I CAN’T believe it has been ten years since the Good Friday Agreement. It took so long so to get that stage let alone how far things have come along since. I would have never imagined that I would Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness sitting side by side sharing a joke. None of this was ever going to be easily-got or quickly attained, but does that matter as long as things are moving forward.
Like many others I grew up in Belfast having known nothing else, the things that we lived through were normal everyday life. I remember an incident in school where a bomb went off in town and our teacher made us say a prayer in case of casualties before bursting into tears about how sad it was for us being born in 1970 and not knowing what it was like to live in Belfast without all this going on. At the time we were embarrassed for her and joked about it later but if I am honest her words have stuck with me to this day.
I should at some stage write down all the things I remember, a pal and I would always say that we would have loved to have kept succinct diaries of those times. Judging by the diaries I remember keeping it would have read like a normal teens and probably wouldn’t really provide a true snapshot with entries such as ‘I really fancy (insert as appropriate) we met walking home from school after the buses were off because of a riot’. Still and all I suppose it still paints a picture.
I do have some pics I took in the run up to the Good Friday Agreement which I should dig out at some stage and put up. One other thing I should point you to is the UTV programme The Troubles I’ve Seen, it is finished now (but some clips are available at the previous link) and was fascinating for me to see places I know from being a child, streets that while still there look different now. It is also interesting to see how reporters like Trevor McDonald and Kate Adie remember covering northern Ireland.
I forgot that Sir Trevor covered the North and it must have been mad for him to see people’s reactions to a black reporter, like the rest of the country there were very few black people living in Belfast. He told a funny story in one of the shows where he recalls talking to a man on the Shankill saying he was in a mixed marriage and the man replied ‘you married a Catholic’ to Trevor’s amusement. “No I married a white woman.” Priceless.
Kate Adie also told a story where during one riot she was lying facedown on the ground as things went off all around her. She ended up falling over a hedge and was lying in a garden with her legs in the air looking up at the sky when a window above her opened. A wee woman stuck her head out the window, looked at her, before asking her did she want a cup of tea.
Anyway regardless of people’s perceptions or misconceptions, I love Belfast and I love the people and I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up anywhere else. Sure hasn’t it shaped who I am. I am thrilled that we are where we are now. So here’s looking forward to what the next 10 years has to bring.