their jaws kind of hit the ground when he said that.”
Taxi tour firms listed with tourist body Visit Belfast are supposed to sign up to terms and conditions including being “sensitive and politically balanced”.
However, there are taxi operators outside of this scheme.
The 21-year-old University of St Andrews student continued: “One of our first stops was Bombay Street and he fed us a really distorted view of history. We were expecting some political bias, but this was revisionist political bias, telling us that every day they have to live through these disgusting Orange marches that are only designed to intimidate Catholic people, but made no mention at all of republican marches.”
Mr Liquerman, who is chairman of Republicans Overseas Scotland and a board member of Republicans Overseas UK, said he felt it was important to speak out as so many tourists are being “spoon-fed one side of the story”.
“The way he made it sound I’d have walked away thinking the IRA never killed a single civilian or even British soldier, that’s how he made it sound,” he continued.
“It wasn’t just historically inaccurate, it was the really bigoted anti-Protestant remarks that really struck me.
“I have been to Israel and been on taxi tours on the Muslim/Palestinian side and you hear it from their side, which is fair enough, but you don’t hear any anti-Jewish bigotry. The same way I’ve done the tour with an Israeli/Jewish tour guide and you get the same thing, a little bias, but no broad painting of strokes or sectarian bigotry like we heard in Belfast.
“You walk around some areas in the US and you can see not just Sinn Fein flags, but IRA flags. You have politicians, Republicans and Democrats, that are supportive of somewhat dubious groups on the republican side and I think it’s because hundreds of thousands of Americans visit Northern Ireland and they’re being spoon-fed this pure hatred and one side of the story. This is why I think it is so important to speak out.”
Mr Liquerman added: “I’m not saying every tour has this real hatred and bigotry, but it’s scary to think that there are so many people who don’t know the real history and won’t realise that they are being fed total rubbish.
“I’m sure the average person walks away from some of these tours with a completely distorted version of what happened.”
The News Letter has received no response to our request for comment.
• Drew Liquerman said their driver told them about the provenance of the term hillbilly, but compared the 18th century Ulster Protestant emigrants who settled in America’s Appalachian Mountains to characters from the movie Deliverance.
He said their guide then made out that Northern Ireland Protestants are inbred racists.
“He said Protestants hate anyone who’s not white and they refuse to have children with anyone who doesn’t share the same genes. He said their gene pool is so small they are all like the people from Deliverance. That was really awful.”
The International Relations masters degree student said his parents, who are both lawyers, couldn’t believe “the bigotry and hatred” that came out of the driver’s mouth during the taxi tour.