DC Tours was established in 2013. Our goal is to enable our guests to learn as much as possible about the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the realities of life during this period in the time available.
There are a number of competing stories told in the tours of our city; on the one hand is the ‘official line’ taken by many tour providers, who are selective as to what they include in their tour and where they visit in order to represent a post-conflict city and the message that the Troubles have ended, and on the other hand, the ‘Political Tours’ of west Belfast. Delivered by tour guides who for the most part grew up in these communities, these tours tend to be more subjective and reflect either a republican or loyalist narrative (or both), brought to life through the personal experiences of the guides, and leaving the tourist to decide which version of events to accept.
Through our city centre and west Belfast tours, we aim to bridge the gap between these two narratives. We believe this allows us to explain the conflicted history of our city, what it was like to grow up and live in a conflict zone and how it continues to affect our daily lives and aspirations for the future as objectively as possible, and from a civilian perspective.
Since Spring 2018 we have expanded to include our first non-political tour, a walking tour of 6 of our most beautiful city centre churches, telling their stories and focusing on their art, architecture and own unique histories.
We have also introduced the Vox tour guide audio system to ensure our guests receive the best possible experience on our tours and don’t miss a word our guides say!
Tour Guide No.1
Paul Donnelly is DC Tours lead tour guide. A qualified teacher, mediator and international tour guide, he has delivered DC Tours programme for 4 years. In his time with DC Tours Paul has won a number of prestigious awards including Tour of the Year in Belfast from the Luxury Travel Guide. In April 2019 Wanderlust named Paul as a finalist in their World Tour Guide Awards.
Paul worked for 20 years in adult and community education in Belfast’s interface/ peaceline communities. He has designed and delivered courses in Irish History, Culture & Identity and Conflict Resolution. He has also been the University of Ulster’s co-ordinator for their extra-mural Community Relations course, designing and delivering a curriculum around historical relationships, conflict manifestations and community & political responses.
In the 2000’s Paul acted as co-ordinator & facilitator in interface peace-building and conflict transformation projects in inner east and inner south Belfast. He was also a key facilitator in face-to-face dialogue projects with former loyalist and republican ex-combatants and ex-prisoners. He has also delivered history and discussion programmes to Victims & Survivors Groups, – involving and engaging with people directly physically and mentally impacted upon by the events of our conflict.
As a Belfast native and resident growing up in the ‘Troubles’ since 1968, and the parent of two children being raised in post conflict Belfast he is immensely proud of the city.
“I always emphasise to our visitors and groups that our work and tours are not simply about factual awareness. It is about empathy and understanding, – getting a real feel for the fabric of life in a divided and volatile city in the seventies and eighties. It is about how we lived, adapted and endured. It is a story of hope and progress against despair and stagnation.”
Tour Guide No. 2
Mark Wylie conceived and created the company in 2013, an Anthropology and Celtic Archaeology graduate, he has also studied the history of the Irish Conflict and Celtic civilisation extensively. A native of Belfast, and born in the year the Troubles began, today Mark has a more operational role in the company, but still loves to get out to meet and guide tour groups a few days each week.
Tour Guide No. 3
Gabe Nelson joined us in the summer of 2017, and has been getting ‘Excellent’ review ratings since his very first tour.
In his previous life, Gabe worked for over 35 years in central government as an environmental scientist. During that time he worked closely with his counterparts in the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the UK. He also worked on a number of environmental projects related to the North South Ministerial Council, which was set up under the Good Friday Agreement (GFA).
Gabe was born and grew up in Belfast and has been a close observer of events in the city for over 40 years. He has lived and worked in the city both during the ‘Troubles’ and post conflict. He brings his own personal experience to what it was like to be growing up and living in the city during the conflict from its start in 1969 right through to the signing of the GFA in 1998.
As well as having an in depth knowledge and experience of the ‘Troubles’ Gabe also has a keen interest in the history of Belfast and how it developed as a city over the years. He is particularly interested in how as the city developed the churches that were being built reflected both the changes in the religious make up of the population as well the city’s increasing prosperity. As such the places of worship built by various denominations were impressive in scale and imposing in style.
‘I have always been interested in churches, both as places of art and splendour as well as for the peace and tranquility they offer particularly in the quieter part of the day when there are no services taking place. And of course religion has and continues to play a key role in the city.’
In early 2019 we got to create our very own mural in collaboration with the Bullitt Hotel, Jameson’s Irish Whiskey and the very excellent artist Leo Boyd. Leo’s idea was to show “Belfast as a city in a pop-art, day-glo disaster zone.”
Visitors on our city walking tours regularly say our tour helps them fall in love with the city of Belfast, as we explore not only what we have gone through, but also our resilience and how far we have come in recent years. ‘Belfast Romances’ is on the route of our city centre tour and is a love story of sorts; where the guest can actually become immersed in our story, and so become part of the city, and create a fun way to remember their visit.
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